The following interview written by reporter Eileen Smith Dallabrida will appear as an article in an upcoming issue of The Christiana Care Focus:
As an oncologist, Charles J. Schneider, M.D., cares for patients at the Helen F. Graham Cancer Center, evaluating treatments and strategies to save lives.
As a writer, he navigates scenarios and plot twists to bring characters to life. His debut novel, A Portrait in Time, is a murder mystery bubbling with art theft, romance and an accidental time traveler.
Dr. Schneider began writing as a lad, penning poems and fantasy short stories in middle school. He rode his bike to the bookstore to buy works by great writers: Charles Dickens, Jack London, Edgar Allan Poe. Classics were piled high on his nightstand.
By the time he started college, he had decided to devote his life to medicine. Still, he remained engaged with writing, minoring in literature and drama.
“Shakespeare, Ibsen, O’Neill,” he said.
He shared a love of literature with his father, to whom he has dedicated the book. Charles M. Schneider was a scientist and teacher who also had an artistic side, painting and writing.
“It was a disappointment to him that he was never able to get his work published,” Dr. Schneider said.
In 2006, his father was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. Two years later, as the elder Schneider neared the end of his life, father and son talked about their shared love of writing.
Dr. Schneider spoke of his desire to write a book that would be a popular read, as well as an enduring work of fiction.
“My father said ‘you will,’ as if he knew that I would,” he said.
It took three years of work and four rewrites to complete A Portrait in Time. Dr. Schneider worked early in the morning, as well as during rare pauses between patients at his practice, Medical Oncology Hematology Consultants. For nine months, he worked intensively with William Thompson, the editor who discovered Stephen King and John Grisham.
His inspiration was an enigmatic painting of a nude that hung in his grandparents’ bedroom. Years later, he learned the model was his grandmother, a discovery that evolved into the premise for the novel.
“What if the model was from another century, a relative who posed for Impressionist painters?” he asked.
Dr. Schneider’s book is available electronically through Amazon and Barnes and Noble. Printed editions will be released in December. He also will promote A Portrait in Time at book signings. A portion of the sales money will go to the Graham Cancer Center.
“My father received excellent care there and I take care of patients there, so it’s very fitting,” he said.
Dr. Schneider already is thinking about his next book, perhaps bringing back some of the characters from A Portrait in Time.
“It ends in a way that there could be a sequel,” he said.