Interview with Gerard M. DiLeo

What are you working on next?
I've always wanted to do a straight scifi work, so I finally accomplished that with ♂: the Novel: (MARS: the Novel).. My other novels are "scifi-ish," but not straight scifi. Slider was a psychological horror thriller on the bad karma of runaway self-indulgence, Eddie H. Christ was a religious fictional-historical book disguised as a satire, and now Siren bumps the horror up to a mythological level. ♂: THE NOVEL (Mars: the Novel) is a 25th Century post-terraforming existential thriller out on our 4th planet, which vanishes, by the way. As a physician, I had a lot of fun with the anatomy and physiology of the Martians.

Currently I am working on a novel, "The Life and Times of Climax Johnson," based on a short story in STARLESS and Bible Black.
Who are your favorite authors?
Alfred Bester, Philip K. Dick, Kim Stanley Robinson, Richard Powers, Milan Kundera, Walker Percy, Hugo and Dumas, Ayn Rand. And a bunch more.
What inspires you to get out of bed each day?
John Adams told his son in a letter encouraging him to walk ten miles a day, "Move or die..." which is God's instruction to our constitution.
When you're not writing, how do you spend your time?
Perverting music and sound bites on Sound Forge.
What is your writing process?
I have a gumbo of all of the different subjects I want to delve into, then put a character into it. I have a general ending, but the navigation along the way is a pin ball that hits my different interests along the way. For instance, for Siren, I was interested in Mythology, computer science and fractals, music theory, and the penalty for hubris. In my upcoming ♂: THE NOVEL (Mars: the Novel), it was scifi, alien physiology, war classics (War and Peace, Les Miserables, etc.), futurism, age longevity, neuroscience and neurotransmitters, and terraforming.
Do you remember the first story you ever read, and the impact it had on you?
It was "Man-eaters of Kumaon." Had to read it for school. Don't ever read it. It made me not want to read for three years.
What are your five favorite books, and why?
Atlas Shrugged, The Stars My Destination, 2001 (and 2010), Out of the Silent Planet (and Perelandra), Tale of Two Cities...to name (actually) more than five.
What do you read for pleasure?
Scientific American magazine, Astronomy magazine, mythology web sites (check out the GML on line).
What is your e-reading device of choice?
iPAD.
What book marketing techniques have been most effective for you?
Don't use any. I have a pretty good day job, so I don't need the author thing...but of course, if it takes off, I won't complain.
Describe your desk
An iMAC, a scanner, and overhead a library of bookshelves winging out.
Where did you grow up, and how did this influence your writing?
I'm from New Orleans, which explains the hurricane scene in Siren. I'm an OBGYN, which explains why there's usually someone pregnant in my books. The music of New Orleans figures in Siren as well. In my upcoming scifi novel, ♂: THE NOVEL (Mars: the Novel), one of the female characters is from New Orleans, and she drinks a lot. I don't, but can binge with the best of 'em.
When did you first start writing?
In grade school. I've gotten better.
What's the story behind your latest book?
How could we misplace an entire planet? One moment it is there, the next it is not, as if it were a private thing between Mars and someone else...as if no one on Earth were permitted to know why. So begins ♂: THE NOVEL.

Mars in the 25th century, looking back: long ago, Earth colonized Mars; later Earth terraformed Mars. But longer ago, Mars didn’t need Earth’s help, thank you. And now it has simply vanished, as if it had never existed.

A nearly terrestrial band around the equator is home to New Mars Colony, ready to expand and populate the Red Planet, going full tilt with corporate and governmental backing from the Mother Planet. But strange things start appearing as terraforming proceeds and Mars becomes more Earth-like. Supposed mineral formations, used as industrial staples, metamorphose into ferropods. What are they and why are they killing us? Also, there are ambulating plants--if that is what they are. Why does the illegal chemical within them act as a novel neurotransmitter in the human brain? And the songs riding on the winds through the canyons--the Sonotomes, brilliant recordings laid down by the ancient Martians into the ferric oxide of the geology--contrast with an unexplainable total absence of fossilized remains. Are they telling us something? Something long hidden, something terrifying--or something beautiful? 

