Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Guest Blogger: Believability in Fiction by Dean DeLuke, Author of Shedrow

Today's special guest is Dean DeLuke, author of Shedrow.

From rolling pastures in Lexington, KY to darkened alleyways in Newark, NJ, from Manhattan’s posh ‘21’ Club to a peculiar and mysterious landfill in Eastern Kentucky, and from Saratoga Springs, NY to the tiny island of St. Lucia, Shedrow portrays a collision of characters from many divergent worlds. High society and the racing elite, medical and veterinary specialists, mob figures, and Kentucky hill folk become entangled in this unique twist on the medical thriller.

Dr. Anthony Gianni, a prominent Manhattan surgeon, becomes involved in a racing partnership as a diversion from a thriving surgical practice and an ailing marriage. The excitement builds when the partnership acquires Chiefly Endeavor, a two-year-old colt with the breeding, the spirit, and enough early racing success to qualify for the Kentucky Derby.

When a new partner with an unsavory background appears and a breeder’s nightmare becomes real, Dr. Gianni and a dedicated veterinarian must confront organized crime and solve a complex mystery that threatens to destroy both of their careers, and possibly a great deal more.

Believability in Fiction Writing: Write What You Know and Research the Rest! by Dean DeLuke

It is an old adage, perhaps even a cliché in fiction writing: write what you know. And while it certainly provides an author with a good starting point, there will always be a need for additional research, and that research will be a key factor in making the story believable, the characters real, and the plot an engaging one.

In the novel Shedrow, the principal character is a surgeon who becomes involved in a thoroughbred racing partnership as a diversion from a thriving practice and an ailing marriage. It was not a stretch for me to create true-to-life drama from the operating room and the racetrack. I have, after all, been a surgeon for nearly thirty years, and my experience with thoroughbred horses dates back to my high school and college years when I was a farm hand on a thoroughbred farm in upstate New York. More recently, I have been a partner with Dogwood Stable. So I had a long history of hands-on involvement at all levels.

That combined experience in the medical and racing arenas did not mean that I had no research to do—only that there would be less of it. For the research that I did perform, I used a variety of the standard techniques: site or field research, internet-based research, and one-on one interviews.

Most of my field research related to visiting sites I was already somewhat familiar with, in order to give my setting descriptions absolute authenticity. I wanted readers to be able to see, hear, feel, even smell the surroundings—whether on the backstretch at Saratoga or in the paddock at Gulfstream. So I would sit quietly and record what I experienced, from the smell of manure alongside the barn to the feel of a cooling mist carried by the wind from the fountains near the paddock at Gulfstream. The visual description is only one component; good writers always advise us to use as many of our five senses as possible throughout our story.

Of course, the internet has made the life of the writer infinitely easier. There are innumerable things that can be researched without ever leaving our computer screens: a myriad of facts and figures, even photographs or satellite views of settings, etc. The internet can augment but should never totally replace the other methods of research.

For some things, nothing can take the place of a face-to-face interview with a real expert or an insider. So for certain details about how a particular disease might present in horses, I asked a vet. And even though I had spent plenty of time around horses, I asked a real racing insider—one who had spent her entire lifetime with thoroughbreds—to read my story. She let me know where the potential shortcomings were.

A key point in writing believable fiction is to know where you don’t require any help, and where the story might be made better with some additional research. So in the case of my novel Shedrow, I knew I didn’t need anyone to tell me what it was like in an Operating Room. But I didn’t hesitate to ask a veterinarian or a horse trainer for assistance if I had an equine medicine question.

Despite our best efforts, there will undoubtedly be some instances where an author gets a particular detail or fact wrong. It happens even to the best authors, and when it does, one thing is certain: it may get by our editors, but our readers will surely let us know.

Dean M. DeLuke is the author of Shedrow, a new thriller dubbed a cross between Dick Francis and Robin Cook. He is an oral and maxillofacial surgeon, a graduate of St. Michael’s College, Columbia University (DMD) and Union Graduate College (MBA). Currently, he divides his time between the practice of oral and maxillofacial surgery and a variety of business consulting activities. You can read excerpts and reviews, view a book trailer and photo gallery, and see details of upcoming contest offerings at

1 comment:

Cheryl said...

Thanks for being our guest blogger today, Dean. Best of luck with your book.