Friends & Fiction
Friends & Fiction

Episode · 1 month ago

WB S1E26: KImmery Martin

ABOUT THIS EPISODE

WRITERS' BLOCK: Kimmery Martin, ER Doctor turned Novelist talks to Ron Block and Patti Callahan about her novel, Doctors and Friends written about a global pandemic with eerie similarities to what the world has just gone through.

Yeah, yeah, yeah. Yeah. Mm hmm. Yeah. Mm mm. Mhm. Yeah, yeah, yeah. Mhm. Mhm. Welcome to the Friends and fictionwriter's Block podcast. Four new york times, bestselling authors, one rockstar librarian and endless stories joined mary Kay andrews, Kristin,Harmel, Kristy Woodson harvey and Patti Callahan Henry. Along with Ron Block asnovelists, we are four long time friends with 70 books between us and Iam Ron Block. Please join us for fascinating author interviews andInsider talk about publishing and writing. If you love books and arecurious about the writing world you are in the right place. Welcome to a newepisode of Friends and fiction writers, blog podcast. Our guest today, theamazing kim Marie martin is the author of three medical fiction books. TheQueen of Hearts, the antidote to everything. Had the just releasedDoctors and Friends which has received the highly coveted starred reviews frompublishers Weekly Library Journal and Booklist who actually said it wascompelling to its core. It's certainly the trifecta of stars. I am Ron Blockas an emergency room doctor turned novelist, kim Marie is eminentlyqualified to write compelling stories from her experience and expertise.Little did she know her work would enter the truth is stranger thanfiction realm. Her journey to publication is fascinating and took ona very personal twist. We can't wait to dig into the origin of this story. I amPatti Callahan kim Marie, thank you so...

...much for joining us here on the podcast.We have set stage, there are listeners in to hear about Doctors and Friendsand about your road to publication. Can you give us an overview of the book.Sure. And thank you so much for having me. I am delighted to talk with you all.So, doctors and friends is about an infectious disease doctor who happensto be traveling with her best girlfriends from medical school Duringwhat turns out to be a brand new world wide viral pandemic. And the firstthing I usually tell people about this book is that I had the idea in 2018 Iwas writing an article about the book I wanted to write And then I researched,drafted and sold it to the publisher in 2019. So y'all can just go ahead andblame me for what happens is all your fault. Yes, it is. So, the publisherwas going to pitch the novel originally as The Hot Zone meets Sophie's choice.So, if you have read those books who are now cringing. Yeah. So, the plot line for theinfectious disease doctor revolves around her two Children who both becomeill near the end of the pandemic and she happens to have access to one doesof an experimental antiviral medication. And she actually has to select whichchild will receive it. And I know that that sounds implausible, but I actuallybased it on to real life scenarios. That's crazy. And I have to tell youwhat I was reading those scenes like I was welling up because I like as aparent who you just can't even imagine being put in that spot. It just uh youdid such a great job with it. Thank you. I mean, you can't imagine it, but Iwill tell you that my own Children are really captivated with the idea thatthe mom has to pick between her kids. So whenever anyone screws up in ourhouse, there's immediately, you know, two other Children pointing at thememphatically choose me where you would choose me, right mom, you would chooseme. So kim Marie, I was a nurse and you are a doctor and I haven't yet. And Ialways say yet then compelled to write a medical story. So let's talk aboutthe origin of this story. Where did the original colonel for the book come from?And at what point did you realize that you had to pivot because of what washappening in the real world? Or did you even pivot? But you obviously didn'tget the idea from the pandemic. The idea came way before it. So, talk to meabout that. Well, I'm curious patty about how yourbooks arise to for me it's kind of...

