Interview with Sam Newsome

photo-3SAM NEWSOME Sam Newsome was raised on a farm in rural King, North Carolina. During his childhood on the farm, he learned to appreciate nature and family. He developed the work ethic that continues to benefit him. He received a bachelor of arts in American history with pre­medical courses from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 1971. He received his Medical degree from Bowman Gray Medical School (now Wake Forest University Medical School) in 1975. The patience and perseverance learned from his parents during his youth on the farm were valuable contributions to Dr. Newsome’s educational success. He married his childhood sweetheart, Betty Jo, in 1971 and they have resided in King since 1978. They have two children. Carlton lives in Raleigh and shares a love of words, while Justin, an engineer at B/E Aerospace, resides in Winston­Salem.

joe-peas-jpegTell us about your new release.

My new novel, JOE PEAS, explores the relationship of an itinerant Italian house painter with Dr. James King, a family physician in the small town of King’s Mill, North Carolina. Joe has led a colorful life as a rugged individual, while Doc leads a life filled with conformity.

They initially meet in a doctor-patient relationship, but then develop a bond that deepens when Joe breaks his hip and rehabs in Doc’s long-term care facility.

While he is in rehabilitation, he shares in the lives and struggles of other residents and begins to understand the meaning of friends and family. He helps with their problems and has a unique plan to help Doc.

What led you to write this book?

jackie_coverMy first novel, JACKIE, was well received. Since then I’ve been listening more closely to my patients. They have led rich lives and have wonderful stories to tell. They were inspirational in developing the characters in my new story. The new story enabled me to put some color into life in long-term care. It also allowed me to provide some health education.

Did you have an interesting experience in the research of this book?

Research was largely getting up every morning and going to work. The bulk of the story occurs in the life and practice of a family doctor. Not much research is needed there. Parts of the book: World War II, the art world, legal affairs did require some time online and some friendly advice.

How important is the setting of your story?

I’ve spent my medical career in family medicine. I treat patients in my office, hospital, as well as in long-term care. I chose to highlight long-term care in this story because it is so misunderstood by most people. In long-term care, I see folks fighting severe illnesses who have led remarkable, vibrant lives.

Noted geriatrician, Dr. Kenneth Brummel Smith speaks of the past reputations nursing homes have had (some deservedly) of being ”snake pits.” The nursing home in my story mirrors my experience of a caring compassionate atmosphere.

Which is more important, character or setting?

My story is character driven. I wrote four character studies and introduced them into the story and to each other in the setting of a nursing home. Some have their story is revealed before a nursing home admission and others are revealed by their interactions with other residents and staff.

Are any of your characters loosely based on people you know in real life?

Yes! There are several aspects of my patients seen in the characters of Joe Peas. For some of these I had to elaborate a bit. For others I had to tone down their stories since a true account would be asking my readers to suspend believability.

Do you people watch for character inspiration?

My profession as a physician is people watching. Sure, I watch people in the supermarket or at a movie. But people talk to me in the office in a one-to-one basis.

Do you have a favorite fictional character by another author you’d like to share?

My favorite characters are usually in the book I’m currently reading. Right now I’m deeply involved in Gresham’s Sycamore Row, sharing life of attorney Jake Brigance of Clanton, Mississippi as he unravels the estate of Seth Hubbard while fending off new and previous obstacles. I’m actually listening to this as an audiobook and with all the deep-south accents I can actually smell the magnolias.

I spent many years sharing the life of Roland Deshane of middle earth and multiple alternate realities created by Stephen King in the Dark Tower series. The seven-book odyssey and his multiple other books with references to middle earth caught my attention for years on end. I’ve heard King say of himself that he writes by the pound rather than the word, and while that may be true, he certainly entertains and shows a broad span of literary inspiration from Sir Walter Scott to T.S. Elliot.

I feel a traitor to small presses everywhere to admit to such “popular” tastes, but how can you argue with success?

What do you hope readers take away from your work?

First, I want the reader to be entertained. That has to beevery author’s first goal. If they can’t slog through your book, they won’t get any of your other messages. I want my writing to deliver a celebration of the values of family, friendship faith and healing. I want to present my view that individualism has value while conformity is not always positive. My characters overcome obstacles and have positive outcomes. I have woven a significant amount of health education into Joe Peas. I think it actually helps the story.

Do you have an interesting quirk about your personality that you’d like to share?

Quirks! I have no quirks. Everything I do is logical and reasoned. Now everyone around me—WOW—they have quirks, but not me. OK, maybe I have one or two small oddities. Once an idea occurs to me I become obsessed. I can’t put it away in some dustbin the back of my mind till I’ve put it on a page.

What do you do when you are not writing?

First, I’m a doctor. I’ve worked years to gain the confidence and trust of my patients, and have been lucky enough to treat the same patients for forty years. I still do my office practice, hospital and nursing home rounds daily.

Which book impacted you as a teenager?

I remember early on reading the Hardy boy books. I love Jesse Stuart’s Hie to the Hunter. Then I became engrossed in James Finemore Cooper’s Leatherstocking Tales. I also began to read science fiction in the form of H. G. Well, Jules Verne, Isaac Asimov, and Arthur Clark.

Do you read the genre you write?

There are so many great new books and there are so many classics I never read when I had the chance. Yes, I read books in my genre. But I try not to limit it.

What is #1 on your bucket list?

At one time it was actually writing a book. Now it’s writing a book that will make a profit.

Have you ever written a scene that “creeped you out?”

Read my first novel, Jackie. That book was published in October 2013. There is a scene (you’ll know when you read it) that is so prophetic it’s scary.

Do you have a recurring theme to your books?

I think that to be a writer, you should have a message. I would love to write a great spy story with guns and explosions and all grades of violence, but that’s not where I live. I’m not a Clancy or a Ludlum or even a Cussler. I’m a family doc who has spent years listening to my patients. I hear their complaints and share their problems. The theme of my story is not dystopic, but present a positive outlook for human nature. Most of my characters change and evolve to positive outcomes. I also hear their stories.When those stories inspire a tale that benefits the reader, I have achieved my goal.

What’s next?

I’m thinking of writing a story based on the North Carolina outer banks involving a smattering of history and a lot of modern day discoveries of hidden treasures. I plan to focus on elementary school age as my audience. There’s nothing more than a few notes yet, just thoughts. As for questions I would like to be asked—Why do you write?

I think that’s a fair question. After all, with the advent of the small and independent press industry in addition to the traditional publishing venues, the printed word is more prolific than ever. Almost every day one of my patients will ask me about my books and say, “I’ve written one too.” With so much verbiage already out there, why write? I write to record positive stories inspired by my patients and encounters with a small amount of my own point of view. Hopefully, I present an uplifting message. I write because it gives me satisfaction to fashion a story similar to the way a carpenter builds a house. In short, I write because I must.

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