As questions sprout like seedlings after a shower, Earth sends her best and brightest and perhaps her somewhat flawed to research and to understand. Dr. Renee Niemann is a conflicted veterinarian, unanchored in life now that her aging loved ones have declined the life extension she so recklessly snatched for herself. She is assigned to the Veterinary Studies Division on Mars to explore why ferropods snap into the heads of people but not of animals and begins to wonder if there is a ferropod with her name on it.  There are machines that question the difference between “what-is” and “what-is-not,” and why “what-is” is, and why “what-is-not” isn’t. They are machines that can leap across eons for the answers. The ṺberCollider has isolated the exotic chronoton particle, that quantum state vector that assigns time to all things. The Chronarchy tasks its Chairperson, Gavin Atilano, with using it to engender the temporal reconciliation that will reconcile the colonists’ present with the time epoch three billion years earlier so that the living Martians of that time can be brought to us. Temporal reconciliation, however, is an experiment in progress and involves unforeseen, bizarre consequences. (What could go wrong?) Mare Mickal, the eight-year old daughter of Drs. Deniz and Evan Mickal, pretends to be the Princess of Mars, but has within her the solution to the temporal paradox that otherwise will doom either the Martians or the humans.

Interwoven into the scientific drama is a political and military crisis perpetrated by some who only want what they can plunder with two hands. The treachery of the Nations of Earth liaison, Denton Walsh, subverts his mission on Mars toward despotic independence from Earth, perverting the vision of taking the best Earth has to offer another world into something else entirely.

♂: THE NOVEL presents a new world to the reader, which is a difficult package to portray when one thinks about the entire sweep of life and structure we each navigate here on our own world for the better part of a century. Yet to present successfully a new world like the terraformed Mars of the 25th Century, the setting must be both vast and granular with a sharp focus at all points in this spectrum, because the SF audience has become very sophisticated and expects a lot more than spaceships with fins.

♂: THE NOVEL transcends the fatal schism other SF novels suffer. First, it does not put the characters first at the expense of dismissive technology by abusing Arthur C. Clarke’s Third Law (“Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.”) It is not a story about characters surrounded by magic. Second, it does not put the bells and whistles of technology first at the expense of characterization, as if written by a futurist who merely places stick figures into a thesis. In my story, the equations all work, but the organic characters follow their hearts and not just the laws of physics. SF readers have grown tired of the books that follow one path or the other, and I kept this in mind while writing ♂: THE NOVEL (Mars: the Novel).
What is the greatest joy of writing for you?
To re-read something I had forgotten I had written and saying to myself, "That's pretty good! I wrote that?"
What do your fans mean to you?
Tell me who they are.
Do you remember the first story you ever wrote?
Yes. It was one of those "here's-what-happened-while-I-training-to-become-a-doctor" things. It was a learning experience, although I thought it was perfection when I had finished it. My literary hero, the late, great Southern writer, Walker Percy, read it and offered his criticism, which I use to this day.
How do you approach cover design?
I put the most thought into the title, which is done long before I conjure any images to go with it. I try to tease and promise with the title, and then I seek an image that raises the tension of that tease and promise.
What motivated you to become an indie author?
Getting ripped off. My first "real" accomplishment was Slider. Had a agent, had a lot of interest, and then it was produced into a TV show (allegedly*) by a studio who owned one of the publishers who had told me they loved it. Sued, settled, and ended up getting more than I would have had I connected with a legit publisher. (My agent was Peter Miller, BTW, and he was excellent!)

*Our settlement was that both parties agreed that neither product--my book or the TV show--had anything to do with each other.
How has Smashwords contributed to your success?
Exposure on its own site and distribution to iBooks, B&N, etc.
How do you discover the ebooks you read?
Reviews in magazines centered on subjects I love: astronomy, philosophy, humanism, religion, computer science, futurism, and horror. Generally, I'm attracted to cross-genre books. I read non-fiction/fiction 70%/30%.
What about agents wanting to represent your work?
I would love to have this happen. The most depressing thing about the traditional route, however, is that the author has to deliver from sentence #1. If an agent isn't hooked (or, as they say, "sufficiently engaged") by the first paragraph, they're outta there. This prevents an important technique from being used--the clever unfolding of the theme and plot.

