Thursday, September 12, 2013

Book Tour & Giveaway: The Art of Forgetting by Peter Palmieri

BK: Looking out the nearest window, describe the scene you see.

Peter: I have to crane my neck because my desk is angled so that my ADD can’t get the best of me, but I have a beautiful large window that runs up two stories of my home. In the evening sky, a Southwest Airline plane is on its final approach to Love Field. Meanwhile, out by the grassy lot across my house, a spindly man in a sweat-speckled pink shirt and lime-green Bermuda shorts is un-wrapping a plastic bag while the white poodle at the end of his leash squats straining. If I keep looking out for any period of time, a car will come up the one-way street the wrong way: an occurrence that is so frequent you can almost set your watch by the honking of car horns.

BK: Tell us about your office. Is it a mess like mine, or is everything in its place?

Peter: My desk had been pretty messy for the last 4 years. I tidied it up about a month ago. Now I have a mess under my bed.

BK: What is a must-have, such as coffee or a favorite pen, that you need to write?

Peter: I don’t drink coffee while I write. I use it as a reward when I take my breaks. My favorite pens are those I take from hotel rooms – they’re surprisingly good nowadays. The only whim I treat myself to is Mole Skin notebooks for my first draft. Just the feel of the paper beckons me to write.

BK: Do you like to write in silence, or do you need music or background noise?

Peter: I seldom listen to music when I write though I made some exceptions for my novel, The Art of Forgetting. Several scenes featured a Russian laboratory technician who was a great aficionado of Chopin nocturnes. Listening to the music helped me pace these scenes and get in the right mood. Otherwise, I write in the relative quiet of my house, which is not very quiet thanks to my twelve year old blue-and-gold macaw.

BK: Tell us a bit about your hero, and their development.

Peter: Dr. Lloyd Copeland is a young neurologist who is tormented and emotionally detached. He believes his fate is to succumb to the pernicious early-onset dementia that has ravaged his family for generations and which led his father to commit suicide. When he’s not working on his obsession – finding a cure for memory loss and dementia – he tries to fill the emotional void in his life by engaging in casual sexual trysts with medical students that are subordinate to him. His personality is an amalgam of various people I’ve known in my life and no, I won’t mention who they are.

BK: As a writer myself, I'm always curious how other writers get through stumble blocks. When you find a story not flowing, or a character trying to fight you, how do you correct it?

Peter: If the character is fighting me, inevitably, the character is right and I am wrong. The most likely problem is that I did not properly understand the motivation of the character, or that I’m making him or her do something that is not consistent with his or her goals. A good way to correct this problem is to know what your characters want.

BK: Using the letters of your first name as an acronym, describe your book...

Peter: Physician Eludes Treachery, Earns Redemption.

BK: How did your writing journey begin?

Peter: I always imagined myself as a writer of non-fiction. I sought to educate the masses and to illuminate the world with my great thoughts using my background as a physician. I wrote a couple of small non-fiction books before I realized that the surest path to change the way someone thinks is through their heart. You reach a reader’s thoughts by jolting her emotions. My journey to writing fiction began several years ago when I attended a medical fiction writing seminar taught by Tess Gerritsen and Michael Palmer. I knew I was hooked then.

BK: What is the craziest thing you've ever written about, whether it got published or not?

Peter: For an ethics class in medical school I wrote a short story about a pathetically arrogant attending physician I had encountered during my Ob-Gyn rotation at an outside community hospital. When they read the story, my professor and fellow class-mates complimented me on my creativity even though the only creative effort on my part was changing the guy’s name.

BK: Tell us one thing you've done in life that readers would be most surprised to know.

Peter: I met my wife on the platform of the El in Chicago at O’Hare airport. We talked for a good 40 minutes on the train (turns out she was a medical student from Mexico doing a year of clinical rotations in Chicago) and when we parted ways I gave her my phone number.

She never called me. Luckily, I remembered the name of the hospital where she was working. After a week or so, I called the medical education office of the hospital, told the secretary that I was her cousin and needed her paged immediately due to a family emergency. When my wife-to-be finally picked up the phone I said, “So you didn’t call me.” It took her a minute to figure out who I was. Took another three months before she started warming up to me. We just celebrated our 23rd wedding anniversary earlier this month.

