Tuesday, August 21, 2018

Liese O'Halloran Schwarz: The ER and the Writing Life

INGRID THOFT

It's such a treat to have Liese O'Halloran Schwarz as my guest today.  I first learned about Liese's novel from her talented writer sister, Carla Buckley.  Talk about a gifted literary gene pool!  I was immediately sucked in to Liese's novel, "The Possible World," and my admiration grew when I learned that she is also an emergency medicine doctor.  I'm sure you'll find Liese and her book just as fascinating as I do!

INGRID THOFT: "The Possible World” features three main characters—an ER doc at a crossroads in her life, a young boy who is connected to a horrific crime, and an elderly woman coming to terms with the life she’s led.  Their lives intersect in unexpected ways, but at the heart of the story is the idea that there is the life you live and the life that was possible.  What prompted you to write this particular story?

LIESE O'HALLORAN SCHWARZ
: First — thank you so much, Ingrid, for having me as a guest on your wonderful blog! 

I think the main thing that pushed me to write the "The Possible World" was a need to tell a story that affirmed the presence of good in the world, even when it is hidden. Especially when it is hidden. My years in medicine showed me a lot of terribly sad things, and a belief in the essential goodness of existence can be hard to hold on to sometimes! I also wanted to pay tribute to the power of non-blood relationships, such as friendship and non-mother care taking roles. I think those types of relationships are hugely important in the lives of most people.

IPT:  I agree, and I think readers appreciate seeing those types of relationships reflected in the books they read.

In addition to being a published writer, you’re also an emergency room doctor.  Did you always want to write?  How do you find the time to do both?  Do they complement one another?

LOS:  Yes, I always wanted to write—I wrote my first book at three-years-old! (I still have it, and let’s just say the narrative could use some work.) I went into medicine for a lot of reasons, chief among them the need to contribute in a meaningful, helpful way to the world while I figured out how and what I wanted to write. Please note: I did use to write and practice medicine at the same time, but I don’t practice medicine now. Writing was on hiatus for most of my training—that was an absorptive and not a creative time—and then I remember a joyful stretch of time after finishing training, as a young attending physician in Manhattan, writing in the morning before an 11 a.m - 9 p.m. ER shift, then going out with friends after, sleeping a little bit and getting up to do it all again.

That wasn’t the rule, though; it was the exception. For one thing, the ER shift schedule varied (the night shifts, as I note in "The Possible World," smash one's entire life to hell), so I couldn’t fall into a groove. For another thing, I couldn’t allow myself to burn the candle at both ends too much, for fear of compromising the level of care I provided in the ER. I had to cheat writing in favor of medicine, of course, because (not to be dramatic about it) lives were at stake. I think for the period of time that I was doing both at once, they did occasionally complement one another, as writing is very interior and quiet, and emergency medicine is rather hectic and outward-directed. However, sometimes (often), a day or night in the ER would be too draining to allow anything but recovery afterward, and then when I’d get a day or two off, I would be far too depleted to do anything more intellectual than vacuuming and laundry (and feel lucky if I accomplished that!). So it was very up and down. Quitting medicine to focus on writing wasn’t an abrupt career change for me as much as a natural evolution—although I loved many things about the practice of medicine, I always hoped I would get to this place. 


IPT:  Which of the three characters was your favorite to write?

LOS
:  I enjoyed writing them all, once I had a handle on them and the characters were “speaking” to me. I liked the challenge of writing 6-year-old Ben; he has post-traumatic amnesia, and as some memories begin to come back they are alarming to him and inexplicable to others around him. It was important to show his personality along with his odd circumstances—he's a smart, anxious kid who needs peace and safety in order to bloom. Writing Lucy the, ER doctor, was fun; I enjoyed trying to show a little about medicine to the reader. The challenging part of writing Lucy was knowing what not to write, trying to capture the essence of her character and show just enough of her world without overwhelming the reader. The characters of Ben and Lucy both feel very flesh and blood to me.

