In Conversation With Dr. Barbara Golder Author of Dying For Revenge: The Lady Doc Murders
Reviewer & Author Interviewer, Norm Goldman. Norm is the Publisher & Editor of Bookpleasures.com.
He has been reviewing books for the past fifteen years when he retired from the legal profession.
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Bookpleasures.com welcomes as our guest Dr. Barbara Golder author of Dying For Revenge: The Lady Doc Murders.
Dr. Golder has worked as a hospital pathologist, forensic pathologist and laboratory director. Her work in these fields prompted her to get a law degree, which she used as a malpractice attorney and in a boutique practice of medical law. Her dual degrees led her to work in the field of disability insurance, medical politics, writing and lecturing, and teaching middle school and high school science. She is now retired from these and has embarked on a career as an author.
Norm: Good day Dr. Golder and thanks for participating in our interview.
How did you get started in writing and are you a full-time or part-time writer? If part time, how does that affect your writing?
Dr. Golder: Thanks for having me! I love having the chance to talk about Dying for Revenge and I appreciate your sharing your audience.
I have written technical medical and legal material for years, from a monograph on AIDS law and policy, written in the early days of the epidemic, to chapters in textbooks, to articles in various professional periodicals and newsletters. I started writing lighter fare as a lark, answering a call for ski stories in the Telluride Times Journal. That led to a regular humor column there on owning a second home in the area as well as a column on home-schooling and a book review column for the local paper here in Tennessee. My husband sent a few of those humor columns to an old friend who happens to be a developmental editor and literary agent. She suggested I try fiction and Dying For Revenge was the result. I have to admit to having a secret desire to write the Great American Novel—what reader doesn’t? Dying for Revenge isn’t the Great American Novel, but it’s a very good read.
Until this last year I was a "nights and weekend" writer—thanks to my husband for putting up with that-- but now it's more full time.
Norm: How did you become involved with the subject or theme of your debut novel, Dying For Revenge: The Lady Doc Murders?
Dr. Golder: I really love mysteries but they rarely explore what happens to the human spirit in the face of sudden, violent death. I wanted to write a book with that in mind. As a medical examiner, I dealt with that aspect a lot and it intrigued me that it was so absent from the conventional murder mystery. So this is a two-level mystery—the “whodunit” part and the “what happened to everyone else” part.
Norm: What were your goals and intentions in this book, and how well do you feel you achieved them?
Dr. Golder: I had so many goals! First of course was to see the book in print and well received--doesn't every writer want that? I wanted to write a compelling mystery. I think I did that. But I also wanted to have a story within the story about human relationship-- that was the tricky part. I think I managed that as well, but that’s really up to the reader to decide.
Norm: What are some of the references that you used while researching this book?
Dr. Golder: I lived the life of a medical examiner, so there was little research I needed to do in that area. I have a second home in the Telluride area so that was familiar. Research was mostly on details that were fuzzy to me--like robotic surgery, or checking things I recalled from memory. I had a lot of first-readers who kept tabs on me—that helped enormously.
Norm: In fiction as well as in non-fiction, writers very often take liberties with their material to tell a good story or make a point. But how much is too much?
Dr. Golder: I think it is too much when the reader is no longer willing to accept the "stretch." There is, I think, a tacit agreement that the tale and details have to work even if they are technically implausible. In my book, for example, I had to rearrange some geography for purposes of making the details believable. I think readers can forgive that. I hope I did not stretch anything too far.
Norm: What helps you focus when you write and do you find it easy reading back your own work?
Dr. Golder: I am a firm believer in "time in chair" writing-- just being disciplined to do it. When I write, I take time to settle myself with prayer and reflection first, and I have been known to light candles or incense. Once I get started, I disappear into the work and it--the writing--overtakes me. And music helps. I practically wore out Windham Hill’s Thanksgiving album when I was writing; it seemed to provide a good backdrop for my thoughts.
Reading back is hard for me. I generally wait a day or two so it is not so familiar and I don’t “read in” things that are not there. And I am the worst proof-reader ever. I generally see mistakes only after I hit “send.”
