Sunday, August 25, 2013

Author Spotlight: Glenn Shepard

In this edition, our Author Spotlight is aimed squarely at Dr. Glenn Shepard. Shepard is an esteemed medical doctor and retired surgeon whose debut thriller, Not for Profit, was recently released to stellar reviews. As a matter of fact, one of Not for Profit’s hearty endorsements comes from none other than Layton Green, who’s not only a fellow thriller author, but an alumnus of the Gazalapalooza Author Spotlight. Green calls Shepard’s novel “slick and intelligent.” After you read Not for Profit, you’ll see Green made the right call.

Every author’s journey from blank page to published work is unique. For example, if memory serves Shepard is the first combination M.D. / thriller author we’ve hosted at the Spotlight. Shepard wrote his first novel decades ago, while his surgical practice was in full swing and his free time was far scarcer than it is now. At its end it was 1,000 pages long, but that first book was never published. Nonetheless, that book taught Shepard invaluable lessons about the art and craft of writing. Those lessons, combined with the wisdom and professional expertise he gained from his medical practice plus his abiding love for the written word, culminated in the publication of Not for Profit.

In an interview about his new book and writing generally, Shepard said, “All fiction is real life and all real life is fiction.” We’ll advise him to use that thought for a mantra as we strap him into the Spotlight’s unforgiving wooden chair and beam the glaring white heat of our klieg light array at him. Not to worry if the conditions are harsh – there’s a doctor in the house. So with no more ado, we’ll get this Author Spotlight underway.

Gazala:    In my omnipotence, I've sentenced you to be stranded alone on a desert island for offenses best left unnamed. In my beneficence, I've decided to allow you a limited amount of reading material to make your stay a little less bleak than it would otherwise be. I'll spot you your religious text of preference, and the collected works of William Shakespeare. In addition to those, name the one fiction book, and the one nonfiction book, you'd choose to take with you, and why you choose them.

Shepard:    The nonfiction work I'd choose is Gray's Anatomy. In med school, there was so much to cover in a limited amount of time that just the highlights were spot-lighted. In between these were millions of bits of overlooked minutia that are quite fascinating and worthy of study. I'd love to have unlimited time to enjoy this. David Foster Wallace's book, Infinite Jest would be my work of fiction. It takes time to read and understand this work. Each time I start it, there are many things occupying my mind and I always put it down to pursue pressing objectives.

Gazala:    Your new book is an excellent and gripping novel titled Not For Profit. It follows plastic surgeon Dr. Scott James as he struggles to clear his name of two murders of which he's been falsely accused, in a setting deftly spiced with love, violence, sex, mystery, orchids, and renegade drones. I've read it. I enjoyed it immensely, and recommend it highly. Shockingly enough, however, from time to time my bare recommendation doesn't always motivate a book's potential reader to become a book's actual reader. Tell us something about Not For Profit, and why its potential reader should make the leap and become its actual reader.

Shepard:    Three things motivated me to write this book. The first and principle one was that some not for profit hospitals have used their tax exempt status to enter markets in hospital services and even in areas remote from hospital care and compete successfully with tax-paying individuals and groups, in many instances claiming the bulk of the market share. I can understand that the price the hospitals pay for buildings, equipment, and products necessary to run the acquired properties and services are tax deductible for hospitals as well as private individuals, but what the public doesn't know is that the out flow of dollars to these entities magnifies the unrelated cost each patient pays for the hospital services. And the salary paid to the executives may not be the $250,000 the newspapers report as their salaries (the figure given in the book for the salary of the fictitious chief administrator), but a figure hidden in the multitude of corporations within a single hospital group. This is a work of fiction. I am not blowing a whistle on any group as no individual can stand in court and face any billion dollar hospital. But I call attention to the high cost of hospital services that in my belief relates to the expensive expansion of hospitals beyond primary patient care that has the potential of ballooning the executive compensations of the hospital leadership.

The second thing I want people to be aware of is the importance of drone warfare in protecting America from terrorists. I applaud the headlines telling almost daily of the accomplishments of our drones.

Thirdly, I want my readers to share with me the horrors of terrorism. I used the character Ethel Keyes to convey this message. A brilliant woman’s fear of the torture she would face if she disobeyed her bosses led her far beyond the limits imposed on her by her own conscience. Several readers objected to the violence I portrayed. Describing what terrorists did to the book characters, in my belief, equates to the actions of real life. But we don't want to see this violence. Like in the recent Boston bombings, people read headlines and are mad that people died and many were injured. The close-up images of the horrible injuries at the scene are purged from the TV reporting. People don't want to see the anguish and suffering at the scene. They're happy to gloss over the actual horrors and just count the numbers dead and wounded. So with terrorist attacks all over the world. The suffering is censored from our eyes. I did no censoring. I hope people were horrified and will open their eyes.

Several readers objected to the book's sexuality. Ethel Keyes' prior sexual experiences were all tainted by her poverty and the wealth promised to her by the terrorist, Omar Farok. I showed a real, romantic relationship that changed her negativism about sex. I felt it necessary as the first step in her recovery. I thought it important for readers to be with her in this part of her journey. You'll see this in my future books. I plan to use her again. You'll see how this talented woman has benefited from the positive sexual experiences of Not For Profit.   

Gazala:    What are books for?

Shepard:    Good books serve for self-understanding. I become one with the main characters and try to see the world as they see it. Sometimes, it is not with the same perspective as mine, and a good book gives me a better knowledge of differing points of view. Some flow with my points of view, and reinforce and sometimes even modify my way of thinking. I like books that make me think. I hope Not For Profit makes people think beyond the "yellow brick road" of the plot.

Gazala:    W. Somerset Maugham said, "There are three rules for writing the novel. Unfortunately, no one knows what they are." Do you agree, or disagree, and why?

Shepard:    This statement says a lot about the manner of Somerset Maugham. It makes me think. Think deeply, as do his writings. His is a rare talent. I enjoy reading him over and over again. Another of his great quotes is, "Life isn't long enough for love and art." And it really isn't.

Gazala:    An unmarked black drone has been circling a couple hundred yards over my rooftop for the past 15 minutes. While I'm dusting off my sniper rifle, ask yourself a question, and answer it.

Shepard:    A black drone! At a hundred fifty yards! It's small. I can take it with my .223! A well placed shot in the engine will knock it out of the sky! But wait. Is it on an intelligence mission tracking a terrorist group working in this area? Or is it controlled by a terrorist group surveying the military establishments in eastern Virginia? Or, just maybe, it's from a Not For Profit outfit that didn't like my book? I take aim on the unmanned aircraft. My finger is on the trigger. If it fires a rocket toward me, I'll pull the trigger. Maybe, I'll be killed. But at least, I'll take that sucker with me!

“All fiction is real life and all real life is fiction.” Based on his last response alone, it seems Doc Shepard may be onto something. You’ll think so too, after reading Not for Profit. We’ve made it easy for you to get your very own copy of the book from Amazon. All you have to do is click here. Happy reading.