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I think I may be organic

Sharon Buchbinder, author of Some Other Child, Paranormal Romance Guild Best
Mystery/Thriller, 2012, interviewed me for her popular blog on July 30, 2013. She probed  with such queries as Why would a doctor want to write murder mysteries and thrillers ?  and Do you plot your novels or write by the seat of your pants as an organic writer?

The question that nearly stumped me was coming up with a theme song for my fourth and newly released novel Wiggle Room. Thank goodness I still watch some TV. 

I hope you enjoy the interview and comments to follow as much as I did.
----- Darden

The text of the entire piece is reprinted below (with a typo corrected), followed by posted comments:

Interview with Darden North, Author of Wiggle Room
3925Ra_5x7I am delighted to have my fellow member of Sisters in Crime, Darden North, with me today to chat with us about Wiggle Room, published by Sartoris Literary Group.
A native of the Mississippi Delta, Dr. Darden North is a board-certified physician in obstetrics and gynecology. North has written three previous novels—Fresh Frozen, House Call, and Points of Origin, which received the national IPPY Award, Southern Fiction category. Darden lives with his wife Sally in Jackson, Mississippi. They have two young-adult children, two dogs, and a grand dog.

Darden, what made you decide to be an author, specifically a mystery/suspense author?
Despite 24 years of formal education and at the time 19 years of medical practice, I realized that I still had an imagination. So since 2005, I now have four published novels. I like to write mystery/suspense and thrillers because I can make people into what I want them to be and then spin them around to see where they land.

What do you like best about being a writer? What do you like the least?
I just returned from a day-long, outdoor Saturday event that started in the rain where I signed my novels to a receptive group. I had several people come up to the tented booth at the Neshoba County Fair (deemed Mississippi’s Giant House Party) and tell me that they had been looking for me and were anxious for my next novel. They shared how much they enjoyed my work and wanted more. They also bought copies for friends and their local libraries. I’m fortunate to be a physician and be involved in the lives of my patients, and being an author is icing on the cake to a life that is never boring. However, I dislike having to deal with the problems facing the publishing industry, particularly with the difficulties already destroying the medical industry. If agents and publishers would recognize the particular strengths (and weaknesses) of each author while giving readers a little variety, the situation might improve. But then, I’m an optimist.

How do you think your life experiences have prepared you for writing mystery?
I grew up in the Deep South; I’m married; I have raised two children; I am a scientist of sorts; and I know a lot of busy people (and a lot of characters). I don’t sit still.

Have you ever felt as if you were being dictated to while you wrote a book–as if the words came of their own accord? If yes, which book did that happen with?   
No, unfortunately I’m not that lucky.     

You’ve written four novels and are working on a fifth. What’s your favorite time management tip?
Never waste time, use every second – but still remember to sleep and be thoughtful to others. It never hurts to smile. Also, remember that not everyone around you understands the importance of completing a manuscript.

Are you a plotter or a pantser, i.e., do you outline your books ahead of time or are you an “organic” writer?
I started my fifth novel (WIP) with a three-act outline (just like they teach you in the dim room of a writing conference). However, that was only a spring board to where WIP is now headed. I like to think that the outline is simply the seed for the “organic” writer to grow the story.

If you had one take away piece of advice for authors, what would it be?
Do not be envious of any other writer or author. Work on your own craft and never be afraid of advice – both good and bad. Attend writing conferences no matter how talented you think you are.

What is the theme song for this book? What music did you go back to over and over as you wrote it?    
Sometimes I write with the TV blaring in the background.  The theme songs of CSI and Downton Abbey help me to think about criminal activity and deepening social situations with a little romance and gentility mixed in. That’s what I write about.    
Tell me more about Wiggle Room WiggleRoomcoverfinal5-25

My favorite elevator pitch is: In Wiggle Room Dr. Brad Cummins saves a man’s life. Now that man wants him dead.
Please allow me to share the following kind words about Wiggle Room:
“North’s visually acute, action-packed style … is likely headed for the silver screen.”– New York Journal of Books
“…cleverly plotted, strongly written, [Wiggle Room] will pull you into a story world filled with danger, excitement, and conflict at every turn.” —D.P. Lyle, Macavity award-winning author of Run to Ground
“An action-packed, edge-of-the-seat thriller.” — Carolyn Haines, author of Bonefire of the Vanities
“Darden North’s Wiggle Room is a compelling story packed with suspense, murder, and intrigue….a fast-paced, action-packed thriller.” —Neil White, author of In the Sanctuary of Outcasts

