Medical-thriller writer Michael Palmer has been at the top of his game for decades. His knack for combining his experience as an MD with edge-of-your-seat psychological thrills has landed his books on bestseller lists time and again.
His newest book, Political Suicide, once again features Washington DC physician Dr. Lou Welcome. Fans of Palmer’s previous novel, Oath of Office, will want to delve into the short story On Call, which bridges the action leading into Political Suicide.
Today, Palmer stops by the NOOK Blog to reveal how he came up with the intriguing premise for his latest thriller:
My med school classmates at Case Western Reserve seldom bothered to ask the professor. They knew I was going to. The need for clarity and process have always been driving forces in my life, which is why, a few years ago, I began to try and formulate the steps I was following to write my thrillers. Here are the first three of them as they apply to my 18th novel, Political Suicide (PS).
1) Find a rhino (named for step one in making rhinoceros stew) – Meaning: Figure out what you want to write about. This is traditionally the hardest step for me. I sit and read, then think and sit and talk to friends, then read and think some more. Weeks, sometimes. The idea for PS came from an op ed piece online that a friend pointed out to me. At the time I didn’t realize that here was my book, so I didn’t even pay attention to the source. But my friend knew better than I did. The article mused about the possibility that suicide bombers had something chemically out of whack in the part of their brain that served the most basic of animal instincts--self-preservation. See Step 3 below.
2) The elevator question – In all of my books, this is step 2—a tight (25 words or less) carefully honed, worked and re-worked What If? question that would be your response to a literary agent who steps on the elevator with you, says she’s getting off in two floors, and asks what your book is about. In the case of PS, my what if was “What if a man kills himself and skillfully makes it look like he was murdered?” Once I got crankin’ I had to tinker with the what if a bit, but it got my agent and editor interested in learning more, and that’s what mattered.
3) Come up with a good McGuffin—Alfred Hitchcock gets credit for the word. Google it and do a little reading, and you’ll soon understand the concept. For starters, I’ll give you my definition: The McGuffin is the answer to the What If? question. In the case of PS, a tough, brilliant U.S. Marine Corps physician has developed the chemistry to eliminate man’s ability to experience fear, thereby leveling the field, so to speak, with our terrorist enemies.
For more tips, please check my website at www.michaelpalmerbooks.com.
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