Our thanks to WU friend and author Richard L. Mabry for bringing this terrific post to Writer Unboxed today: an interview with New York Times bestselling author Michael Palmer and his son, Daniel Palmer, a debut novelist. Enjoy!
An Interview With Michael and Daniel Palmer
Dr. Michael Palmer is the New York Times best-selling author of over a dozen medical mysteries. His son, Daniel, is a musician-turned-writer, whose debut novel, Delirious, will be published in February. Michael’s next novel, A Heartbeat Away, will also be released in that month. This may be the first time a father-son writing team has had novels released in the same month, and I offer kudos to them both on their achievements.
RM: Daniel, congratulations on your three-book contract with Kensington. What was your impetus to write? How long had you been writing when you got the contract?
DP: Although my father was a successful suspense writer, I never considered writing as a potential career. I was happily working in the burgeoning Internet industry (late nineties) and too busy building Web sites to think of much else. I’ve been a songwriter for years, which had functioned perfectly well as my creative outlet. Then, after the dotcom wave crested, I wanted to capture the feelings of that time in my life and began writing short fiction just for fun. One day, my father-in-law asked if he could read it aloud. Hearing somebody else read my words gave me an “ah-ha” moment. “That sounds like a real story,” I said to him. “I think I’m going to become a fiction writer.”
It took about ten years of writing, four completed manuscripts, and gobs of perseverance before I finally got a contract with Kensington for my fiction.
RM: Michael, have you and Daniel ever consulted each other when you got to a sticky point in a plot? How did that come out?
MP: Daniel and I talk all the time about our writing and the problems we are encountering. We live about fifty miles apart, and meet three or four times a week on iChat where I also get to see Daniel’s son and daughter. I am impressed, but not the least surprised, by Daniel’s quickness of thought and wonderful imagination. He also reads more than I do, and has a great, almost natural sense of timing and pace. Daniel has been writing for a long time, and produced a couple of excellent books (romantic comedies) before Delirious caught on. Some years ago, we teamed up on a short story called “Disfigured,” published in the anthology Thriller, edited by James Patterson. We both enjoyed the collaboration.
RM: Daniel, your primary background is in music. Was there a natural transition into writing, or was it situation of apples and oranges? And has one career affected the other?
DP: I think of songwriting as another form of storytelling. I try to write lyrics that convey a certain emotional arc, but in a very condensed format. The novel offers a lot more room to explore that arc, but it creates a different set of challenges for the writer. A great song often epitomizes the core elements of what makes a novel effective by showing tension, conflict and character with just a few verses and a chorus. I try to craft each word, sentence and paragraph of my fiction with a songwriter’s discipline. Could I put it more shortly? Is the imagery fresh? What words best express my ideas? In that way, songwriting has greatly affected my novel writing career.
RM: Michael, your website is great, and gets thousands of hits. Yet I understand you were initially reluctant to establish a web presence. What would you advise a writer now about a web page, blog, and presence in the social media like Twitter and Facebook?
MP: Daniel is the one who first presented me with the need to develop a Web page and a presence on the Internet. In fact, he and two friends helped design my first Website and its newest incarnation. He also introduced me to a PR team called ScratchM+M, who specializes in social media. With their help, I have developed a Facebook presence and fan page, as well as one on Twitter. Anyone interested in joining my fan page, please go to this site and click “like”.
DP: I’m a social media junkie. In addition to a Web site, Twitter account and a Facebook page, I also participate on the social reading network, Good Reads, and keep my book tour/appearances updated on BookTour.com. In addition to all that, Kensington is launching a micro-site to help promote Delirious. I don’t have that URL just yet.
RM: Michael, your next book, A Heartbeat Away, will be your sixteenth medical thriller. Do you have a favorite among all your books?
MP: As you might suspect, I tried my very hardest on each of them, and I like each of them for different reasons. My very favorite may be Extreme Measures, which was made into the film with Hugh Grant, Gene Hackman, and Sarah Jessica Parker. I also love having written The Second Opinion, which deals with the theme of Asperger syndrome. Now, for sure, A Heartbeat Away will be my new favorite.
