Interview with Dr. Bernard Leo Remakus, author of Mia
PBR: Dr. Remakus, your biography states that you have been practicing internal medicine in a rural, physician-shortage area for more than 30 years, and during that time, you have published three novels, three works of non-fiction, and more than 200 journal articles. You have also worked as a medical journalist, consultant and professional lecturer, taught medical students, and even coached your local high school baseball team. What’s your secret?
Remakus: Time is one of life’s most precious gifts. Realizing this, I try to manage time efficiently, if not unconventionally. My office is in my home which allows me to provide 24/7 medical care to my patients without having to drive to and from work every day. Having a home office also permits greater flexibility in scheduling appointments than would be possible if I worked set hours in a clinic or hospital. Because I spend a lot of time in my office, I am able to write whenever I’m not seeing patients. So, time saved elsewhere allows me to write, make house calls, and pursue other personal interests. My family is my top priority in life, and my desire to share the important moments in the lives of my wife and children motivates me to use time constructively.
PBR: How would you describe your latest novel, “Mia?”
Remakus: “Mia” is a psychological thriller that deals with such contemporary issues as terrorism, covert operations, transsexuality, social dysfunction, and the depression experienced by military families whose loved ones are missing in action. The book’s main character, Capt. Zack Adams, is the only American who can identify an elusive terrorist, codenamed Chameleon. During his Delta Force unit’s failed attempt to neutralize Chameleon, Adams is seriously injured. When Adams disappears from an American military hospital, the Pentagon surmises he has been kidnapped by terrorists who want to protect Chameleon’s hidden identity. Adams’s wife, Molly, becomes severely depressed when she learns her husband is missing in action, and their teenage son, Pete, undergoes an abrupt personality change and becomes incorrigible. A C.I.A. counterterrorism specialist, Jack “Tarzan” Trzansky, enters the picture and tries to solve problems that are rapidly spreading from the Middle East to the rural mountains of Kentucky. He calls a drop-dead gorgeous woman, named Mia, for help.
PBR: There are a number of action scenes in “Mia.” One involves a nun’s wedding night, and another involves a female gym teacher challenging a high school wrestler to a wrestling match, and wagering her seductive self on the outcome. Did you plan these scenes before you began the novel or did they materialize as the story developed/
Remakus: Before I write the first word of a novel, I’ve already written the final words. Knowing how the book is going to begin and end, I create characters whose only requirement is that they are memorable. From the start, I really don’t know what these characters will do as the story progresses. I simply let each of the characters act within the framework of their own personalities and record their story as it develops.
PBR: In “Mia,” you write about terroristic acts, covert military missions, and transgender surgery. What is the biggest challenge in writing about such topics?
Remakus: The biggest challenge is being able to write about such topics in a tasteful and informative manner. To do this requires in-depth research. I reviewed military and covert operations, as well as military medical protocols, with friends who are Army officers and C.I.A. operatives. Most of my research on transgender surgery came from the medical literature. Throughout my medical training, I had some exposure to patients who were at different stages of transgender and reconstructive surgery, and was amazed at the final results in many, but certainly not all, the cases. My book is not an endorsement of transsexuality. It just incorporates the realities of gender reassignment into a tightly-knit contemporary novel.
PBR: How important is suspension of disbelief in your book?
Remakus: “Mia” relies on suspension of disbelief to a certain degree, but what separates the subtle technique in “Mia” from the unabashed technique in something like an Ed Wood movie is the ultimate believability of every single premise in the book. Every premise in my book is tenable because every premise mirrors the characters and events of contemporary society. Be it the sadomasochistic tendencies of terrorists, the hidden secrets of war heroes, or the sexual confusion of the world in which we live, “Mia” only reports, rather than creates, the news – as contemporary fiction should.
PBR: “Mia” is only 144 pages long. Why didn’t you write a longer book?
Remakus: One of the unique features of “Mia” is its economy of expression. Creating the book was an exercise in writing a complicated story, with multiple sub-plots and ample dialogue, in a concise manner that incorporated both mystery and suspense. A longer book would not have been as effective because important clues in the book’s story development would have been obscured by additional language. The mystery would have become too difficult for readers to follow or solve.
PBR: Even though “Mia” is a very dramatic novel, you seem to inject comic relief into a few chapters of the book. What role does comedy play in drama?
Remakus: Even the most dramatic book or film needs comedy, if only subtle, to balance the human emotions. Books and films of any length usually chronicle a series of events, not just a single event. To sustain the events, levity is needed as gravity’s counterpoint. Much of my dialogue is tongue-in-cheek and double entendre. I enjoy sharing a secret with my readers early in a book and letting them watch the characters unfold the secret. In “Mia,” Molly is saddened when she hears that Mia’s husband died in her arms. Most readers smile or laugh when they read this dialogue because they already know the identity of Mia’s husband and the circumstances surrounding his death. This dialogue balances Molly’s dramatic account of her own husband’s disappearance.
