Friday, November 8, 2013

Author Interview: Dr. Glenn Shepherd, author of Not for Profit

Glenn Shepherd was raised on a farm in eastern Virginia, went to undergraduate school at UVa on an academic scholarship, and graduated in 3 years. There he lettered in wrestling four years,  was a pitcher in fast pitch softball leagues from high school through his military tour of duty, and on into private practice until fast pitch leagues were replaced by slow pitch softball. The certificate he  
values most is the award for being the pitcher on UVa's all Mad Bowl team; also, his participation in the Army's south eastern regional finals game.

He completed a surgery internship and general and thoracic surgery residency at Vanderbilt, completed Plastic Surgery Residency at Duke, and did a hand fellowship at the University of Louisville. He spent two years in the Army at the Ft. Gordon Hospital and the Second Surgical Hospital in An Khe Vietnam.
He entered the private practice of plastic surgery in Newport News, Virginia and worked for 28 years before retiring. For most of those years, he directed the Riverside Facial Anomalies Clinic where with the help of numerous volunteer specialists in ENT, Pediatrics, Oral Surgery, Orthodontics, Speech Therapy, Audiology and Psychology, he treated 500 patients.
He was the director of the Riverside Laboratory of Microvascular Research for 20 years where he financed and participated in basic research in wound healing, cleft palate repair, nail bed growth and repair, development of capsule formation in breast implants, vascularization of  the breast, and nail bed growth and repair. Numerous scientific articles resulted from the research. Three awards were given by the American Society of Plastic Surgery for this research.
He has been on the editorial staffs of The Journal of Plastic Surgery, Journal of Surgery Gynecology and Obstetrics, and the Virginia Medical Monthly.
He is the author of Not for Profit, the first in the Dr. Scott James thriller series. A second project in the works is a biography of Barclay Sheaks, a great painter who battles Parkinson's Disease and self-wills himself to a remarkable come-back from the disease. He is currently writing a novel entitled Relief Aid, Haiti, which is in the Scott James series, in which the plastic surgeon goes to Haiti to assist the surgical load of a physician friend who lives there. The villain of Not for Profit, Omar Farok, plans a nuclear attack on America and wants revenge for Dr. James' and Ethel Keyes' disruption of his earlier attack on the US.

