Conversation Corner with Carrie Rubin, Author of Medical Thrillers

Carrie Rubin

Carrie Rubin

I am so pleased to be hosting Carrie Rubin for today’s Conversation Corner. I love Carrie’s blog The Write Transition, which showcases her wonderful insights about life and writing. Carrie’s blog has many followers, and yet she somehow finds the time to provide thoughtful answers to every single comment. I am frankly in awe of her mastery of all things media.

Carrie is also a truly funny woman who happens to write novels about disease and serial killers. (Go figure.) Her wonderful second novel Eating Bull has just been released, and I asked her if she would come on by to chat about her experiences writing in the thriller genre. Here is our conversation about teenage heroes, book promotion, health, and funny words.

Carrie, I love the beginning of your About page:

Physician, public health advocate, writer. I believe every experience is worthwhile, even if our paths deviate from where we started.

I hope you don’t mind if I steal that second sentence as an inspirational quote. 🙂 I’ve always felt that whatever we learn is never wasted, since it helps us grow later in ways we couldn’t have foreseen. How have your experiences as a physician contributed to your career as a writer? And what prompted you to make that transition?

Please do take advantage of that quote! Other than my teen sons parroting me in a mocking falsetto, no one ever quotes me.

My medical background plays a big role in my writing, first as a write-what-you-know tool and second as a platform of authenticity. This legitimacy is particularly important for my newest novel, because the social issue at play in Eating Bull is obesity and the food industry’s role in it. Readers want to know the author has experience in the area, and between my years of clinical practice and my public health research, I do.

I have always wanted to write novels. In fact, I wrote my first book fourteen years ago. But as so often happens, life got in the way. So, during a career transition from clinical to nonclinical medicine a couple of years back, I jumped off a cliff and dived into writing instead. (Thanks to the amazing support of my husband whose words at the time were, “It’s now or never.”) Of course, I keep all my medical licensure and public health requirements up to date for life’s next chapter, as well as ties to my hospital of employment, but for now I’m enjoying the life of a writer.

It’s clear in Eating Bull that your authenticity has served you well – including your experience with teen boys! Your main character, Jeremy, is so well drawn. What helped you get into his mindset? And how did you handle the ongoing switch between his point of view and that of adult health worker Sue?

Thank you. My oldest son was fifteen years old when I wrote the book, so having a character the same age as my son helped me get into a teenager’s mindset. Plus, my son served as one of my beta readers. I wanted his opinion on whether Jeremy rang true to his age. If he thought something was off, I fixed the issue. This was particularly helpful in relation to Jeremy’s video game playing and his interactions at school.

Since I enjoy writing in a third-person limited narrative, I had to make sure Sue’s chapters sounded different from Jeremy’s. A 48-year-old woman will have different insights and reactions than a 15-year-old boy. So I tried to don the personality of whoever’s point of view I was writing from. Of course, that meant thinking like Darwin, too. Getting into the mindset of a killer makes for an interesting experience!

I’ll bet it does! I’ve always thought writing thrillers must be challenging because of its inevitable focus on the negative side of human nature. How do you get into that mindset? How do you shake it off? And have you come across any useful resources that helped you write this type of thriller?

I’m not sure I do anything specific to get into the mindset, but when I’m focusing on the negative, particularly when writing from the antagonist’s point of view, I remind myself of Stephen King’s words:

If you intend to write as truthfully as you can, your days as a member of polite society are numbered, anyway.

—Stephen King, On Writing

In other words, I try not to censor myself. As much as my antagonist’s actions might disturb me, they are what fuel the story, and I need to be willing to go there.

I’ve read a variety of books on the craft of writing, but two of the most helpful for me in terms of writing thrillers are Story Engineering and Story Physics, both by Larry Brooks. Structure is very important when drafting thrillers, and I like to have it all laid out beforehand. Brooks’s books help me navigate how to do that.

As you know, I’m a fan of Story Engineering as well. It seems to me that engineering is a perfect concept for a lot of the activities involved in writing a book, including the engineering involved in coordinating its release. How do you handle all the various bits and pieces that are involved in promoting your work?

