Dr. Mary Ballard is an internist and geriatrician who runs a practice in Enumclaw (she's also a Patch blogger).
Dr. Samantha Nolan is an ER doctor who practices in an unnamed hospital in the Pacific Northwest -- that is, until a stalker situation prompts her to seek refuge in Alaska.
Nolan lives in the fictional universe created by Ballard, who this past summer published her first novel -- a thriller -- entited Revealed.
The book's synopsis sums it up this way:
Taunted by a vicious stalker, burnt out, big city Emergency Room physician Dr. Samantha Nolan is transplanted to an unassuming Alaskan logging community. There she meets a mysterious logger, Skye Ronan, and her new found feelings are threatened by enclosing danger. Fighting for survival, she learns of the bizarre connection forever binding her to her stalker.
That a doctor wrote a story about a doctor prompts the question: how biographical is Revealed?
"There are elements of my personality in her [Samantha Nolan]," Ballard said. But of the stalking? "I haven't had that particular experience, though I have had patients who have that element of intrigue."
The scary scenario, however, is something that she is familiar with. A colleague of Ballard's - a plastic surgeon who practiced in Bellevue was killed by a patient who had been hiding in his office and stalking him, she said.
In Revealed, Ballard said she threw the standard damsel in distress plotlines out the window in favor of introducing a very unique connection between her doctor and the stalker.
"As more and more stories in our environment are having stronger female characters, I'm taking it to the next level where the female has to be the rescuer," she said.
A Move to the Small Screen
Self-published on July 1 this year, Revealed is making its way to film production circles, Ballard said.
It's a fast read and intended to be so having originally been developed as a movie. Ballard said she wrote this story as a screen play but in consulting literary agents as well as producers learned that it was beneficial to have a book following for an established story as well.
The book is available for sale in Ballard's Enumclaw office as well as Amazon (in print and Kindle). She recently secured a distribute in Alaska as well as the majority of this story is set in that state.
Meanwhile, with support from an editor, printing company, distributor as well as guidance by Hollywood director George Mendeluk, Ballard has pitched the world of Samantha Nolan to television networks as well. "Because of the nature of the character and the nature of the location, we were considering making it a TV series about a woman doctor who joins the FBI," she said.
A Doctor Who Writes
Indeed, Michael Crichton wasn't the only author with a medical degree, nor was he the only medical doctor who aspired to write.
Ballard said she knew as young as age 13 she wanted to be a journalist but also possessed enough foresight at that age to realize that going to medical school would give her better stories to tell.
She wrote short stories and poetry as a child, but the idea to write for money only came to her after coming out of medical school - when she was saddled with debt.
Between running her practice and raising two children, it took Ballard 20 years to get her first book published -- and Revealed alone took five years to write.
Along the way, she sought plenty of help from professional writers for everything from character development to pitching a book or movie idea to the right people. Ballard put in considerable resources to move the process along including hiring her own editor and printing company to self-publish Revealed.
"The say no man is an island; well no woman is an island in my case," she said. I have a lot of people supporting me throughout the various channels of media."
Mendeluk has been a particularly helpful guide in understanding television development. "He encouraged me to move forward and is actively mentoring me on how to develop scenes and stories. When you enter an area such as this, you don't have to feel like you're alone. There will always be people available to help you if you're willing to work with them."
A Writer's Life
Every basic writer's class suggests students keep a journal with them at all times to jot down ideas, and Ballard keeps hers in her purse. "I just went out and got a datebook and tried to write at least one line a day," she said. "Eventually that would expand until you're writing chapters and chapters of your life."
With her children mostly grown, she finds she writes more in the evenings than another other time of day. "When the mood strikes, I crack open my computer and write. ... It's a good way for me to meditate down from my day."
An literary influence for Ballard is Sylvia Browne, who writes about alternative universes, reincarnations and elements of the supernatural.
Ballard is wrapping up her second book to that effect, also in the medical realm, but which deals with the phenomenon of 'cellular memory.'
"It's about a woman who is a heart transplant recipient who starts having nightmares about her donor's murder," Ballard said. "She sets off to solve that murder. It's a take off of when I was in my training, I worked in a heart transplant unit. The person would develop characteristics of the donor."
Ballard aims for a release of Cellular Memory this coming summer.
Meanwhile, Ballard continues working with long-time patients in Enumclaw, who are able to enjoy Revealed while in the waiting area. (She sells them at a discounted $10 from her office.) Many of asked if they could be in her books, she said. "If you live in Enumclaw, you better not get on my bad side..."