An Interview with Paul McCusker and Walt Larimore, M.D.
Q) Where and how did you guys meet? WALT: Paul and I met not too long after I joined Focus on the Family in early 2001, as Vice President and Family Physician in Residence. We admired each other’s work and began to build a friendship that has only deepened through the years. For me, it has been a terrific privilege and honor to work with Paul on this book. And, we’re already hard at work on the sequel, Time Scene Investigators: The Influenza Bomb. Best of all, we’ve had a ton of fun working together.
Q) Paul, as an author and a scriptwriter, you are no stranger to highadventure stories. How'd you come up with the idea for this novel? PAUL: Well, I love speculative fiction that explores the dramatic possibilities of normal people in abnormal situations. So, when I was visiting relatives in the small village of Eyam in England, I was struck by its story when the Black Plague nearly destroyed the village. What was even more intriguing to me was the story of the sacrificial actions of the villagers and the modern medical mysteries triggered by the event. I began to work on an idea that became TSI – and I quickly realized I would need help from someone with a medical background.
I wondered who I might approach who had medical expertise, writing experience and that I would enjoy working with. Walt came immediately to mind. He had not only written acclaimed medical books, but also the best-selling and muchloved Bryson City stories, based on his early days as a young physician in the Smoky Mountains. His combination of medical knowledge and story-telling skills made him a great partner for tackling this idea.
Q) So, Paul, did you primarily write the book and use Walt as a medical consultant and expert? PAUL: Not at all. We understood from the start that this would be a solid collaboration. We began by developing an outline and story line together, talking through characters, plotlines and themes. We talked for hours. Walt brought ideas and sensibilities to the project that I don’t have. I think we complemented one another – and sharpened each other’s thinking. It’s a genuine pleasure working on these stories together.
WALT: Once we had the outline and story line, then Paul and I began writing first drafts. We each wrote about half of the chapters, with me taking the chapters with more medical issues occurring. Then, we’d meet at a coffee shop or café and fuse our stories together. It was great fun.
Q) How much of the book is based upon fact?
PAUL: Much of it. The events surrounding the plague and its impact on Eyam, England, in 1666, were taken from history itself.
WALT: I was serving at Young Life’s Crooked Creek Ranch as the Camp Physician. During this week, I was praying about this particular part of our story line. During a break, I visited the Camp Store as picked up a modern translation of Practicing the Presence of God, by Brother Lawrence. It was a book I had enjoyed as a college student, but when I was flipping through it, I was stunned to see that Brother Lawrence’s letters were actually penned in the fall of 1666 – the exact year in which we had placed the Blue Monk in Eyam.
These letters were an amazing answer to prayer and we are excited to bring into our story his wisdom and insight about suffering and loss.
Q) You guys are working on the sequel to The Exam Factor. What's the TSI team up to next? PAUL: Readers of this first book may notice that, early on, the TSI team is examining the body of a WWI doughboy that died of the so-called Spanish flu of 1918 - up to 100 million people died from it. Well, our next story, an outbreak of that virus has been reported in Siberia and looks like it’s going to spread. Then our team learns that the original virus may have been a German weapon used in 1918 and has now fallen into the hands of the Return to Earth Society. Suddenly the world is on the verge of another fatal pandemic and our team has to stop it.
Q) Can you tell us what's going to happen to Mark and Nora? They seem to be attracted to each other at the end of the book.
Walt and Paul just smile and shrug their shoulders.