Adverse Effects (The Memory Thieves Book 1) by Joel Shulkin, MD
1- Has being a full-time physician helped you write your book, and in what ways?
Running a full-time clinic makes it tough to find time to keep writing but keeping up on trends and discoveries in medicine as part of my Continuing Medical Education both helps me ensure my medical scenes are accurate and fuels ideas for new storylines and premises. I make a point to never base characters on patients or their families, but when I start to see common themes, like teens suffering from depression or cyberbullying, for example, I can better understand my characters when they face similar challenges.
2- Would you please, in 160 characters or less, give a #WriteTip ?
Show why your hero can’t walk away, even when facing Hell. A loved one at risk, a sworn duty, physical constraints, fear of failure, death—whatever is worse than Hell.
3- What is the best piece of writing advice you've received?
Tess Gerritsen (@tessgerritsen
) once told me not to write ONLY what you know, because how boring would that be? Instead, she said to write what you WANT to know, or what you like to read. It would’ve been extremely challenging to turn my day job into an exciting story, but by taking my experience with medical investigation and learning about criminal investigation, I was able to create a story that I would want to read if I saw it on the shelves.
4- November 11 was Veterans day, and there was a "Vet Thriller Authors Giveaway." How did you get involved in that, and how might other Vets join in such activities in the future?
Fellow thriller author and former military surgeon Jeffrey Wilson (
) retweeted an announcement for the giveaway. I contacted the sponsor and offered to participate. There are a few other military/veteran author groups out there. I recently joined the Military Writers Society of America (
), which presents annual awards to Active Duty and veteran authors or those who write military stories. There is also The Veterans Writing Project run by The Writers Guild Foundation, offering mentoring programs for emerging military authors.
5- Would you share a picture with us of your book with something medical?
6- Elephant in the room- we're in a global pandemic. Can you weigh in with any tips for people concerned with the Covid-19 situation?
I’m not an epidemiologist or an infectious disease specialist, but they’re the ones we should heed, not politicians, pundits, and self-proclaimed “medical experts”. The only way we will get through this is by working together. Safety measures like masks and limiting large gatherings may seem inconvenient, but if everyone followed them, we wouldn’t need more restrictive measures and more of us could resume a semblance of normalcy.
7- What's your Twitter handle, and do you have two or three writer friends on there to shout-out to for #WriterWednesday ?
, who’s been a great Twitter bud, and to my supportive agency-mates and beta readers
8- Do you have a favorite #bookstagram image or account/ profile?
provides honest and thoughtful reviews and posts some great photos of the books she reads. @bonechillingbooks
also creates some awesome #bookstacks and detailed reviews.
9- What most motivates you to read a new book?
A good comparison will hook me right away. Right now, I’m reading One of Us Is Lying by Karen M. McManus
and the tag of “Breakfast Club meets Pretty Little Liars” drew me right in. But while the plot/premise is what grabs me, it’s the characters that keep me engaged. If the characters seem poorly developed or inconsistent, even the most incredibly unique and enthralling plot isn’t enough.
10- It's our tenth anniversary! How far has your writing come in the past ten years and where do you see your writing career ten years from now?
I started writing Adverse Effects roughly ten years ago. Since then, I’ve learned through working with editors and beta readers, as well as dabbling in other genres like fantasy and young adult, how important the first few pages are to hook the reader. I struggled back then to make the character as important, if not more than, the plot, whereas now I understand how to engage the reader in the character’s inner world and to give each character a unique voice. In ten years, I hope to have established a solid franchise with characters crossing over into each other’s stories, weaving a web of thrills and intrigue for readers.
11- What is your favorite book by someone else, what's the author's Twitter handle, and what do you love most about that book? #FridayReads book recommendation time!
Lou Berney @Lou_Berney
The characters and story sucked me right in and didn’t let go until the end.
12- What emotions do you hope your book will evoke for the reader?
By making readers feel the horror of what it’s like to lose control over one’s own mind, I want them to gain a better understanding of individuals with psychiatric disorders.
