Welcome to Immortality and Beyond! Today I'm pleased to introduce you to author David Kubicek, touring with his book A Friend of the Family.
BK: Please tell us a little bit about your current release...
A Friend of the Family is a short novel set in the future when medical doctors are illegal, and Healers—witch doctors—are the accepted healthcare providers. The story is about a doctor named Hank who is forced, by a 16-year-old telepathic girl named Gina, to attempt to cure her father of a debilitating illness. She threatens to turn him over to the police if he doesn’t go with her, but if Hank treats Gina’s father he is also risking prison because Gina’s father has been under the care of his sister, Rose, who is a Healer. What Hank doesn’t know is that he’s walking into the middle of a power struggle for control of the family.
BK: What inspired this particular novel/book?
This is a revised and expanded version of a story first published in Space and Time magazine in the summer of 1987. Several years earlier, my Dad had exhibited the classic warning signs of colon cancer. But although he’d gone to his doctor repeatedly, the doctor didn’t think of testing for the big C for nine months. Fortunately the cancer hadn’t spread, and they were able to get it all. But that experience led to a change in doctors and to my reading some articles and books that were not flattering to the medical profession. The final piece of the puzzle came together when I read a book by Ben Bova called Notes to a Science Fiction Writer in which he pointed out that many successful science fiction stories focus on something that is commonplace in our contemporary society and turn it around so the opposite is normal in a future society. So I envisioned a future where most people believe in magic, not science.
BK: When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer?
I’ve been telling stories longer than I can remember. My grandmother told me that when I was four years old I would make up intricate tales about animals and how they escaped from traps. I started writing things down when I was about 10, and throughout most of my high school years I was writing stories for my family. At the beginning of my Senior year in high school I decided that it would be cool to get these stories published. I went to the newsstand on a quest for magazines to which I could send my stories, found a copy of Writer’s Digest, and that started me on the road to eventual publication.
BK: How do you keep your writing different from all the others that write in this particular genre?
My stories tend to be character-driven rather than plot-driven; I focus on the characters and how they react to situations. I also try to have twists and surprises in my stories that, with luck, the readers don’t see coming. I try to avoid plot clichés and try to avoid going where authors who have written similar stories have gone before.
BK: What was the hardest thing about writing this story?
Most of the action takes place in one room, so keeping the story moving and keeping it interesting were my major challenges. What really helped me do that was that all the characters and their relationships are sharply drawn. There is a strong conflict, a tension created by a subtext, by things that are happening beneath the surface of the main storyline.
BK: What character was your favorite to write for in this story? Why?
Gina is my favorite, but it didn’t start out that way. Hank is the main character, and Gina is the secondary main character. I like Hank, too, but as I got into writing story I found myself drawn to Gina because her independence, courage, and wisdom for one so young intrigued me.
BK: Which was your favorite scene to write?
The long ago war that destroyed most of the Earth’s civilization put enough radiation into the air and the soil so that occasionally a mutant is born. Gina’s mutation is her telepathic ability; she can direct her thoughts at anyone, and she can read other peoples’ thoughts (unless they have learned how to block her, which Aunt Rose, the Healer, has learned to do). I enjoyed writing the telepathic conversations between Gina and Hank because those were bonding moments between those two characters.
BK: Will this become a series? If so, what inspired it to be a series?
A Friend of the Family won’t be a series, but it inspired my novel Empath—on which I’m currently working—which may, or may not, be the first in a closed-end series; I haven’t decided yet and probably won’t until I complete Empath. If it does become a series, it probably will be a trilogy.
BK: Now for a little fun, and into your everyday life, What is a day in your life like?
Right now I don’t have a typical day. My wife, Cheryl, is recuperating from foot surgery, so I’ve assumed most of the household managing duties. My waking hours on weekdays are from 5:15 a.m. to 11 p.m. I fit chunks of work time in between cooking meals, running errands, and taking kids to and from school. It keeps me pretty busy. I do a fair amount of my writing on the weekends when I can relax more.
