I’m so pleased to be part of “The Algorithm Will See You Now” book tour, supporting author J.L. Lycette. This month has seen me reading a few “Artificial Intelligence “ books – a genre I haven’t really explored before – and this clever artificial intelligence medical thriller was a wonderful debut for me. Even more impressive is that “The Algorithm Will See You Now” is the debut novel for author J.L. Lycette too. I loved the twists and turns of the narrative, the characters and the fact that the situation in the novel was scarily plausible. Want to know more? Here’s a quick book summary , followed by my interview with the delightful author herself …
The most dangerous lies are the ones that use the truth to sell themselves.
Medical treatment determined by artificial intelligence could do more than make Hope Kestrel’s career. It could revolutionize healthcare.
What the Seattle surgeon doesn’t know is the AI has a hidden fatal flaw, and the people covering it up will stop at nothing to dominate the world’s healthcare — and its profits. Soon, Hope is made the scapegoat for a patient’s death, and only Jacie Stone, a gifted intern with a knack for computer science, is willing to help search for the truth.
But her patient’s death is only the tip of the conspiracy’s iceberg. The Director, Marah Maddox, is plotting a use for the AI far outside the ethical bounds of her physician’s oath. A staggering plan capable of reducing human lives to their DNA code, redefining the concepts of sickness and health, and delivering the power of life and death decisions into the hands of those behind the AI.
Even if the algorithm accidentally discards some who are treatable in order to make that happen…
Publisher: Black Rose Writing
Print Length: 303 Pages
Hello! I’m Jennifer. I’m a mid-career physician who discovered my writing muse on my path back from physician burnout in my forties. I’m now a novelist and award-winning essayist, along with being a rural physician, wife, and mom (to three humans and two of the canine persuasion). My first novel, The Algorithm Will See You Now (Black Rose Writing Press), is a near-future medical thriller, out now in paperback and ebook. My second novel (The Committee Will Kill You Now) will be out later this year, in November 2023 (also Black Rose Writing Press).
What inspired you to write “The Algorithm Will See You Now”?
In my day job, I’m a hematologist/oncologist (a specialist in blood and cancer medicine). During the 2010s, there was a lot of talk about IBM’s Watson (a machine-learning AI) having a role in helping oncologists sort data and test results for our patients to help us define treatment. But in the mid-2010s, that all fizzled out without much fanfare.
Meanwhile, the amount of data we’re obtaining on our patients is ever-increasing, along with options for cancer therapies. If AI could help with the data sorting, sure, who wouldn’t want that?
It was about six years ago that I first had the idea for the novel when I read about some of the mistakes AI tools were making (like the misclassification of photos on Google), revealing the datasets (essentially: the Internet) that had been used to train the AI had led to racist and sexist outputs. I thought, this is a big deal because what if we did one day achieve the goal of an advanced medical AI, but it turned out to be ultimately flawed at a very deep level. Mix that with the increasing corporatization of healthcare in the U.S., and my premise was born. I suppose very much a classic trope of the science fiction thriller, which is the question of ultimately what fault lies in the technology versus what responsibility lies with humanity.
I enjoyed the range of believable characters – I obviously liked Hope, but my favourite was actually Marah Maddox, such a strong character & her relationship with Noah kept me guessing. Did you base a lot of your characters on you and people you’ve met in life? Which character did you enjoy writing about the most? Which character was the hardest?
I had a friend reading the book recently tell me she saw a lot of me in Hope, and I responded that perhaps that’s partially true, but the great thing about writing fiction is that we can create characters who make very different choices than we would in the same situation. In fact, I think that’s the fun of writing fiction!
In my first draft, I tried to make Hope the exact opposite of me because I actually kind of feared people thinking that the character was me. The result was that she was unrealistic and too “cardboard.” I realized that to write believable characters, one has to allow some of themselves, and if people think she’s me, well, they can think whatever they want, but I know she’s not. But some of my early experiences in medicine and how they influenced me, yes, those are some of the things I channeled to make her character more authentic.
The other characters are all fictional and grew as I wrote the story. Marah Maddox was actually both the hardest to write and the character I enjoyed writing the most. At first, she suffered from the same problems as my early Hope character, that she was too “cardboard cutout.” In the years of writing the book, I learned that the antagonist (or villain, if you will) must be equally as strong of a character to make the book successful. As has been said by others much smarter than me about writing, the villain thinks they’re the hero of the story. I had to dig deep and think about what experiences in a medical career might produce someone like Marah Maddox, with her beliefs and motivations.