Honestly, that part’s a bit stressful for me. There is much to coordinate, both online and face-to-face. In the weeks leading up to the book’s release, I:

  • wrote blog posts and articles, either for my own site or elsewhere
  • sent out ARCs (Advance Reader Copies)
  • updated my various platforms and included the book’s links
  • contacted potential reviewers
  • designed bookmarks and other promotional items
  • got emails ready to send to local newspapers, alumni newsletters, and professional contacts
  • set up book signings
  • created posters for book signings
  • developed a “talk” should any speaking engagements arise
  • explored other marketing venues

Eating BullAnd, of course, during all that I was reading through the final electronic and print versions of Eating Bull before my publisher gave it the official go. It’s amazing how a typo can slip past 2,000 previous readings!

But I handled it like most of us do: making lists and tackling the elephant one bite at a time.

That sure is a big elephant! You’ve talked a lot on your blog about your introversion. As an introvert, how do you keep yourself from running out of energy with all these activities?

The busy work I listed above doesn’t really drain me. It’s the social interactions that do, particularly the face-to-face ones. So now that the book is released, and I’ll be facing more in-person promotion, I’ll need to make sure I get wind-down time every night, either in the form of a good TV show or some reading. Those always help quiet my mind and recharge my batteries, especially if they are followed by a good night’s sleep and a morning workout.

Sounds like an excellent plan. I know I need that recharging time after a busy social day (although I’m still struggling with the workout part). 🙂

You’ve mentioned that the face-to-face interactions involved in promotion are particularly challenging for you. I’ve noticed that you are active on Twitter and Goodreads and comment on many blogs. Do you find communicating through social media to be easier? And how do you manage to keep up with all your online platforms?

I do find interacting on social media much easier. No eye contact, no small talk, and communication in short snippets—perfect for an introvert. In her book Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking, Susan Cain mentions that many introverts thrive online. That being said, I’m a big girl, and I can function in the real world when needed. It just saps my energy more than online communication.

I devote a couple of hours each day to social media, but I don’t keep up as well as I’d like. I do best with Twitter and my blog, but even the latter I find challenging since I follow so many others. While I can’t catch every post, especially on the more prolific blogs, I try to stop by when I can. It’s always fun to see what others are up to, and I’ve found the blogging community to be genuine and supportive. In fact, I’ve ‘met’ remarkable people from all over the world.

I wholeheartedly agree – the blogging community has been wonderful to me as well. And of course I got to meet you! 🙂

I have one last question (one that will hopefully help this introvert impress people at awkward social events): Do you have a favourite obscure or funny medical term?

This is one of those questions where you can’t think of a great answer at the time but later come up with something perfect, usually at three in the morning. But here are a couple of medical terms I like: Borborygmus, which is the term for stomach growling, and myokymia, the term for involuntary muscle twitching, like when your eyelid keeps contracting. And if you have both at the same time? Well…you might want to skip your next meeting.

Thank you so much for having me today, Sue! I had a lot of fun, and I’m honored to be a part of your fabulous blog. For anyone who hasn’t seen Sue’s Rogue Word series yet, it’s definitely worth a look. Lots of great writing tips there. I found the s and apostrophes post particularly helpful.

Thanks, Carrie! I’m glad that my series was helpful for you. And thank you so much for stopping by DBW today and sharing your experiences with my readers!

***

For those of you who enjoy thrillers, I encourage you to take a look at Eating Bull.

And if you’re interested in reading previous conversations on various communication topics, you can find them here. Thanks for reading!

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155 thoughts on “Conversation Corner with Carrie Rubin, Author of Medical Thrillers

  1. Thank you, Sue, for the wonderful interview with Carrie! We started blogging about the same time and have been following each other from the early days. It’s been wonderful to see her experiences and successes as these 4 years have passed, and I’m sure they’ll continue.

    I had the honor and pleasure of reading an advance copy of Eating Bull even though it’s not my typical genre. But knowing how good a writer Carrie is, I couldn’t let that little detail stop me. 😉 And I’m glad I forged ahead. Eating Bull is first and foremost a good thriller. The fact that the story will also make readers stop and think is a wonderful added layer.

