Q: What inspired you to write All Bleeding Stops, and how did you create your character Matthew Barrett?
A: Witnessing first-hand the devastating consequences that can happen to overly sensitive doctors is what inspired me to write All Bleeding Stops.
The sensitivity and the compassion that lead young people to become doctors can leave them vulnerable. Sometimes they simply care too much. When I was a senior medical student, the intern on our service committed suicide. That tragedy affected me for the rest of my life.
I thought the best way to bring readers’ attention to this problem was by telling the story of Matthew Barrett – young and idealistic, but incapable of coping with the inevitable tragedies that occur in war.
Q: How was the novel's title chosen, and what does it signify for you?
A: The title is meant to be both ironic and metaphoric. The expression “All bleeding stops” is a well-known and darkly humorous aphorism used by surgeons. I thought it was a good metaphor for Matthew who himself was “bleeding” throughout the novel.
Q: Did you know how the book would end before you started writing it, or did you make many changes along the way?
A: I did not know how the book would end. I had the intention of telling the story of a doctor who cared too much, but I wasn’t sure the exact form his story would take.
It is one of the delights and challenges of writing that things often come to you as you are writing. Some degree of planning is necessary before one starts to write, but I believe excessive planning stifles creativity.
Q: The Kirkus Review of the book says, “The accounts of Barrett’s treatment by enemy combatants, his corrupt superiors, and his own demons are visceral and poignant, but amid all the sorrow, the author never strays from his commitment to reveal empathy as a core tenet of a doctor’s work.” What do you think of that assessment?
A: It surprised me a little. As an author you never know if you have succeeded in getting your message across. The writer of that review grasped the point I was trying to make: that care and empathy, whatever toll they may take, in the end are redemptive.
Q: What are you working on now?
A: I don’t like to talk too much about works in progress since they need to evolve. I don’t want to strait-jacket myself or my creativity by deciding too early exactly where I’m headed and how I will get there, but in general terms I’m working on another book about a doctor who struggles with what it means to be a doctor and what obligations that entails.
Q: Anything else we should know?
A: I’m trying to walk the walk, not just talk the talk, so a percentage of the net proceeds from the sale of All Bleeding Stops will be donated to qualified entities that support mental health in the veteran and medical service communities.
--Interview with Deborah Kalb