...character driven. And the very firstthought that I had for this book was I wanted to base the main character'spersonality a little bit on my own father's, he was my person and he diedand he had this very singular scientific yet funny, innovativepersonality. And so I thought if he had been a doctor he would have been aninfectious disease doctor. And so once I knew I wanted to write about aninfectious disease doctor then I started thinking okay what could happento her. And of course you know history has been riddled with prior pandemicsand we will undoubtedly experienced pandemics in the future. So to me itdidn't seem like that prophetic a topic. I thought well this will happen again.I just did not think it would happen months after I had written the firstdraft. Yeah so we did decide to change some of it afterwards. Not a lot but wechanged several pivotal things. It's like you were writing the book andliving a pandemic in real time. But your book is not set fully in Americacorrect. So part of the book is set in Morocco and spain and then there arethree point of view characters in the book. One is an E. R. Doctor in newyork city, one is an O. B. G. Y N. In san Diego. And then one is the I. D.Doctor at the CDC in Atlanta. So we do bounce around a lot in the story. And Iactually got to travel to spain and Morocco Um for research in 2019 whichwas very cool and on your social media, I love looking at it, you've postedpictures of it. So I mean for me the research and the origins of the storyare just as interesting as the story itself because it's the fertile groundit grew from and I loved looking at the pictures of your journeys and wonderinghow much of the story came out of those travels. How much did those travels?You know, were they part of the origin of this story? Well actually one of thereally cool things about going to Morocco was I actually met a writer whoowns a literary cafe in tangier and I stayed in touch with him throughout thepandemic and also uh met a physician in Morocco and stayed in touch with himthroughout the pandemic. So I really got to correspond with them and seewhat they were actually going through um when when our real life plague hit.So that was just such a one of the wonderful things about being an authoris you make all these global connections with readers and peoplethat you crowdsource is so cool. Yes. And someone you think you're justtapping for research ends up being a dear friends. I've had the samewonderful magical thing happened. It's...

...pretty amazing. I love it. One of thecompelling themes of the book though was as I was reading in the medicalcommunity that you created in the government officials who handled thepandemic within the story was very different from the pandemic that welived through. It's including the name of the virus was different where a lotof the characters decisions and actions due to the gift of hindsight. When youwent back to do edits. So what's funny is I'm on a book tour right now and Ihave been telling the audience is that the book is not all grim. I tried toactually include some humor and some sweetness and some optimism and hope.But regarding the humor, what I like to tell people is an example of somethingfunny in the book is that the governmental and societal response tothis virus was very unified. Everybody was on the same page. Imagine what theyall agreed what to do and they did it. And we did talk afterward my publisherand I about whether or not to alter that to be more reflective of realityand we decided not to. We decided this is more of a what might have been tailand I honestly did not foresee the degree to which society would fractureover decisions about how to handle the virus in real life. Right. And that wasone of the things I loved as I was reading it again, I'd be like oh weshould have done it this way. Oh we should have had the things go this way.So you really did handle it well. And it was a wish list. It became a wishlist for those of us who have been going through that. Yeah. I verydeliberately made the president a young scientific woman and actually I modeledher on a real life person really? Doctor kinsey Corbett? She's one of theresearchers at the NIH he's at Harvard now but she was at the N. A. N. I. H.At the time. Um she's one of the researchers who developed the M. RNAvaccines. Yeah. Oh that is so fascinating. I got to hear jenniferdown to speak about CRISPR and M. R. N. A. We are not going to run down amedical rabbit hole because with you I could I could start to talk aboutgenomes and gene splicing and what it's meant for us and how this vaccine wegot um is built on all these discoveries that happened beforedecades ago, decades ago, decades ago. And they they couldn't have foreseenwhat it would be for and here we are. So it's fascinating that you youimagined the President as a scientific woman because sometimes I think when wewrite we write the parallel war worlds that we wish we had. Um a lot of peopleask why I write about say a small town where everybody knows everybody andit's because it's the opposite of what I had. So sometimes we get too right...