RM: Daniel, your debut novel, Delirious, is the first of a three-book contract. What can we expect in the next one? Any ideas yet about the third?
DP: My work in progress is currently titled Helpless. The novel explores the teen phenomenon of sexting, and its devastating consequences. In the novel, a match is lit when technology is used to destroy a man’s good name.
I worked for fifteen years as a software product manager. In that time, I learned how to translate complex software and engineering concepts into something a businessperson could easily understand. I want to continue to bring that perspective to my fiction writing and to craft novels that explore the hidden dangers of common technologies. To paraphrase a passage of mine from Helpless, what we do online doesn’t have a shelf life, there’s no expiration date for our online behavior, and the digital fingerprints we all leave behind.
All I can say about the third book is that it will have something to do with identity theft.
RM: Michael, would you tease our readers with a preview of A Heartbeat Away?
MP: Genesis, a domestic terrorist group with unknown objectives, releases a deadly, highly contagious virus during the State of the Union Address. The president, Dr. Jim Allaire knows the virus well. His administration was developing it before he abandoned the project as being uncontrollable. Allaire is forced to quarantine the Capitol and all 700 in it while trying to uncover the truth behind the terrorist attack. With the lives of the nation’s leaders on the line, our government’s only hope is Griffin Rhodes, a virologist whom Allaire has been holding in solitary confinement in a federal prison for nine months because of a suspected terrorist act.
DP: Delirious tells the story of Charlie Giles, an electronics superstar entrepreneur at the top of his game. After Charlie sells his startup company to a giant Boston firm, his neatly ordered world starts to unravel and in terrifying ways. Charlie’s strange and inexplicable behavior ends up costing him his job. Soon after, his former employers are dying gruesomely, picked off one by one. Every sign, every shred of evidence, points to Charlie as a cold-blooded killer. And soon Charlie is unable to tell whether he’s succumbed to schizophrenia, a disease that’s plagued his family for generations, or if he’s the victim of a relentless, diabolical attack.
RM: Michael, here’s a link to Writer’s Prison Blues, the take-off on Folsom Prison Blues you and Daniel performed at ThrillerFest V, the meeting of the International Thriller Writers. You’re on accordion and Daniel plays guitar. Can we look for more from the musical Palmers in the future?
MP: Actually, we have performed several song parodies at the yearly Thrillerfest Banquet. In addition, Daniel and music professor Thaddeus Hogarth wrote the fabulous theme song The Last Surgeon, which can be found on my Website or Daniel’s.
RM: Daniel, what’s the one thing about your dad that would surprise his readers?
DP: I think readers would be most surprised by my father’s humility and humbleness. He’s sold millions of copies of his books, has earned fans all over the world, and yet with all that success his priorities are still set firmly in his family and his friends. It’s his perspective on what matters most in life that makes him one of the nicest and most approachable people you’ll ever have the pleasure to meet.
RM: Michael and Daniel, you’ve cooperated on a story (an excellent one, by the way) in the International Thriller Writers multi-author volume, First Thrills. How did you all work out the division of labor there? Do you have plans for another cooperative effort? Maybe even a book?
MP & DP: For now, we’re each busy on our own projects. When we work together, Daniel does most of the writing (he types with ten fingers as opposed to Michael’s two) and Michael does the rewriting.
For those collaborations I may supply a lot of the initial words—but it’s Dad who makes sure only the good ones stick around.
RM: Michael and Daniel, any last words for our readers?
MP & DP: Thanks for having us. We think you’ll love our new books.
I think you’re right, guys. I’ve been fortunate enough to become “cyber-friends” with Michael and have enjoyed every one of his books. I look forward to getting to know Daniel and have no doubt I’ll like his books as well. Finally, my thanks to Therese Walsh and Kathleen Bolton for letting me have this opportunity to guest post on one of my favorite blogs, Writer Unboxed.