Through her popular blog, North Carolina mystery writer, Susan Whitfield, interviews and showcases other writers from around the globe as they discuss the writing process On May 5, 2010, I was lucky that she interviewed me. Whitfield's published books include Genesis Beach, Just North of Luck, and Hell Swamp." Killer Recipes,a cookbook by mystery writers, will be released in August. Sin Creek will be released in late Fall. For more information, go to www.susanwhitfieldonline.com.
The following is a reprint of Susan Whitfield's Guest Blog of May 5, 2010:
My special guest today is Dr. Darden North, a board-certified obstetrician-gynecologist physician and the author of three mystery/suspense/medical thriller novels published in hardcover: House Call (2005), Points of Origin (2006), and Fresh Frozen (2008). All three works have been awarded nationally, most notably Points of Origin for southern fiction by the Independent Publisher Book Awards (IPPY). He is a member of Mystery Writers of America, Sisters in Crime, and the Mississippi Institute of Arts and Letters among other organizations. While having served on numerous author seminar panels, Darden North is writing a fourth novel and maintains an active, full-time medical practice. He lives in Jackson, Mississippi, with his wife, two children, and three dogs and also enjoys walking and gardening.
Whitfield: Whew! Apparently you don't sleep.What are your writing goals?
North: My goal as an author is to continue to enjoy writing commercial fiction. Watching my reader base expand amazes me, and I am grateful. Also, I have no intention of giving up the practice of medicine while I write.
Whitfield: Is there a message in your writing you want readers to grasp?
North: I want my readers to enjoy a unique, fast-paced story with a never-saw-it-comin’ ending and then race back for more.
Whitfield: That's what I'm taking about! What’s the hook for your latest published book?
North: Fresh Frozen (October 2008) -- Can selling human eggs and embryos lead to fame and fortune? Two doctors have competition when everyone wants a piece of movie star Allyn Saxton --- not her career, not her autograph, not a one-night stand, but her frozen embryos.
Whitfield: Okay. I'm hooked. Tell us more about Fresh Frozen.
North: Mega-movie star Allyn Saxton survives the thumb of her conniving mother as she grows from a popular child actress into an international celebrity. However, when a string of broken relationships and marriages leave her childless, Saxton slips down to Mississippi and the secluded, state-of-the-art Van Deman Reproduction Center in hopes of having a baby. Secluded, it’s not, when someone hires Internet spy Tinker Murtagh to break through the Center’s security system and steal Saxton’s frozen embryos. Even Murtagh is unaware that in the facility’s next exam room his camera catches the competition for the prize. There, a nearly-bankrupt policeman and his tormented wife are also being treated by Dr. Van Deman, so desperate is the cop’s wife for pregnancy that she is willing to kill for it. Human reproductive tissue becomes a fatal commodity in Fresh Frozen.
Whitfield: Do you think your writing has improved since your first attempt? In what way? How do you determine voice in your writing?
North: Only the most narcissistic of artists would claim that his/her craft needs no improvement. Certainly, that skill refinement proceeds faster for some. The secret in writing fiction, I believe, is never to peak, and I would hope that my effort is far from that. Real-life doctors are brimming with self-confidence; their patients count on it. It’s that self-assurance that plunges many in my profession into writing novels. (When I joined the fray, I was surprised at the number of successful physician novelists as well as authors of non-fiction.) Realizing the value of getting professional critiques of one’s writing is the leap to improvement – attending writing seminars and networking sort of separates the “real” physician authors from the interns. The International Thriller Writers Conference and the SEAK Advanced Writing Seminar were my first national conferences. I have met a great editor by attending these events and have begun to understand what contemporary agents and publishers are looking for. In addition, since my first novel, House Call, I have begun to understand the clarity of voice in character exchange and development.
Whitfield: How do you develop characters?
North: Inventing characters and naming them is part of what makes this journey fun for me. I enjoy writing dialogue and have been told by reviewers that I’m good at it. Maybe I’m a frustrated screenplay writer. A great promotional tool has been to donate character names at charity functions in which the winner gets his/her name used in one of my upcoming novels. Somebody contributed 350 bucks for that privilege! And they’re getting their money’s worth for sure in my work-in-progress, Wiggle Room. Regarding setting, I generally use places that I’m familiar with although I utilize the Internet as a setting research tool. Wiggle Room begins in 2006 war-torn Iraq. Since I have no personal military experience, I have interviewed several who do. From what I’ve learned from my research in developing my fourth novel, I hope to draw readers deep into a twisted murder mystery.
Whitfield: What are your protagonist’s strengths? Flaws?
North: Dr. Knox Chamblee is the protagonist in my first and third novels, House Call and Fresh Frozen, respectively. Chamblee appears briefly in my second, Points of Origin. (Readers seemed to like him so much that I realized I needed to keep him. In fact, a reader told me that the young guy was getting sexier with each book.) Chamblee’s flaw is that he’s too trusting of others. He fails to see the bad guy. Maybe that will change.
Whitfield: How does your environment/upbringing color your writing?
North: I was born and raised in the Deep South – Mississippi breeds writers. You might be surprised, but I did not grow up immersed in prejudice or racial discrimination, so I don’t write about that. My choice has been to depict the contemporary South in my work: a place full of talented, congenial, inventive people.
Whitfield: And we appreciate that. I'm from North Carolina. How do you promote yourself online and off?
North: The center of my online presence is a website professionally-designed for me by a fantastic graphic artist. My website www.dardennorth.com receives a growing number of monthly hits, topping 20,000. I also maintain an active site on AuthorsDen, which allows me to list my author events, news, and book releases and quickly makes the information available through Internet search engines. I get another approximate 5000 hits per month through that site. Participating on several author listserves, guest blogging, and offering Internet interviews (both audio and written) have been invaluable in introducing my three novels to a much wider audience. I schedule as many physical book signings as possible, combining business trips and vacations with book signings. Libraries, book and community service-oriented clubs, as well as other organizations, seem to enjoy my presentations.
Whitfield: Tell us a little about the work-in-progress.
North: My work-in-progress is tentatively titled Wiggle Room. Serving four months in Iraq, Dr. Brad Cummins fails to save an injured soldier even as he mends the GI’s attacker. Once back in the U.S., still blaming himself for returning the insurgent to the killing fields, Cummins discovers his look-alike brother shot to death and soon realizes that he is the intended target.
Whitfield: Where can folks learn more about your books and events?
North: Please check out my website http://www.dardennorth.com/ , which is updated frequently. I do blog on my site occasionally. The book trailer for my third novel, Fresh Frozen, is posted on the website. Each book has its own page there as well as a “Buy It” link to online and physical bookstores, many offering signed copies. My novels are available wherever books are sold and will soon be available as e-books through Kindle, Smashwords, and other electronic media.
Whitfield: Darden, it has been my pleasure to interview you. Continued success not only in your writing but also your thriving medical practice.
----- Susan Whitfield