13- What kind of impact do you hope your book will have?
I want the reader to experience fear and concern over the possible misuse of pharmacologic advances like memory drugs, especially when testing is done on vulnerable populations or with limited oversight. I also want them to consider whether identity is rooted in one’s thoughts or experiences.
14- What is the best writing tool, program, or reference book you've ever bought?
I read a lot of reference books before writing Adverse Effects, including the Write Great Fiction series, but the most useful for me was probably The First Five Pages by Noah Lukeman
. It helped me with both stylistic and creative matters and with formatting and understanding the query process.
15- In what ways are the main characters in your book diverse? diversebooks.org #WeNeedDiverseBooks
While I am not myself “diverse” as a white cis/hetero male, my wife is from Brazil, which inspired me to make Adverse Effect’s protagonist, Dr. Cristina Silva, have Brazilian roots. My wife has always been my first editor, so she advised me on how a woman would think and react, as well as ensure everything Brazil-related was accurate. The cast includes several other characters who are Black or Hispanic. The sequel, Toxic Effects, to be released in 2021, will be even more diverse, including LGBTQIA characters and ones from other ethnic and racial backgrounds.
16- Who is your favorite book review blogger?
I really enjoy Crime by the Book’s reviews (
). Her website is well-organized and easy to read, and her Instagram reviews are eye-catching and sincere.
17- What was the deciding factor in your publication route?
I went traditional because as a full-time physician, I don’t have the time or investment capital to commit to self-publishing. Of course, I’ve ended up doing a lot of my own marketing anyway, contacting bloggers and working through social media, but having
and my agent
supporting me, helping make my writing the best it can be, and doing most of the heavy lifting for promotion has been a gamechanger for me.
18- Which author, past or present, do you feel most resembles your work?
My writing style is probably most like Michael Palmer, who mentored me during the early stages of writing Adverse Effects, including setting the book in a firm medical foundation. The story, however, is quite different than his books or those by other medical thriller authors, as in many ways it reads more like a Robert Ludlum espionage thriller, with dual identities and multiple twists.
19- Would you please ask our audience a question to answer in the comments?
What medical themes would you like to see in future books? Or, alternatively, what themes are you sick of seeing (e.g. pandemics)?
20- Anything else you would care to share about your book and yourself?
Adverse Effects is not a straightforward medical thriller. As I mentioned above, it’s a twisty, mind-bending thriller full of characters who are not what they seem. Think Bourne Identity meets Total Recall. If you like books that make you want to go back and look at all the earlier clues you missed because you’re still sorting out the puzzles long after you finish reading, then this is the book for you.
Determined to help her amnesiac patients recover their lives, Boston psychiatrist Cristina Silva is achieving near-miraculous results by prescribing Recognate, a revolutionary new memory-recovery drug now in trials. She understands her patients' suffering better than most, because she's lost her memories, too. Desperate to become herself again, she pops the same experimental drug she prescribes to her patients. And, like them, she remembers a little more each day.
Until one of her patients, a successful accountant, jumps from an eight-story window to his death. And as Cristina's memories return, with them come violent visions and an incessant voice in her head. Maybe the drug isn't safe after all. But discontinuing it would mean forgetting everything she's recalled and losing herself.
Then an enigmatic, possibly dangerous man appears at Cristina's bus stop. He seems to know more about her life than she does and says she holds a secret that puts her life in danger. Perilously balanced between an unknown past and a terrifying future, if she wants to survive, Cristina must stay on the medication and unlock those memories before it's too late -- even if the adverse effects of the drug could destroy her.
Joel Shulkin, MD, is a developmental-behavioral pediatrician and United States Air Force veteran with a master’s in public health. Having been lucky enough to be mentored by the legendary Michael Palmer, his short stories have appeared in various print and online journals, and he has won several national and local writing awards for fiction and poetry. He lives in Florida with his wife and twin daughters.
Adverse Effects (The Memory Thieves Book 1) by Joel Shulkin, MD