BK: What do you like to do when you're not writing?
Read, watch a little TV, spend time with family and friends, go to movies. I also enjoy photography, but over the past few years I haven’t been able do as much of that as I’d like.
BK: What is one thing your readers would be most surprised to learn about you?
That I died in 1990. Not really, but one or two sites on the Web list my name followed by: (1944-1990). I don’t know where those dates came from, but neither is correct. Obviously, to paraphrase Mark Twain, the reports of my death have been greatly exaggerated.
BK: What do you like to read? Who is your favorite author?
I read a wide variety of fiction, but my favorite genres are science fiction, horror, and contemporary mainstream. I especially like dystopian stories—stories about future worlds where society has gone horribly wrong, like Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451, Suzanne Collins’ Hunger Games trilogy, and Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale. I also like many writers, but Ray Bradbury’s early work inspired me to write, and I’m a major fan of Stephen King. I also vowed, after I read The Time Traveler’s Wife, to read everything Audrey Niffenegger writes, but unfortunately she’s only written one novel since.
BK: Please tell us one piece of advice you were given as an author that you carry with you when you write?
Ernest Hemingway had a phrase taped up where he could see it when he sat down at his typewriter: “Write as well as you can and finish what you start.” That phrase has always resonated with me.
BK: What is one piece of advice you can give to aspiring writers/authors?
Read fiction voraciously, read all you can about fiction technique, and practice, practice, practice. You have to write enough so that writing becomes second nature to you. Find a few people who will give you honest feedback—having someone tell you all of your writing is great will not help you improve it. No one hits a home every time. Even Stephen King has beta readers. Cheryl is not shy about pointing out where my stories need work. And finally, never ever give up. William Faulkner had a college professor who told him to get an honest job because he’d never make it as a writer. But we know how that turned out.
BK: What are you currently working on?
The above-mentioned Empath. I’m also working on the sequel to my novel In Human Form, which will be the second book in a trilogy. Plus I’ve got a few more short novels in development.
BK: Where can readers connect with you?
- Blog/Website: http://davidkubicekblog.com
- Twitter: http://twitter.com/#!/davidkubicek
- Facebook page: http://on.fb.me/qxEoPH
- Goodreads: http://on.fb.me/wuZ1E4
BIO: David Kubicek has published several short stories and hundreds of articles. His books include A Friend of the Family, In Human Form, The Moaning Rocks and Other Stories, and the Cliffs Notes for Willa Cather’s My Antonia. He edited two anthologies, The Pelican in the Desert and Other Stories of the Family Farm and October Dreams, A Harvest of Horror (with Jeff Mason). He has owned and operated a publishing company, and his short story “Ball of Fire” was nominated for a Pushcart Prize: Best of the Small Presses. For nine years he wrote for the Midlands Business Journal, and for two years he was a regular contributor to Grassroots Nebraska. He lives in Lincoln Nebraska with his wife Cheryl, son Sean, two dogs and a cat.
In a desolate future, long after the nuclear war that nearly destroyed Earth’s civilization, practicing medicine is illegal. Health care is provided by Healers who treat patients using primitive methods like chanting and bleeding. Hank is a doctor who practices medicine only for himself and his family. His fear of being sent to prison has estranged him from the Underground, the loose network of physicians that tries to help people who have lost faith in the Healers.
Late one evening a 16-year-old girl named Gina knocks on his door. She is a telepath, a byproduct of the long-ago war. She not only knows that Hank is a doctor, but also that he keeps his medical equipment and supplies in a cellar under the bedroom. She threatens to bring the police unless he accompanies her and makes her father well.
When Hank arrives at the family’s drafty basement flat he finds that for the past week Vic has been under the treatment of his sister, Gina’s Aunt Rose, who is a Healer. But despite Aunt Rose’s potions and spells, Vic has gotten steadily weaker. As a last resort he has agreed to try a Medicine Man. Much to Hank’s relief, Aunt Rose is out tending patients, but Vic’s wife, Maud, is terrified that Hank might hurt her husband. She draws Hank aside and touches her robe.
