Saturday, June 29, 2013

Guest post with AJ Knauss author of Room Four

Today's guest is author AJ Knauss author of the medical comedy Room Four.

What happens next?

To answer that I need to go back to how it began.  ROOM FOUR is technically my third book.  Before I knew better, I thought that to be a writer one typed and typed and one day typed the magical phrase “the end” and then, well, I supposed there would be a psychic link to a NY Times book reviewer.  They would knock on my door and the world would swoon at my authorly feet.  So the first book I wrote lives only on dot-matrix printer paper in a file drawer.  The second book I wrote still lives on my computer desktop.  It may yet get edited again and be published.  I learned a lot about the publishing industry with that book by going through the rejection letter getting process.

All of which is to say, writing the first book taught me how to write the second book.  Writing the second book taught me how to write the third book.  And along the way life happened and inspiration happened.  More than one agent who read the manuscript to ROOM FOUR came back with versions of “I love it, it’s quirky, it doesn’t fit a genre.”  With “publish novel” on the bucket list before an army deployment, I went indie and the rest is history.  What happens next depends.  I have a sequel to ROOM FOUR half outlined.  I have another novel (sarcastic spy thriller) also outlined that keeps me up at night much more than the sequel; that project will likely win as “next”.  And then there is always reworking novel number two again.

I wouldn’t do any of this if it wasn’t a compulsion.  Fortunately it is also a lot of fun.

How much of ROOM FOUR is true?

The emergency department is a noisy place.  I tried to capture the layers of sound…seven different conversations, alarms, phones ringing, and to keep the dialogue real.  People are at their best and worst in the ER and that includes both patients and colleagues depending on the moment.  The anecdotes are all inspired from things I’ve seen, except for the financial scandal.  I don’t have any knowledge of a scandal like that but I wanted to paint a bad guy that Jerry and Alan could battle that would be universally disliked.  A botox-obsessed CEO seemed to fit the bill.

Between driving an ambulance in Chicago to now practicing medicine in Milwaukee, I’ve been in so many different hospitals.  People I’ve worked with in different locations have gotten in touch with me to say “Dr. Maglio is based on Dr. X isn’t he?” and then they’ve named five different people.  There are some archetypes in medicine that ring true.

I did actually witness an argument between an ER physician and one of the admitting docs about an elderly man who had been admitted to hospice.  He had indeed died while still on the gurney and they were arguing about who had to fill out the death certificate.  I thought, what if bureaucracy was so bad it could hold up your soul?  That was the inspiration for Jerry.  And he was a lot of fun to write.  He gets away with saying anything.

AJ Knauss practices emergency medicine and serves in the Army reserves under a slightly different name.  She is not nearly as grouchy as her book characters but has often wondered whether the long arm of bureaucracy extends into the afterlife.  She'd like to point out that it is someone else's turn to clean out the work fridge. She has a soft spot for curmudgeons.  This is her first novel.  For more info she blogs about writing, medicine, bureaucratic headaches and more at

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