Dr. John Benedict graduated cum laude from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and entered medical school at Penn State University College of Medicine. While there, he also completed an internship, anesthesia residency and a cardiac anesthesia fellowship. He currently works as a physician/anesthesiologist in a busy private practice in Camp Hill, Pennsylvania.
Dr. Benedict has been writing stories since high school, but his creative side was put on hold to pursue a medical education and start a family—he now has a wife and three sons. Finally, after a 15-year pause, his love of writing was rekindled and his first novel, Adrenaline—a gritty medical thriller with a realism borne of actual experience—was born.
Besides creating scary stories, the hallmark of Dr. Benedict’s writing is genuine medical authenticity—something in short supply these days in thriller fiction. He draws on his 25+ years of experience as a board-certified anesthesiologist to infuse his writing with a realism that renders it both vivid and frightening. As one of only a handful of anesthesiologists throughout the country writing fiction, he gives readers a taste of what really goes on in the operating room, the human drama inherent in this high-stress, high stakes environment where lives are continually on the line. Readers will find out what it’s like to hold a patient’s life in their hands, as the author provides an illuminating glimpse into the fascinating, but poorly understood realm of anesthesia.
Book description: Adrenaline tells the story of veteran anesthesiologist, Doug Landry. When patients start dying unexpectedly in the Mercy Hospital OR, Doug winds up being blamed. Doug is confused at first and wonders if he screwed up somehow. However, as he investigates further, he unearths evidence of greed and corruption in his department. As he struggles to unravel the secrets of the mysterious deaths and clear his name, it quickly becomes apparent that someone will stop at nothing to keep him from revealing the devastating truth. Doug becomes trapped in a race against time to prevent more deaths, including his own.
Why don’t you begin by telling us a little about your writing background? I’ve been writing medical thriller fiction for about 20 years now.
Tell us a bit about your latest book, and what inspired you to write such a story. I am an anesthesiologist in real life and Adrenaline is a classic medical thriller told from the anesthesiologist’s viewpoint. To illustrate the real inspiration behind this book, I will need to relate a little true story from 20 years ago.
One day it struck me—at 2:00 in the morning in the midst of another grueling 24-hour shift. I had just finished interviewing a nice lady with an appendix about to burst—we’ll call her Linda. I had done my best not to yawn as I went through the routine questions that an anesthesiologist is obliged to ask. She appeared nervous, which soon gave way to tears. I did my best to comfort her, took her hand, told her I would take good care of her. That I would watch over her carefully in the operating room and see her through surgery. And be there when she woke up in the recovery room. She appeared to calm down a bit. I wrapped up my pre-op assessment and asked her to sign the anesthesia consent form, while assuring her the risks would be minimal. She raised her eyebrows at this and the fearful look returned. I wondered: What the hell does minimal mean when you’re talking about life and death? More tears. She told me of her two young daughters at home that desperately needed a mommy. I felt my own throat tighten. I quickly buried my emotions, tried not to think about my wife and three sons, and focused on the task at hand as we wheeled her litter back down the hall to the OR.
After Linda was safely tucked in the recovery room, operation a success, anesthetic uncomplicated, I lay down in the call room to try to catch a couple of z’s. My mind wandered as I lay there. Rarely, I thought, does a person willingly surrender control of their mind and body to a virtual stranger. Yet, this is exactly what happens when the person is a patient being wheeled in for surgery and the stranger is their anesthesiologist, whom they have just met minutes beforehand. Talk about an extraordinary amount of trust. This degree of trust made a distinct impression on me that night, some twenty years ago.
