The Algorithm Will See You Now, debut medical thriller by JL Lycette
Author Interview + Book & Author Info + Author Pet Corner!
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The Algorithm Will See You Now
“I’ve been waiting for a book like this: a full-frontal assault on the dangers of artificial intelligence and the failures of our mangled health care system, all wrapped up in a clever, ripping thriller. Jennifer Lycette is an author to watch.” –Rob Hart, author of The Paradox Hotel
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…
JL Lycette’s powerful, near-future thriller, The Algorithm Will See You Now, is perfect for fans of Blake Crouch and Rob Hart.
To purchase The Algorithm Will See you Now, click any of the following links: Amazon, Black Rose Writing & Barnes and Noble
View the Book Trailer! Click the link here.
The Algorithm Will See You Now — Author Interview
The Algorithm Will See You Now is a medical thriller based on artificial intelligence. What drew you to that topic for your debut?
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 and helping 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. Many days on the job, I would welcome a smart tool like AI to help me out. The things that keep oncologists up at night include the constant rethinking and wondering, “Could I have done something differently?” If AI could help with that, sure, who wouldn’t want that?
It was about six years ago that I first had the idea for the novel when I was reading about some of the mistakes AI tools were making (like the misclassification of photos on Google), revealing the datasets used to train the AI had led to racist and sexist outputs. I thought, uh oh, what if we did one day achieve the goal of a very advanced medical AI, but it turned out to be ultimately flawed at a very deep level. Mix this 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.
How did your background as a community medical oncologist and hematologist inform The Algorithm Will See You Now?
The past decade in cancer care has seen tremendous advances in “precision medicine,” which allows us to target our therapies down to the level of a DNA mutation in the cancer cell. It’s been an inspiring and rewarding time in the field of oncology. At the same time, unfortunately, it’s currently only a minority of our total patients who we discover can benefit from these precision therapies.
Many future-thinking leaders in the field envision a time when we will have a precision medicine report on every patient and an AI tool to match the information to the treatment. (Currently, we do have what’s called “NGS” (next generation sequencing), but it requires manual (human) review by the oncologist to interpret and apply to each patient’s situation).
For the past decade, I’ve practiced as a rural community oncologist. I see daily the challenges in an under-resourced system and the disparities in care that occur in our own country between urban and rural regions. Combine this with the concerns over unintended inherent systemic bias in AI systems and insurance companies increasingly putting profits over patients, and these are the conflicts I set out to explore in the novel.
Tell us about your publishing journey for The Algorithm Will See You Now:
I started drafting the story in late 2016. Although I’d been writing and publishing personal essays, I had never written a book before and, in the beginning, had no idea what I was doing. But over the next several years, I drafted and revised, drafted and revised, and devoured every book I could get my hands on about craft and story structure. I also tried to take advantage of every webinar and online writing resource I could find.
In 2018, I started sending out queries, but looking back, I can see I was querying way too early, and the book was far from ready. (Also, those early queries were terrible! Lol). Then, through the online writing community, I learned about Pitch Wars, an online mentoring program for unpublished novel writers. In the fall of 2019, I applied on a whim, never dreaming my book would have a chance. But to my happy surprise, I was selected for the Pitch Wars class of 2019 (the working title of my manuscript at the time was “The Frailty of Matter”).
After selection, mentees worked with their mentors over three months to revise their manuscripts and prepare them for the online “showcase.” If a literary agent expressed interest, we could send our submission materials (or a full manuscript if they requested). We were also free to then query other agents. Our class’s showcase was in Feb 2020.
Long story short, I didn’t end up being a “Pitch Wars success story.” I received a few full requests and also queried widely, but ultimately, I didn’t land literary agent representation. Over the next few months of 2020, we were, of course, in the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. I realized that agents and publishers had little interest in medical thrillers (and who could blame them? We were all living in a real-life one).
So as painful as it was on a personal level, I shelved the book. But I had gained something far more valuable from Pitch Wars, which was a cadre of writing friends who have become ongoing beta readers and critique partners. I did what everyone says is the best thing to do and wrote the next book. But every so often, I would pull out Algorithm and do a little more revision.
In 2021, I needed to let the draft of “book two” rest and could no longer resist the tug of my first manuscript calling me back to it. With the help of my new critique partners, I did a major revision of the book and dove back into the query trenches, feeling optimistic about the story’s strength. But it seemed there was even less interest than a few years prior.
