My Bookish Pleasures
From your parents you learn love and laughter and how to put one foot before the other. But when books are opened you discover that you have wings—Helen Hayes
TUESDAY, SEPTEMBER 20,2016
5 key words: individualism, faith, healing, family, long term care
Sam Newsome was raised on a farm in rural King, North Carolina. During his childhood on the farm, he learned to appreciate nature and family. He developed the work ethic that continues to benefit him.
He received a bachelor of arts in American history with premedical courses from The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 1971. He received his Medical degree from Bowman Gray School of Medicine (now Wake Forest University Medical School) in 1975. He completed his family practice residency and board certification in 1978 and geriatrics certification in 1992. The patience and perseverance learned from his parents during his youth on the farm were valuable contributions to Dr. Newsome’s educational success.
In 1978 Dr. Newsome returned to his hometown to establish his medical practice and fill gaps in the medical care. During the last thirtyeight years of medical practice, he has staffed the local hospital, Stokes County Health Department, Jail health services, and the local nursing homes. He has served as a county medical examiner since 1978.
He married his childhood sweetheart, Betty Jo, in 1971 and they have resided in King since 1978. They have two children. Carlton lives in Raleigh and shares a love of words, while Justin, an engineer at B/E Aerospace, resides in WinstonSalem.
His first novel, Jackie, explores the miraculous life of a disadvantaged youth with autism spectrum who is destined for heroism.
His new novel explores Joe Peas’ and his local doctor’s similar quests to remain individuals in a world that increasingly rewards conformity. It celebrates family, friendship, faith and healing. It also gives Dr. Newsome an opportunity to entertain and educate his readers about long term care and good health habits.
Mayra Calvani : Please tell us about Joe Peas, and what compelled you to write it.
Sam Newsome: Following the positive response I received from my first story, Jackie, I felt a let down that I didn’t have a continuing task at hand. As with Jackie, I became inspired by the lives of my patients to create stories. In my short encounters, I see only a small snapshot of their lives. There is much more to explore, and given the freedom and elaboration afforded by fiction, a flood of stories ensue.
M.C.: What is your book about?
S.N.: A number of themes are addressed. Dr. James King’s family had been in King’s Mill, NC for many generations. He encounters an itinerant Italian house painter, Joe Peas. Their lives are studies in staid conformity versus rugged individualism.
“Doc, you jus’ like a post. You and you’ family planted like a post in cement. You go nowhere. Me, Joe’s like what you call a rolling weed...”
“You mean a tumbleweed.”
“Yes, that right. tumbleweed...”
Each learns a lot from the other. By examining their lives and interactions with friends and associates, they celebrate family, faith and healing, while educating good health habits. I hope they entertain and amuse as well.
M.C.: What themes do you explore in Joe Peas?
S.N.: Doc and Joe’s relationship allows both of them to reflect on their lives. Doc realizes he is being victimized by the required conformity in his community, while Joe reflects on his long and frequent solitary existence. Additionally, Joe Peas examines residents in long-term care that are inspired by my experiences. They enable an understanding that nursing home residents are a treasure trove of colorful stories. They enabled me to celebrate family, friendship, faith and healing.
M.C.: Why do you write?
S.N.: As a family physician, I see a variety of patients daily. Most are willing to share their stories. Some of those are just too good to forget. While protecting their privacy, I use those to build my tales. I write clinical notes all day in the office--long dull narratives that are seldom read. I feel a need and a privilege to record some thoughts that may be read.
M.C.: When do you feel the most creative?
S.N.: In Joe Peas there is an incident where Doc is so shocked by the behavior of a patient that he is left standing in the hall of his office with his mouth agape. Situations do happen, and when they make an impression I try to record them. On some sleepless night I try to put together a story.
M.C.: How picky are you with language?
S.N.: I’m probably not as picky as I should be. Language gives mood and nuance over and above the basic message. In Joe Peas, one character is finicky and proper. He is described in some detail, but his speech further defines him. Joe Peas is an Italian immigrant. His ethnic speech helps define him. This can be tricky, and I took some sound advice and toned it down. His broken English has to be notable enough to define him, but not so much as to interfere with readability.
M.C.: When you write, do you sometimes feel as though you were being manipulated from afar?
S.N.: ...manipulated from afar? What a strange thought. I suppose that I am, and that we all are. As I write this answer, I have been watching the news channels and realize that we all are subjected to outside influences. Are we manipulated, or can we, in some small fashion, manipulate or influence ourselves? If my story inspires an immunization or a needed colonoscopy, or even brings a chuckle, I have done my own manipulation.
M.C.: What is your worst time as a writer?
S.N: As a self published, author, I have logged hundreds of rejections from agents and publishers. While each polite form letter states this is not a reflection on my work and I laugh it off, there is always the nagging doubt that I am just another vanity press scammed pigeon. After beating myself up for a while, I realize that none of these agents/publishers have asked to read either a synopsis or a manuscript, so they have not had an opportunity to evaluate my work.
M.C.: Your best?
S.N.: When readers comment it can be very touching. I gave a copy of Jackie to a new physician acquaintance recently. A week later, he reported that his son had the autistic spectrum and my description of Jackie’s first day at school had recounted all the concerns he’d experienced for his own son. He found it so powerful he had wept. I want to enlighten, educate and inspire. When that happens it’s better than golf.
M.C.: Is there anything that would stop you from writing?
S.N.: I had an uncle, Robert G. Carroll. He was a local historian and a genealogy columnist for the local paper. He wrote his first book at the age of 102. He wrote his second when he was 104. I’ve always used stories and sometimes jokes to educate and inspire my patients. I hope that there will be a demand for good yarns, but if not I’ll still be telling stories.
M.C.: What’s the happiest moment you’ve lived as an author?
S.N.: It’s like owning a boat. The second best time in a boat owner’s life is when he takes possession of his new boat. That feeling is only surpassed by the day that he sells it. I’m, of course, happy to see the shiny cover of my creation arrive, but then, will it sell?
M.C.: Is writing an obsession to you?
S.N.: Here’s the problem. An idea occurs. It may be in the form of a dream or an idle thought or reflection on your daily commute. The fear is that the idea will pass before I can record it. Sometimes the thought is strong and refuses to dim till its ensconced on paper or a download. The pathology persists because all too often the thought dims and is gone before it can be immortalized.
M.C.: Are the stories you create connected with you in some way?
S.N.: I’ve been a family physician for almost forty years and have two sons. Doc (of Joe Peas) is a family doctor with two sons. Yep, you got me. Doc’s my alter ego. (We’re both in love with Betty.)
M.C.: Ray Bradbury once said, “You must stay drunk on writing so reality cannot destroy you.” Do you agree?
S.N.: Writing fiction is a distillation, though I don’t think it is necessarily alcoholic. All fiction begins with a reality. The author interprets the story and modifies it, distills it, to make it fit the desired narrative. The more fantastic the story, the less distillation is likely to be needed. I good novel can however have hypnotic effects!
M.C.: Do you have a website or blog where readers can find out more about you and your work?
June 1, 2017
I'm busy working on my blog posts. Watch this space!