Dr. J. Matthew Neal was born in Muncie, Indiana, where he has resided much of his life. Although he has been a medical writer for many years, “Specific Gravity” is his first novel. As a physician and residency program director, he has found plenty of inspiration in the medical field for his fiction.
Tyler: Welcome, Matt. Thank you for joining me today. To begin, I understand “Specific Gravity” is a thriller with Dr. Alexander (Alex) Darkkin as its main character. Will you tell us a little bit about Alex and why you think readers will find him to be an attractive character?
Matt: Alex is a complicated guy with lots of problems, and at first probably won’t seem likeable to readers at all. He’s a brilliant cancer specialist who has also created his own medical software company. He’s good-looking, smart, and has money-but is also an obnoxious, womanizing alcoholic who is unhappy with his superficial life and self-destructing relationships. He’s tried therapy, AA, and religion, none of which seem to be working.
But he has a deeper side that he doesn’t yet realize, and much of the story revolves around his self-reflection and realization that he can do much to help those other than himself. He just needs a special person to show him the way.
Tyler: Is Alex haunted by demons that led him to womanizing and alcoholism? Would you tell us a little bit about his past before the book begins?
Matt: Alex felt he didn’t have a very good paternal role model; his father Conrad was an alcoholic who cheated on Alex’s mother on numerous occasions. His sister left town after high school and developed a relationship with a normal, “surrogate” family (the Mendozas); meanwhile Alex stayed fairly close to home, and lives in Nashville. He never saw his parents in a loving marriage, and as a result, finds it difficult to engage in lengthy relationships. Despite seeming arrogant, he actually suffers from low self-esteem and depression, and this has resulted in dependence on alcohol and frequent one-night stands.
Tyler: What is the situation Alex finds himself in that is the focus of the novel?
Matt:Alex, hoping that a change of location will do him some good, relocates to San Diego for six months to fill in for his sister Wendy’s friend who is taking a sabbatical. After his arrival, he curiously inspects the files of a patient who recently died-billionaire pharmaceutical CEO John Markham. His software background leads him to discover that Markham’s medical records may have been altered, and he comes up with a theory that Markham may in fact have been murdered. Unfortunately, he can’t seem to convince the police or anyone else, and realizes he can’t do it alone. He then reluctantly seeks the aid of Wendy’s best friend, Bonnie Mendoza.
Tyler: Tell us a little bit about Bonnie and her involvement in the story.
Matt: The arrogant Alex finally meets his match in deaf forensic scientist Bonnie Mendoza-a mathematical and lexical genius …Continue reading »