Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Author Snapshot: Daniel Kalla

When you meet him he is quiet, articulate, soft-spoken. An emergency physician, he is certainly hard-working: though that just goes with the territory. And then, beginning with his debut novel, 2005’s Pandemic, you read his work and discover unplumbed depths of the type that fuel that very best high tech thrillers. And the type that cause the more gentle souls among us to lose sleep.

Though perhaps it is no longer fair to call these depths “unplumbed.” Kalla has been plumbing just fine, thank you penning a novel a year and sometimes more since Pandemic, each bringing still more readers to the talented doctor’s fanbase. The latest -- the fifth -- is Cold Plague, reuniting us again with Pandemic’s Dr. Noah Haldane, and introducing a plot that feels like Al Gore meets Michael Crichton: planet saving pathos gone somehow desperately wrong.

A Snapshot of ... Daniel Kalla

Born: Vancouver, Canada
Resides: Vancouver, Canada
Birthday: May 4th, 1966
Web site:

Please tell us about Cold Plague, your most recent book.
Pristine water -- millions of years old and untouched by pollution -- is discovered miles under the Antarctic ice. Meanwhile, a cluster of new cases of mad cow disease explode in a rural France. Dr. Noah Haldane -- the hero of Pandemic -- and his team are urgently summoned. Noah recognizes the deadliness of the protein responsible for mad cow disease and its human equivalent. It is the prion that kills with the ferocity of a virus, but he suspects factors other than nature have ignited its spread among people and animals of France.

Facing a spate of disappearances and unexplained deaths, he uncovers a conspiracy that stretches from Moscow to Beverly Hills, and from the North to the South Pole. And he recognizes that the scientific find of the century: a body of water the size of Lake Michigan buried under Antarctic ice might hold the key to a microscopic Jurassic Park.

What’s on your nightstand?
Lamb by Christopher Moore and A Short History Of Almost Everything by Bill Bryson.

What inspires you?
My family. My work. My work-outs. Reading. Writing. Walking. The world in general. Essentially, anyone and anything can inspire me, but inspiration is a fickle and elusive state. I don’t do well at all when I’m actively looking for it.

What are you working on now?
I’m working on a “big” book. I use the term because it has a large cast and covers over a hundred years from the turn of the 20th century to the present. It’s my first non-thriller. I’m trying to capture a bit of an “epic” feel. Hospital tells story of a fictional West Coast Mayo Clinic, the Alfredson, which is careening toward a major crisis along with the characters who live and work inside it. The story centers around two families -- the Alfredsons who funded and still control the place, and the McGraths who have always been its medical leaders -- and their often-times adversarial and destructive relationship.

Tell us about your process.
I work on a computer. I have world-class bad penmanship, even for a doctor, which says a lot! Once I have an idea, I write from a very loose two to 10 page outline, which I never consult once I start writing the manuscript. If I have something to say, I can write anywhere and anytime I’m near a computer. And if I don’t, it’s just a complete and utter waste of time... but I never seem to learn that lesson!

Lift your head and look around. What do you see?
Chaos. I’m in my office. Pictures, discs, papers, magazines, books, wires, computer equipments, three or four boxes that might possibly contain body parts. I really ought to clean this place up!

When did you know you wanted to be a writer?
When I was six years old and taking my first violin lesson.

If you couldn’t write books, what would you be doing?

Not playing violin (see above)!

I have the luxury of a day job working as an emergency room physician, which I still enjoy, especially since I work at a teaching hospital and I have the pleasure of mentoring medical students and residents. I suppose I would be doing more of the same, and possibly some work in medical administration. Come to think of it, I better keep writing!

To date, what moment in your career has made you happiest?
It’s a tie between: 1) Hearing from my agent that an editor at Tor-Forge in New York wanted to publish my novel, and 2) receiving a letter of endorsement (with quotable praise for two of my novels) from one of my literary childhood heroes, Nelson DeMille.

For you, what is the easiest thing about being writer?
Don’t know about easiest, but my favorite part is hitting what I call “the point of engagement” in a story. By that I mean the point in a new manuscript when I know most of the main characters and have a rough idea of what has to happen next. Generally, the writing flows much faster for me after that. It’s always fun from that point because I never know how it’s going to end. And it’s fun to find out.

What’s the most difficult?
Reviewing the final proofs. I have a desperately short attention span and, besides, I’m a terrible proof reader. Inevitably, when those final pages come back to me to review before the book is moved into its final draft phase, I have trouble reading the novel again as I’m usually immersed in a new manuscript. It’s an important step, but one I can never get excited about.

What question do you get asked about your writing most often?
Being a practicing physician, father of two girls, and writer, I get asked by everyone -- and I mean everyone -- “Where do you find the time to write?”

What question would like never to be asked again?
Being a practicing physician, father of two girls, and writer, I get asked by everyone -- and I mean everyone -- “Where do you find the time to write?”

What’s the question you’d like to be asked?
With so little time on your hands, how do you manage to write such engaging stories? (Hey, a guy can dream!)

Tell us something about yourself that no one knows.
I don’t like rabbits. Never have. Never will.

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Anonymous Virginia said...

Hi there! Reading your interviews is lots of fun. I like the questions asked! Go on with your most valuable work :-)

Greetings from Switzerland,

Wednesday, April 16, 2008 1:49:00 AM PDT  
Anonymous Grant McKenzie said...

Hey Daniel: Being a practicing physician, father of two girls, and writer, Where do you find the time to write?


Great interview - great writer

Wednesday, April 16, 2008 7:51:00 PM PDT  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I read my first Kalla book "Pandemic." I liked it alot except for one thing: of all the Scots I know they don't talk like that Scottish caricature McLeod. oh well... I was concerned about the possibility of this scenario really playing out. When Daniel writes a book like this does he ever wonder if he is feeding terrorists ideas? It's pretty much a how-to book. That i found pretty unnerving. Good writing...

Tuesday, March 31, 2009 10:45:00 PM PDT  

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