I”m chatting with International bestselling author, Dan Alatorre. He has written in several genres, including humor, science fiction time travel, and even children’s books. With his most recent book, The Gamma Sequence, Dan delves into the world of medical thrillers. This isn’t the first time Dan has dabbled in the thriller realm though. You can see my review of Dan’s suspense thriller, Double Blind, here: https://wp.me/pVw40-3Li. Today, he’s going to share his perspective on the thriller genre, and medical thrillers in particular.
Kaye: You are a multi-genre author, but your most recent release is a medical thriller, The Gamma Sequence, which is featured in a collection of medical thrillers, Do No Harm, that will release in July. Why have you chosen to delve into medical thrillers?
Dan: I got invited to participate in a box set with a bunch of New York Times best-selling authors and USA today bestselling selling authors, and I thought it was too good of an opportunity to pass up. It’s like being invited by a bunch of major-league baseball players to come play on the All-Star team. So I jumped at the chance. That experience was a lot of fun, but when they asked me again to participate in a medical thriller, I initially said I didn’t think I should because I wasn’t really known for that and I wasn’t an expert in that. My friend Jenifer Ruff disagreed and said that a lot of my stuff had the basic elements; I just needed to kind of paint with a different color. I looked into what readers of that genre expect from their stories, and she was right. Writing a medical thriller was a lot of fun and people really are going to enjoy The Gamma Sequence, because there are just surprises you’re just never going to anticipate. It has a great villain. It has conflicted good guys. There’s a lot to like on a lot of layers.
Kaye: How do medical thrillers differ from other types of thriller?
Dan: A typical murder mystery is: a murder happens and the detective goes about solving it. With a medical thriller, you take those basic elements and you set them in a medical scenario but often the person doing the detecting is not a cop or a detective but somebody from the sciences, or the victims are from the medical sciences, or it has a general medical background setting that is going to be part of the solution. If murder mysteries are typically painted in blue, then this is painted in purple because it’s those things with some shades of other things.
Kaye: What was the biggest challenge in writing thrillers for you?
Dan: I needed to learn what readers of the genre expect in their stories so they wouldn’t be disappointed. I needed to lay out a decent outline so I could hit the points I needed to hit, and I had an extremely short deadline. Most books like this take the author a year to write. I had this completed in about 1/4 of that time – by necessity. And it literally went almost right up to – the day I had to submit it, I was still getting some feedback from beta readers and making a few tweaks. But it’s really, really good. People are really going to enjoy it. The early reviews are tremendous.
Kaye: Can you briefly tell readers about The Gamma Sequence?
Dan: Geneticist Lanaya Kim must do what authorities haven’t—tie together the “accidental” deaths of several prominent scientists around the country to show they were actually murdered. Over the past two years, geneticists have died in what appear to be accidents, but Lanaya knows otherwise. If she tells her secrets to the authorities, she risks becoming a suspect or revealing herself to the killer and becoming an open target. Hiring private investigator Hamilton DeShear may help her expose the truth, but time is running out. The murders are happening faster, and Lanaya’s name may be next on the killer’s list. But when Lanaya and DeShear start probing, what they discover is far more horrifying than anyone could ever have imagined.
The more they look, the more they find – and the bigger the problems get. In the meantime, they’re getting shot at and having to run for their lives because people are trying to kill them!
Kaye: What elements of storytelling do you feel are specific to the thriller genre?
Dan: For me, it is a fast pace that goes from one interesting thing to the next without slowing down. Now, that sounds like any good movie or book, and that’s the challenge. You really don’t have time to slow down and get distracted but you still need red herrings and false leads and multiple suspects. So at the same time you’re hitting the accelerator, you have to be looking down the side roads, too. Here’s the key: what’s interesting? How fast can you get to it? What’s the next interesting thing? How fast can you get to that? Each chapter has to ask another question and add to the mystery while it’s answering something early from earlier. The reader can’t put it down. I’ve had people tell me they missed their stop on the train because they were so engrossed in The Gamma Sequence!
Kaye: Do you feel thrillers require a faster pace to keep the adrenaline flowing?
Dan: I think most stories should have a fast pace. Some should not but most should. Thrillers definitely should. Murder mysteries definitely should. Comedies definitely should. But you can see how romances might really benefit from taking a slow pace, and there are certain dramatic stories that definitely want to dive deep. But thrillers need to be a roller coaster ride, and The Gamma Sequence definitely is that. It has beautiful settings and a terrific villain, and a pace that keeps it moving, nonstop.
Kaye: Thrillers are action packed and filled with conflict and tension. What techniques do you use to keep the story moving, the readers on the edges of their seats, and the pages turning?
Dan: Conflict and tension. Internal dilemmas. Stuff a reader would relate to – in a good guy and a bad guy. You have to have likable characters and multi-dimensional characters. You have to have an interesting villain with a compelling reason for doing what he’s doing. I prefer if the villain does not see himself as a bad guy but sees himself as having different goals than the good guy, and their goals happen to be in conflict with each other. And a fast pace is definitely helpful.
Kaye: Are there any particular thriller authors that you fashioned your writing style after as you approached writing in the medical thriller genre?
Dan: I can’t say I styled myself after any particular author in the genre, but I have been compared very favorably to Robin Cook and Michael Crichton. A few others. That’s good company.
Kaye: You have also written, horror, murder mystery, sci-fi time travel, and humor. What are the differences in writing a thriller from the other genres you’ve written in?
Dan: The broad strokes are still the same: What’s interesting and how quickly can you get to it? So, if it’s a horror story, I get to the scary as fast as possible, but I horror you build lots of tension and suspense. In a murder mystery, you have to make it be exciting and move along quickly while really baiting the hook each and every chapter, building to the big reveal at the end. A medical thriller is very similar to that because it all keeps building until it reaches a critical mass and then you finish with a bang. So far, nobody has seen the surprise ending coming in The Gamma Sequence. I love that. I get emails: I did NOT see that coming! That’s fun.
Kaye: As you prepare to write in a genre that is new to you, what kind of pre-writing preparations do you make?
Dan: I talk to fans of the genre to find out what types of books or movies are their favorites, and what they liked about them. I try to make interesting characters including the villain. I want to have a fast pace because a good story feels like it has a fast pace, regardless. The fact is, it’s a lot of work to make a story appear effortless. And I definitely sit down with some trusted advisors to hammer out an outline that is going to fulfill the expectations of what readers of the genre have. Then I have my boundaries drawn and I go crazy and have a lot of fun inside those lines, occasionally straying a little here and there outside the lines, because you have to push the envelope, but always delivering intensity on every page. The Gamma Sequence does that.
Kaye: What is your favorite genre to write in? Why?
Dan: Comedy. It’s so much fun! Making people laugh is a lot of fun. Scaring them in a horror story is a lot of fun, too. And taking them on a roller coaster ride in a thriller is a lot of fun, too!
Kaye: What is the one thing in your writing career that is the most unusual or unique thing you’ve done so far?
Dan: Probably what’s most unusual is that I’m not afraid to try something new, and then I kick ass to make it amazing. A lot of authors develop something and stay with it, and that’s great. I do that, too – but I’m not afraid to jump over into something new.
I want to thank Dan for joining us today. You can read my review of The Gamma Sequence this Friday. You can pre-order the box set Do No Harm here: https://www.amazon.com/Do-No-Harm-Seventeen-Thrillers-ebook/dp/B07RFSSQZ4/ref=sr_1_2?keywords=Do+No+Harm&qid=1559140737&s=books&sr=1-2
Learn more about Dan Alatorre and his books at the following links:
Blog and Website: https://danalatorre.com/