VIDEO Interview with Covenant Communications.
INTERVIEW from the Cache Magazine, February 2008.
by Charlene Hirschi
When Gregg Luke first appeared in this column last May, he had just published his first book, The Survivors, which he tells me took about a year to write. Now, less than eight months later, he has followed up with a second book, Do No Harm.
In a recent interview, Luke told me he “got the idea for Do No Harm while editing Survivors. And at the end of Do No Harm, I got an idea for another thriller.” Hopefully the trend will continue.
This is all good news for his fans–and I’m sure there are many. Luke writes with a confidence and sophistication seldom seem in a first-timer. From his storylines to his general level of competence, it seems he has been doing it forever. No first- and second-time gaffes from this author. From his very first book, he has demonstrated he knows how to keep the reader involved and interested while managing to suspend disbelief.
So how does a first- or second-time author write with such aplomb from the start? According to Luke, his earliest foray into the writing world came in fourth grade. “The teacher scribbled a couple of lines of praise at the top of the page [of a short story], which made me immensely proud,” he said. “The same review may have been penned on every student’s work, but it still gave me a thrill.”
Teachers take note: this early encouragement started a lifetime habit of writing stories.
“I love to read and write,” Luke says. “I equate writing to watching a movie in my head. What I see in there I try to put down on paper so others can see it too … to me, writing is a release and an escape.”
Interesting that he points out one of the real strengths of his writing–his descriptive narrative is so effective it seems like the reader is actually there, experiencing the moment right along with the characters.
As I mentioned in a previous column, Luke is a very busy man. I’m interested to know how he finds time to write: “I love being busy,” he told me. “My brain doesn’t seem to know how to relax; I simply find enjoyment in keeping active, physically and intellectually … Because my free time is almost non-existent, my writing time comprises brief moments in the early morning and a few minutes on a rare day off. But the story I’m currently working on is always bouncing around in my head. It is not uncommon for me to return home from work with a pocket full of notes scrawled on one or two prescription blanks. I guess the real method of my madness is that I do not waste time doing more traditional ‘guy stuff.’ Even though I love exercise, I rarely play, watch, or am captivated by sports. I don’t hunt or fish, and I don’t watch network TV. I do read voraciously, which barely feeds my craving for knowledge and entertainment. This may qualify me for a spot in the Nerd Hall of Fame, but it’s who I am.”
Well, maybe so, but it’s a nice kind of nerdiness and his readers are the grateful beneficiaries.
I was curious to know where the ideas came from for his first two books–which are completely different genres. In May, I wrote that his first book “doesn’t fit comfortably into any one genre. At times it seems to be an adventure tale, at others inspirational, and finally fantasy.” Do No Harm falls into the suspense/medical thriller category, with a little romance folded in for good measure. Luke confesses that he “likes mixing genres: action/adventure, romance/suspense. etc. I feel life is mixed genre; my writing reflects that.”
It turns out the original ideas evolve into deeper meaning as he goes along. For instance, in The Survivors the original idea was “to show the potential for undiscovered medical miracles in our vanishing rainforests,” he says. “Since I wanted to give it an LDS slant, I approached it from the viewpoint of David, an agnostic scientist. As the story progressed, I realized it was more about David’s discovering the relationship between faith and science. I have always felt that science and faith do not contradict each other but, in fact, support one another in many ways. It seems the world views these topics as black and white: you can accept one or the other, but not both. I disagree, and I wanted to express my belief in a novel that included gospel principles without shoving them down the reader’s throat. Most of my inspiration comes from my career. As I read medical journals to keep abreast of current drug research and treatment, I get lots of ideas about how such discoveries can be used in exiting stories, for good or evil.”
Since he has done so well in getting these first two books published, I had to ask if his was an instant success or had he gone the usual route of collecting rejections? Amused, he said: “I have a stack of rejection letters about as thick as my scriptures. I had two other manuscripts rejected by Covenant before they accepted The Survivors. Looking back, I’m glad they did. My early writing was sophomoric at best. Perhaps I’ll go back someday and revamp the tales into something novel-worthy. As with all aspects of life, a writer should strive to improve with each new work. I think a big part of ‘getting your foot in the door’ is coming up with something wholly original. Very few publishers want to put out the same old thing again and again. ”
And perhaps therein lies Luke’s success. He didn’t expect to be an overnight sensation and was able to recognize that “writing is rewriting,” as writing guru Donald Murray once said. Luke credits his editors for “being graciously blunt about what worked and what didn’t. The books went through some drastic changes, and in the end, turned out to be much better than what I sent in.”