...the ghost life, we don't have the onethat runs alongside. So I love that you did that and the construction of thebook is seamless telling this story from each point of view offers astorytelling experience that propels the tension while we get all thesevarious angles. I'm curious structure wise, how you decided which characterand also which medical specialty your character is practiced. How did youdecide which one to speak from and what medical specialty to put them in? Inthe original draft of Doctors and Friends? The only point of view wasKira Marchand the infectious disease doctor. And then after Covid, my editorcame back to me and she said we're concerned about publishing this book.We will have all lived through a pandemic by the time it comes out.Because as you know, patty the wheels of publishing grind very slowly unlikean emergency medicine where you're always racing around like you're onfire. So she asked me if I would rewrite portions of the novel toreflect the perspective of some of the other doctors who were characters inthe book but who were not point of view characters. Because she said while wewill have all lived through a pandemic we will not all have lived through apandemic on the front lines. And she thought that people would want to seesome of what that was like another specialties. So I took the er doctor innew york city and the O. B. G. Y. N. In san Diego and made them point of viewcharacters. And E. R. Was an obvious choice for me. Ididn't have to research that one. Um but I did actually wind upcrowdsourcing a huge group of emergency medicine doctors during Covid And theysent me the most heart wrenching emails you can imagine this was early 2020when everyone was baffled and upset and overwhelmed. And I did sort of tap intosome of that angst and horror that they were feeling at losing people over andover and over again and not understanding you know all these weirdsystemic responses. So even though the book was written pretty much by thatpoint a lot of that did affect that character's point of view in therevision. Is there one character you enjoyed writing more than another thatyou felt more connected to? That came easier? I mean I'm guessing emergencyroom but sometimes characters surprise us and their back story really echoeswith our own and I don't know did you feel that way about one or the other?Yeah. Well I don't know what this says about me but I really gonnapsychoanalyze whatever it might be. Trust me. All right. All right here itcomes. I really identified with the snarky character that's your innersnark. That doesn't get enough chance...

...to come out. Yeah. So the er doctor waspretty snarky. And the O. B. G. Y. N. Was very warm and motherly and lovableand I had a harder time writing her. That's great. That's so fascinating.Maybe you're you need to let your inner snark out a bit more key Marie I thinkit comes out quite a lot. But thank you. Well we'll see. We'll see. So thecharacters are, they're just so fully realized. Aid. Did you base them onsomebody that you knew each of them or the next part of that is have peoplethen said, is that me, is that me in the book? Well, one of the reasons Istarted writing at all was I have this real life group of medical school bestfriends. There's seven of us And these are my, you know, ride or die people.These are the ones that I go to when something goes great and when somethinggoes wrong and we have lived through everything imaginable over the last,you know, long time since we graduated. And I wanted to try to reflect some ofthe, you know, intensity of that friendship and the love and thecamaraderie. Um, so when I first started writing, I thought, okay, I'mgoing to write about a group of medical school friends and now everyone doesask are they, they correspond with specific characters and really, no, Idid pull little bits of their personality and my personality andother people into these characters. And so there might be a little bit of themand each one maybe. But they don't exactly line up with the character inthe book, which is good because they would be mad at me based on what someof the characters do. Exactly some of those decisions. But I was thrilled tosee Georgia and Jonah back. So that was a great, a great bonus to reading thebook. Yeah. And we won't, we won't give any spoilers. But I was George isprobably my favorite character. Well maybe Jonah is my favorite characterI've ever written. I love those two. They're wonderful. I love that You canvisit them again. All right. Let's talk about how reality and fiction intersectin your book. And in general when we write and I know you joked at thebeginning. I'm sorry, it's my fault. But it sometimes feels like that whenwe are creating these worlds and then they get echoed in the real world. WhenI was writing surviving savannah, they found the ship right And these thingshappen to us. So do you think that sometimes not to be too woo woo. But doyou think sometimes our stories rise up to meet us in the real world? Asynchronicity set in motion by our decision to write this story? Yes, I do.And on that note, I am writing a book about winning the lottery. So can I coauthor that with you can both co author...

