About the Author
Q:How long did it take you to write Brain Dead?
A:Including the time I took to do research, about nine months.
Q:The way you write dialogue for Timmie Leary contains powerful, gritty language reminiscent of N.Y.P.D. Blue or E.R.How much of this is a conscious effort, and how much, if any, of this style did you pick up from your experiences as a nurse, or from other literature?
A:The truth of the matter is that I have tried my best in my medical thrillers to recreate as closely as I can the medical world that I worked in for 20 years.Like any other group of people who deal with the less pleasant aspects of human behavior on a day to day basis, medical personnel tend to use very strong language and the blackest of humor.As a matter of fact, I've toned down some of Timmie's humor, because the real dialogue in trauma centers sounds much less altruistic, no matter how caring and committed the people are.
Q:When did you first begin to think about the plot of Brain Dead?Were you inspired by real world events that paralleled the things you write about in the novel?
A:The plot for Brain Dead actually began with a joke for my sister, who is divorced.We were talking about some other books I'd done in which I'd vicariously killed off people who had made my nursing life difficult some doctors in A Man to Die For, hospital administrators in Nothing Personal, and lawyers in Bad Medicine.My sister asked me to take care of her problems by killing off ex-husbands.So I incorporated that into Brain Dead.
I always include some health care issue that I feel strongly about in my novels.In Brain Dead, for example, it turned out to be the struggle between the commercialization of health care, Alzheimers, and how we will all deal with our loved ones and our own failing health.
Q:How closely do you model the characters in Brain Dead on yourself or co-workers?Has this caused any difficulty or are people flattered by it?
A:I believe that most protagonists must share some of the beliefs and prejudices of the creating author.After all, I won't think my character heroic in the least if he or she does not embody at least a few of the principles in which I believe.I'm also told by my family that my voice tends to come through in my lead characters. As for other characters in my books, what I tend to do is steal archetypes.There are certain personality types pulled to any occupation.The kind of person who is good as a floor nurse stinks as an ER nurse and vice versa.If you write about the personality type, people will think they recognize the character.The only character I deliberately stole is my best friend Annie, who shows up as Poppi in A Man to Die For.But, I truly do make it all up
Q:What can you tell us about the process of character development in Brain Dead?How did you decide to make the main characters, Timmie Leary and Daniel Murphy, the way they are?
A:I spend a lot of time on my main characters before they show up in print.I like the balance of a male-female team so I write both a male and female protagonist into the story.I believe each adds something to the other, and offers insights the other gender doesn1t have. As for Timmie, she was born of my training in death investigation.I wanted her to really love her job as a trauma nurse.I also wanted her to be a fish out of water.Add those things and you get a woman who has loved working at the Los Angeles County-USC Medical Center, the largest gun and knife club in the world, but who finds herself broke and home in a bedroom community outside of St. Louis working in a little stop-and-go emergency room where her skills are wasted.Timmie is edgy because she's bored, she's quick and decisive because that is what a trauma nurse needs to be and she's miserable where she is, because it's not what she wants.Timmie also has a certain big-city prejudice about small-town dangers and that makes her a wee bit stubborn about what1s going on.
Murphy is Timmie's antithesis:Where Timmie acts, Murphy observes; where Timmie lives for the sound of a siren, Murphy dreads it.As a burned out reporter, Murphy wants peace, quiet and oblivion.But he is also, in this small, conservative river town, a fish out of water, which is what draws him to Timmie.He is also the kind of person who can't pass up a puzzle, no matter what he professes.
Q:What is your next project?
A:Right now I'm working on the sequel to Bad Medicine, in which Molly Burke, my Vietnam vet heroine/trauma nurse/death investigator for the city of St. Louis, is forced to reexamine her past in search of a serial killer who seems to have known her and returns to perform for her.The working title is Head Games.