For the novice writers out there looking for their first break, he offers some advice: “Covenant assigns an editor-in-chief who coordinates the reviews for half a dozen other editors. I love that approach because it allows for a myriad of viewpoints. Some suggestions are amazingly insightful; others are completely off-track. The important thing for any author to remember is that their words are not holy writ. Every thing is fair game for revision, including titles.”
Luke’s latest book tells the story of Bria and Paul. Bria is a young nurse being used as a human research subject without her knowledge and against her will; Paul is a young, widowed pharmacist looking for a new beginning and ends up buying a business in a small town shrouded in mystery–a web of secrecy and deceit that involves kidnaping, and who knows how many murders.
Luke refers to it as a thriller. As one of the town’s more colorful characters warns Paul, “‘Strange things have been going on here the last few years. ..A few of the townfolk have…changed.’ ‘Changed in what way?’ Paul asks. ‘Actin’ strange. Robot like. Only not artificial.’ Bill tossed a dollar on the counter and walked to the door. Before exiting, he turned and scanned the store once more to make sure no one was within earshot. ‘Between you and me,’ he said quickly, ‘don’t trust any of the townfolk, especially the sheriff'”
Good advice, but does Paul take it? Sorry, I’m not telling.
Book critic Charlene Hirschi holds her master’s in English from Utah State University where she is the director of the writing center. She is among a number of freelance writers whose columns apepear in The Herald Journal as part of an effort to expose readers to a vairety of community voices. She is not an employee of the newpaper. Feedback at [email protected]
LOGAN PHARMACIST DOUBLES AS AUTHOR
By Charles Geraci
Gregg Luke gets a lot out of his profession as a pharmacist. Not only does he enjoy helping people, he gains important knowledge for his novels.
“It gives me a great reservoir to draw from for ideas,” Luke said. “I can think of a number of drugs right now that you could spin a whole novel off of just that drug – by either how it works or its side effects or some of the other things that go on with the drug.”
A Millville resident, Luke is a pharmacist at the Cache Valley Community Health Center in Logan. The 52-year-old is also an accomplished author, having recently published his fifth novel, titled “Bloodborne.”
He has been interested in writing since childhood. Back in the fourth grade, he got some encouragement from a teacher. He still remembers the feedback she wrote on the top of a short story: “Very imaginative. Very inspiring. Good job.”
“From that point on, I thought at one time, I want to be able to say I’ve published a novel,” he said. “I’ve always wanted to do that.”
All of his books are medical thrillers, though he often mixes genres.
“That’s the way life is,” Luke said. “You know, sometimes you’ll have a little romance. Sometimes you’ll have a little humor. There’s always suspense. You’re always going off of history, what’s happened. So I try and throw it all together.”
Luke’s novels, geared toward an LDS audience, are available at several stores, such as Seagull Book, Deseret Book and The Book Table. They are also sold on Amazon, including in Kindle format.
His previous works have dealt with a variety of topics: undiscovered medicines, illegal human drug testing, drug addiction and mind control, and repressed memories – to name a few.
In “Bloodborne,” published by Covenant Communications out of American Fork, Luke tells the story of a doctor, Erin Cross, who is “trying to stop evil men from developing a potentially world-catastrophic bioweapon at the same time that she’s trying to save her own life from them wanting to stop her in her quest,” according to Luke.
Another doctor, who had worked with Cross to develop a vaccine for the H1N1 virus, actually has sinister motives.
“I had a scientist take an offshoot of H1N1 and be able to weaponize it so that it made it 10 times more virulent. You know, it would kill somebody within 48 hours,” Luke explains. “He made a variety of it that would live in mosquitoes and be able to be transmitted.”
In writing the novel, Luke conducted extensive research, such as traveling to the Yucatan peninsula amid the H1N1 pandemic in 2009.
“I’m a stickler for accuracy,” he said.
Luke, a self-proclaimed “nerd,” said writing is an outlet for him. He noted he’s not into TV, sports, fishing or hunting.
“I don’t do typical guy stuff,” he said. “I spend my time reading and writing.”
Luke is intent on accomplishing a few things with each novel.
He wants to entertain the reader, while also imparting some knowledge in the process.
“I want readers to learn something from it, definitely from a scientific aspect to maybe even a lifestyle change, or just an attitude change,” he said. “And I want them to walk away from it thinking, ‘I can be a better person for having read this book.'”
Reprinted from the Herald Journal, February 11, 2012.