But Clare! She’s a 99-year-old woman; at first she may seem irrelevant to the others. But like the other characters — and like the whole plot of the book—she is more than she may appear to be. Clare is probably closest to my heart. Her voice needed to have a patina of nostalgia, but also convey fresh emotion raked up by the process of sharing. Things happened to Clare, as they happen to all of us, and she was imprisoned, in the ways that society imprisons women—and through terrible events that she would not have chosen, she broke free and became the agent of her own life. I hope I did justice to all three main characters …but the character I truly adored writing was a fourth, Gloria, who has an important role in the book—she’s a major catalyst, and I love how unfettered and joyous she is. Our lives are improved by the Glorias of the world.

IPT:  What has surprised you most about being a published author?

LOS:  The shocking lack of parades. Where is the confetti? The river of champagne? LOL! Actually, the part that is most surprising to me is how alive the book has become after publication. After the final revision, I thought the book was “done," that once it was in press it would be a static thing that maybe (I hoped) people would read, and maybe (I hoped) they would like. I really didn’t expect the book to enter this new dynamic state of being read. Readers who have contacted me on Facebook or via my website have been amazingly passionate and engaged—they noticed details I honestly didn’t expect anyone to notice; some have also picked up on nuances that I wasn’t aware of while I was writing, but that I can see are definitely there, now that they’ve been pointed out to me! The book is different in the hands of each different reader.

If writing and publishing a book can be compared in some ways to gestation and childbirth, then the state of being read is the book’s whole life. Having a book “in the drawer” is an accomplishment (finishing a manuscript is a milestone to be celebrated!) but a book going out into the world, among readers who will engage with it and make it their own and give it a totally new life, is a spectacular experience. It’s impossible to express how grateful I am to every reader, for reading the book. Also: I’ve been surprised by the sheer variety of public places audio book listeners have told me they happened to be when the book made them cry.


IPT:  Is there a wannabe book lurking in the back of your brain, something you would write if you didn’t have to consider agents, editors, and fans?  A romance?  Non-fiction?  Cookbook?

LOS:  I’d write them all if I could! Honestly, I think every book I will write will be a kind of wannabe—it’ll be the book I feel I must write, and I just have to hope that agents/editors/readers will like it. I wish I could write nonfiction (I enjoy reading it so much!), but I so enjoy making stuff up. 

Liese will be joining us today to answer your questions and is giving away a copy of "The Possible World" to one lucky reader.  Just comment to enter!


The Possible World

An astonishing, deeply moving novel about the converging lives of a young boy who witnesses a brutal crime, the doctor who tends to him, and a woman guarding her long-buried past. 

It seems like just another night shift for Lucy, an overworked ER physician in Providence, Rhode Island, until six-year-old Ben is brought in as the sole survivor from a horrifying crime scene. It’s not clear what he saw, or what he remembers.

Lucy, who’s grappling with a personal upheaval of her own, feels a profound, unexpected connection to the little boy. She wants to help him, but will recovering his memory heal him, or damage him further?

Across town, Clare will soon be turning one hundred years old. She has long believed that the lifetime of secrets she’s been keeping don’t matter to anyone anymore, but a surprising encounter makes her realize that the time has come to tell her story.

As Ben, Lucy, and Clare struggle to confront the events that shattered their lives, something stronger than fate is working to bring them together.

An expertly stitched story that spans nearly a century—from the Great Depression through the Vietnam War era and into the present—The Possible World is a captivating novel about the complicated ways our pasts shape our identities, the power of maternal love, the loneliness born out of loss, and how timeless bonds can help us triumph over grief.

Liese O'Halloran Schwarz grew up in Washington, DC after an early childhood overseas. She attended Harvard University and then medical school at University of Virginia. While in medical school, she won the Henfield/Transatlantic Review Prize and also published her first novel, Near Canaan.

She specialized in emergency medicine and like most doctors, she can thoroughly ruin dinner parties with tales of medical believe-it-or-not. But she won't do that, because she knows how hard you worked to make a nice meal.

The Possible World, coming from Scribner (US) and Hutchinson (Random House UK/Cornerstone) in June 2018, is her second novel.

She currently lives in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, and is at work on the next book.

73 comments:

  1. Any story that affirms the presence of good in the world is one that I can’t wait to read, Liese. I’m looking forward to reading “The Possible World” . . . .

    It must have been a difficult decision to walk away from medicine after putting in so many years of study and training . . . do you still “keep your hand in” in some way?

