Law & Order: SVU executive producers Neal Baer and Jonathan Greene, now the co-producers of CBS’s medical drama, A Gifted Man, make their fiction debut with [embeded attachment not found].
Jonathan, did your journalism experience affect your approach to writing fiction?
I’ve always thought the best fiction is based on reality. As a journalist, I came across a lot of stories that I thought would make great stories on film, and many of them were incorporated into episodes of SVU. The toughest thing for me to learn how to do as a writer of fiction, both in television/film and the novel form, was when it was okay to take dramatic license.
Neal, how has your medical training influenced your writing?
Profoundly. I attended Harvard Medical School [and practiced at the Children’s Hospital in Los Angeles, and at Harvard] we were taught under a curriculum called the New Pathways. We learned about medicine by telling a rich story about the patient, looking not only at the symptoms but also at the patient’s environment, habits, family background, work—all the elements that contribute to our personal narrative. When I joined ER at the beginning of its first year, I came with 100 stories that had happened to me.
Where did Kill Switch come from?
Greene: About 10 years ago, Neal came up with an idea for a feature film about a female forensic psychiatrist who works with a cop to solve a case (both of whom have secrets that affect their behavior). We wrote an extremely detailed 35-page outline, and then got busy with running SVU and other things in our lives and never got around to writing the screenplay. About two years ago, our book agent asked Neal if he had any ideas for a medical thriller lying around. The outline served as an almost verbatim guide for the first two-thirds of the book, and then we took a detour for the ending.
Is writing a novel different from writing a teleplay?
Baer: In a teleplay, the journey of the characters plays out through dialogue and screen direction. It is written to be read by people who know how to read teleplays, and while the story begins in the writer’s head, it can never be fully realized until it has gone through the interpretation of actors, directors, and countless others. Books are a very liberating challenge because they literally cut out the middleman. The story that lives in the writer’s head goes directly to the page, and it’s up to the writer to paint word pictures that readers can see in their minds, and thoughts in the characters’ heads that aren’t subject to interpretation.