Welcome to Author Wednesday. Today it is a privilege to introduce Louis Kirby, MD, the author of Shadow of Eden, a medical-political thriller. Dr. Kirby describes the novel as “Crichton meets Baldacci.” The book is chilling in its authenticity of miracle weight loss drugs at any cost, corrupt politicians, and greedy moguls ready to make a buck at the cost of human lives. At the center is a lone doctor determined to learn the truth before more people die, including the President of the United States. It’s fiction, but its lure is in its haunting plausibility.
Welcome to Author Wednesday, Dr. Kirby. I’ve just finished reading Shadow of Eden so I’m curious about how you find your topics. Rachel Carson (Silent Spring) said she never chose a subject because as a writer, the subject chose her. Is that true of your writing?
My career as a neurologist and principal investigator on countless pharmaceutical studies gave me front line experience in the whole process of drug development: the good, the bad and the ugly. This process is not well understood by many, and I wanted to tell the story about a small drug company’s manipulation of the system. In addition, the specific side effect featured in the book is very real and deadly so I combined them both into a story that is highly disturbing in its implications. So, yes, the subject grabbed me like a rabid dog and wouldn’t let go.
I can understand why you had to write it. Who has most influenced your writing?
The most influential book was Syd Field’s Screenplay. Shadow of Eden was originally a screenplay (I’m ready, Hollywood) but Syd’s lessons on the structure of a story resulted in Shadow’s structural bones; yet the story feels organic and natural. The second thing Syd taught is to get into a scene late and exit early. No unnecessary chitchat, no wasted descriptions or fluff.
As I read the book, I kept envisioning it on the screen. What knowledge have you acquired recently that might assist other writers?
Once I published Shadow of Eden, I started directly contacting authors in my genre, both to learn from them and to offer my thoughts. I found them all to be very receptive. This is a gratifyingly open community. I have enjoyed making new author friends.
I agree. I’ve heard horror stories about competing authors in the same genre, but fortunately I haven’t run across any of them. It’s been a very gratifying experience for me as well to share and receive. That’s why I started Author Wednesday so I could probe others’ minds. So back to Shadow of Eden. Do you have a favorite character from the book?
To some extent all of them are my favorites even though not all are likable. They all have different personalities, agendas, skills, and roles. If I had to pick one, I’d say it was Valenti, the damaged goods private investigator that the main character recruits to help him. Valenti is funny, profane, sarcastic, and unpredictable, yet smart and capable. He was very fun to write, as he has no filter on what he says. He makes a good foil for our hero, and ultimately, they form a tight relationship.
That’s true. Valenti helped break up the tension when it almost became too much. Good job on his characterization. Are you planning to continue medical thrillers?
I love science, medicine, and exploring their frontiers, in particular how they shape our culture, religion, and philosophy. Think how “the pill” shaped our cultural psyche and led to the sexual revolution. In Shadow of Eden, Eden, the blockbuster weight loss drug, exploits the obsession America has with attainable physical perfection, and the extent to which we will go to achieve those ends. My next project also explores science and interface with the social fabric. I feature a scientific expedition to discover the Garden of Eden, specifically looking for the tree of life and the fountain of youth its discovery would unlock.
I look forward to reading it. I’m always asked how long it took for me to write my novels, and I’m never quite sure. So I’ll ask you , too. How long do you estimate it took you to take the book from an idea to a finished, published?
The whole process took about five years. I took two years to research the story, from talking my way into the cockpit of a 747 while in flight; speaking at length to a top gun pilot and the former deputy director of the CIA; to personally exploring the physical layout of the National Cathedral and Smithsonian institutions. The book writing took another two years and edit. The last year I spent closely re-(and re- and re-) reading with my editor and proofing the final manuscript.
I wondered how you were able to be so precise in that opening scene in cockpit. Who or what is the antagonist in your book? Did you enjoy creating this character?
I have two, really. The first is Viktor Morloch, the charismatic, patrician CEO of the Trident Pharmaceuticals. He’s smart, ruthless, calculating, and absolutely unflappable. Think Roy Scheider in pinstripes. The other is an ex-FBI assassin, Kirk Mallis who is cool, poised, relentless, and cunning. Yet they are written as real people. We get inside each of their heads, we see their successes and their frustrations, and I want the reader to care about what happens to them. Great villains make great heroes. Walter White of Breaking Bad is a complex and fascinating character that roped us in with his feelings and his conflicts, yet he does bad things. And we watched in droves.
So true. I believe both the antagonists and the protagonists must be balanced to be believable. I imagine you have a fairly full schedule, but when you do have down time what do you like to do?
I get physical. Twice a year I climb the Grand Canyon, top to bottom and back out in one day. Consequently, I have an incentive to stay in shape because once down, there’s nobody else who’s going to haul out your sorry carcass. My wife, daughter, and I also travel a lot, and I take my camera, which is my second hobby, and take pictures. I posted a sample of our trip to Lago di Como on my website.
That’s a major physical accomplishment. Sounds like you’ve found a way to enjoy your time away from work.
Thank you for your very interesting questions and an opportunity to participate in your blog. I wish you all the best success in your own writing.
Thank you. I hope you’ll come back to Author Wednesday when your new book comes out. And most of all, I look forward to reading another thriller from you.
Bio: Louis Kirby, MD has specialized in research and treatment of neurodegenerative diseases, chiefly Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease, during his professional career as a neurologist. Louis served as principal investigator on nearly 400 human clinical trials at Pivotal Research, a company he founded. He has given presentations at national and international conferences on drug development and consulted for the government and the pharmaceutical industry. Throughout his life he has always been drawn to writing. While in medical school he published several stories, one landing him in hot water with the Dean of Medicine.
Contact Louis Kirby
Email Louis Kirby at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Twitter: @lou7is (the 7 is silent)
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