Chapter One

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Ask the Author
An exclusive web interview with Dr. Vladimir Lange

You are a successful medical doctor, medical video producer and non-fiction author. Why did you decide to become a fiction writer?

In Fatal Memories I ask the question, what if we could access memories of our past lives? How would that change how we behave today? After all, it's been said that we are what we were. This concept is so counter to everything that was drummed into us in medical school. It could only be treated in a work of fiction. While I was working on this book, it became apparent to me that the "fiction" I was creating is not so far from what could become very real in a few years.

Why the past lives theme?

As an emergency physician, I have seen many people die and I often wondered, what is left of them? What if there were a record of a segment of their life that was transmitted that was somehow passed on to their offspring? Maybe some of these memories were recorded in their DNA, and are lying dormant somewhere in the psyche of their sons and daughters? And if so, how could we access this record? What kind of device could do that?

How possible is it that our memories are recorded in our DNA genetic material and passed on to our progeny?

As of today, there is very little evidence that memories are recorded in our DNA. But there is strong evidence that certain acquired characteristics in lower organisms are transmitted to the offspring. And we do know that certain hormones lead to certain powerful reactions. For example, oxytocin, the cuddling hormone, is also known as the 'falling-in-love' hormone. With genetic science progressing by leaps and bounds, it would not be surprising to find that a flood of certain hormones could permanently record an experience and perhaps even an entire memory set-in the genetic material, which would then be transmitted to the offspring.

How did you weave the whole thing together? Science, medicine, Russia?

The science was easy. As a medical multi-media producer I have worked for major corporations, such as Siemens and GE, who are developing the latest and greatest in medical technology. So I had the opportunity to see medical devices years before they were available to the general public: spiral CT scanners, fMRIs, PET scanners. It offered me a first-hand look at the future of medical science. It didn't take much to imagine how these technologies could be combined into a brain scanner like the MEG that I portrayed in Fatal Memories. A scanner that is entirely plausible medically within the next decade.

Russia as a setting was an obvious choice, considering my heritage. I have always found Russian history fascinating, particularly the tumultuous times several centuries ago, under Ivan the Terrible. Brave but ruthless noblemen, who had little of the finesse of the European knights in shining armor, defending their land from hordes of raping and pillaging Tartars...Combine that with the current situation in Russia, teetering on the dividing line between democracy and return to a totalitarian regime. A setting could hardly be more fascinating than present day and 14th century Russia. I think Fatal Memories captures both extremely well.

And the powerful love story into this novel?

I think, deep down, I always wanted to write a love story. A Russian-style love story. As I am fond of saying, Russians aren't happy unless they are suffering. Russian folklore is full of love triangles, where a beautiful young woman, in love with a commoner, is forced to marry an older nobleman, to suffer the rest of her life in painful silence. What could be more poignant? And how do the parallel love triangles play out in the 21st century, when we are attracted to women who are intelligent, powerful, and assertive?

Is there such a piece of medical equipment as a MEG - magneto-encephalograph?

The MEG that exists today has a different function from the MEG in Fatal Memories. But what I really like about my MEG is that it is completely possible with modern technology.

Here is how it would work: For years, doctors have been able to use PET scans to pinpoint the location of a brain function-say, singing, or calculating or face recognition. Each of these activities will show up clearly on a scan that you can have done at your local hospital today! And for years, we've had the ability to destroy tiny areas of the brain with radiation beams, without harming the rest of the brain. From there, it is just a small step to a fully functioning Fatal Memories MEG.

Will your next book combine medicine, romance and history in a similar fashion as you did in this one?

I like the combination of techno-medical with an opportunity to take my readers where they have never been before - jungles of Brazil, deserts of Iran, ice-capped summits in the Himalayas. You will find that the novel I'm working on now will be as multi-faceted as Fatal Memories.

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