...and then we will party. Yeah. Yeah. Ithink, I mean I think certainly we probably pick up on many conscious andsubconscious elements of our own realities. For sure. Did you have someof those things happen? I mean aside from the fact that we had a pandemic.Were the things you already wrote about that you were starting to see happeningin the world, things that were a bit prescient, as far as people's reactions,doctors reactions, hospitals, reactions stuff you already had in the book, thatwas that was unfolding in the real world, I think on an individual level,yes, in some of the reactions of the characters on a systemic level, I gotit pretty wrong as we've already discussed. But yes, I think I had allof my early readers before it was published were doctors. And I got a lotof emails from them saying, you know, wow, I really saw myself reflected inhere. I laughed and I cried. I cried a lot, actually. But I also laughed a lot.Now that being said, I have an enormous fear of making a terrible medicalmistake. I know I used creative license a lot to embellish things to make itmore dramatic than, you know, in real world they would be or I might havepicked something kind of implausible to happen medically because it made abetter story. And so I do sometimes cringe a little bit about, you know,when doctors read the book, but so far so far they've been really supportiveand seemed to really enjoy it. That's awesome. It is your competent, aren'tyou? Yeah, yeah, I got it on her. So you talked a little bit about theresearch that you did, but I know that just reading especially the afterwardand all of the author's notes, you've really done extensive research on this.So can you talk about the process of that and what level of detail did youdecide to put in the book? Because I have to say reading I I want I wantedto say I might not have understood some of these things before we went througha pandemic. So you kind of you kind of felt like you took a leap and trustedthat we all had better knowledge than we previously had. Well. And I alwaysthink people will figure it out from context. And then I tried to explainthe more esoteric medical things. But my editor does have to tone me down awhole lot because I'll geek out and really go nuts on the epidemiologicterms or whatever. So I started researching, reading a lot of journalarticles, reading a lot of books. I crowd sourced over 40 infectiousdisease doctors, epidemiologists, virologists and E. R. Doctors as wellas some neurologists because there's a big neurologic side effect that happensin the book. And one of the real life...

...scenarios for the situation with theinfectious disease doctors. Children was a book called Crisis in the RedZone by Richard Preston. And so he details The story of the 2014 Ebolaoutbreak in Western Africa. And there was an aid camp in Sierra Leone, inwhich two of the medical workers contracted Ebola and we're hours awayfrom dying and the medical director of the camp happened to have access to onedose of an experimental antiviral medication and he had to pick which ofthese two people would receive it. And if you want to know how he had thatdrug, you should read that book. Because it is a fascinating story witha lot of ethical implications. Oh my goodness! What is it called? Crisis inthe Red Zone by Richard Preston, same guy that wrote The Hot Zone. If youheard of that book, Another really compelling theme in the book, of course,is friendship. And you talked a bit about your friendships with your rideor die medical school buddies and I know it's between authors, it's between,you know, anybody who has this support group when you're trying to work in afield where you need each other and in your book, the support and opennessamong the doctors, lets readers feel care more about what happens to each ofthem because they're deeply connected to the other person. So why do youthink it was important to the story and for you working as a doctor? Does thatring true in real life? Yeah. You know, actually, I was at a luncheon today inGreenville south Carolina and some of the guests were doctors and they weretalking about their friendships, their long term friendships with other womenand that came up actually yesterday too and someone told me, you know, I thinkall the female doctors I know are really supportive of one another andreally close and I was saying yes, I think that's true and it's true femaleauthors to so I happen to belong to these two communities that don't don'tsee each other as a zero sum game. They really always want to boost upeverybody else. And that might be true for dudes to run. I don't know becauseI'm not one, not really, not as much. That hasn't been my experience. ButI've I have of course been around the female authors and I'm always amazedhow supportive they are of each other. Yeah. Because women have a reputationof being kind of catty, but I have not found that to be true at all in thosetwo communities. Know as as our friend mary Kay always says rising tides floatall boats. So I don't know why we'd want to poke a hole in each other'sboats. Right. So, I love reading Yeah.

And I love reading stories wherefriendship is a driving force because a lot of times it's only about the lovestory and we forget about these powerful friendships and sisterhood,XyZ and brotherhoods, that that change who we are and and they change and ithappens in your book, It changes who they, how they think about themselvestoo because there are mirrors to each other and I do see it in writers to didyou know that theme going in and just generally in your work. Do you know thethemes going in or do they bubble up for you? I think I have some concept of the bigthematic issues in a given book and and all of my novels have actually revolvedaround the concept of friendship as a fundamental human relationship and it'slike you say you can find so many romances to read and that's always funand I do like to throw in romances and absolutely I don't Yeah. What is Lifewithout Love? Come on, love. And it's also funny, right? Like there arealways romantic debacles that are good for a laugh and for you know, taking atyour heartstrings, but it's a little bit more rare to find books centeredaround friendship. And so that is a definite theme um in all of my novels.And then, you know, the themes in this book are a little bit different than inmy other two. My first book really trending more towards just pureentertainment. The second book was more issue driven and then this one is alittle bit more systemic and global and kind of hyper focused on theseindividuals within this big picture thing happening. I love how all of thecharacters are developed and their friendship takes on all these differentturns and ways that they communicate, but they always they always come backto the middle and the basic support that they have for each other andanybody who wants to read the book, you'll you'll know what I mean. You'vebeen very open memory about your own personal story with Covid. Do you mindtalking about that with us? I don't because I write about it a lot. So oneof the more bizarre things for me was writing about a new viral pandemic Withagain, a bizarre neurological side effect, and then immediately findingmyself in the midst of a new viral pandemic and developing a bizarreneurologic side effects. So I had covid in mid-2020 and um not a terribleinitial of course. And then I did lose smell. O and instead of ever regainingmy smell, it came back in a completely toxic way. It's called parasomnia. Andit's pretty common actually. There's a very large number of people in theworld who now suffered from this. But the upshot is that everything that hasa scent of its own smells like a rotting corpse to me. So my lemon scent,garlic tomatoes, people perfume alcohol...

