Robert B. Marcus Jr. and Kim Frank Richardson - Suspense and Intrigue Along with Some Plot Twists
Robert B. Marcus Jr. is a practicing radiation oncology physician. He has been a Professor at two major medical schools, and has been listed in U.S. News and World Reports Best Doctors in America. He has been selling fiction since he was in college. Since then he has published a number of short stories and two novels, with two forthcoming novels, one science fiction novel (The House of the Last Man on Earth) and another political thriller novel (Yesterday's Tears), the sequel to the published thriller The Far Side of Silence, which is the book we talk with him about today. Co-author for this book is Kim Frank Richardson, who was born in Gainesville, Florida. He graduated with a BSBA in Finance from the University of Florida. At the age of 17 he joined the United States Naval Reserve and went on to serve 22 years in the Navy and Naval Reserves. After working in the Trucking Industry for 37 years, he is now retired in Humble, Texas.
Please give us a short introduction to what The Far Side of Silence is about.
The Far Side of Silence envisions a situation where, after Air Force One is shot down over the Mediterranean with no survivors, the new President Theodore Anderson (the previous Vice-President) needs to help the President of Russia protect world peace. The Russian President needs an experimental neurosurgical operation that only 2 American surgeons have done successfully, so Anderson asks an old friend of his, Alexander Gray, to accompany an American surgical team to the US Naval Station at Sigonella, on Sicily, and ensure that the operation is successful. Of course, everyone seems to be trying to stop the mission, both in Russia and the United States, and Gray must overcome many threats on his life, as well as the lives of the main surgeon and others.
What inspired you to write about Air Force One that gets shot down - with no survivors?
This was merely a mechanism to put the new US President in a very difficult position, because the Russian President who needed the operation was thought by many to have ordered the missile attack on Air Force One (though he actually didn’t).
Tell us about Alexander Gray. What makes him tick?
Alexander Gray started out as a physician, finishing medical school and embarking as a resident in surgery at a major medical school. However, after his sister was murdered, he lost interest in his residency and sought another path in life, finding out, to his regret, that he was much better at other things than helping people with his medical skills. He eventually became a Navy Seal, then a mercenary, before finally helping Senator Theodore Anderson escape from a terrorist camp, where he was being held as a prisoner. But he never quite erases his initial desires of healing people instead of killing them, and it is always a conflict within himself.
Where does your fascination with political plots come from?
The medical plot of the book came first: what if an enemy foreign leader needed an operation that only American surgeons performed? Then we developed the political and naval aspects of the book to provide the context for the medical procedure. As the book developed, and the sequels evolved, it turned out that the political aspects of those books became very intriguing to us.
Besides writing, what other secret skills do you have?
I’m not so sure it’s a secret skill, but I love traveling and have given medical talks all over the world. I’m also a decent ping-pong player. Kim and I also used to take on any challengers for a game of 2-man football and we rarely lost, though ankle and knee surgeries prevent that any more.
The book contains a couple of twists. Did you plan it all out before you started writing, or did it just "happen" along the way?
Most of the twists were planned from the beginning, but the major twist in the book was thought of during one of our many rewrites.
Readers say this is a fast-action book, keeping them at the edge of their seats. How did you pull this off?
Rewrite, rewrite, rewrite. Edit, edit, edit, and cut anything and anybody that didn’t seem absolutely necessary. There are many now-vaporized characters in many drafts that no one (except us) will ever get to know. Every rewrite sped up the book.
Why did you title this "The Far Side of Silence"?
This is the last line in the book and its meaning becomes clear at that point.
What is your favorite quote from the book? ?
“Now that the brightness and fire was gone, now that the burning winds had ceased, there was a terrible stillness.”
When working on a new book, what is the first thing you do?
The first thing I do is try to determine the goal of the book. If it’s a joint project, like The Far Side of Silence, we both have to agree on this. Then I determine one or more major characters and define them well. Only then do I plot out the book.
Do any of your characters ever take off on their own tangent, refusing to do what you had planned for them?
Absolutely! A character named John Brantley in The Far side of Silence was supposed to be a very major character, but as the story progressed, he didn’t have the talents to accomplish much and ended up as a very minor character. He just kept refusing to help Alexander Gray, no matter what we assigned him to do.
Do you have any interesting writing habits? What is an average writing day like for you?
I still work about half time as a cancer physician, but when I’m off I generally try to write most of the day. That’s easier said than done. Some days I can knock out a large number of pages; other days take so much research time that I finish only a page or two.
What are you working on right now?
Primarily working on the third book in the Alexander Gray series, Tomorrow’s Destiny. Getting close to done. We have also discussed the next book in the series. It will probably be more of a novella length story about Alexander Gray rescuing Senator Theodore Anderson.
Where can our readers discover more of your work or interact with you?
Alexander Gray has a Facebook page, https://www.facebook.com/alexander.gray.902. My Facebook page is https://www.facebook.com/RobertBMarcusJr. I have a website, rbmarcusjr.com, though it’s hard to find the time to keep it up to date. My email is [email protected], and I will try to answer any questions there. I’m not that active on twitter, actually, so there’s not much point in looking for me there, although I do have an account.