“I have a knife in here,” she says. “My child doesn’t think I’d use it, but I would.”
Gina considers her mother too weak to be head of the family if her father dies. Gina is too young, and her two brothers are dead--both of them died while under the treatment of Aunt Rose, who is positioned to become head of the family.
When Aunt Rose returns unexpectedly, Hank is confused that she doesn’t order him out or go for the police. Gina tells him telepathically that Aunt Rose believes Vic will die, and she wants Hank there to take the blame.
Tensions between family members and Hank rise and fall as Hank works through the night and into the morning to save Vic’s life, but Vic becomes steadily weaker. At one point, Gina asks Hank why he came with her that night, and if he won’t use his knowledge to help others, why does he still practice medicine? He becomes irritated because he can’t answer her.
Just before dawn, Vic stops breathing, and Hank’s frantic effort to resuscitate him fails.
Aunt Rose then makes her move to take control of the family, but Gina attacks her. Aunt Rose fends her off and finally slaps her so hard across the face that the girl crashes into the wall and slips to the floor stunned. Like a lioness coming to the defense of her cub, Maud pulls her knife and pushes Aunt Rose away from her child.
Aunt Rose reaches for the knife, and Maud slashes her hand. Aunt Rose is shocked and confused by the turn of events, and like most bullies, she backs down; suddenly Maud has become the dominant person in the room.
A short time later when two police officers arrive, Aunt Rose shows them her sliced hand and tries to turn Hank in, but Maud tells them Aunt Rose was bleeding Vic and her knife slipped.
“She feels bad ‘bout him dyin’,” Maud says, and sends Aunt Rose into the other room to lie down.
One police officer asks Hank who he is. Gina, who has hidden Hank’s medical bag, is suddenly tongue-tied, but Maud says: “He’s a friend of the family.”
After the police officers leave Hank takes his bag and goes out into the dawn. Although he’s just lost a patient and has come closer to occupying a prison cell than he ever wanted to, he feels more positive than he has in years because he knows now why he practices medicine.
Gina unbolted the door and lifted off the bar, set it with a bump in the corner, and went out. A cool breeze, touched with the smells of mildew and rotting wood, whisked into the room. It dried the perspiration on Hank’s face and rocked the lanterns. The door slapped shut. Maud went to bolt it. When she came back, she drew her chair closer to the bed, sat down. She touched her robe near the left shoulder.
“I’ve got a knife in here.”
“I understand,” Hank said, feeling cold.
“My own child doesn’t think I’d use it, but I would.”
Hank looked down at his hands. He tried to still the tremor within him.
“I don’t want to cause trouble.”
“You bein’ here is trouble.”
“Maud, stop it,” Vic said. Then he was coughing again.
Hank prepared penicillin and vitamin injections. His hands shook. He had difficulty grasping the syringes, and he couldn’t make his muscles do what he wanted them to.
Hank put the syringes into his medical case. He didn’t want to give the injections until Gina got back. He tried to convince himself that it was common sense to wait until he had checked this man more thoroughly. But besides the blood pressure, there were no more tests he could do. He was afraid of what this old woman might do if he frightened her badly enough.
- A Trivia Contest—At the start of the tour people will be given a list of trivia questions about me, my writing, and writing advice. The answers will be found in interviews and guest blogs. Everyone who answers the trivia questions and e-mails me the answers will be entered into a drawing for a $25 Amazon gift card AND an e-book for Kindle OR a signed copy of the paperback (winner’s choice).
- Everyone who follows the tour and leaves a comment will be entered into a drawing for an e-book for Kindle OR a signed copy of the paperback (winner’s choice). There will be 20 winners.
You can follow David's tour HERE, and also pick up the trivia questions for the contest. Thank you so much for chatting with us today David. It's been a pleasure.