Bookpleasures.com welcomes as our guest today, Dr. Joe Uricchio author of Burnout: A Novel. Dr. Uricchio is an Orthopedic Surgeon practicing in Central Florida.
Norm:Good day, Dr. Joe, and thanks for participating in our interview.
Dr. Joe:Thank you, sir, a pleasure to speak with you.
Norm:Please tell our readers a little bit about your personal and professional background.
Dr. Joe:I'm married, have 4 children and 7 grandchildren. My wife and I have been delighted with a new Labrador retriever puppy and I am thrilled to think that he may stop playfully biting in just another year or two. I am a physician and have been treating patients for 58 years. I was trained and certified as a general orthopaedic surgeon and that has been my focus for most of that time. Of late, my practice has been more oriented toward medical-legal evaluations. Well before the super specialist days, I have done hand surgery, foot surgery, joint replacement, fractures, worked with crippled children, and done all the kinds of medical treatment involved in the general practice of orthopaedic surgery.
Norm:How did you decide you were ready to write Burnout?
Dr. Joe: I am almost embarrassed to say that I had the idea and thought of the plot 30 or 40 years ago, long before they even started using the word "terrorist." I just never really had the time it takes to concentrate on plot and character development to come up with the finished product as a novel. But, several months ago, I went to a talk given by Gary Broughman about editing. I chatted with him afterward and his advice got me enthusiastic again to the point where I decided to just follow it through. I always felt it was a strong and exciting concept and I am very proud to finally see it finished.
Norm:Did you read any special books on how to write, and do you work from an outline?
Dr. Joe: There are a number of books about writing novels and screen plays, but somehow they never really got me going, and it's tough to assimilate someone else's ideas on how to do things and make them their own.
I graduated from Amherst College with English/Biology majors, so the writing itself was relatively familiar, it was just the concept of how to form the flow of action and develop the characters and put it all together that was more elusive.
I had gone
to courses put on by SEAK on fiction writing for doctors. Speaking at
it were very successful physicians/authors such as Michael Palmer and
Tess Gerritsen, both physicians and very successful authors.
Interestingly, Dr. Palmer carefully organized and outlined his
writing with a number of note cards so he knew exactly where he was
going and what he was about to say.
Dr. Gerritsen, on the other hand, would come home after her pediatric practice and feed the family, spend some time with them, wash the dishes, and then go into a room where she would just start to write and not even know exactly where she was headed, but found that the writing just flowed spontaneously in directions which surprised and satisfied her. My writing was pretty much a combination of those things. I had always known the complete story and saw it as a movie, so I just wrote each chapter as a scene in the movie in my head and I already knew what the next character or piece of action was going to be. I just followed the movie outline that had been so well established in my imagination for a number of years.
Norm:How has your environment/upbringing colored your writing?
Joe:I grew up on the coattails of the Great Generation. I can
remember my father sitting my sister and I down to tell us what had
happened on Pearl Harbor Day. I delivered newspapers all during World
War II and got an important history lesson every day from the
Not everybody today knows how challenging things were in those years. My father was an air raid warden, there were ration books for meat and sugar and tires and gasoline. I had cousins who fought in Guadalcanal and in Europe and came back with totally changed personalities.
Everyone struggled and fought in their own
way. It was pretty much a national team effort as people sacrificed
willingly, took on community responsibility, strengthened each other
and fought in their own manner at home to help the armed forces
overseas who were very highly regarded for their sacrifices and
success in protecting this county and successfully defeating the
evils of Germany and Japan. It was a very satisfying experience to
see the whole country moving together with resolve through a
dangerous and challenging period to a final success. That whole
experience was obviously very important. Later, of course, there was
the hard work and dedication involved in learning how to be a doctor.
That process is not only inherently humbling as you deal with the many afflictions and injuries and crises that affect mankind, but also an incredible appreciation of God and nature demonstrating the intricacy and resilience of the human body and mind.
Norm:What helps you focus when you write?
Dr. Joe: I'm not exactly sure. Obviously, you have to turn yourself loose from the activities of the day and isolate yourself from the TV and telephone but, even after that, some days just don't seem to lend themselves to any particular focus. On other days, you just inject yourself back into the flow of your movie/novel, pick up where you left and imagine yourself inside the flow of your story. It all just happens around you, you write it down and suddenly, you've finished another chapter.
Norm:Is there anything you find particularly challenging in your writing?
Joe: It is challenging in the first place just to find the time that
it takes to get things down on paper. As I mentioned, there are some
days when it's particularly difficult to find your focus, and then
you may just as well give it up that day. On other days, you are so
caught up in the lingo and activities and challenge of medical
practice that you can't even find time or interest in writing.
There's a whole lot of life and living activities taking up your time and interest away from the outpouring of words that are needed to write a novel or short story so that sometimes, you can just not squeeze out the next word or the next paragraph or the next chapter. Then, you just wake up to the fact that you have writer's block that day or that week! In addition, it's sometimes very difficult to free yourself from the constant thought and involvement of medicine enough to get back into the lifestyle that you have chosen for your characters and the situations you put them in. It's tough to put together your alternating lifestyles in a productive fashion.
