In Mercy, Palmer continues the family tradition of medical thrillers, begun by this late father, Michael.
What did you learn about writing from your father?
One of my father’s editors told him, “Michael, we pay you to write tension, not action.” He would later pass this advice along to me. I keep this lesson constantly in mind while I’m writing. I understand how action makes for an exciting read, but without tension, the work can fall flat. To create tension the writer must craft well-defined characters the reader cares about, and then put those characters in conflict-rich situations where the stakes are high. To do this effectively requires careful plotting, as well as an almost innate understanding of what is dramatic. My father was a master at finding the drama in just about any situation, and his ability to convey jeopardy to the reader is one reason his books sold so successfully over his long and illustrious career.
How does your fiction differ from his?
We do differ slightly in the scope of our work. Before his death, my father was writing books that bridged the worlds of medicine and politics. My novels tended to be smaller stories of domestic suspense flavored with the occasional cyber twist. When I was asked to write Michael Palmer medical thrillers, I wanted to bring some of my sensibilities to the project. Plots with global implications are terrifically exciting to read and write, but they are not necessarily my forte. To bring my natural inclinations to these books, I’ve taken inspiration from my father’s earlier works, which were set mostly in hospitals. While this milieu requires me to write more medical scenes, it allows for plots that play to my strengths.
What do you hope to achieve by carrying on his legacy?
My goal is to tell exciting, medically themed stories that give the reader the core essence of a Michael Palmer novel. I think these books blend our styles and sensibilities in a way that creates something truly unique and yet is very familiar at the same time.
In what way does your music shape your fiction?
I was a singer/songwriter long before I began to dabble in the world of fiction writing. I enjoyed my years playing in clubs in and around Boston, and I had some later success licensing my songs, including one to J. Crew for a television spot. When I took up fiction writing, I immediately noticed parallels between long-form prose and crafting a good song. Neither could meander; everything I wrote had to have a point. My best songs tended to come when I was at my most relaxed. I try to get into that same state when I work on my books.