Describe your latest project.
Rage Therapy is a dark psychological thriller flavored with my behind-the-scenes medical experience. Dr. Joel Ashman, a young widowed psychiatrist, narrates two stories. One follows the fatal beating of his mentor Dr. Stanley Kolberg, and the other the suicide of a beautiful but emotionally fragile patient. A year apart, on the face of it the events are unrelated, but as the investigation into Kolberg's murder wades into an ugly world of sadomasochism and patient abuse, the relevance to his patient's death grows. After the murder of a second psychiatrist, Joel realizes he is on a crash course with someone willing to do anything to distort the past.
Who killed Stanley Kolberg and why? The answer lies in a lurid underworld of violent sex and sexual predators and in the tortured past of a disturbed young patient.
What fictional character would you like to date, and why?
No question, Lara from Dr. Zhivago. I've actually been infatuated with her on three separate occasions. I fell for her while reading the novel. I fell even harder for her when I saw Julie Christie's portrayal in the original movie. And then Kiera Knightley played her in a remake, and it happened to me all over again.
I cannot think of a more hauntingly romantic female lead.
How do you relax?
I work out. Not only do I find exercise to be the best sometimes the only way to release stress and elevate my mood, I also do my best thinking during a workout. In fact, I write most of my novels in my head as I run or cycle. Now if I only could figure out a way to balance my laptop on the treadmill....
Why do you write?
If you heard me sing, you wouldn't need to ask! The truth is that since I stumbled onto this writing gig, nine years ago, I haven't been able to stop. It is my escape and my passion. Though, like any addiction, it can upend the rest of my home and work life when I'm in the middle of a new manuscript. But at least there is no pounding headache in the morning.
Share an interesting experience you've had with one of your readers.
As an ER doctor, I sometimes meet readers in unusual situations. In the fact, the first patient to ever comment on my writing was psychotic, suffering from delusions and hallucinations. At one point, in the middle of her delirium, she said: "Dr. Kalla, I loved your book, Pandemic. Later, when I was referring her to a psychiatrist, I told him that though she was out of touch with reality, she did have one very lucid and insightful moment!
Name the best Simpsons episode of all time, and explain why it's the best.
For me, it was the take-off on Cape Fear. In the episode ["Cape Feare," Season Five], Side Show Bob is trying to exact his murderous revenge on Bart, and the Simpsons end up on remote riverboat enrolled in the witness protection program (with Homer wearing a t-shirt and hat that advertise the program!) The satire is hysterical, but one scene in particular stands out: a storm is raging and a terrified Bart watches in horror as his door bursts open. Standing in the doorway, a Jason-like character in a hockey mask slices a chainsaw wildly through the air. As Bart screams, Homer rips off his mask and says: "Probably not the best time to show you my new hockey mask and chainsaw."
In the For-All-Eternity category, what will be your final thought?
I'm not entirely certain, but I kind of hope it's not: "Gee, my wife was right. I probably shouldn't have tried that U-turn!"
Can you tell us a little bit about your next novel?
Blood Lies will be released in June '07 in hardcover. Like Rage Therapy, it's more of a psychological suspense story than a true medical thriller. But it is set against the backdrop of the emergency room and flavored with science of DNA.
Ben Dafoe is a young Seattle ER doctor whose ex-fiancée is brutally murdered. The victim, like Ben's missing-and-presumed-dead identical twin, had been caught up in a spiral of drug addiction. But when Ben's blood is found at the murder scene, he becomes the prime suspect. He's forced to go on the run, The Fugitive-style, from Seattle to Vancouver, to solve his brother's disappearance and clear his name. In doing so, he learns that sometimes... blood lies.