What are some things readers wouldn't know about you?
Absolutely. As a surgeon I don't treat conditions, I treat people. Somewhere in Blue Collar, Blue Scrubs I mention my belief that it is just as important for doctors to understand people as it is for them to understand pathology. The years I spent throwing rocks, driving cabs and working on truck docks have made me much more understanding of the concerns and desires of the normal, everyday people I have been privileged to treat over the years.
Who are your favorite authors?
I am not a very discriminating reader. My tastes are eclectic, and I am rather easy to please. Of current writers I would have to include Sebastian Barry, Mark Helprin, Cormac MacCarthy, David McCullough, and Alistair MacLeod. Going back to the oldies but goodies, Shakespeare, of course, Joseph Conrad, Virginia Woolf, some guy named Hemingway, and two rather obscure Scottish writers: Neil Gunn (who wrote several really good, and a couple really bad, novels) and WH Murray (never heard of him? Check him out. He has some of the most evocative and thoughtful essays on mountaineering ever written). I enjoy poetry, too: William Butler Yeats, Matthew Arnold, and William Wordsworth are my favorite old-timers. Of modern poets I like Billy Collins (no relation) who has mastered the knack of being accessible but still meaty.
What are the worst books you ever read?
Sometimes a book is so bad that I just can't finish it, but if we are talking about books that I have actually struggled through, wallowing in masochistic self-pity, cover to cover, there are two that come immediately to mind: Walking Drum by Louis L'Amour (and, no, I am not a genre snob. I like a lot of Louis' booksjust not this one. Really not this one) and Harlot's Ghost by Norman Mailer (take that for what it's worth. Norman Mailer was an icon and is still worshipped everywhere. Mike Collins is an orthopod whose total book sales probably don't equal what Mailer would sell in a month. But I stand by what I saidthat book was awful.)
What is the Best Book You Ever Read?
You're going to hate me, I know, but I'd have to say War and Peace. Yes, it's ungodly long, and yes, all those Russian names are confusing, but God what an incredible work of art Tolstoy has given the world. If you haven't read it, grit your teeth, throw away the Tivo, turn off the cell phone, and sit down to a great reading experience. (Lest you think I'm a Tolstoy freak or a total egghead, I confess to never having cared much for Anna Kareninasorry, Oprah)
Do you really have twelve kids?
I think so. Otherwise why is it so noisy around here all the time, and why do I never seem to be able to get into a bathroom? And, yes, they are all from the same marriage, and, no, there's no twins, and yes I know all their birthdays and no, we're not members of some weird procreation cult (well, I take that back. We're Catholics), and yes, yes, yes, Patti is a saint.
Do you really have seven brothers (and no sisters)?
Yup, it's true. My brothers and I had a blast growing up. We had a hockey rink in the backyard and a boxing ring in the second floor of our garage (an old barn). Only in retrospect have we all realized how hard it must have been on our mom. I was fifteen years old before I knew my mom had a first name. I never heard anyone call her anything but "your poor mother." It was never "How's your mom?" or "How's Nancy?" It was always a slow shake of the head and a pitying, "How's your poor mother?" And, yes, my mom really did give up alcohol for a year in a blatant effort to bribe God into letting me into medical school. God, like everyone else, loves my mom, so He gave in on that one.
A Ford Escapewith only 59,000 miles on it!
Do you still practice medicine?
Yes, that is mostly what I do. I am still in the full-time practice of orthopedic surgery and I love it. One of the reasons I wrote Hot Lights, Cold Steel is to encourage young people to go into medicine. It is the most rewarding career imaginable, and I feel privileged to be a doctor.
Any plans for another book?
Yes. I am working on something now, fiction this time. More later, once I convince myself it isn't total junk.