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    1. That's a great question, Joan. I look forward to hearing Liese's response tomorrow!

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    2. Hello, Joan! A great question indeed! Yes, it was really difficult to stop practicing medicine after devoting so much to it for so long. I do "keep my hand in" a little bit -- I still get my medical journals, and I belong to some online doctors' groups where EM cases are discussed -- the current technology is fabulous for bringing a virtual crowd to the bedside to help. Also, what I jokingly call my "consultant practice" is going strong as ever -- my friends and family ask for advice on medical matters fairly often, and I'm happy to help. I miss the practice and also the teaching of medicine --sometimes it's difficult to believe I'll never do another spinal tap-- but I am so , so thrilled to be able to practice this other pursuit, writing, which has been held in abeyance so long.

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  2. Your book sounds fabulous, Liese! Oddly enough, I just finished reading The Good Goodbye by Carla Buckley. It was wonderful. The Possible World looks equally intriguing, and how great to come from a family of writers.

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    1. Pretty amazing to have two published writers in the family!

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    2. Hi, Marla! The Good Goodbye is *such* a great read, isn't it?!

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    3. Yes, for sure. It is the type of read worthy of a parade, confetti, and rivers of champagne!

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    4. Yes, I agree! Carla , if you're reading this, I'll get right on that. Promise! :D

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  3. I love how you talk about Clare, Liese, and am going to put this book on my list.

    I agree about the life of a book once its in the hands of readers. It's so amazing to hear from readers, what they noticed, how the book helped them escape during a hospital stay or time of pain, and to be asked questions at book club meetings that make me dig for answers!

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    1. Hello, Edith! Isn't it surprising what different bits different people will pick out as particularly meaningful to them? I know how much books have meant to me in my life, and it is wonderful to hear that my book has touched someone. The care and attention that readers have brought to my book is so humbling, and such a source of joy.

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  4. How refreshing to find a book that affirms the presence of good in the world! My last two trips to the bookstore brought me face to face with far more dystopian novels than I care to tackle in our turbulent time. I really want to read something that can take me away from horrible people doing terrible things, not trap me in their midst for several hours. It sounds to me like your book is about healing on multiple levels. I look forward to reading it.

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    1. Thank you, Gigi! I think we get enough bad news in the real world! The Possible World doesn't shy away from the grimmer aspects of life but it does try to rise above them in some way. I love when people tell me it uplifted them to read it, *despite* the inclusion of real-world sorrows. I think it's the world I want to live in, where the beauty is given as much quarter as the tragedy.

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  5. I’d love to come to a dinner party that you ruined with medical stories! That would be fascinating, and you know a dinner party of writers would be delighted to hear everything!
    I cannot imagine the tension of being an ER doctor. Why did you choose that as a specialty, and how did you ever cope?
    And What do we all need to know about going to the emergency room?
    So fascinating to have you here today, and your book sounds wonderful! Congratulations.

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    1. Welcome Liese! I'd like to hear the answer to this question too! Our daughter is an ER doc and I have a nephew headed in that direction and I often wonder why? I imagine it's satisfying to bring order to lives that have been thrown into disarray by illness or injury at least...

      Anyway have ordered your book and will share it with Molly.

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    2. Hello, Hank! Well, at that dinner party the docs would be the only ones eating. We're amazingly gross. :) The fundamental reason that I chose Emergency Medicine was because it capitalized on my strengths (such as the ability to make decisions rapidly with limited data) and avoided my weaknesses (I like to dress for comfort and I hate painful shoes)! What to know about going to the ER: try to go on Tuesday at 11 am (a nice un-busy time, although it's never totally predictable). A bit tongue-in-cheek, because of course one doesn't plan one's emergency, but bear in mind that weekends and after hours things can be totally crazy. Also, just a little PSA: if you have actual stroke symptoms (weakness of a hand or a leg, or a droop on one side of your face, or vision loss or speech difficulty), go to the ER! The number of people who try to "sleep off" a stroke (they don't want to bother anyone + they are in some denial) is really staggering. There is treatment for stroke if it's seen early enough in the process. And of course, for anyone who has to seek medical care for any reason, whether in a doctor's office or the ER, the wait can be prodigious -- so always bring a good book along.


