I’d been writing lyrics for songs for a few years, working with a terrific pianist/composer, when the idea of writing long-form prose began to germinate. But I wasn’t sure how or where to begin. Attempting a novel seemed overly ambitious. I didn’t want to start something I couldn’t finish and become that guy with half a book stuffed in a drawer somewhere, promising himself he would at some point get back to it, ultimately never doing so, and never writing another word again. No.
My wife had the simple solution. “Short stories. You know, keep it simple.” It made sense. I was used to the compressed style of lyric writing, and the short story would allow me to expand the narrative while giving me some finite limits. Twenty pages. Thirty, tops.
The Bleed began as a short story titled Collision Course. I understood that writing about something I knew well would provide the authenticity a more experienced, (I hesitate to say ‘better’ but it’s probably more accurate), writer could achieve by craft alone. So I began to write my story about an ER doctor working a nightshift and having his worst nightmare of a patient dropped into his lap at two AM. A young man, victim of a single vehicle roll-over, with no insurance, a serious head injury, in the emergency room of a hospital with no neurosurgeon on staff.
A combination of heroics and good fortune keep the patient alive until he can be transferred to an appropriate facility. By then it is almost time for the day shift to take over. The doctor allows himself a few minutes of self-congratulation for a job well done, signs out to his colleague, and gets in his car for the twenty-minute drive home. Ten minutes later he falls asleep at the wheel, his car hits the center divider, and goes airborne.
When it was done I realized there was more to the story. What happens to these people after that night, what events are set in motion, what other lives are affected? I rearranged my short story, then kept writing. I had a general sense of where things were going but as it evolved it truly took on a life of its own. About a year after sitting down to write a short story The Bleed was done. All 520 pages of it.
It was an exhilarating experience and I wondered if I could do it again. The response I got from people who read The Bleed was encouraging, so I sat back down and started writing. A novel this time, right from the beginning. The Drain was completed in December of 2011. It is a sequel to the first book, but with more emphasis on the business of hospital based medicine, with a few musicians and a cool bar thrown into the mix. Writing about things I know still makes sense.