...is just an endurable uh like the wholeworld reeks. And I just wanted to like claw my face off in the beginning. Andit has not actually gotten better. And then I also had something called deSaturno Mia, which is basically sort of a disturbance in the automaticfunctions of your body controlling blood pressure and heart rate. And somy heart rate gets way too high when I stand and I get dizzy, my bloodpressure drops and I get a lot more short of breath with exercise or with alot of talking, which has been a problem on this book tour when I'mstanding and talking. But at least in the audience there are always doctors.So I feel like if I do hit the floor is somebody will revive me. So yeah, ithas been long haul Covid and I certainly did not foresee thathappening. No, no. How are you doing today? Are you doing okay? Is itshowing signs of improvement or is it just gonna be a long, long haul? Youknow, actually run? This is something I feel so guilty about because I feellike when I was in medical school there was a maybe slightly derogatory opinionof people with chronic fatigue, which at that time was not even remotelyunderstood and now I have that and by the end of the day I'm usually reallyexhausted to the point where I have a hard time standing even sometimes and Ithink back about my own, like maybe a little too casual dismissal of hearingabout that in patients when I was young and yeah, I just feel like crap for,for this may be dismissive attitude about it. I mean, I hope that I wasn'topenly um dismissive to any patients and, and that's outside my field. Soit's not something I ever treated, but I felt bad about that please. Um, oneof the things I just so admire about you is that you went back in to helpvaccinate people during the time when the vaccines first came out and it wasjust so it was like, my God, what a brave thing to do and thanks thank youfor doing that. But that must have been a hard decision. Well actually, youknow what that turned out to be so good. I felt conflicted about not being inthe emergency department and in fact I did, I did sign up with the state ofnorth Carolina to be on the emergency reserves. Like if our hospitals hadoverflowed and we went to, you know, battlefield tents or whatever. I wassigned up to do that. But I felt bad about my colleagues who were gettingjust crushed. You know, with this at times when when volumes were reallyhigh. And so when I started volunteering at vaccine clinics, it waskind of wondrous. Especially in the early days when you had these big driveby clinics with, you know, 2000 people a day getting vaccinated. Because Ialways thought while I was there, you know, if an alien came down to earthand was trying to gather information on...

...what human beings are like and landedat a vaccine clinic, he would see this enormous cohesive altruistic operationgoing on with hundreds of people who were cognizant the wheel of this bigthing not doing it for themselves, people directing traffic, people doingintake forms, medical evaluations, nurses administering shots, you know,all this stuff you think, oh my gosh, what a benevolent loving society. Wellthere's no aliens that came down unfortunately. Oh, memory just thinkingabout you going through that. It brings the general to the specific, It's I'vebeen watching your journey on social media and it's really hard to watch andit's really hard to know that these long haul things still can't be figuredout. And this mysterious virus is not fictional. Yeah, but I think the goodnews is that now there is this kind of thing is gonna get a lot of attentionbecause there have always been post viral syndromes that were poorlyunderstood. And I think those four patients were kind of ignored. And nowthere's a true way to international, you know, focus on trying to make thisbetter and people are not dismissive. And it's it's good when you were atfirst, how long were you and er doctor before you started writing, let's see,I started writing about seven or eight years ago And I did work full time andthen gradually kind of started easing off. And then when I got a contract formore books, I switched more to full time writing. So I guess I was at yourdoctor for 15, 18 years that whole time. Were you thinking you wanted to write abook or was it something that bubbled up later. Like when I look back when Iwas a nurse I didn't want to write I didn't know I wanted to write a bookuntil I knew I wanted to write a book. So I wasn't a nurse thinking somedayI'm going to write a book. And when you were you know working were you thinkingsomeday you would write a book or did it kind of rise up in the middle of it?Well it's funny because when I was in training in my residency my most ardentdesire was to read a book because I love reading and at that time we wouldwe would work you know 100 hour weeks. 120 hour weeks. There was no time toread. I remember being in the C. T. Scanner getting vomited on by a drunkperson in the middle of the night and the C. T. Tech had a book in his handand was reading while I was standing there in my let a brand like yeah wellthis guy's barfing corn all over me. I remember staring at the C. T. Scannerand thinking I want to be him. Like I want to beable to read a book again. And and then I did not think that I could ever writea book. I have no background in that no training in that. And...