      Thanks for the congrats, I am so thrilled that the book is out in the world! :)

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    3. Hello Lucy aka Roberta! yes, yes, it is all about bringing order to chaos. Plus, it is delightful to be useful. When I got through training and began to regain my humanity, the most basic things became super satisfying to me. It was always intellectually rewarding to make a difficult diagnosis and I loved that, but simply giving comfort, helping people in the most ordinary ways out of pain or fear, felt so important. It's so scary to be ill. High five to your daughter! (Maybe there's time to save your nephew LOL)

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    4. Thanks for the tips, Liese, especially the stroke info. Isn't amazing how much people worry about inconveniencing others when it comes to getting medical attention? Women especially, I suspect...

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    5. Ingrid, SO true! I once picked up the chart that said "SHOULDER DISLOCATION" on it but when I got to the bedside I thought it must be the wrong chart for that patient, who was a woman in her fifties calmly chatting with her husband. A shoulder dislocation is typically a screaming, hysterical 23 year old man. She confirmed that she had a shoulder dislocation, and I thought OK, so she must be one of those unlucky people who have had this happen many times. First-time shoulder dislocations are agonizing but with repetition, the joint becomes a bit more lax and it can be much less painful. So I asked her "Has this happened to you before?" No, it hadn't. She'd been on a kitchen stool reaching for a jar on a high shelf and she'd fallen and she was pretty sure her shoulder was "out". I examined her, looked at the Xray -- yes, a terrible shoulder dislocation; she should have been screaming in pain. Instead she was totally calm and very polite, not even breaking a sweat. I was baffled - then I had a thought. "How many children have you had?" I asked her. "Ten," she said.

      When I look back now, I don't even think it was having gone through childbirth ten times that made her so stoic. I think it was a more insidious process - decades of putting herself last, all the sacrifices involved in mothering ten children... also, she was of a generation when women were expected to be totally selfless wives and mothers. While I admired such stoicism , I am all for empowering females to declare their needs, and to remember that they matter even though their caretaking roles demand so much.

      In other words, I think a middle-aged woman in pain should be allowed to scream like a twenty-three year old man! :)

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    6. Holy cow! That's nuts! I think stoicism has d its place, but that place shouldn't be the ER!

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  6. Liese, one of my daughters was an ER nurse for six years, three in a Level One Trauma Center. She was in a pressure cooker situation, with a patient load of 9-12 per shift, and during the first four months on the job lost 30 pounds. Do you think the writing helped you cope with the stress of your job? Because it had to be extremely stressful.

    I'm intrigued by the characters you describe. Sounds like a really good read.

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    1. Hello, Karen! Writing itself didn't help with the stress for me. When things were too all-consuming, I had nothing left over to put into writing. I know your daughter's pain exactly -- the stress of being understaffed, that feeling of running on a rolling log with people drowning all around you, is unbearable! The only fix for that is to fix the actual problem -- the facility needs to provide appropriate staffing and resources, so that each doctor and nurse is able to give proper care.

      Nowadays, doctors talk about "physician wellness" and that is such an important concept -- I'm thrilled to hear it. Physician wellness wasn't really part of the picture when I was in training. It was basically survival mode --very macho--and the wellness of the provider just wasn't considered. Which seems ridiculous from the outside, but it is only now that I am on the outside that I can see it. I hope doctors and nurses today are able to tend to their own wellness. That's the only way that they can do good job tending to ours, right?

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    2. Too right. Self-care as a mom made me a better parent to my kids, and it has to be true in the helping professions, even more so.

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  7. "Where's the parade" indeed! LOL.And after giving up medicine to write.
    I know having writing sisters made me more confident when I made the leap - did it help you as well?
    My question: *Being* an ER doctor (I would think) must require you to at times turn *off* your emotions and fight your own hunger/fatigue in order to deliver the best care. How does that compare to *writing* a doctor.

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    1. Hello, Hallie! Well, I published my first novel back in medical school, so I didn't have to be coaxed over any kind of barrier. But it has been wonderful having a sister who writes! I am very lucky. She understands the process in a fundamental way (it's almost like we have a twin language!), and she's so generous with super-smart perspective and advice when I am struggling with something in a draft.