After six months and countless rejections, I was demoralized but not ready to give up. I believed my book had something important to say to the world, even if I hadn’t been successful in convincing any literary agents of that. So I decided to explore a different avenue—publishing with a small press. I researched Publisher’s Marketplace and sent out a small batch of submissions.
In May 2022, when Musk put in his bid for Twitter, I realized it provided a way to help publishers understand how my story about algorithms in healthcare was relevant and timely. I pitched it with this teaser: “Billionaires and their biased algorithms taking over social media are only the start.”
That garnered immediate requests to read the manuscript and, ultimately, an offer of publication from Black Rose Writing Press. (I wrote a little more about that on my blog here.)
We both live in the Pacific Northwest. You don’t live in Seattle but set your novel there. What do you love about the PNW, and why did you choose that iconic city for The Algorithm Will See You Now?
I don’t live in Seattle now, but I did in my twenties. I attended medical school at the University of Washington School of Medicine and have many positive—and intense—memories of my time and training there. I chose Seattle as the setting for The Algorithm Will See You Now because, in the near-future world of my book, it seemed the perfect setting and culture for a start-up conglomerate that rapidly takes over the healthcare landscape.
I love everything about the PNW. I was born and raised in Anchorage, AK, and the PNW affords a lot of the same closeness to nature without the isolation of living in Alaska (at least for me, growing up there before the age of the Internet, what was very isolating).
What can we find you doing when you aren’t writing?
I continue to practice medicine as a community hematologist-oncologist, but when I’m not working or writing, I’m mainly reading, crocheting, and trying to keep up with my three kids (tween, teen, and college).
What are you working on now?
I’m wrapping up final revisions on book 2, which is a prequel to The Algorithm Will See You Now and will be published in November of 2023.
Although each book can be read as a standalone, this next book features two of my characters from Algorithm in their younger years. It essentially tells the “villain origin story” of the antagonist in Algorithm, Dr. Marah Maddox, wrapped up in a historical thriller about the inhumanity of physician training in the 1990s interweaved with the true-life history of the medical rationing of the first kidney dialysis in 1960s Seattle. It will also be published by Black Rose Writing Press (title announcement soon!).
Final words of wisdom for aspiring writers:
I know it’s probably cliché, but just keep writing. Don’t give up. There are many paths, and none of them (or very few) are straight.
Find yourself a community of other writers. Rejections are a part of the journey, and you can’t take them personally. You have to be able to laugh (or at least shrug) them off. Having other writer friends helps with that. It’s also okay to wallow a little after a rejection, but then pick yourself up and keep going. Having writer friends to commiserate with helps you realize that it’s not just you – everyone is getting rejections as a part of this journey.
Also, what you write won’t be for everyone, and that’s okay. If you believe in your book, keep going. At the same time, if it’s no longer giving you joy, take a break. Writing every day works for some people but not for everyone. You don’t have to write every day to be a writer.
Great advice! Congratulations on your debut!
Author Pet Corner!
Sunny is our 11-year-old golden doodle with chronic anxiety, afraid of her own shadow, but with a true heart of gold.
Mack is our 5-year-old Boston Terrier. He’s an alpha male in his mind, but sadly trapped in a small squishy body (that leaks too many fluids).
Taffy is our 2-year-old gray tabby cat we recently adopted from the shelter. She’s the sweetheart we didn’t know we needed and has stolen all our hearts.
JL Lycette — Author of The Algorithm Will See You Now
JL / Jennifer Lycette is a novelist, award-winning essayist, rural physician, wife, and mother. Mid-career, she discovered narrative medicine on her path back from physician burnout and has been writing ever since.
Her essays can be found in Intima, NEJM, JAMA, and other journals; and online at Doximity and Medscape.
She is an alumna of the 2019 Pitch Wars Mentoring program and a member of ITW (International Thriller Writers) and PNWA (Pacific Northwest Writers Association).
Her other published speculative fiction can be found in the anthology And If That Mockingbird Don’t Sing: Parenting Stories Gone Speculative (Alternating Current Press). The Algorithm Will See You Now is her first novel. Her second novel (title and cover reveals coming soon!) will be out in November 2023.
To learn more about Jennifer, click on her name, photo, or any of the following links: Twitter, Mastodon, Facebook, LinkedIn & Spoutible
Elena Taylor/Elena Hartwell
Silver Falchion Award Finalist, Best Investigator
Foreword INDIE Award Finalist, Best Mystery
The Foundation of Plot, a Wait, Wait, Don’t Query (Yet!) guidebook. Amazon #1 bestseller
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