Below are first lines of some of my books:

♂: the Novel: (MARS: the Novel):
What on Earth happened to Mars? Shocking, bewildering, devastating. One moment it is there, the next it is not. In a twinkling of an eye it vanishes. As if it were a private thing between Mars and someone else. As if no one on Earth were permitted to know why.

Eddie H. Christ--A Sibling Rivalry of Biblical Proportions:
"That's a joke, right?" Pontius Pilate eyed Jesus and Barabbas. He laughed, but it seemed to me to be a nervous laugh, because he was not a joking man. He could neither make a joke nor get a joke. And he certainly couldn't take a joke. Just ask us Jews.

STARLESS and Bible Black--The Night the Stars Went Out:
It was a beautiful, crisp, starry night blanketing the shadowed half of this predominantly religious world. The countless flickers, scintillating pinpoints of divine camaraderie, proclaimed our fellowship with the rest of creation. Too distant to render any heat, they bequeathed warmth in other ways.

Siren:
Odysseus: He felt for the terror of this night with only his ears, for he also squeezed his eyes tightly so that he could experience, without distraction, the sound that the night and the salty air would carry to his unfettered ears. he though of the music of the spheres, that harmony of cosmic order heard by Pythagoras. His most modern astrolabe was still a crude instrument, he regretted, yielding only vectors and triangulations, deaf to the blessed vibrations from above. He pivoted his head down in concentration to continue his search. For now he hoped t hear something divine on Earth.

Slider:
"Sometimes I feel like I'm crazy," I tell Eddie, the owner and senior burgerman as I, the world's riches minimum wage employee, slap that meat on the grill.
What about your non-fiction.
My opus is "The Anxious Parent's Guide to Pregnancy," originally commissioned by McGraw-Hill to compete with that crap, "What to Expect While You're Expecting." Now in its second edition as an e-book, it's been updated. It garnered great reviews. For the record, I am a retired (now) obstetrician-gynecologist, an SNL-wannabe, and speak for the entire obstetrician race when I say "What to Expect..." was pretty bad.
Do you publish anywhere else?
Yes. I am on www.theprose.com, pennamed "Dr. Semicolon." This is a fun site for writers.
Also, I have my women't health site at www.ova.academy. I have also contributed pregnancy articles to www.babyzone.com, as it obstetrical advisor; the site is now babble.com, owned by Disney. I am also a contributing health author for www.healthdigest.com.
There seems to be an undercurrent of religion in everything you write. What's the deal?
Religion is a fascinating subject--more specifically, theology. Did God create us or did we create God? That's one of the many themes in STARLESS and Bible Black. Of course, Eddie H. Christ takes a position of assumption (not "THE Assumption," but "an" assumption). Siren tackles the question of how could evil be a necessary ingredient of the Big Bang. Slider has an sneaky undertow prompted by C. S. Lewis' adage that the doors of Hell are locked from the inside. ♂: the Novel: (MARS: the Novel) questions whether theology can cross the vacuum of space to imbue two planets with different evolutions.

Religion is fun; it's stimulating. And you even get to piss some people off who still hold on to their childish mentality about what God is.
How does your scientific background impact your fiction?
Being an OBGYN doctor, there are a number of pregnancies in my books, but they are involved in ways that depict humanism. After all, the family is the peak of mammalian evolution. There are few things so powerful as procreation and family legacy in any undercurrent of humanism. Drama and emotion are packaged tightly into a powerful gestalt when two persons are crammed into the space of one.
Are you for sale?
You betcha. At any time I am amenable to representation and forging ahead in the traditional sense. Although I am very industrious and prolific in my writing, I am very lazy in the whole query and follow-up thing. So...Smashwords...until...
Published 2017-12-15.
Smashwords Interviews are created by the profiled author, publisher or reader.