Norm:What do you think makes a good story?
Dr. Joe: Well, there are an incredible number of factors that go into any story just as there are an incredible number of people waiting to decide whether or not they are going to like your book. I like the action/adventure kind of foundation for a story. Then, you always have to find some interesting or different or exciting characters. A few sudden alterations or changes in direction are good as is a lingering feeling of mystery or unpredictability. Taking a reader into places or rooms or activities that are intriguing and unfamiliar can always be attractive. The concept of revenge drives a tremendous number of novels and movies, as you well know. Interestingly, Dr. Palmer used to point out that there are really only two basic plots for a novel: the hero takes a trip or a stranger comes to town. You just flesh out either one of those. At the end, I was surprised to find out that I had used both of them as the foundation for my novel.
Norm:How did you go about creating the character of Dr. Jack Burke in your novel and how much of you is in the character.
Dr. Joe: Well, I don't think there is a lot of my persona in Burke. He is bigger than I am, tougher than I am and younger than I am, but I think he has other characteristics familiar to myself and many other surgeons. I always do check the inventory of the equipment that I have available so that I know what's there if I need something when things don't turn out quite as you expect. Surgery has complications much like life itself, yet to think of those and plan for them before you start the procedure, you also have to be innovative, self-reliant and ready to change your plans if circumstances move you in another direction. Finally, you can just never give up. Someone else is always depending on what you do or what you decide or how you do it. You can just never think only of yourself, but you just have to concentrate on what your actions can do and should do for others.
Norm:Did you learn anything from writing your book and what was it?
Dr. Joe: I was really surprised that there were so many things that I learned from writing. Number one, it is hard to really get it going and stick with it. It's tremendously exciting and satisfying to finally have it finished and see it in book form with your name on it and know that you finally pulled it off. It's also fun to get inside your characters and see what makes them tick and see what they are going to do next, because you don't always know it in advance. Sometimes your own characters surprise you by doing things you hadn't planned. Additionally, I learned that you had to reach back and utilize the vocabulary you had in college rather than using the same 100 or 200 words that compromise the full extent of writing medical records. And, finally, it was a tremendous amount of fun!
Norm:What purpose do you believe your story serves and what matters to you about the story?
Dr. Joe: I think it's an entertaining experience to read, there are interesting characters and some exciting activities. There's a love interest. In addition, it is uplifting to the degree that a professional can fall into a funk for one reason or another, lose his focus and his main interest and yet regain it and get back to where he was just by experiencing things with other people and opening himself up to those same people rather than let himself stay in a cocoon of self-interest or self-pity.
I also feel that one of the major concepts to take away from this story is that you don't have to depend on a government or some other organization to take care of you. That there is a need and a joy and a satisfaction in self-reliance, in that people working together for each other can accomplish a tremendous amount of success. It is obvious that there is always an evil force trying to deprive us of our freedom or our enjoyment or our livelihood or our life and that you cannot just cower and submit to that evil, but you have to fight back, unite with others for a common defense as well as an offense to eliminate those who would do you harm. It's a scenario that seems more and more relevant day after day as you read the newspaper since every day seems to be more threatening than the day before.
Norm:Where can our readers find out more about you and Burnout?
Dr. Joe: Both Amazon and Barnes and Noble have an author page that gives some information. I think readers can find a lot more about me and the way I feel about things and what interests me by reading the book. There's a lot of me in there.
Norm:What is next for Dr. Joe Uricchio?
Dr. Joe: I still work full-time in orthopaedic practice. Over the last several years, I am devoting most of my time to forensic medicine which basically involves evaluating patients for various injuries and trying to find out what, if anything needs to be done to help get them feeling better or, on the other hand, to find out whether or not there really is anything wrong with them in the first place. Somewhere in there, I have also started on the next novel. As you can tell, both Burke and Elena are now a team and they will soon find themselves embroiled in another action/adventure story in which they will have to rely on themselves and use their own particular skills to get themselves out of trouble. I think the bad guys are going to lose again!
Norm:As this interview draws to a close, what one question would you have liked me to ask you? Please share your answer.
Dr. Joe: Well, I am going to cheat and make it two questions. The first would be "When does your movie come out?" but I can't give you a straight answer on that one. I think every novelist thinks his story would make a great movie and I'm no different. I think there are some interesting characters in this story, a lot of action, a lot of emotion and enough love interest to keep everybody interested. In addition, there is a lot of that vengeance that I was talking about!
The second question would be "When am I going to get to read your next novel?" As I mentioned earlier, I am already at work on that one. 'God willing and the creek don't rise', you'll have it in your stocking by next Christmas! Thanks for having me here today.
Norm: Thanks once again and good luck with all of your future endeavors