Podcast: Novelist Kimmery Martin on medicine and the writing life

Longtime readers of Sarah’s blog (TheSHUBox) know that she has spent a lot of time pumping over the last few months. The upside is plenty of time to read, and one of the novels she devoured was Kimmery Martin’s The Queen of Hearts.

So we were excited to welcome Martin to the podcast. Martin worked for years as an emergency medicine physician (though she transitioned into a different medical role while finishing her novel). She also has three children. A few highlights from this episode:

Being a professional writer involves doing a lot of non-writing things. There’s promotion, administration, correspondence, side writing gigs to raise your profile and earn extra money, etc. I think a lot of writers struggle with this. Even if you’re a full-time writer it’s sometimes hard to find time to write!

Some jobs lend themselves to creating time to write. Being on duty in an ER is not such a job (as I can attest from having been in an ER yesterday — more on that later in the post). But as Martin was finishing The Queen of Hearts, she was offered a job as a supervising physician at an allergy shot clinic. She had to be on duty should something go wrong, which it generally didn’t. So she was able to write and edit. I am reminded of Jack Kerouac working as a lookout in a fire tower…

“Write what you know” is good advice. If you’re transitioning into a writing career from something else, relying on your expertise can give you a voice and insight that other writers won’t have. It’s a good angle to take, and certainly something that makes Martin’s medical fiction stand apart.

Writing is a process, and it doesn’t just involve the writer. You can write whatever you want, but if you want your novel to be commercially published, and particularly if it’s your first novel, you generally have to follow certain conventions. Martin’s novel lost about 100,000 words in the editing process (that’s the equivalent of a long novel right there — many published novels are in the 70-80k word range, though Queen of Hearts is a little longer). Her contract required her to rewrite the second half of the novel with a  completely different plot. She also needed to take out Zadie’s husband as a point of view character (if a book is aimed at women, publishers might not want to complicate matters that way). However…

Cut material is still material. One of Martin’s forthcoming books will feature a character that wound up with a minor part in Queen of Hearts. Stay tuned for that in a few years!

In other news: Best of Both Worlds is conducting a listener survey! Please take a few minutes to fill out this form and let us know what you like and what you don’t like. You can also use this form to submit a question for an upcoming episode. We appreciate your time and we are always trying to improve and make the podcast more relevant and enjoyable.

In other other news: I had my own ER fun yesterday. On Sunday we went for a family bike ride along the river near Valley Forge. After letting the 3-year-old out of the bike trailer, we let him run around to burn off energy. I told him to run to a nearby tree and back. He ran up to the tree and said something like “hey, what’s that?” and proceeded to paw at something that hissed at him. I went over and saw it was a bat — a bat that didn’t fly away at all, which I thought was strange. Rabies is rare but bat-transmitted and pretty much always fatal (something I learned recently when some family members had to go through the rabies vaccine process after they had a bat in their bedroom overnight). So we called the park rangers who came and got the bat. My husband took the 3-year-old to the ER but the doctor on duty said we didn’t need to start the rabies vaccine since there was no evidence he had been bitten. But after they were discharged we had more conversations with pediatricians and infectious disease specialists, and it turns out that bat teeth are small and if the person can’t really tell you what happened (as is the case with a 3-year-old), you should go ahead and start the vaccine, especially if it might take a while to get results on the animal. So I then spent Monday morning talking with the health department and the rangers and they got the bat transmitted to the state lab for testing and I talked to our pediatrician, who consulted another infectious disease specialist. They called the ER and got us re-admitted. So I took the 3-year-old yesterday for a 2-hour visit resulting in some not-very-fun shots. He was indignant about the whole thing. He’d actually gotten his flu vaccine Sunday before the bat incident, and had gotten a nasal spray vs. a shot, and he seemed to think he would always have a choice on medical delivery mechanism. So he was screaming at me “I didn’t want the needle! I didn’t want the needle!” Me neither kid. Hopefully the test results from the bat will come back negative and we won’t have to go through with the rest of it.

3 thoughts on “Podcast: Novelist Kimmery Martin on medicine and the writing life

  1. I hope and pray for y’all it was not rabid. Unfortunately, we had to go through a similar experience (waiting/testing)etc. It was a nightmare.

  2. Looking forward to listening. Good for you for following up. Fingers crossed it comes back negative, but you will be happy that you did the first round.
    One of my kiddos is stoic, the other two not so much. You might ask about nasal fentanyl/versed to help him calm down if you have to do another round. The shots can be gnarly.

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