PBR: You self-published “Mia,” as well as a few of your non-fiction works. What are your thoughts on self-publishing?
Remakus: Self-publishing serves an important purpose. It allows a greater number of authors to share their writing with the general public. This is important because traditional publishing has been a closed shop in America for many years. Today, very few traditional publishers consider manuscripts that are not presented to them by agents, and very few agents consider manuscripts from authors who they don’t know personally or who are not recommended to them by friends or colleagues. It’s a Catch-22. Self-publishing levels the playing field to some degree. Many self-published books are little more than vanity books or personal remembrances, but many other self-published books are as good as, if not better than, today’s best sellers. Unfortunately, too many self-published books are never read by the general public because their authors can’t afford expensive publicity campaigns, many book reviewers refuse to review self-published books, most major writing contests are not open to self-published books, book stores won’t carry or display self-published books because they are only available as print-on-demand publications that require pre-payment and are frequently non-returnable, and readers won’t buy many self-published books because they are frequently priced too high by their publishers. Self-publishing works well for authors who have realistic expectations about their book’s sales potential, insight into the workings of the publishing industry, and a carefully targeted readership. Self-publishing works best for authors who don’t plan to quit their day jobs.
PBR: I see that “Mia” is available as an e-book as well as a paperback. Do you think the day will come when e-books entirely replace printed books?
Remakus: I don’t see it happening in our lifetimes. E-books have certain advantages over printed books. They are much less expensive to create and purchase than printed books, can be obtained anywhere in the world in a matter of minutes, and are certainly more friendly to the environment. However, printed books have a much longer tradition than e-books and are favored by many readers. Reading a book that is held in one’s hands is an entirely different experience than reading it from a computer screen or electronic reader.
PBR: Will “Mia” ever make it to the silver screen.
Remakus: When I wrote the novel, “Mia,” I also wrote a companion screenplay. Although, I waited until 2011 to publish the novel, I entered the screenplay in a Hollywood competition in 2007. Even though it was my first attempt at writing a screenplay, my entry became a finalist in the competition. “Mia” would make a great film, and if it’s meant to happen, it will. If not, the world will continue to spin.
Bernard Leo Remakus, M.D. is a native of Wilkes-Barre, Pa. He received his B.S. degree from King’s College, M.Ed. degree from East Stroudsburg State College, and M.D. degree from the Temple University School of Medicine. He completed a three-year residency in internal medicine at Abington Memorial Hospital which led to his certification as a Diplomate of the American Board of Internal Medicine.
Dr. Remakus has practiced internal medicine in a rural, physician-shortage area of Northeastern Pennsylvania for more than three decades. During that time, he has published three novels – Keystone, Cassidy’s Solution and Mia; three works of non-fiction – The Malpractice Epidemic, Medicine From The Heart and Medicine Between The Lines; and one screenplay, Mia. He has also authored more than 200 scientific articles that have been published in: The New England Journal of Medicine, the Journal of the American Medical Association, Newsweek, Medical Economics, The Archives of Internal Medicine, Internal Medicine News, Consultant, Geriatrics, Medical World News, Hospital News, The American Magazine, Pride and Internal Medicine World Report. Many of these articles have been reprinted in popular newspapers and magazines. From 1991 to 2002, Dr. Remakus was the featured columnist and a member of the Editorial Advisory Board of the medical publication, Internal Medicine World Report. His column in that publication had the distinction of being one of the most widely read and longest running physician-written columns in America.
When not practicing medicine or writing, Dr. Remakus serves as a professional speaker and Clinical Assistant Professor at the Temple University School of Medicine. In previous years, he has also performed clinical drug research, worked as a medical examiner and consultant, and coached his local high school baseball team to a league championship and four post-season district playoff appearances in six seasons.
The recipient of numerous awards and citations, Dr. Remakus has been named to every edition of “America’s Top Physicians” since 2003. He is listed in multiple “Who’s Who” publications, including “Who’s Who in Medicine and Healthcare,” “Who’s Who in America,” and “Who’s Who in The World.”
Dr. Remakus and his wife, Charlotte, have been married for 37 years, and their three children, Chris, Ali and Matt, are all physicians. Their son-in-law, Mark, is also a physician, and their daughter-in-law, Sanda, is a Ph.D. in medical microbiology. Their only grandson, “Earthquake Jake,” is the descendant of long family lines that originated in Lithuania, Poland, Czechoslovakia, Sicily and China.