Carol Cassella. I received several emails after the discussion expressing how much the readers enjoyed listening to the author. Thank you to everyone for taking time from your family and busy lives to discuss the book with us.
Let’s get right to it!
Carol is married with two sets of twins, is an anesthesiologist and finds a way to fit writing into her schedule. She starting writing as a hobby but did mention she has always wanted to write a novel and drew upon her life to build aspects of the book. There are two main characters, Marie is a woman with no family and focused on her career and her sister who’s life focuses on family (they are opposites).
The plot twist comes from the fear doctors have, they do not want to harm their patient. She also wanted to write about issues with malpractice and decided to write about her own worst nightmare and what happens when a doctor loses control.
Here are some questions for you, the reader:
- What was your overall view of the book? Did you enjoy it?
- Did you have a favorite character (include why you liked the character)?
- Did you have a favorite part in the book?
- How did your opinion of Marie change from the beginning of the book to the end?
- We didn’t talk about the men in Marie’s life, on the call but I wonder what you thought of Joe.
- Let’s talk about Jolene’s mom. Did you like her as a character?
- Lastly, do you have any questions for the author? If yes, leave them here and I will send a list to Carol.
The following recap is in my own words.
How would the anesthesiologists protocol change if the patient has an existing relationship with the doctor, versus coming to the hospital via ER? It varies depending on the situation (some surgeries take longer, we are not selected by a doctor or patient). They don’t always have a lot of time to establish a relationship and trust is the most important, the first five minutes are critical.
How did you come up with the plot for the book? Did you start with the characters or the idea of the story? When she started the book Carole mentioned that she thought she knew the characters well but they changed with each revision of the novel (as the plot was tweaked). At some degree every character can be a reflection of an author. The more history you give a character the more they can make decisions on their own.
One reader mentioned getting angry at Marie for taking the blame – why was she the only one? Is that what happens in real life? The author reminded us that this is a work of fiction but it is a realistic scenario. With no bleeding, and no obvious place to cast blame it is common for the anesthesiologist to take the blame since they give the go ahead.
Jolene’s medical issue (defect) wasn’t laid out nor did the author include an autopsy in the first draft. Her editor reminded her that readers want answers, they need a conclusion.
How long did it take you to write Oxygen? It took 3 ½ years. Her goal was to write a book for her children. She did get an agent quickly and when the book wasn’t sold she told us that she started burning copies of the book - on a whim sent it to one more agency. A few months later they called, and it was sold within weeks.
Did her family/friends participate in the editing? How did she take their input? While it’s important to get an outside view but hard to take sometimes. Be selective, find someone who is honest and objective – as a writer you have to have a tough skin.
With the death of a child in the book we had to remind some people reading with us (MMBC) to push through this part of the book. When people pushed through Jolene’s death we did learn the book wasn’t centered around this. Was this intentional? She wasn’t sure she wanted to have the patient be a child but it was more realistic with drug doses. Children are vulnerable, our medical system is not fair. She wanted to show this in the beginning and then move from this aspect of the story.
Are you working on a second novel? Her second novel was going to be about human trafficking – when she did the research she couldn’t write about this topic.
Her second novel, out Summer 2010, and is about a woman completing her medical residency (she is married and learns she is pregnant). Flash forward 14 years - she doesn’t finish her residency and ends up working in the medical field with a focus on the financial situation of a family and helping those in need.
What are you reading? Olive Kitteridge
Carol is a member of the Seattle Seven – a group of writers who support each other and are working to raise money for children’s literacy.
The feedback she has received has been so moving. She mentioned a letter from a mother who lost a child during surgery – it broke her heart. The author would love to hear from anyone who has a question or would like to comment on the book. You can visit her website to reach her.
She was off to a piano recital for three of her daughters. Thank you Carol to talking with us this week!
A few of us stayed on after the call to share what we are reading:
- I’m reading The Woman who named God
- Robin is reading People (she’s in book club for the wine)
- Kim just started Brooklyn and is enjoying it
- Sharon French women don’t get Fat (tip: swap OJ for champagne for breakfast!)