Author Interview - Andrew Lam
Author I draw inspiration from: Herman Wouk. His incomparable novels of WWII, The Winds of War and War and Remembrance, helped me see how I might share my love of history by writing historical novels full of fascinating characters. My favorite characters are ordinary people who find themselves thrust into extraordinary circumstances. In their narrative journeys, they exhibit the widest possible range of human emotion so that we as readers feel some genuine emotion of our own. That’s what I strive to achieve as an author, and that’s what Wouk does very well. So if you haven’t read these two books yet, I envy you because you will love experiencing them for the first time.
Favorite place to read a book: The library. I love being surrounded by books. I love studying in libraries. Plus, being there precludes me from raiding the refrigerator and eating more than I should.
Book character I’d like to be stuck in an elevator with: Possibly Frodo. I love talking to people from different cultures. There’s so much to learn from them! Note of irony: the same book has the character I’d least like to be stuck with: Gollum. I’m not great at riddles.
The moment I knew I wanted to become an author: It was 2 am in the Emergency Room during my medical residency in Philadelphia. The flow of patients had died down but I was on duty so I couldn’t leave or hit the call room. I’d studied WWII history in college and had always harbored a secret ambition to write books that highlighted fascinating but lesser-known aspects of history. I remember thinking to myself that night—I may not have time to write a serious work of non-fiction, but I have plenty of time to use my imagination. I could dream up a great story, fill it with historical detail, and use it to introduce readers to new and surprising pieces of American history. Nine years and four kids later, that moment in the ER culminated in my debut novel, Two Sons of China, set in China during WWII.
Hardback, paperback, ebook or audiobook: Paperback. Physical books are great, but not when too heavy.
The last book I read: Sapiens, A brief history of humankind, by Yuval Noah Harari. Fascinating and thought-provoking.
Pen & paper or computer: Definitely computer. Writing is re-writing, and it’s far easier to re-write on a computer.
Book character I think I’d be best friends with: Dr. John Watson, Sherlock Holmes’ sidekick. Because he’s smart, loyal and puts up with a lot.
If I wasn’t an author, I’d be a: Well, I am a retinal surgeon in my other career. So that’s what I’d be. But if I wasn’t that, I’d be a history teacher. And if not that, then a national park ranger.
Favorite decade in history: 1940s. A lot happened then—most of it bad, but that’s exactly why it’s so important that we remember what happened.
Place I’d most like to travel: I have a goal to visit every national park site in the U.S. I’m about halfway there; but unfortunately, my half includes all the ones that are easiest to get to. The other half contains names like “Gates of the Arctic National Park” which is in northern Alaska. That’ll be a tough one. Brrrr.
My signature drink: To be honest, a vanilla milkshake from Steak n’ Shake.
Favorite artists: Painter: Norman Rockwell; Musician: U2, Beethoven; Actor: Jimmy Stewart; Actress: Audrey Hepburn; Sculptor: Michelangelo; Photographer: Ansel Adams
Number one on my bucket list: Make a meaningful contribution to society.
Anything else you'd like to add: Andrew Lam, M.D. is the author of Saving Sight, an Amazon bestseller about his career as an eye surgeon, Two Sons of China, winner of a Foreword Reviews Book of the Year Award in 2014, and Repentance, a new novel of WWII. His writing has appeared in The New York Times and The Washington Post. Learn more at www.AndrewLamMD.com.
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