This or That...
Coke or Pepsi?

Night Owl or Early Bird?
Neither; early to bed, late to rise

Fantasy or Mystery?

Pen/Paper or Computer?

Pizza or Burger?

Rock or Country?

Chocolate or Vanilla?
 Vanilla ice cream. Chocolate everything else.

Beach or Mountains?
 Heaven is that place where the slopes of Vail give way to the white sands of Cancun.
Thank you so much for having us as one of your stops today. It has been great getting to know more about you and your book, and wish you the best of success!

Peter Palmieri was raised in the eclectic port city of Trieste, Italy. He returned to the United States at
the age of 14 with just a suitcase and an acoustic guitar. After attending public high school in San Diego, California, he earned his bachelor’s degree in Psychology and Animal Physiology from the University of California, San Diego. He received his medical degree from Loyola University Stritch School of Medicine and completed his pediatric training at the University of Chicago and Loyola University Medical Center. More recently, he was awarded a Healthcare MBA by The George Washington University. A former student of Robert McKee's Story seminar and the SMU Writer's Path program, and a two-time attendee of the SEAK Medical Fiction seminar taught by Tess Gerritsen and Michael Palmer, Peter is now busy practicing general pediatrics at a large academic medical center while working on his next medical suspense.

Genre: fiction: medical (medical suspense)
Publisher: self
Release date: June 2013
Book Description:
Dr. Lloyd Copeland is a young neurologist who is tormented by the conviction that he has inherited the severe, early-onset dementia that has plagued his family for generations – the very disease which spurred his father to take his own life when Lloyd was just a child. Withdrawn to a life of emotional detachment, he looks for solace in hollow sexual trysts as a way to escape his throbbing loneliness. Still, he clings to the hope that the highly controversial treatment for memory loss he’s been researching will free him from his family’s curse.
But when odd mishaps take place in his laboratory, his research is blocked by a hospital review board headed by Erin Kennedy: a beautiful medical ethicist with a link to his troubled childhood. The fight to salvage his reputation and recover the hope for his own cure brings him face to face with sordid secrets that rock his very self-identity. And to make matters worse, he finds himself falling irretrievably in love with the very woman who seems intent on thwarting his efforts.

Praise for The Art of Forgetting:

