Johnathan Isom

Johnathan Isom

Interviewed by: Lauretta Pierce
August 31, 2006

Q.    Who is Johnathan Isom?

A.   Johnathan was born and grew up in Mobile, Alabama. He attended Williamson High School where he was voted "Most Likely to Succeed" by his classmates his senior year.After graduating in 1975. Johnathan pursued his undergrad studies at Tuskegee Institute with the notion that he’d pursue a career in law. However, Johnathan relates that his uncle is a doctor so growing up his presence impressed a positive image upon him regarding a doctor’s lifestyle. "He was real and accessible to be asked questions. There was no mystery about what it takes to be a doctor," says Johnathan. On the other hand he spoke to many lawyers who expressed their dissatisfaction with their choice of career. "I wanted to pursue a career where I would be of help to others and I liked science, math and chemistry, so I thought, I can do this. The rest is history." He entered the Medical College of Wisconsin in 1980. Upon completion in 1985, he went on to do his surgery/medicine internship at the University of South Alabama from 1985 to 1986 and his anesthesia residency from 1986 to 1989. Today Johnathan M. Isom is a successful anesthesiologist in Memphis, Tennessee and author of the recently released novel Ambition, Be Careful What You Ask For.

Q.    How did you come about the idea to write the novel AMBITION?

A.   Johnathan says, " I am inspired by variety and challenge but I am driven by the pursuit of excellence." In that vain, Johnathan says that the same force that drove him to medicine drove him to write his first novel. "Originally I didn’t have any aspirations of being a writer but I had a story to tell. However from that one story comes many. I do see myself as a storyteller within this particular genre because I have stories to tell and I have put a story into writing to be shared with others. The challenge to engage in writing something that I would enjoy was the motivation. As an avid reader his choice of reading materials includes spiritually based or philosophical books, books on leadership, self-improvement, biographies and books geared towards the economy. He explains, "I’ve noticed that many of the plots in currently written contemporary fiction read like soap operas. The focus is often on deceitful people – somebody’s friend or girlfriend leads them astray. And that’s okay but I don’t find that particularly entertaining and it is not something I want to read about." So rather than complain or critique others, I sat down and wrote a book I’d read with the understanding that there are more people who think like me out here.

Q.    How did you come about Stenson’s and Melanie’s characters?

A.   Well now that you know that I am a doctor you might conclude that Stenson evolves out of my experience as a doctor. It’s common knowledge that you write about what you know because it gives your work authenticity. Melanie on the other hand is a compilation of the many women I have known and know starting with my mother, my aunts and grandmothers, cousins, girlfriends, friends, colleagues and my wife and my daughters. And although I don’t have an actual sister I am close to a couple cousins who were like sisters to me as well as my med school room mate who was like a sister as well. So I got an insiders view of a woman’s mind and emotional barometer. I chose her occupation again based on what I know. I pursued a MBA and utilize it in running my practice.

Melanie is a MBA graduate in the field of banking. So I’d say both my medical and MBA backgrounds root my work in the authenticity of the world of medicine and business the same as those like John Grisham has done with his practice of law, Kathy Reichs has done with her forensic anthropology expertise and Pamela Thomas-Graham has done with academic background..

Q.    How did you come about the situation surrounding Gina and James?

A.   Once the story begins with the two main characters, it takes on a life of itself. As a writer if you open up and listen to the characters they will reveal who’s in their life and what their significance is so Gina evolved out of the textures of who Stenson is. And James came from what manner of woman Gina is and what she needed at a certain pointing her life.

Q.    How did you come about Mickey’s and Fleetwood’s character?

A.   If Stenson is autobiographical so to speak then Mickey is my alter ego. He has that James Bond element about him. His life is both dangerous, exciting and contributive because he provides a service. Fleetwood could be a fragmented aspect of self because I can be inquisitive and curious about the sort of things that interest him. In fact, he started out as a med student and veered in another direction that calls upon an investigative curiosity and precision.

Q.    How did you come about the whole dilemma surrounding Phoenix and Adam?

A.   Well, I had taken several writing classes that instruct you on the substance structure, and style of a story/novel so one thing I remembered is that "story is about archetypes not stereotypes. If you understand this then you get that an archetypal story creates settings and characters that are so rare, unique individuals just as each one of is uniquely expressed and thus as a result our minds feast on every detail, while its telling illuminates conflicts so familiar to us because the human experience is not unique, our path is the same only our journey is different. So all the characters make up the world of Melanie and Stenson who dictate the kind of people that attract and hang with or come in contact with, work and play with. Obviously Stenson will know and interact with other doctors and health care professionals, his family and his girlfriends associates, people whose services he requires, the barber, the head of surgery etc, Melanies is a banker and she makes deals. She she’d interface with the Wall Street players, the money wheelers and dealers, the balers of the world, her family and friends, Stenson’s family and so on and so. You see? The circumstances around Melanie’s ambition placed her in an arena where the stakes had to be extremely high. She’s an ambitious woman. She has everything it takes to succeed on the level she desires so it makes sense that on her level the caliber of people she’d run into would be Phoenix and an Adam who represent the opposites , one good, one evil.

Q.    How long have you been writing?

A.   I’ve always written and published works since I became a medical doctor however the genre was that of a medical nature. So I’d have to say as a novelist I’ve been writing now maybe five years. It took me three years to complete the novel and a year to get it

Q.    Are you currently working on another novel?

A.   In fact I am. I’ve had the idea for the second novel once the first was completed but I had to find the right time to write. Once Ambition was completed we had to launch it, market and promote it which called upon me to travel and focus on creating a buzz around it. Last fall, 2005 I began writing the second novel, however that was preempted with the necessity to write the screenplay for Ambition. Now that , that is completed I will get back to writing the second.

Q.    What type of atmosphere do you require to write?

A.   Well I began writing on the Oceanside at the Gulf of Alabama but I’ve written at home and at the hospital as well. I can tune out outside interference and focus on what’s inside my head.

Q.    What message would you like readers to receive from reading AMBITION?

A.   "I only hope that my readers will enjoy the book as much as I enjoy the challenge of the process and if so the future holds great possibilities."