Exclusive Interview: Neal Baer Talks About His Book ‘Kill Switch’
You might be familiar with Neal Baer’s work on television, he was an executive producer and writer on ER and Law & Order: SVU, and is the showrunner of CBS’ A Gifted Man (which is currently on my DVR – 2 more episodes to go!). And now it’s time to meet Neal Baer, the book author.
Neal Baer co-authored thriller, Kill Switch with Jonathan Greene. The novel was released back in December 2011 and follows forensic psychiatrist Dr. Claire Waters, who seems to have a way with “untreatable” patients, taking on one shocking case which could make or break her career.
Neal Baer took some time to answer a few questions about the book, the difference between writing for television and writing a novel, his favorite writing snack (which sounds yummy!), and more.
What inspired you to write “Kill Switch”?
Neal Baer: I’ve always wanted to write a novel and when my book agent asked me several years ago if I had a medical thriller, I pulled out an outline for a movie I had written nine years ago with Jon Greene. She read the outline and encouraged us to write three chapters of a novel. We did, and then she asked us to write two more chapters. We sold those chapters to our publisher and KILL SWITCH was born.
What were some of the challenges in writing “Kill Switch”?
Neal Baer: Moving from writing screenplays to a novel is interesting because one doesn’t write what characters are thinking in a script for television or a movie. The actor’s dialogue comes from the writer, but the actor must convey what he or she is thinking through gesture, facial expression, movement, vocal tone. In a novel, one is free to write what a character is actually thinking. That’s liberating in many ways, but can be daunting because you don’t want to say too much.
What is the difference between writing a TV show versus writing a book?
Neal Baer: Television is a collaborative process. Everything begins with the writer and the screenplay; the words must be on the page. But then a swarm of talented individuals descends on your screenplay: actors, the director, director of photography, wardrobe, makeup, hair, props, grips, producers, editors. Each has an important job and must interpret what you have written and run with it. The writer of a novel is all these people rolled into one. We are responsible for describing the character’s environment, clothes, hair, the light — it all falls on the writer.
Do you have plans to write any other books?
Neal Baer: Jon and I are writing at least three books in this series that features the forensic psychiatrist, Claire Waters.
What is your writing process like?
Neal Baer: We worked together “breaking” the story, which means we outline it and put it up on a dry erase board. We talk through the characters so that we’re in agreement, then we write the outline and rewrite it. Once we’ve got the story down, one of us writes a chapter and the other rewrites it. And we rewrite some more, going back and forth until we’re both satisfied.
Do you have a favorite snack during your writing time?
Neal Baer: Lattes with chocolate chip cookies.
What book have you read recently, you would recommend people read?
Neal Baer: To the End of the Land by David Grossman. An exquisitely written novel about an Israeli mother coming to terms with her son fighting in the army. Hauntingly beautiful.