Please join me in welcoming author Dean M. DeLuke as the special guest blogger here today at Thoughts in Progress as he makes a stop on his virtual blog tour.
Dean is the author of SHEDROW, a new thriller dubbed a cross between Dick Francis and Robin Cook. He is a graduate of St. Michael’s College, Columbia University (DMD) and Union Graduate College (MBA). He also has a long history of involvement with thoroughbred horses—from farm hand on the Assunta Louis Farm in the 1970s to partner with Dogwood Stable at present. He drew on both in creating his debut novel SHEDROW. Dean stop by to answer some questions.
Tell us a bit about yourself. Where are you from and how long have you been writing?
I was born and raised in upstate New York, and I live in Saratoga County now, about 15 miles south of Saratoga Springs. I have been a practicing oral and maxillofacial surgeon for close to 30 years. My practice is now half-time, with the remainder of my time devoted to a variety of business consulting activities, and writing, of course.
I had published a good deal of work related to my profession in peer-reviewed scientific journals and newsletters, but I set my mind to a work of fiction after meeting authors Robert Dugoni, Michael Palmer and Tess Gerritsen. Palmer and Gerritsen, both best-selling authors, also had careers as physicians, and Dugoni was a practicing attorney for many years before he published his first best-seller. So I did my best to study the craft and learn from three of the best, participating in several writing workshops sponsored by SEAK, Inc. and featuring Palmer, Gerritsen and Dugoni. As for my longstanding interest in books and writing, I credit a host of inspirational secondary school teachers at the Albany Academy, a school that counts among its alumni Herman Melville, Stephen Vincent Benet and Andy Rooney.
Tell us about your latest book. What do you hope readers take away from it?
SHEDROW has been described as a racetrack thriller in the spirit of Dick Francis, but since the principal character is a surgeon rather than a barrister, it has a good deal of medical drama as well. It’s a very fast-paced thriller, a fun read, and as one author said, “filled with characters that you would enjoy hanging out with for a while.”
Nonetheless, the story also indirectly explores some serious issues affecting the sport of thoroughbred racing: over-breeding for speed at the expense of stamina, overreliance on medications, and the need for a national racing commissioner, just as most other professional sports have.
Share some of your writing goals. What's next for you?
I have an idea and a start on a sequel to SHEDROW. Right now that voice is battling with another that may want to tackle a non-fiction work dealing with our system of health care.
Any type of writing ritual you have?
I write whenever and wherever I can. In writing SHEDROW, I tended to think in terms of a weekly word count goal, because I wasn’t able to write every day. Some days it might be nothing, or a few hundred words, other days I might write 1500 words.
Do you believe in writer’s block? If so, how did you get past it? If not, why not?
Frankly, I don’t think I have been writing fiction long enough to do justice to that question. Fiction is clearly a very different challenge from the more concrete writing assignments I have been used to. I know it affects some others, and I think the only reason I never experienced a serious bout is that I haven’t been at it long enough.
In your opinion, what’s the measure of a successful writer?
The same measures I would ascribe to any professional endeavor: first and foremost, satisfaction derived from the activity itself. If you don’t truly enjoy both the process of writing and the satisfaction of completing a chapter, or an assignment, then you had better look elsewhere. Second, I think you are successful if your writing can impact others in a positive manner. The positive impact might be as simple as providing an escape from daily routine or the writing may, of course, raise some weighty issues for the reader.
Advice for other writers?
Part of the study that I undertook in trying to learn the art of writing fiction was to read what some of the best in the business had to say about their craft. I’ll quote a few that I always try to remember.
From Stephen King, I remember that you can’t write fiction with your mother (or wife or husband or etc,) looking over your shoulder. His writing is certainly consistent with that rule. Write the story and don’t worry about what they might think. Stephen King also advises that long, drawn out descriptions of the way characters look, or even setting descriptions are easily overdone, particularly in a thriller. He advises writers to “just say what they see, then get on with the story.”
From Hemingway, we are advised to edit relentlessly. He once confided to his friend F. Scott Fitzgerald, “I write one page of masterpiece to ninety-one pages of shit. I try to put the shit in the wastebasket.”
From Robert Dugoni, I learned the importance of pacing. Plot out the timeline of emotional highs and lows in a story. It should look like a rolling pattern of highs and lows that crescendo upward to the ultimate crisis. Take advantage of the fact that following any of those emotional peaks, you likely have the reader’s undivided attention. That would be a good time to provide backstory or fill in needed information for the reader—information that may be critical but perhaps not as exciting as what just transpired. Then assess each chapter ending and determine if the reader has been given enough reason to want to continue reading. Pose a question, end with a minor cliffhanger, or at least assure that there is enough accumulated tension in the story.
Some of the things that helped me the most personally were to continue to read a variety of works from all genres, to find mentors and good writers to critique my work, and to enroll and participate in workshops. With any endeavor, there is a continuing process of education that should never end.
Finally, I always remember that Michael Palmer said that writing is hard work and that we should be fearless.
Where can we learn more about you?
You can read excerpts and reviews, view a book trailer and photo gallery, and see details of upcoming contest offerings at www.shedrow1.com You can connect on facebook at www.facebook.com/deandeluke
Anything else you'd like to add?
Thanks for asking. I think I should mention that I have arranged to donate a portion of all sales proceeds to the Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation, which saves horses that can no longer compete on the racetrack from possible neglect, abuse, or slaughter. It is a cause that I have donated personally to and one I obviously feel strongly about.
Dean, thanks for guest blogging here today and answering these questions. SHEDROW sounds intriguing.