Friday, July 2, 2010

Interview with D.P. LYLE

You’ve written thrillers and non-fiction “how-to” books for writers, along with other things such as essays, articles, and a regular column in MWA’s The Third Degree. You’re also a practicing physician. Share with us how your “day job” prepared you for the world of writing and publishing, and how the technical writing feeds your fiction.

I’ve practiced cardiology in Orange County, California for over 30 years. Since I write nonfiction books on medicine, forensics, and fiction in the medical thriller genre, my day job has obviously impacted my writing. Most of my nonfiction books deal with forensic science and though I was never trained in that I was able to self educate myself in the field. Understanding forensic science was not difficult simply because the vocabulary and the scientific principles behind it are virtually identical to those found in medical science. It is simply looking at the science from a different angle. All forensics means is “of the law.” Forensic science is the science of law enforcement. Anatomy, chemistry, biology, physics, all come into play in both forensic and medical science.

You consult with writers and other professionals concerning forensics and medical issues. What prompted you to engage in this activity and how does it work? 

I answer questions for writers if they have some aspect of their story that involves medical or forensic issues. I try to give them the science behind their question, explained the science in simple terms, and hopefully, offer them some suggestions for how to use it in their story. I’ve been doing this for a number of years and right now have over 4000 questions from writers on my computer. Two of my books, Murder & Mayhem and Forensics & Fiction, are compilations of some of the best questions I received from writers over the years. There are links on both my website and my blog where writers can submit questions. I do have certain criteria that must be met before I will answer a question but these are spelled out on my website.

I have also worked with the writers of several TV shows over the years, again helping them with the scientific issues in their stories. I’ve worked with writers of shows such as CSI: Miami, Law & Order, Monk, House, Cold Case, and others. Recently I’ve been working with Matt Witten, one of the writers for a new TV series titled The Glades that will come to the TNT Network in August. I’m looking forward to that one.

In addition to your website, you also host The Writer’s Forensics Blog and Facebook and Twitter pages. What are your thoughts about online marketing and promotion? 

Fortunately, or unfortunately, depending on how you look at it, marketing is a big part of a writer’s career. It’s not always the fun part but it is a necessary part. You must get your name out there in front of the public and other writers. Of course, writing a good book is essential but you also must be front and center. I find that things like Facebook and Twitter can help with that but more importantly I think a good webpage, and if you have the time, an interesting blog helps even more. We live in a high-speed media age and staying in contact with your readers is very important.

Tell us about the Crime Lab Project. 

The Crime Lab Project is the brainchild of Jan Burke. She created it and is the driving force behind it. Its purpose is to raise awareness of the problems that plague the modern-day crime lab. The major one being funding. Virtually every lab in the country is underfunded, understaffed, and has a backlog of work to do. Jan has been working very hard to rectify this problem for the simple reason that justice delayed is often justice denied. The faster and more efficiently crime labs can do their job the better off everyone is. There is a link to the CLP on my website.

As all writers know, the process of writing and publishing is not easy and it seldom generates overnight success. First, what is your definition of “success” from the perspective of a writer, and what are the two major things a writer must do to achieve it? 

My definition of success happened yesterday around noon. I finished the first draft of my next novel. The first draft is always the hard part. For me, rewriting is the fun stuff. Any time you finish the heavy lifting on a project, you should consider yourself successful because most of the work is now done.

I think a writer can look at success from many angles. One would be the self-satisfaction of completing a project or a novel. All writers know exactly how hard this is and reaching the finish line is success in anybody’s book. Another important measure of success would be getting a book published. This is not an easy task. There are many roadblocks along the way. Obviously, the first step is to write a good book but after that you are at the mercy of the system. You must find an agent and then an editor that likes your work and is willing to spend the money to put it in print. And of course, there’s always luck involved here. Another measure of success would be reaching the New York Times bestseller list. That would be great but is realistically not going to happen for most writers. Again, you have to write a good book, it must catch the public’s attention, and it must sells tens of thousands of copies. The last measure of success would be the ability to make a living from your writing. Few writers achieve this but that is probably every writer’s ultimate goal.

If you could spend 24 hours with any person in the world (past, present, or future), who would it be—and why? 

That’s an easy one. Leonardo da Vinci. Hands-down. Though there had been many incredibly talented people and incredibly interesting people on this planet, he is a cut above everyone else. Simply look at his accomplishments. An artist, inventor, scientist, and the epitome of the Renaissance man. I remember seeing the Windsor Castle collection of his anatomical drawings when they were on tour many years ago. Stunning. To look at those pages and to think that Leonardo himself put the pen to the paper was overwhelming. Though we now know some of his anatomical concepts were erroneous, for me, that did not change the power of the knowledge, investigative research, and artistry that he put into these drawings. His scientific inventions and his understanding of scientific principles were far beyond any of his contemporaries and, indeed, beyond the abilities of those that followed him for several centuries. He was just that far ahead of everyone else. I would absolutely love to sit down and break bread with him. 

Tell us about your latest book. 

My latest thriller is titled Stress Fracture. It is the first in a new series starring forensic and criminal behavior expert Dub Walker. It’s set in the South and takes advantage of that location for much of its storyline. The story deals with PTSD and its complications and treatment and how things can go completely sideways. In this story, a series of brutal murders take place in and around the city of Huntsville, Alabama. The murders are on the one hand carefully planned and executed while on the other hand seem brutal and completely out of control. Dub is brought to the case to determine what type of individual might act in this fashion and to help with tracking down the killer. The second book in the series is titled Hot Lights, Cold Steel and deals with robotic surgery. It will be out in 2011. As I mentioned earlier, I just finished the first draft of the third in the series.

What are the addresses of your websites and blogs?

My website is called The Writers Medical and Forensics Lab and can be found at:

My blog is called The Writers Forensics Blog and it can be found at:

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