I love that you also brought up Marah and Noah because, in the course of writing the book and digging into their backstory (much of which never shows up on the page in The Algorithm Will See You Now), I realized they needed to be the stars of my next book.
So I wrote a prequel featuring Marah and Noah in their younger years during their residencies. It essentially tells the “villain origin story” of Marah Maddox, wrapped up in a historical thriller about the inhumanity of physician training in the 1990s interwoven with the true-life history of the medical rationing of the first kidney dialysis in 1960s Seattle. Readers will get to see what exactly happened in the relationship between these two in the past…
‘The Algorithm Will See You Now” is your debut novel – congratulations on such a well written, riveting story! Were there any aspects of writing the novel that surprised you, pleasantly or otherwise?
Thank you so much! This will sound like hubris, but I had no idea how hard it was to write a book. I joke that if I had known, I would have never started. It surprised me how much I loved the process, even though it’s been (for me) a years-long process. I also discovered that I love story structure. Like, I can really geek out about it. I guess it’s because, for me, it’s the science of writing. It reminds me of music theory. How you can create and play music without consciously knowing anything about music theory, but once you learn that music actually has a, what you might say, essentially mathematical structure to it, you can take your music to another level. That’s what story structure is like for me.
If you could visit any country/place in the world, to base a future novel in, where would you go and why?
Oh gosh, this is such a hard question. I haven’t done much in the way of international travel and would love to spend time anywhere outside the U.S., but if I had to pick right now, I think I’d say New Zealand. Any country whose people elected a leader like Jacinda Ardern is somewhere I’d like to visit.
Are you a bookworm? What is your favourite genre and/or authors? Kindle or actual book?
Yes, I’m the biggest bookworm and have been since childhood. I read across genres but am especially partial to SFF when reading for fun. My recent favorite author is Naomi Alderman. I don’t know how I missed The Power when it came out a few years ago in book form, but I watched the first three episodes of the new series on Amazon Prime and immediately bought the book and binge-read it in less than a day. I’m now re-reading it again. The concept, and her writing, are both equally brilliant. I’m now the biggest stan of The Power and could go on and on, but I’ll stop myself.
I usually read in ebook form on my iPhone. When I went to medical school in my twenties, I had to stop reading books for some years because I was too busy. Then, when I was in my early thirties, and my kids were babies, none of them were good sleepers. I would be up late holding and rocking them and discovered I could read on my iPhone in the dark while doing this. Game-changer.
I was that kid with the flashlight under their blanket to stay up reading books when I was little (in the dark ages of the pre-screens era, lol), and now I’m the adult who stays up too late reading on their phone.
Is “The Algorithm Will See You Now ” available to purchase worldwide?
Yes. It’s available in ebook on Kindle and paperback on Amazon, and also paperback from your favorite online Indie bookstore vendors.
Growing up had you always wanted to be an author or did you have other career aspirations?
I will be honest. I never dreamed of being an author when I was young. I was an avid reader, as I described above, and kind of had this notion that authors were magical people who existed in a different realm from the rest of us. I had set my sights on medicine from about twelve, and my twenties and thirties were devoted to my medical career. It was only after I burned out in my medical career that I discovered writing. It was quite a surprise to me to find out I had a creative side. I realize now I had suppressed that part of myself from a young age, as I didn’t think someone could do both, and I had only focused on nurturing the part of me that excelled in math and science. On a happy note, discovering my creative side also helped me recover from burnout.
When you are not writing, what do you do to relax?
Oh gosh, relax, what’s that? I’m probably not the best person to answer this question. But in all seriousness, writing to me is my relaxation. It’s my creative outlet and helps keep balance in my life. But when I’m stuck on writing or need a break, I also crochet. And spending time with my family, even if it’s just hanging out watching a movie, that’s relaxing for me.
Personal now – what outfits and shoes would you normally be found wearing?
My favorite shoes are ankle boots. I have them in a lot of different colors, especially black.
Boots or Shoes?
Definitely ankle boots. They go with everything and are comfortable being on my feet at work.
Links you would like to share e.g. website/facebook etc
Social media links:
BOOK TOUR DATES
Thank you Jennifer for an insightful interview – fabulous book, I really enjoyed it and thank you for introducing your book to me and got me reading a new genre by sending me your book to review ! I look forward to reading the prequel. It has been a privilege to be part of your book tour – thank you for inviting me 😊
All photographs have been published with kind permission of J L Lycette.