"Read this one!" Bobby Garrison, Amazon Reviewer

"Entertaining medical thriller!" Roy Benaroch, MD

"The Art of Forgetting is unforgettable!" Apollonia D., Amazon Reviewer


Prologue Chicago, June 6, 1982 “What is my penance, Father?” For the past five weeks Anne Langdon had come to Wednesday afternoon confession, sometimes waiting for the other penitents to leave before stepping into the box to disclose her petty transgressions: returning a book to the library past its due date, slipping into a movie matinee and then fibbing about it to her husband, pretending not to be home when Mrs. Murphy, that crusty owl of a next door neighbor, rang her door bell to borrow a cup of sugar. It seemed as though Mrs. Langdon were holding something back. Father Roy felt it the day he bumped into her in the canned food aisle of the supermarket. She had startled when he said hello, dropping the can of green beans whose label she’d been inspecting, and blushed when he’d kneeled to pick it up. And he had felt it during mass when his gaze fell upon her eyes as he delivered his sermons. Sad serious eyes. Beseeching eyes, glazed with a somber emptiness. In her mid-twenties, Mrs. Langdon had the mien that Father Roy had only seen in souls burdened by the yoke of a life-long secret too shameful to reveal. Now, he spied her through the grid separating the compartments of the confessional. Motes of dust floated in the hazy light which outlined her profile, the effect making her seem even younger – plain yet exuding that curiously poignant allure borne of vulnerability: the naïve appearance of a peasant saint. She smiled as if they were sharing a moment of innocent intimacy. “What is my penance, Father?” she asked again. He leaned towards the grid. “Is there anything else you wanted to tell me?” She took a deep breath and looked down at her hands which lay folded on her lap. “Yesterday, I was looking out my kitchen window at my neighbor’s back yard. She has a row of tulips; yellow, pink and red, all lined up like perfect soldiers. And suddenly – I really don’t know how the thought got in my head – I imagined what it would feel like to step on them; to crush the flowers under my feet. And I felt such a thrill, as if I were really doing it. I just stomped and stomped and stomped, and I could see, in my mind’s eye, how the stems were left all bent, the petals torn, but what’s more… I could feel them under my feet.” A bang echoed in the church. A worshipper had dropped a kneeler in a nearby pew. “I could feel it, Father,” she whispered. “It was absolutely delicious.” “You didn’t trample Mrs. Murphy’s flower bed now, did you?” “I did in my heart.” “I don’t think that rises to the level of a transgression.” “But Father, isn’t it a sin when we think something... when we think of something so much that we start to feel it with every fiber in our body.” She was breathing heavily now. She looked at him through the grid, her eyes watery, her lips slightly parted. “Isn’t that a sin, Father, when you imagine the impossible and live it in your thoughts?” Father Roy brought his fist up to his mouth, turned his head slightly and coughed. He felt a bead of sweat trickle down his back. Mrs. Langdon’s demeanor, the shape of her mouth, the subtle heaving of her chest thrust forward like an unexpected belch the memory of that summer his family vacationed in Door County before his sophomore year in high school – the last family vacation. He had met a girl – Kathleen was her name – the daughter of a man who sold fresh produce out of an old, converted gas station. Auburn hair, lanky legs bronzed by the sun and lively green eyes that beamed with all the incandescent self-assurance of sixteen-year-old beauties. Roy’s mother referred to her as “that jaunty lass”. “Do you intend to whittle away the afternoon with that jaunty lass again, Roy?” “Her name is Kathleen.” “The way she looks at you…” “We’re just friends, mother.” One afternoon they had gone swimming on a secluded rocky beach; not another soul in sight. When Roy inched his way deeper in the lake, toes curled, arms raised as if he had a gun pointed at him, gasping as the frigid water lapped at his waist, Kathleen chopped the placid surface of the lake with an outstretched palm spraying chilly droplets across his back. Roy arched his spine and jutted out his shoulder blades as if in the throes of a spasm while the jaunty lass snorted and snickered. “It’s not funny!” She splashed again and giggled. “I’m warning you, you little vixen.” Kathleen’s jaw dropped at this last word but then her eyes lit up and again she started splashing with renewed zeal using both hands. Roy chased her in the shallow waters, plodding clumsily on the smooth pebbles that rolled and shifted under his feet. She attempted a half-hearted escape, trudging backwards, but soon Roy was upon her (she, by now, paralyzed by howls of laughter) and he wrapped his arms around her. “So you think that’s funny? You think that’s funny? Now I’m gonna dunk you. Let’s see how funny that is!” He grinned at her with clenched teeth as he gaped in those bottomless emerald eyes. She grabbed his shoulders, pressed them, kneading his taut muscles. “As if you can,” she said in a tantalizing voice. He widened his eyes, then squeezed her more tightly, lifted her off her feet. She palmed the nape of his neck, just