Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Lying Around

From James

Lying with Strangers is being released in hardcover this month. My publisher tells me the pub date is May 15. Amazon says it’s May 1. I’m going with Amazon. Computers are never wrong.

The idea for Lying with Strangers goes back a ways. In 1998, my son spent the first eight days of his life in the hospital’s neo-natal intensive care unit. Each day, my wife and I would visit him in that darkened room, reach inside the incubator, and touch his little hands and face. When we finally left the hospital, I told Ryan’s doctors and nurses that they were my personal heroes.
What I didn’t tell them—and what I didn’t realize until some time later—was that I desperately wanted to write about them.

We had to closely monitor Ryan’s condition after he came home. Luckily, I had a friend whose twin brother had graduated at the top of his class from Harvard Medical School and who had just been named Chief Resident at Boston Children’s Hospital. Dr. David Weinstein was in the most coveted position at the best pediatric hospital in the world, but he always found time to take my calls. Lucky for me we really hit it off. During one of our conversations, I told him—only half-jokingly—that I ought to write a novel about a pediatrician. Later, he phoned and said, “Why don’t you come up to Boston Children’s and shadow me, see what hits you?”

I couldn’t get there fast enough.

One morning during my stay at his house, David told me about another pediatric intern—a brilliant and beautiful young woman who had been stalked by a patient’s relative. A light immediately went on, and Peyton Shields, the lead character in Lying with Strangers, was born. I realized, however, that I was building quite a challenge for myself. My editor and I were about to launch a series for HarperCollins featuring Jack Swyteck—a man who is a lawyer in Miami. The story in my head was about a woman who was a doctor in Boston. We went with the Swyteck series—the right decision—but Peyton Shields was never far behind in my heart and mind.

It took years to finish Lying with Strangers. First, there was the medical research, then the Boston research. But creating Peyton—and finding a woman’s voice—was the real challenge. It helped that I’m married to an English Literature major. Even so, I can still see Tiffany looking up from the early manuscript, rolling her eyes, and telling me, “A woman would never say that!” Now, the feedback from women readers is glowing. And men love it, too. That’s hugely gratifying.

As a footnote I would add that Dr. Weinstein is now at the University of Florida, which has given him the opportunity to create and direct the ideal program for children with glycogen storage disease. Dr. Weinstein’s program is now the largest in the world, and the University of Florida has more researchers looking for a cure and new treatments for this rare disease than the rest of the world combined. One of the patients Dr. Weinstein treats is a boy named Jacob Gordon, whose family has provided critical support for the program. In honor of Jacob, and in a show of appreciation to the Gordon family, Dr. Peyton Shields’ favorite patient in Lying with Strangers is named Jacob Gordon.

As a footnote to the footnote (can’t you tell I was once on the Law Review?), both Dr. Weinstein and my son Ryan (now a completely healthy eight-year-old sports nut) are huge Gator fans. In fact Ryan and I went to the Final Four in Atlanta last month to watch the Gators win their second consecutive national title in basketball. Dr. Weinstein watched the game on television . . . and I wouldn’t be a bit surprised to hear that he spent at least part of the game on the telephone, putting another new parent at ease.

P.S. Paul will be back next Tuesday.


  1. Paul should have mud wrestled Naomi Hirahara; he would have stood a much better chance of winning. Not sure if there was ever a clear cut side bet between them, but wonder if that's why Paul is "mysteriously" absent from posting today.
    Also wondering where the wise cracks will be about "Criminoles" given the news about the miscreants on PSU's football team:
    STATE COLLEGE, Pa. (April 27) - Six Penn State football players, including stars Anthony Scirrotto and Justin King, turned themselves in to police on Friday to face charges following an off-campus apartment fight.
    State College police chief Thomas R. King and Centre County District Attorney Michael Madeira held a news conference Friday to announce each player faces at least one felony count of criminal trespass.

    Scirrotto faces the most serious charges, including two other felonies - burglary and criminal solicitation. Christopher Baker was charged with two felony counts, burglary and criminal trespass, plus four related charges.

    Paul, do you still think it'll be a breakout year next season, huh?

    Lest I forget,sorry to rant on your guest blog, James. Great post, and good to see your "Lying" book is doing well.

  2. Jim, it's interesting to hear the real-life event that triggers a book plot. Lying sounds like a chilling read. It's going to be an instant bestseller.

  3. Miami--May 1--Heartwarming story from Jim. I think the best books come from honest places within ourselves.

    Anon is quite correct. Naomi banished me from L.A. Actually, she is a gracious winner with a wonderful main character. I loved "The Big Bachi" and look forward to reading "Shamisen." Much fun in New York, about which I'll write when I get home.

    Thanks, Jim for filling in today.

    On 3 plane trips, had a chance to read Jim's "Got the Look." Holy smokes! What a flat-out speed-demon thriller. Tremendous pace. Loving every page.

    As for Scirotto and King, if they're guilty of what we used to call hooliganism, they should sit out the season. I have no problem with that, and Joe Paterno would do it in an instant, if the charges are true.

  4. "if the charges are true....."??? Yeah, it's all a big misunderstanding...... just 6 good-ole-clean-cut-boys out for a little fun.... not like those U of Miami hooligans!
    I will give you this, Patterno IS a REAL MAN of character, and I'm sure he would [will] have them sit out the season. I admire him because he's not just about winning but is also about personal resposibility and integrity.
    Jon [aka Anon]