Other thoughts followed soon thereafter. What if the trust Linda had exhibited earlier was ill-conceived and her doctor was actually bad? Not just incompetent or sleepy, but downright evil. Being an avid reader of thrillers, I thought this chilling concept would make for a good story. Too bad I wasn’t a writer. (Disclaimer time: I don’t want to scare people here. All the docs I have known in my 30 years of medical practice are highly competent professional people, who would never purposely hurt anyone.) But I still couldn’t shake the evil concept; it kept gnawing at me until eventually I had to put it down on paper—lack of writing experience be damned. So Adrenaline was birthed, my first medical thriller novel that explores this issue of absolute trust implicit in the anesthesiologist-patient relationship—specifically, what happens when that trust is abused and replaced by fear. Adrenaline was finally published twelve years after my encounter with Linda.
What was your goal when writing this book? I wanted to do two things. I wanted to write a gripping medical thriller as told from the anesthesiologist’s perspective. Also, I wanted to make the medical aspects entirely authentic.
Who is your target audience? All adults, but especially those with a connection to the medical field.
What will the reader learn after reading your book? The importance of anesthesia in determining the outcome of one’s surgery. Also, what it feels like to hold another person’s life in your hands during sometimes very stressful conditions.
What type of writer are you—the one who experiences before writing, like Hemingway, or the one who mostly daydreams and fantasizes? I employ both methods. Some of my writing definitely comes from experiences I have had in the operating room with real patients. Other parts of my stories flow entirely from my imagination. Usually, it’s a blend.
From the moment you conceived the idea for the story, to the published book, how long did it take?
Describe your working environment. I work in the medical center library. During my 8 years of medical training, I spent countless hours here studying—so the place always puts me in a focused frame of mind. I like to spread my laptop and chapter file folders out on a large table and always have lots of coffee on hand.
They say authors have immensely fragile egos… How would you handle negative criticism or a negative review? I believe this to be true. I handle all negative criticism poorly. It takes me days to recover from a one-star review. The best antidote to a bad review is a glowing 5-star review filled with love!
Do you have any unusual writing quirks? When I’m seriously into the plotting of a novel, I like to spread out chapter folders on a big table so I can visualize the time sequences and connections of many different chapters at once. It’s hard to see the big picture when you’re just viewing one page on your computer screen.
How was your experience in looking for a publisher? What words of advice would you offer those novice authors who are in search of one? You must realize the journey is long. Good agents and interested editors are very hard to find. I sent out literally hundreds of query letters to agents and even managed to hook up with several poor agents. This was primarily an exercise in frustration. Finally, I attended multiple writing conferences and did manage to get signed by a reputable agent. I thought my journey was near its end. However, I learned that even finding a decent agent doesn’t guarantee selling the book to a mainstream publisher. My agent couldn’t sell the book. Finally, I decided to go the self-publishing route. This proved to be the way to go for me. I chose CreateSpace, which worked fine for me—there are several other good alternatives out there. Be prepared to pay a small amount to get your book published—it pays to price-shop. Once set up, you can sell your book as an inexpensive ebook on Amazon (and elsewhere). The internet is an extremely valuable sales platform and if your book is half-decent, it can spread by word-of-mouth alone. Readers leave reviews and rate your book and this can attract new readers. I’m pleased to report that Adrenaline sold very well as a Kindle ebook. In 2014, over 80,000 copies were downloaded from Amazon pushing it to the #1 paid medical thriller. I also picked up over 400 reader reviews (mostly 5-star). Armed with these sales numbers and positive reader reviews, I was finally able to attract a mainstream publisher for my third medical thriller, Fatal Complications, due out in December 2015.
What is the best writing advice you’ve ever received? The goal of getting published requires hard work and perseverance. And you must believe in yourself, even when no one else seems to. It’s also helpful to have thick skin when it comes to handling lots of rejection letters. Write because you enjoy the process, not because you think big success (and money) is right around the corner. Keep writing and good luck!
Do you have a website/blog where readers may learn more about you and your work? http://johnbenedictmd.com
Do you have another book on the works? Would you like to tell readers about your current or future projects? Fatal Complications is my third medical thriller, published by Oceanview Publishing, and is due out December 1st, 2015.
As an author, what is your greatest reward? My greatest reward is getting a 5-star, unsolicited reader review that professes love for my work and a desire to immediately go out and read my other books.