Norm: How did you go about creating the character of Dr. Jane Wallace in your debut novel and is there much of you in the character?
Dr. Golder: Of course there is some of me in Jane. She is a physician and attorney; so am I. She talks a lot like me. But she is also a different person--tougher, more experienced, a different family and upbringing. Cannier. Braver. More confrontational. She’s also a mix of contradictions, like most of us. For example, she voices some strong opinions—in the abstract—then ends up acting in direct contradiction to those ideas when people she knows are involved. I think I share that kind of disconnect between the abstract and the here and now with her. Relationship is key to Jane. It is to me, too.
Norm: How did you come up with the title Dying for Revenge?
Dr. Golder: It evolved as the book did. When I was working with the publisher, working on a series outline, it seemed reasonable to title the books to incorporate death and whatever the underlying theme of the book was... trying to highlight both aspects of the story.
Norm: Are the various characters in your book based on people you know or have encountered or are they strictly fictional?
Dr. Golder: They are fictional---but there are only so many personalities out there. I do admit to pirating some of my son's quirks and antics for Jane's kids. And I have to write from my own experience. I’m sure that bits of various people I have known crept in here and there but not because I intended them to.\
My husband teases me that he is killed off before the book even begins. I keep trying to explain that he is not Jane’s husband—if anyone, he’s Eoin, the love interest--but he doesn’t believe me and no one else seems to either. And people who know me say that they hear my voice every time Jane speaks. To give you an idea of how clueless I can be, that surprised me the first time someone told me that.
Norm: What was the most difficult part of writing this book and did you learn anything from writing your book and what was it?
Dr. Golder: Two things were hard: sending it out for developmental critique and then rewriting with that in mind. The critique was hard because I had worked so hard and I was afraid of looking foolish or of being told there was nothing good there. Nobody wants to waste time and writing makes one very vulnerable. After all, that was a year or more of my life to create the first draft.
Rewriting was hard because I had to decide how to use the advice I was given and still keep what I liked about the story. That took soul-searching: what kind of book did I really want to write.
Norm: Did you write the novel more by logic or intuition, or some combination of the two? Did you know the end of the novel at the beginning?
Dr. Golder: It was surprisingly intuitive, because I see my self as very, very logical and linear. Writing the book was anything but. I wrote the first chapter first and sent it off to my agent. She encouraged me and after that I found myself writing whatever scene I "saw" in my mind. I had no outline, though I knew the general form of the story. The end, oddly enough, came to me in a dream ...the story in large measure told itself. I had heard books and characters developed a life of their own. Now I believe it! I think writers have this weird double life. Real life and the life of the story, which is internal but also very real, at least while the book is in progress. My husband got used to a particular vacant look that I got from time to time when something occurred to me—it meant I had disappeared into the book and might not be back for a while.
Norm: What process did you go through to get your book published?
Dr. Golder: I was fortunate to have a literary agent to help with the process from the beginning. It was a surprise to see how much work it takes to get a book in front of editors in a publishing house. I am convinced that without her, the book would still be in a folder on my desk.
Norm: What's the most difficult thing for you about being a writer?
Dr. Golder: Writing is relatively easy. I am an introvert, I get to spend time alone with thoughts--that's great. Marketing--selling the book and by extension myself--that's much harder.
Norm: Where can our readers find out more about you and Dying for Revenge?
Norm: What is next for Dr. Barbara Golder?
Dr. Golder: I am working on the second book in the series. And I'll be speaking at the Women of Resilience conference in February in Santa Fe about resilience and forgiveness--something Jane had to learn and something she taught me. There is always another story to tell. I am beginning to do that live and in person—as a speaker—as well as on paper.
Norm: As this interview comes to an end, what question do you wish that someone would ask about your book, but nobody has?
Dr. Golder: Nobody has asked about Jane's past, which is rather murky in the book. A strong character is often forged out of adversity, in fire. I think Jane's backstory--another way in which she and I are different--is interesting.
Norm: Thank you so much for taking the time to answer my questions. It's been an absolute pleasure to meet with you and read your work. Good luck with
Dr. Golder: My pleasure, and thanks again for having me.