      What a great question about emotions in doctoring vs writing a doctor character! Yes, doctoring often did entail the suppression of all needs (hunger, thirst, need for sleep, need to pee, holy cow can you feel the PTSD vibrating off the screen? LOL ). I found that when writing my doctor character Lucy, I had to strip most of that away and discard it -- no matter how vaguely I alluded to that really huge component of life as a doctor, it came off like whining. Medicine is a huge and complex experience, and it is really hard to convey any significant part of it without making the doctor sound like either a martyr or a callous jerk.

      After much labor, I finally grasped that fiction is not journalism, and that a meticulous account of my doctor character's experience would not only be overwhelming and rather pointless, it would also leave no room for STORY. And I wanted to tell a story. I do love beautiful language, but I myself primarily read books for STORY. Remembering for whom I was writing for (the reader, always the reader!) was the critical thing: when I stopped trying to instruct the reader, and shed every other agenda except *telling the story*, things began to work.

      Regarding "turning off" emotions for doctoring -- absolutely true! I had to do that. And writing is the absolute opposite for me -- when I am writing, I must keep an open channel to the emotions inside and write from that deep place. Even if I am not writing an overtly emotional scene, it all has to come from there.

      But doctoring and writing are not exactly opposite. Not always. Some of the very best moments I had as a doctor were ones in which I did retain my humanity. So while for me being a doctor did often require walling off feelings, and for me writing requires precisely the opposite, there is a place -- a kind of sweet spot -- where both professions meet.

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  8. It's wonderful to have you here today Liese. Everyone is asking such intriguing questions this morning. I'm sitting back and taking it all in. "The Possible World" is now on my must read list.

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  9. Wow, this book sounds excellent and as a huge fan of Carla's work, I am thrilled to know that another member of the family is a story-teller as well. Thanks for bringing this book to our attention, Ingrid!

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    1. My pleasure, Kristopher! Very talented sisters!

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    2. Hello , Kristopher! Always nice to meet one of Carla's fans! Her books are so absorbing, aren't they? Did you know the next one is coming in March? THE LIAR'S CHILD. Great title, great story!

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  10. Welcome Liese. I am off to order your book right now.

    As a retired nurse who worked more than one 36 hour shift, I still avoided the ED. That 80% boredom combined with 20% shear terror scared me. I ended my career in hospice where the outcome was always pretty much known, and I got to spend my efforts on actual nursing care.

    On the other hand, there may be nothing quite so exhilarating as coming off one of those shifts knowing you made a difference in someone's life, maybe even saved a few.

    Kudos to ED staff everywhere.

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    1. It stresses me out just thinking about it! I think it takes a certain kind of temperament to excel in that kind of setting.

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    2. Hello, Ann! Yes, yes, yes. The ERs I worked in didn't have any boredom (I am not good with that, so I chose high-volume places specifically), but I totally take your meaning -- I think the constant "adrenal assault" can take its toll. Yes, the highs are really high! We both have those to look back on. In hospice care, you provided comfort. Boy, did I love the times when we were able to give comfort -- such a luxury in the ER. Comfort is really everything, isn't it?

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  11. Congratulations on publication! ER doctors are a special breed, as we learned raising three kids. I read the "mysterious medical cases" column in the Washington Post every month. Do you plan to deal with a mysterious case that your protagonist diagnoses when the patient comes into the ER?

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    1. Well, NOW I might. Thanks for suggesting it. I've enjoyed that WaPo feature too. :)

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  12. Congratulations! Doctors have so much to give and do so. My son is a pediatrician whose life has been enriched with his experiences and patients. Your talents are wonderful.

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    1. Pediatricians are SO important-- they have the chance to make a real difference at the start of a life. And taking care of kids can be so restoring.

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  13. Congratulations on your release! Your novel sounds unforgettable and captivating. Your years spent in the ER are invaluable. I look forward to your forthcoming books greatly.

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  14. The book sounds fabulous - another for the TBR pile.

    As someone who struggles with timelines, did you have any problems keeping the "memories" and histories straight? Any tips?

    Mary/Liz

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    1. That's a great question, Mary/Liz. Liese does a terrific job with that, but it can't have been easy given the various threads of the story.