pitting his skin with her nails. Roy plopped her back on her feet and they wrestled playfully, reveling in the contact of their bare flesh. At last, he was able to grab both her forearms just above the wrists and immobilize her as she twisted her torso. Then Roy saw her as he had never seen a girl. Her chest was heaving, her skin glistening with tiny droplets, her auburn hair tousled over half her face, her white bikini top pushed below her left breast exposing a bright pink nipple. He let go of her arms, took a step back. She said nothing, just stared at him, her mouth open, breathing more heavily still. Then she lowered the rest of the bikini top letting it flip over her toned midriff. Roy gawked at her smooth, downy skin, at the pale, plump breasts. His Adam’s apple lurched up towards his throat. She gently clasped his wrists, brought his hands to her breasts and pressed her open mouth to his lips. “Isn’t it a sin to have some thoughts, Father Roy?” Mrs. Langdon said in a near whisper. Father Roy was breathless. “About tulips?” he asked, attempting to sound nonchalant, but his voice quivered. “As a man, do you ever feel the urge to –” “I am not the one in confession, sister,” Roy said. It was not the first time someone had tried to ask him that question – a query impertinent souls seemed compelled to ask a young priest with the looks of a Hollywood movie star. “I’m so ashamed, Father. I don’t know what’s happened to me. I just don’t know what to do any more.” Father Roy grasped the silver crucifix hanging over his chest and rubbed it between thumb and forefinger. He considered giving a short discourse on the tenth commandment but decided on a more pragmatic approach. “When our path grows dim and we’re in peril of losing our way, it’s helpful to remind ourselves of our commitments. Our commitments define who we are. When I step in the shadows, I remind myself of the covenant I made with God.” “My husband sickens me.” The suddenness of the statement left Father Roy speechless. “We haven’t had sex in over six months,” she said. “I wanted you to know that.” “The Diocese offers couple’s therapy for marital conflicts. Perhaps –” “Couple’s therapy!” Mrs. Langdon said with a sour chuckle. She shook her head. “I’m such a fool. For some reason I was under the impression that we…” She pulled a crumpled handkerchief out of her handbag, dabbed her nose and sniffled. “Tell me my penance, Father.” Roy hesitated. “Your penance is to reflect on the holy sacraments of our church. And… say a rosary.” “Am I absolved of my sins?” Father Roy made the sign of the cross, trying not to make it appear perfunctory and said, “Go in peace, sister.” He listened to the clicking of her heels resonating off the church’s tiled floor as she walked away, brought a knuckle to his lips and inhaled deeply through his nose. How was it that he had still not learned to recognize when women were attracted to him? Was he doing something to garner this type of attention? Could he whole-heartedly deny that he enjoyed it? A figure entered the confessional and sat heavily on the wooden bench. “Forgive me father, for I’m about to sin.” The musty smell of stale beer and sweat permeated the enclosed space making Father Roy sit back and turn away. “How long has it been since –” “You know damn well the last time I went to church, Roy.” “Andrew?” Father Roy studied the silhouette through the perforated partition. “Is something wrong?” “It started, Roy.” “I’m sorry?” “It has begun. How did Churchill phrase it? Not the end of the beginning but the beginning of the end… or maybe I’m saying it all wrong. I don’t know, you’re the one with the fancy schooling.” “Maybe we should go in the Parish office.” “It’s been going on for months. I know you’ve seen it too. You just didn’t want to say anything and of course I’ve been trying to hide it. That’s the Copeland family way, isn’t it? Ignore things, deny they’re happening, hide all the evidence and go about your business with a stiff upper lip. Isn’t that what Pops did?” “I don’t know what you’re talking about.” But he did know. He couldn’t deny that in the last year he had witnessed his brother’s worsening mood swings and those barely perceptible moments of hesitation that were becoming more frequent. Those same tell-tale signs he had witnessed in his father when the illness had yet to progress to its extreme. Signs that made Roy feel powerless, like a sandcastle on a beach in the face of a slowly rising tide. So he ignored it all, said nothing, and prayed. “At first I thought I was just overworked, you know,” Andrew said. “Pulling overtime, staying out late with the boys, getting burned by the candle at both ends, so to speak. Then this morning, I’m driving to work. I got my thermos and lunch pail on the front seat. I get on the Eisenhower, same damn route I’ve taken for twelve years. But today I get to South Damen and I realize I don’t know where the hell I’m going. I don’t have a fucking clue!” “Andrew, please.” He lowered his voice. “I don’t have a flipping clue, Roy. I pull over in front of Cook County and I start bawling like a kid in a department store who can’t find his mom.” “Have you been drinking?” “It’s not the booze, Roy. It’s not the damn booze.” “Have you seen a doctor?” the priest asked. “What for?” “They might be able to help.” “Like they helped our