    I hope your regular readers will give this book some serious consideration for their “to be read” lists.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Thanks for reading, JM, and thank you for the kind words about my book. Can you believe we’ve been blogging for four years? Boggles my mind. But it’s been a joy to be on this writing journey alongside you!

      Like

  2. Great interview Carrie! I had no idea there was so much work involved in publishing a book. I’m exhausted just reading the to do list (being an introvert myself). But I am thoroughly impressed with how much you’ve accomplished. Congrats! Look forward to “sinking my teeth’ into that copy when it arrives. 😊

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I followed Carrie across here from her blog. I enjoyed the interview. I’m impressed that she manages to keep up with social media as well as she does (despite what she says) given the million other things she does in her life. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Great interview. I really enjoy Carrie’s blog. What a combination. Funny. Supportive to I don’t know how many bloggers. And now, the source of borborygmus, which believe it or not, my spell-checker actually knows, and just corrected. How many others in the world know this word? Cheers and thanks for the informative interview.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Thanks for the interview!

    Carrie, it’s really great to get a peek behind the scenes and see what goes into writing a book. Looks like my novel should have a 6-month-old baby on it, so I can use Nathan as a beta reader!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Loved this interview! And I love Carrie! I just finished her new book and loved that too! It is so well-written and entertaining… I found myself getting very absorbed in the characters and the story, which took me through many emotions… which is what leaves me thinking about a book long after I’ve finished it.

    I know Carrie is passionate about causes and issues she believes in… and it’s amazing how her voice is heard through the telling of this story. In the end, I love that the book has a purpose – that is something I value when I choose to read anything, really, and I think Carrie should be commended for that – for wanting to make a difference.

    She is an authentic and humble person, who I was drawn to right away when I started blogging, and I’ve found her to be very supportive of me, as well as many, many other people who I’m sure have grown to love her endearing spirit just as much as I do. Obviously, I just wish her all the very best with everything!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Kelly, thank you for such heart-warming words. Not only did you make my day, but you inspired me to keep doing what I’m doing. Makes me want to tackle another theme in a book, although my next novel doesn’t really have a social theme. No killer either. Well, not of the human kind. But as a nurse, you know how troublesome those infectious pathogens can be…

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Thanks Sue for profiling one of my favorite writers/bloggin’ buddies! I’ve read both of Carrie’s books and readers will not be disappointed.

    Carrie, when we (eventually) meet, don’t worry about small talk. I never shut up.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Ha! That sounds good, Elyse. But I’d probably be okay with you, because we could talk politics. Get me on that subject, and I’ll never shut up either. In person, anyway. I try to remain more mum about it online.

      Thanks for your kind words.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. When I was in LPN school, before returning to RN school, we had a medical terminology class that included visual image associations. I’ll never forget the eye with a blue furry lashes. Blupheritis. Weird…but it worked.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Nice to see you here! So glad to learn more about your book and the challenges of being an introvert and having to deal with book promotion. I also have Susan Cain’s Quiet book. I haven’t read Story Engineering. Thanks for the tip!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi, L. Marie! It’s great to see you. I agree with Carrie that Story Engineering is quite helpful in thinking about plot. Brooks does a great job of tying all the pieces of storytelling together.

      Like

    1. Thanks, John! I really appreciate your comment. I remember being overwhelmed by Twitter until I started thinking of it as a swift river filled with glittering fish. You’re only going to catch some of them as they go by, but that’s okay. 🙂

      Liked by 2 people

  10. Carrie – as promised, I downloaded the book onto my Kindle before boarding my flight last night. Thank you for a read that drew me in and kept me hooked for the entire 4.5 hours. I didn’t even considering plugging into the in flight entertainment because your story is that good. Can’t wait to read on!

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Awesome interview!
    I’m a HUGE Carrie Rubin fan. Eating Bull is a terrific book.
    You’ve used your resources well Carrie- from story structure to medical knowledge to listening to your son- you’ve written another wonderful novel.
    And it’s so nice to get to know another blogger. Thank you Sue for sharing your interview.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Great interview, Sue. Carrie, I’ve read quite a few books on writing but had never heard of The Story Engineering and Story Physics, both by Larry Brooks. I was amazed to read all that you had to do leading up to the book’s release! Exhausting! And courageous as well.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you, Carol. I still feel like I have so much to do, so many people/places to contact. It is a bit exhausting but also fun. As for Brooks’s books–definitely my favorites. They serve my left-brained plotting well.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you again so much for the kind words. They really do help keep me motivated, and I appreciate you saying them. And thank you for stopping by here, especially since I’m sure you have a busy day ahead. Maybe you’ll have time to see some weird, expensive art on your lunch break.

