Reading and Writing Addiction
Interview with K. Patrick McDonald, Author of “The Paramedic Heretic: Immutable Laws and Ethical Illusions”
Reading and Writing Addiction was able to catch up with medical author Patrick McDonald this week. We are excited to share this insightful interview today with our readers:
RAWA: Patrick, when did you first discover that you were a writer?
KPM: When I was a youngster growing up in Indiana, I was sent to a small, very strict private school called St. Michael’s Academy. I was so shy that I found it very hard to even look the Jesuit priests and the Dominican nuns in the face and communicate with them. I was a terrified young fellow who figured out that it was far easier to write down my thoughts, than to utter them out loud. The nuns used to pat me on the shoulder and smile, telling me my notes to them were a joy. That’s when I learned the value of the written word.
RAWA: What is your favorite part of writing?
KPM: For me, the most enjoyable aspect is going back over a section or chapter and tweaking the sentences; honing the concepts; tossing out superfluous language; substituting good words with great words. I suspect I may well be an editor at heart.
RAWA: What do you think is the most challenging aspect of writing?
KPM: Because I write mostly non-fiction, the challenges I face are often in the research. I envy the fiction writers who can let their imaginations run wild – stretch deep into the world of make-believe. Because my work is highly critical of the medical profession, I simply cannot afford to stretch very far, or exaggerate. I examine real events and use real names. I do not particularly enjoy putting in the hundreds of hours necessary to be as accurate as a non-fiction critique of healthcare needs to be. But in order to make the book fun to read, I do write non-fiction with the feel of fiction story line.
RAWA: Tell us about your latest release.
KPM: The short version is that my classmates and I were faced with numerous ugly realities within the world of EMS before we even got out of medical school. One of our most popular lecturers, for example, was a physician convicted of murdering his wife and three children. From that day forward, I started taking notes, just to make sense of what I was experiencing. These were private notes, and it certainly never occurred to me that the appalling misbehavior of professionals around me would continue. But it did and it does, day after day. So one day I pulled out several thousand pages of dusty notes and started the process of assembling them into a cogent string of rescue experiences and how they often went wrong. The result is “The Paramedic Heretic.”
RAWA: How did you come up with the title of your book?
KPM: Like many authors, I suppose, I bounced title ideas around for quite a while. In the end, I realized that two undeniable facts kept bumping into each other: my profound Catholic upbringing during a time when the word “heretic” was commonly used. And later, as a young adult, benefitting from a highly traditional medical education at UCSD School of Medicine in San Diego. It dawned on me one day that anybody who actually writes a scathing critique of his own profession might rightly be called a “heretic.” I find it disturbing and regrettable that I no longer have faith in much of what bills itself “the finest healthcare in the world.” The fact is, U.S. healthcare generally ranks between 25th and 37th.
RAWA: Who are some of your favorite authors?
KPM: In fiction, I’ve always admired Anne Rice for marvelous fictive worlds, and Michael Crichton for medical suspense. For reality I love Joseph Wambaugh. My favorite non-fiction book is Marcia Clark’s memoir of the O.J. Simpson case, “Without a Doubt.”
RAWA: What do you think has influenced your writing style the most?
KPM: Well, as so many of us who love words woven into stories, I’ve read a thousand books. But I think what I’ve tried to emulate are authors who teach you as they entertain you; express thoughts cleanly, while not going off the deep end with the flowery adjectives. Bill O’Reilly and Martin Dugard do this very well in their “Killing” series.
RAWA: As a writer, what is the accomplishment that you are most proud of?
KPM: In “Heretic” Doctor Max Harry Weil – considered the ‘father’ of critical care medicine – was impressed enough with the book that he agreed to write the Foreword. I am honored. More than two dozen other physicians were good enough to support what are – at times – extremely critical views of physician misbehavior. I am extremely proud that so many doctors actually support my blistering exposure of their incompetent peers.
RAWA: How did you get published?
KPM: In 2009 my book “America’s Dumbest Doctors” was put out by Dog Ear Publishing. When they learned I was working on a second one in a similar vein, they contacted me and offered to publish “Heretic.” I spoke with two other publishers, but what truly separates Dog Ear from so many others is their terrific author reps. They work with you every step of the way, and they are available by phone just about every time you call. They simply do exactly what they promise, and the quality of their books is outstanding.
RAWA: Do you have any advice for writers looking to get published?
KPM: Yes. Create the finest end-product you possibly can. In order to do this, you need to read, read, read, and then write, write and write some more. There are some terrific online guides to writing Query letters to agents, and you will need to master this, too. Submit at least a dozen Query letters to appropriate agents. Then submit a dozen more. And while you are awaiting their responses, download a copy of Mark Levine’s, “The Fine Print of Self Publishing.” If and when you have no positive responses from literary agents – and that is a very real possibility – go for the most appropriate choice in Mark Levine’s book you can find. In fact, you may just discover – as I have – that the literary agent path is not the path for you.