I recently conducted an email Interview with Dr. Shepherd.
Who are your influences?
My chiefs of surgery, Dr. Scott at Vanderbilt, Dr. Pickerell at Duke, and Harold Kleinert in Louisville influenced everything I do. They taught that discipline and dedication are the backbones of every successful undertaking in life.  It's as important not only in becoming skilled at surgery but in all things, whether it's learning golf for the first time after one retires or writing a book.
When did you begin writing?
I wrote my first novel, SURGE, while a surgical resident at Vanderbilt in 1969. I was inspired by Richard Hooker's book, MASH, which was published in 1968. I used notes I wrote while working at the Second Surgical Hospital in Viet Nam 1964-65.  There was little humor in my book as I dwelt on actual happenings at the military hospital and the serious business of caring for the injured in the early part of the war.  The rigors of my training prevented me from completing the book, but it stimulated my writing which I started again with the book, The Hart Virus, a 1000 page manuscript that I finished in 1986.  It picked up newspaper headlines about the AIDS virus and I built a story based on my predictions of the eventual outcome of the AIDS crisis. Again, my plastic surgery practice left little time to pursue publication.  In reading it now, I was surprisingly accurate in predicting the course of the virus over the years.  It became outdated as did my book that followed, Faces in a Bamboo Garden, a story about the Vietnam War. And there were three other books that I wrote while I practiced medicine, The Crypt of St. James, Timeshare, and A Funeral in Texas. It was not until I retired from plastic surgery practice that I had time to devote to my books.  With the direction of the author and writing teacher, Richard Krevolin, I recently published Not for Profit. and Relief Aid, Haiti will be printed soon, hopefully in November.
How do you come up with your stories, characters, character names, POV, etc?
My stories all have come from newspaper headlines. For example, my unpublished Hart Virus came from the new at that time, HIV and its influences on the perception of gays.  Initially, there was a social stigma to AIDS that was followed by acceptance of gays in society and led to the current day integration into society, even to the recent legalization of gay marriages. Not For Profit uses the news media hype about potential flaws in the non-profit hospitals, combines it with the drones and their almost daily accomplishments in the war on terror, and links this with the horror stories of terrorist atrocities.
My characters are combinations of people I've met, people I see in everyday life at the food market, on the street corners, at restaurants, and everywhere I go. I am an observer of people, which was important in my plastic surgery practice as well as in my books. These characters are real to me, and I've used the "star" of Not for Profit in four of my unpublished works. Detective Harris is a person alive in me and was an old, wise professor in the Hart Virus. He also did "cameos" in several others of my novels, as did many other of the people of Not for Profit
Do you work from an outline?
I always start with an outline, but my characters drive the story. They decide themselves where they go and what they do. I lose control of them. And so, I cannot be compelled to follow that initial outline. My initial POV was third person, but the publisher, Paula Munier directed the use of first person for scenes of the primary protagonist and third person for other scenes.
Tell me about your favorite scene in your novel.
My favorite scene is the final paragraph of the book. Dr. Scott James had spent his life creating beauty, peace, and harmony only to have a quirk of fate mess it all up. The opening paragraph of the book tells the mythological story of Orchis, who did wrong and was punished by the gods by their tearing him to pieces. Orchis' father prayed to the gods to restore him, but instead of bringing him back as a man, he was transformed into an orchid.  Orchids references are used throughout the book to bind the diverging elements of the book and the final scene describes Dr. James' vision of seeing the moth-like shape of the Phalaenopsis orchids take flight and restore Orchis to a perfect human body, just as Dr. James has done daily in his plastic surgery practice.
Can you tell us a little about your writing philosophy?
I am a story teller, as my artist friend Barclay Sheaks told me often in my 50 year friendship. I spent considerable time honing skills as a writer so people would be entertained by my stories. But in this entertainment, I have interjected my personal ideas. In the current book, I deliver my personal feelings about the high cost of medicine and how some hospitals may have used their tax exempt status to compete successfully with private enterprises, take the profits they reap and buy more and more businesses, and build giant, hundreds of million dollar corporations, and demand multi-million dollar salaries for the CEO's, all these things adding to the hospital bills individuals and insurance companies have to pay.  A second philosophy I throw in is the great benefits our country has from its successful drone operation. 
A third idea I float is the horrors of terrorism. Some have said I was too graphic in describing acts of terrorism.  But I say that when the actual scenes of a terror attack are glossed over by a summary report of numbers-numbers killed and wounded, the horror of the terrorist attack is lost, as in the recent attack in Boston.  I have seen a few rare scenes filmed at the actual bombing sites immediately after the attack-sights of bodies torn apart, of the pain and anguish people suffered, the ripped apart bodies of the dead-but the media glossed over this to protect our experiencing the actual bombing, and seeing the lack of drama in the court room as these terrorists are tried.  I did not shield my readers. They see the entire thing. I want them to feel what I feel, and what I felt when I've treated victims in Vietnam and in the emergency rooms of hospitals.  I want not to glamorize the terrorist philosophy but to demonize the terrorists.  As with the few sexual scenes - Ethel Keyes was a victim of sexual abuse in her foster homes. Giving sexual favors was the only means this brilliant girl had of surviving in the London bowery.  She was trapped by the terrorists.  If she failed in her missions, she would suffer horrible punishment. I had to show in this book the actual scenes to take the reader along with her as she engaged in pleasurable and loving sex. To have a "jump in bed, screw, and smoke a cigarette" does not show the rehabilitation process that had to occur before her attitude toward sex was changed.  This is established in this book and the triplet, Jump, Screw, and Smoke may well be appropriate for Relief Aid, Haiti. Everything in my book has a purpose.  I am not interested in the sensationalism of sex and violence, but in building a basis for believable protagonists in future books. I hope Dr. Scott James and Ethel Keyes have a lot of stories to tell.
Have you ever tried writing in any other genres?
No. All my writings have been in the mystery genre. Rich Krevolin transformed my writing to the "thriller" category by abbreviating the back stories and getting quickly to the action sequences. Several hundred pages were trimmed from Not for Profit to make it move fast. In fact, the last 100 pages move so fast that I have difficulty proof reading them. Even after reading the book a thousand times, I still get caught up in the action and read so fast, I overlook even obvious errors.
Not for Profit is available in both print and Kindle versions here.

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