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    2. Hi, Mary! I think it was easier than it might be to have multiple timelines/voices in The Possible World because the characters and places were quite different -- a young boy, a 99-year old woman, a doctor in her thirties. I think what was more difficult for me was figuring out what needed to be shown and what didn't, and which voice should carry each part of the story. At one point in the drafting process, I worked on only one of the voices going through those sections from start to finish, and then worked on the second, and then on the third. Separating them like that helped me to keep their narratives coherent, I think. Then I went back to the draft and went through it from start to finish, and that helped with nuances like how the different pieces reflected on each other, so that they would work together as a whole. I think the step of focusing on one voice at a time, working through the whole manuscript, was a really helpful interim step for me, for this book.

      Honestly, the above makes it sound as if it was all very simple, la la la, I knew what I was doing all the time. I WISH. At many points, the drafting process was basically a knife fight and a horrorshow of confusion and God knows how it all worked out in the end. :)

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  15. Welcome, Liese! I was so intrigued by your post today that I just ordered your book. I'm finding more and more that I really need to read about the possibility of good in the world, and I loved your premise.

    Our GP was an ER doc until an ultimatum from his wife (have a family OR practice emergency medicine) convinced him to change paths, but I think he still misses it. Do you find yourself missing the adrenaline of the ER, and the immediate satisfaction of a good outcome? Writing a book is such a long, drawn-out, uncertain process in comparison.

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    1. It's so different, Debs! Liese, do you another interest that satisfies your ER needs? Bungee jumping? Cliff diving?

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    2. Oh, Deborah! What a great question. I do miss it, but I love writing more. Writing is less certain, you are so right about that. Writing is a solitary marathon at midnight through the desert, emergency medicine is juggling flaming chainsaws in a crowd. Writing is slow problem solving without anyone telling you if you got the answer right -- emergency medicine is high-speed problem solving with fairly frequent feedback and rewards of all different sizes. While I practiced emergency medicine, I sometimes craved solitude and quiet. Now that I don't practice anymore, I sometimes miss the bustle and purpose of the ER.

      But I am not an adrenaline junkie! I even hate roller coasters. My preferred challenges are mental, which the ER provided in spades. So, if I have that need for the feeling of solving a problem, I tend to do tame things like: check things off my errand list, or play a game on my phone or computer. Or even math! It's amazing how much algebra real life entails, if you look for it. Problem - solution - reward - feeling of accomplishment. And then back to the long slow moonlight marathon. ...

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    3. Ingrid, a lot of ER docs are adrenaline junkies, and the things they do for fun freak me right out. I know a lot like me though: drive-the-speed-limit (we have seen what happens when people don't), take-no-risks (we have seen what happens when people take risks!), get-home-safe and live-to-fight-another-day kind of people. But fun at parties!

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    4. Fun at parties is a great life skill!

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  16. Liese, this sounds like just "my kind of book." I've put it on my TBR list but, of course, I'd love to win a copy. I wish you much success and a lot more books!

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    1. Thank you, Margie! Good luck and I hope you win! :)

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  17. What an interesting post today. The life we live and the one that was possible is thought-provoking. Growing up my youngest brother had asthma so we spent a lot of time visiting the ER, in a city where there were a lot of gunshot wounds waiting to be treated late at night. I admire all ER doctors and can see how writing could provide balance. Congrats on the release of this book and much success to you. I am looking forward to reading it.

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    1. Thank you so much! Yes, an urban ER is really chaotic. It's not a place anyone should spend too much time. I hope your brother is doing all right. An illness like that can be really tough on a kid, and the whole family.

      By the way, I would love to hear the story of your username! :)

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    2. My brother is doing great, thanks. The ER was just a place we had to go when my brother couldn't breathe, and since my mother was a single mother all 4 of us had to go, so while certainly not normal it was for a while a frequent part of our lives. Cannot imagine day after day (night after night) there.

      When my children were small we called them Cootie Bugs (after the game). When my oldest daughter had her first child she decided that Grandma & Grandpa Schmidt were those old, crabby parents of her dad's and wanted a new name for us for the grandkids (and now the great-grandkids). So Grandma & Grandpa Cootie it is, and all the kids are Cootie Bugs ;-).