father... who art in heaven?” Andrew snorted. “You know there’s not a damn thing they can do.” Roy swallowed hard. He wiped beads of sweat from his upper lip as a rhythmic pounding grew in his temples. “You’re frightening me, Andrew.” “I’m frightening you?” Andrew let out a chuckle. “Hell, Roy, you never had nothing to be frightened of your whole life except God above.” Someone knocked on the door of the confession box. “Hold your piss out there! The stall’s taken,” Andrew said in a gruff voice. There was a timid shuffling of feet, then the resonating silence of the church. “Roy, I’ve never been good with words, and I don’t like to wear my feelings on my sleeve like a damn chevron, but I want you to know something. I want you to know that you’re the best damn brother I could have ever asked for.” Roy felt a pall of guilt draping over him. “I’m the one who should say that to you.” “Just hear me out. I know I haven’t always told you, but I’m proud of you. I’ve always been proud of you... even when you made us lose at stick-ball.” “Which was all the time.” The men chuckled. “You made me a better man,” Andrew said. “After all you’ve done for me I can’t bear to hear you say that.” “I thought this was a confessional. Don’t people come here to get things off their chests?” “They come to be absolved of their sins,” Roy said. “And you can do that?” “God can do that. It’s never too late to open your heart.” “It’s too late for me. But I do need to get something off my chest.” “I’m listening.” “It’s time to come clean with you about something, Roy. Something you should have known long ago.” Andrew rubbed his massive hands together, stopped suddenly and cracked his knuckles. “Two things we Copelands have always been able to do: hold our liquor and keep a secret.” “I’m afraid I’m not so good with the liquor part,” said Roy. “No, I suppose not, padre,” Andrew said with a wistful smile. The wooden bench creaked as he shifted his weight and leaned into the partition. “Now listen carefully. I can only stand to say this once.” The two men sat with their heads inches from each other as Andrew spoke in a hushed tone. At one point Roy let out a gasp and recoiled. Andrew paused as his brother gazed at the darkness hanging over the floor – the priest’s eyes darting about – and resumed his soliloquy when Roy leaned heavily towards him again. Andrew murmured for another minute or two. Finally, he straightened and wiped his mouth with the back of his hand as if to brush away the bitterness of the words from his lips. “Just promise, if something happens to me, you’ll take care of the bride and child.” “What’s going through your mind?” Roy said between heavy breaths. “Just promise me.” “You know I would never abandon them.” “That’s all I needed to hear.” Andrew cleared his throat and sat silently. Roy felt as though he were inching towards the edge of an abyss. That he would fall into the darkness if left alone to ponder his brother’s revelation. But an even stronger fear was pulsing through his veins. There was something in Andrew’s countenance: an eerie sense of relief, a cool resoluteness that sent a shudder down the base of Roy’s neck. “Maybe I can come by the house tonight,” Roy said. He wanted to punch through the partition, to clench his brother and not let him leave. “You got customers waiting,” Andrew said. “Business is good for you these days.” Andrew got to his feet. “Good-bye, Roy.” “Godspeed, Andrew.” When Andrew opened the oak door of the confession box, a small man wearing a tweed jacket stood outside, a crest of wild gray hair spilling over his wrinkled forehead. The man’s eyes opened wide at the site of the large police officer stepping out of the confessional and he began to finger the well-worn fedora he held by his paunch, turning it in his hands as if it were a steering wheel. Andrew stopped in front of him and said, “Give a man a chance to pull his pants back up, will you?” Roy greeted the next penitent in the confessional but his mind remained on his brother. How was it possible to feel such dread and deliverance, contempt and gratitude, guilt and utter relief all in the same breath? He had witnessed souls under severe strain shift from throes of laughter to sobs of despair in the span of a few seconds and always wondered how this was possible. But now he understood. He rested his head in his hands, elbows digging in his thighs, and tried to catch his breath. A sound like a hollow crack startled him. Not the sound of a kneeler. It must have come from outside. It brought his focus back on the words of the old gentleman who confessed that he lied to his wife about going to Cicero and losing fifty bucks at the Hawthorne race course, and that he harbored less than charitable feelings towards the Negroes who were moving westward into good Irish neighborhoods. The murmur of voices reverberated off the church’s arched ceilings. Then a single plaintive voice: “Someone call an ambulance. A cop’s been shot!”


Unknown said...

Great Post,

Unknown said...

Thanks for chatting today Peter :)

Stephanie Cruz said...

I usually forget where I place things like my phone and keys. Anyways, sounds like a really good book!

Michelle Cornwell-Jordan said...

Awesome interview:) I wish you well on your tour!

Teddy Rose said...

Great interview and excerpt! I hope you have a wonderful tour!