Episode 290: Writing a Sequel Decades Later — Interview with Samuel Shem

by Gabriela Pereira
published in Podcast

Hey there word nerds! Today, I have the pleasure of interviewing Samuel Shem, a novelist, playwright, and activist. He is a Professor in Medical Humanities at NYU School of Medicine, and Visiting Artist at the American Academy in Rome. His novels include The House of God, Fine, Mount Misery, In the Heart of the Universe, and The Spirit of the Place (which won two national “Best Literary Novel” awards in 2008 and 2009). He is coauthor with his wife, Janet Surrey, of The Buddha’s Wife, and the award-winning Off-Broadway play Bill W. and Dr. Bob, about the founding of Alcoholics Anonymous, and also We Have to Talk: Healing Dialogues Between Men and Women.

Also, just a quick heads up, we have a teeny bit of explicit language towards the end of the interview. Due to the nature of the discussion I decided not to bleep anything out, but I wanted to let you know in case you have small children in the room or you, yourself, are not comfortable with explicit language.

Now let’s dive into the interview!

In this episode Samuel and I discuss:

  • The desire that inspired the novel 
  • Putting parts of yourself into a novel
  • Fictionalizing true things
  • Writing — or not writing — for a specific audience
  • The necessity of character change
  • How computers depersonalize medicine 
  • Writing a sequel that still stands alone

Plus, his #1 tip for writers.

About Samuel Shem

Samuel Shem is a novelist, playwright, activist, Professor in Medical Humanities at NYU School of Medicine, and Visiting Artist  at the American Academy in Rome. His novels include The House of God, Fine, Mount Misery, In the Heart of the Universe, and The Spirit of the Place ( winner of two national “Best Literary Novel” awards,2008, 2009). He is coauthor with his wife, Janet Surrey, of The Buddha’s Wife, and the award-winning Off-Broadway play Bill W. and Dr. Bob, about the founding of Alcoholics Anonymous, and also We Have to Talk: Healing Dialogues Between Men and Women. Connect with him on his website

Man’s 4th Best Hospital

Years after the events of The House of God, the Fat Man has been given leadership over a new Future of Medicine Clinic at what is now only Man’s 4th Best Hospital, and has persuaded Dr. Roy Basch and some of his intern cohorts to join him to teach a new generation of interns and residents. In a medical landscape dominated by computer screens and corrupted by money, they have one goal: to make medicine humane again.

If you decide to check out the book, we hope you’ll do so via this Amazon affiliate link, where if you choose to purchase via the link DIY MFA gets a referral fee at no cost to you. As always, thank you for supporting DIY MFA!

Link to Episode 290

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