Books by This Author

♂: The NOVEL (Mars: the Novel)
You set the price! Words: 140,500. Language: English. Published: December 13, 2017. Categories: Fiction » Science fiction » General, Fiction » Science fiction » Apocalyptic
♂ : The Novel is set in the 25th Century after the terraforming of Mars. The ṺberCollider has isolated the exotic chronoton particle, that quantum state vector that assigns time to all things. A second ṺberCollider is constructed on Mars to reconcile the present with a time epoch 3 billion years earlier so that the living Martians of that time could be brought to us. What could possibly go wrong?
STARLESS and Bible Black--the Night the Stars Went Out
You set the price! Words: 42,230. Language: English. Published: December 10, 2017. Categories: Fiction » Science fiction » Short stories, Fiction » Visionary & metaphysical
On a crisp, clear night the stars and planets vanish, leaving only the Earth, our Moon, and our Sun. Suddenly, mysteriously, and totally. STARLESS and Bible Black uses a fascinating science fiction premise to provide a grand stage for presenting observations on what it is to be human in a large universe. Why should this change anything? You will never look up at the sky in the same way again.
DiLingo
You set the price! Words: 18,710. Language: English. Published: August 2, 2017. Categories: Nonfiction » Language Instruction » Miscellaneous, Fiction » Humor & comedy » Black comedy
DiLingo, the pox of vox, the crime of rhyme, the gutteral utteral. The first comedy constructed language. Hippocampal thinking at its best, with no amygdaloid inhibitions. Let the inner reptile out just by speaking. Forget the Sapir-Whorf Hypothesis, DiLingo is the Uncertainty Principle applied to linguistics such that there is the probability that the speaker of DiLingo is saying nothing at all.
Siren
Price: $4.99 USD. Words: 129,600. Language: English. Published: April 26, 2015. Categories: Fiction » Fantasy » Dark, Fiction » Horror » Weird fiction
After delving deep into the psychological terror of runaway self-indulgence in "Slider," and historical religious satire in "Eddie H. Christ," this urban fantasy tackles mythological horror. A throwback to the Sirens of ancient Greece is pitted against a similar throwback to the Harpies, in a setting perverted by dark matter, relativistic gravity, and magical realism.
Ovarian Cysts: the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly
Price: $2.99 USD. Words: 5,230. Language: English. Published: February 9, 2012. Categories: Nonfiction » Health, wellbeing, & medicine » Women's health
From the critically acclaimed author of "The Anxious Parent's Guide to Pregnancy" comes a thorough explanation of ovarian cysts--the harmless ones, the worrisome ones, and the dangerous ones. This will help you know when to be concerned when your doctor tells you that an ovarian cyst has been found. Its clear explanations run the gamut from mere follicles all the way through malignancies.
The Anxious Parent's Guide to Pregnancy
Price: $6.99 USD. Words: 134,000. Language: English. Published: January 24, 2012. Categories: Nonfiction » Parenting » Pregnancy & Child Birth, Nonfiction » Health, wellbeing, & medicine » Women's health
This is an update (2nd Edition) of the original critically-acclaimed McGraw-Hill publication of "The Anxious Parent's Guide to Pregnacy," by Gerard M. DiLeo, MD. Completely revised and brought up to date for 2012, it is also like no other pregnancy book you've ever seen. It's what not to expect when you're reading a book about expecting.
Slider
Price: $4.99 USD. Words: 136,600. Language: English. Published: July 5, 2010. Categories: Fiction » Romance » Paranormal, Fiction » Fantasy » Paranormal
A horrifying psychological thriller that adventures deep into the mental landscape of romance complicated by self-indulgence and karma.
Eddie H. Christ--a Sibling Rivalry of Biblical Proportions
Price: $4.99 USD. Words: 137,330. Language: English. Published: June 9, 2010. Categories: Fiction » Religious, Fiction » Humor & comedy » Satire
(5.00 from 1 review)
What would Jesus do? Not funny. Just ask Eddie. A sneaky religious book cleverly disguised as a comedy. Cover: "Teaching at the Temple," 1875; BLOCH, Carl Heinrich, Danish painter, 1834-1890. Hope Gallery, Salt Lake City; 41" x 24"; Oil on Copper Plate.