      Like

  13. What a great interview between the two of you. I already knew Carrie was a smart and interesting lady, but it’s always fascinating the little tidbits that can be dredged up by the right question!

    Liked by 1 person

  14. What a wonderful interview, Sue. It’s so great that I got to meet you through Carrie here. She’s a wonderful human being. Carrie, I am so impressed with you and your writing. I’m so excited for you and your book. I’m reading it now and am enjoying every minute of it. You are an inspiration and I cherish our online friendship. I don’t know how I ever existed now without my online friends. Wishing you great success with your new book!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you, Amy! I can’t tell you how much your words warm my heart. So many warm fuzzies here that I’m well fueled for any teasing that comes from my sons. 🙂 And you’re right about the online connections. When I think of all I’ve learned and enjoyed from my social media friends, it’s really quite mind-boggling, especially for an introvert.

      I think you’ll enjoy Sue’s blog. Her editing tips are very helpful. Seriously. She saved me with the s and apostrophe thing. I didn’t know (or had forgotten) about adding an ‘es’ to the end of a family name when used in plural. For example, the Harrises’ car. (Did I do that correctly, Sue?)

      Liked by 2 people

  15. What a wonderful interview – such thoughtful questions! I loved reading about your creative process, Carrie, especially how you were able to write through different perspectives, whether they were different ages or different sensibilities (a.k.a. tendency towards serial killing).

    Liked by 1 person

  16. Great interview, Sue; I’m terribly jealous! I’d love to interview Carrie, but know she doesn’t do many guest posts (none that I remember). I’m so impressed that you got her AND that you gave such a great interview!! Great questions!

    Carrie, loved reading this. I thought I knew most things about you, from your bog… and most of this was a new twist on stuff I did know, but the questions and answers were creative and fun to read, making for a really good look at you as a writer and blogger. I really enjoyed this! All the best on your book; can’t wait to read it! Next time you’re looking for test readers, think ME. 😉

    Fabulous job, ladies!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you, Dawn! I appreciate your kind words and your offer to be an early reader next time around. I always feel a bit intrusive asking people if they want an ARC, because I know how busy everyone is. It’s tough to just work a new book into the schedule. Thanks for dropping by. Have a good one!

      Liked by 1 person

  17. I loved how it felt like I was spying on the two of you while you were chatting with your tea. I hope you’ve been celebrating lately, Carrie! You managed to get a great book out into the world. I loved Eating Bull and I’m looking forward to the next one. Now go find a goat to celebrate with! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Very true. I convinced myself I had to take every opportunity and do everything I could. We know how that ended up. I’m starting to see where I sell well and where I don’t. Some events aren’t worth the time even if I can get the spot.

        Liked by 2 people

  18. This was awesome, you guys! One of the better interviews I’ve seen in the blogosphere. Of course, I’m a Carrie fan, so it was awesome to hear more about her background and inspiration. I just added those two writing books to my library holds. Good timing, while I’m knee deep in editing.

    Liked by 1 person

  19. Great interview, and I still learned some things about Carrie and her writing even though I follow her blog religiously!

    I was one of the lucky people who was given an ARC of Eating Bull, and I happily “devoured” it. Carrie has an easy, yet engaging writing style and a strong command of her subject matter. Definitely worth a read!

    I also highly recommend all of those writing guides Carrie mentions. They are a continuous help to any writer who is slogging through the writing and/or editiing process.

    Liked by 1 person

  20. Thanks to both of you for such an informative and entertaining interview. Carrie, I love Susan Cain’s book! It definitely helped me to embrace my introversion and learn to cope functioning in an extroverted world 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Sorry, I just saw this comment. Thanks so much for dropping by! Yes, Cain’s book is wonderful. I only wish I would’ve had something like that when I was younger. Would have helped me understand myself so much better.

      Liked by 2 people

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