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    3. That is such a cute story! Your daughter sounds delightful to have come up with that way to carry that childhood nickname forward.

      I'm glad your brother is OK. :)

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  18. Wow. That is quite fascinating.
    The story sounds like it might push outside my comfort zone for emotions, but it sounds like it is well worth the potential discomfort.
    Libby Dodd libbydodd at comcast dot net

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    1. Hi Libby! Yes, please push yourself! I can't promise you won't ugly-cry in places (so many readers have told me they have) but in the end you'll feel better AND your sinuses will be clear. :)

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  19. I love books that have different characters and timelines that somehow magically intersect and bring everyone's stories together, hopefully in a surprising and gratifying way. Can't wait to read The Possible World!

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    1. Thank you, Pat! I really hope you enjoy it when you do. :)

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  20. Liese, wow! I think a good ER doc has to be creative or they will never succeed. That ability to think on your feet, to make a decision from the available information + your intuition, and go with it to help your patient--as a writer you have to have the basic mechanics of your craft down, you need to have some idea of how to move your story along--but there are always those flashes of intuition--of creativity that come out of nowhere and take you someplace you need to be for the well-being of your story.

    And as for comfort, bless you! I've found myself in many ERs over the years--and the medical personnel who have the grace to offer comfort are a prize above rubies! My youngest had been concussed in football--cleared to return to practice after going through a concussion protocol--but kept saying things were not right and having huge panic attacks. After yet another rushed trip to the ER--different ER doc each time--finally one who could not only offer comfort and soothe a scared teen--but who also provided a new way forward. If it hadn't been for that doctor, we might have lost more time getting this child the help he needed.

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    1. That's terrific, Flora! I am so glad your son got to the right doctor. Concussion is poorly understood --but becoming less so -- and it can take a special doctor to "see the person" and provide the care that is needed. Doctor training is very focused on fixing the problem and that is really important but sometimes the importance of empathy is overlooked. Don't get me wrong, if I have to choose one I will take competence -- if I need heart surgery I want a competent surgeon, not a new best friend!

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  21. Hi, Liese, This sounds fabulous. I am definitely adding it to my TBR. Congratulations on the release of your book! Did you find writing your second book easier than the first? I've heard some authors say the sophomore book is harder so I'm always curious.

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    1. Hi, Jenn! Wellllllll I think waiting 28 years between first and second throws a twist into the usual pattern. :) I was definitely more deliberate with the second book, and more aware of what I was trying to do with the story. Wish me luck with the third, I'm already hip-deep. ;)

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    2. LOL! Well, at least it won't be another 28 years!

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  22. Lordy am I ever into this book, Liese And we can have dinner anytime. Never mind the rest of these gutless wonders. Xox

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    1. And length of white coat is definitely inversely proportional to tenure.

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    2. hahaha! I worked both kinds of places (short white coat was most junior in some hospitals, long white coat in other hospitals). Every profession seems to have its own signaling and hierarchy, which the practitioners take very seriously but about which outsiders are totally unaware!

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  23. Hello Liese! I am definitely adding this book to my list! The JRW totally know what is good!

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    1. Hi Judi! Lovely! Yes, the JRW group/blog is phenomenal.

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  24. Congrats on your new release! I'm intrigued by the details/nuances that early readers have noticed/picked up on.

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  25. I have been gone all day, but I always have to check in at the Jungle Reds, and I'm so glad I did tonight. Liese, The Possible World sounds like an amazing story, and I've put it on my wish list and TBR list for after Bouchercon. I've loved Carla's books since her very first one and was fortunate to meet her while she was promoting The Things That Keep Us Here. Such a lot of talent in you two sisters!

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  26. Your dinner party description made me laugh. We're a "medical family", and when my niece--an ED nurse--calls to talk about work, my partner lets the two of us hash over the details before he joins in on the phone for the "happy talk". He practically asks, "Is it safe yet? Is she ready to tell the funny ER stories?" She's a good sport, and a good storyteller, so she usually obliges with tales of silly ED visits or cute things people say--always HIPAA-compliant, of course. ;)

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  27. "The Possible World" sounds like an interesting story. Definitely my type of read. it's amazing that as a doctor you can find time to write books. Would really like to read.

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