...if I had thought that early on pattyyou know what I would have done I would have kept journals Because I can'tremember 90% of my own experiences anymore. And I wish that I could. So Idecided to write almost on the spur of the moment one day I just finished somebook and I thought you know I could do this. I think I could do this. I wantto try doing this. I've always loved when other people do this. And as soonas I started I knew I would finish it because I loved it. That's it. So what's been the reaction from peoplein the medical community? You kind of touched on it a little bit. And um didthey when they heard you were writing this and you were talking about yourresearch, were they supportive or they say oh don't go there. Well I think really largely supportive.One of the nice actually nice side effects of covid is that I think thisis probably true for y'all and for people in various fields. But we becameso close online. My various doctor groups, there's a group of femaledoctors in charlotte where I live. And I feel like I got to know these womenin a way that I might not have in real life because we were constantlycrowdsourcing each other asking medical questions, asking practice questions,asking parenting questions, asking social questions, just sharing stuffwith each other online. And that was true of my big e. R. Doctor group, abig national women's position group. I'm in a group called women who loveinfectious diseases. You know like there's that's a name, yeah there's agroup for everything and they have been really supportive in many ways. That'sgreat, great to hear it. And the trifecta of stars, how did that feelkind of surreal when the first one came? I was like no this is not just happened.And then they were like oh you got another one and then my publisher saidhey you got another one and I just couldn't believe it. It was. That'sthat's definitely the dream for authors. We cannot thank you enough for joiningus on this episode. Doctors and Friends is a compelling and importantexploration of friendship, difficult choices and global pandemics. It'scompelling, well written and we urge everybody to get their hands on it. Butone last thing is where can people find out more about you and about the bookand I want to just interject that on some of your social media, you've beenso kind to people about giving them tips. And and one thing in particular Iremember is things that were maybe a myth and then you kind of explain somethings about Covid on there. And I just found that really generous and alsolike it reassured me that I my brains at the head of the right way. So wherecan people find you? Well, I'm on facebook, that's where I do most of mylong writing about various issues under the name kim Marie martin and I have anauthor page and my personal page I probably post more to my personal pageand then instagram, Kimberly marten and my website is key Marie martin dot com.All very complicated. All those...

...complicated. Well I'm on twitter too,but I don't, I don't do twitter very well because I am wordy like I cannotcondense it down to whatever the next character number is. I don't even knowwhat the number is anymore. I don't keep going till it tells me to stopagain. Thank you all for being here today. This has been such a specialepisode. We're so glad you have joined us here and we hope that you've enjoyedit and if you did please share with a friend, remember you can always find all thebooks by every friends and fiction writer's block, podcast, guest past andpresent in the friends and fiction bookshop dot org. Shop All sales placethere helped to fund friends in fiction and a portion of each and every salegoes straight into the pockets of indie booksellers nationwide. Since itsinception, bookshop dot org has raised more than 16 million for indiebookstores, shops, small shop local from the convenience of your screenwith bookshop dot org and tell them friends and fiction sent you. Thank youfor tuning in to the friends and fiction writer's block podcast pleasebe sure to subscribe rate and review on your favorite podcast platform, tune inevery friday for another episode, And you can also join us every week onFacebook or YouTube, where our live friends and fiction show airs at sevenp.m. eastern standard time. We're so glad you're here. Mhm.

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