How about an excerpt from Wiggle Room by Darden North?
Shards of asphalt ripped the barricade against the thin-walled trailer, throwing Brad from his bunk and a near-comatose sleep. He scrambled for his watch as the burst of sandbags outside pre-emptied the claxon’s late warning. Another mortar shell erupted on the pavement, the sound muffled by a voice from the radio: Your butt OK? Better be, ’cause I need it, or there won’t be anything alive to transport outta here tonight.
“Damn, Elizabeth, I think that makes number 38, doesn’t it? Thank God for that wall,” Brad said.
“Enemy’s been busy, Major. But this one’s over, gotta be. And, like I said, I need you here at the hospital.”
Brad sat up on the bare floor, leaning his head against the bed, still below the level of the sandbag barrier outside. Another look at his watch: he was due two hours of daylight sleep, and last night’s flight transporting military patients had drained him.
“Come on, it’s only 3:00 PM, Cossar, and I was down pretty hard.”
“But that’s why you doctors make the big bucks,” she chuckled. “Oh, that’s right, forgot—you volunteered.”
The two-way radio cracked a bit as the last insurgents’ shell hit a random target within the base, the strike still close enough to pepper the sandbags and weaken Brad’s grip on the casing. He found the radio on the floor.
“And my four months is about up,” he said. “Bet you called just to see if my guts were splattered across the Sunni Triangle.”
“You trauma guys are really too smart, particularly the sexy ones. You can see right through a nurse like me, or at least you’d like to.”
Brad grimaced. All he wanted to do was crawl back up into bed.
“Relax, Cossar, I’ll make the next air transport to Landstuhl.”
“For now, I need some help in the ICU, so head on in to the hospital,” she said.
“Why can’t Haynes handle it?”
Brad stretched across his bunk and popped the pillow back into shape.
“Called in sick this morning. Said he had the flu, but if you ask me it’s probably the rough morning-after virus. Besides, Colonel Haynes never seems to be much help in the OR, unless it’s something simple. And if you add in this new issue.”
“What issue?”
“Last week after lunch, one of my nurses thought she smelled something on his breath, even through a surgical mask. She wrote him up. He bit my head off when I showed him the report.”
“That’s the Haynes from Mississippi I know,” Brad said. “Continuing the party at work.”
Cossar laughed. “Said he had a cold and the smell was from sucking on menthol.”
There was quiet outside and from the radio. The shelling was over.
Then the quiet ended.
“Sorry, my dear Major. We just got word that the medical administrator has pointed a Black Hawk our way,” Cossar said.
Brad threw his feet to the floor and reached for clean underwear and socks from the small dresser near his bed. He tossed the radio to his left hand and stepped over to the sink.
“Shit. How many casualties on board the helicopter? Can’t be more than six.”
He picked up his toothbrush and opened a bottle of water.
“Not sure. Guess we’ll find out when it puts down.”
“OK, Lieutenant Colonel, I’m headed your way.”
He pulled the radio clear of his spit into the sink and ran the faucet, drowning a familiar Gee, thanks, sweety! as she clicked off.
Brad grabbed his Air Force PT gear and pitched the radio onto his desk. It landed atop Leslie’s photographs of wedding cake and groom’s cake designs, samples emailed a couple of days ago and waiting his approval. His reply using the base computer station would have to wait. The insurgents’ attack had changed things.
Skipping a shower, he threw on the blue running shorts, gray shirt, and tennis shoes, and stepped out onto the warm asphalt of September Iraq. After the All Clear command, the warning sirens were silent. There was little traffic as he jogged around the sandbags to the Air Force Theater Hospital. Situated near the 12-foot concrete wall that surrounded the base, the hospital was shielded against direct mortar strikes. He hoped that the only misery ahead was the load arriving with the Black Hawk.
Beads of sweat slid into the corner of his mouth as Brad reached the rear hospital entrance. He pushed his ID badge in the face of the security post then cleared the metal detector. Minor medical and clerical personnel jammed the rear hall. He slipped into the physician’s locker room, changed into surgical scrubs, and entered the main corridor. The wall-sized mural of Saddam Hussein greeted him, the deposed leader dressed in full military regalia as though still directing the Republican Guard that once trained on the premises. Al-Bakir Air Base had become Balad Air Base Theatre Hospital.
Brad pulled open the curtained entrance to Surgical ICU. He stared at the patient bays, all but one empty and separated by thin shelves stacked in disarray with supplies including vials of medication. Squeezed between two bays was a clerical work area: a six-foot folding table anchored by two computer monitors and littered with piles of papers and empty coffee cups, along with displaced boxes of surgical gloves and more syringes of narcotic pain medicine. The blue curtains serving as walls made the area appear no more high-tech than a movie set. Yet the equipment within and behind the drapes was state-of-the art for 2006, the same high standards required of the surgeons and nurses who worked there.
One of those nurses was Elizabeth Cossar, standing in starched, light-blue uniform, a below-the-knee skirt finished with beige stockings and black, thick rubber-soled shoes. Her commanding pose rivaled that of the fallen dictator.
“Lieutenant Colonel Elizabeth Taylor Cossar, I am reporting for duty,” Brad said. “And, my dear, it’s only ’cause I love you and you’re my favorite nurse over here.”
“That’s right, Major. You’ve learned, and you’re sweating … and I like that.”
“Glad you do, but I’m really too tired to sweat much more,” Brad said, raising an eyebrow.
“I jogged over here because you predicted disaster. But I’ve seen morgues more exciting than this place, Cossar.”
She turned away.
Brad imagined the disapproval on her face. “How much longer ’til the helicopter sets down?” he asked. “Do you think maybe we should clean up this mess before our guests arrive?”
Where can readers find more about your stories, books and you on the Internet?
On my website I post news about my newest releases, brief synopses of each of my novels, a link to purchase both print and eBook versions of all four, as well as interviews, features, and scheduled book signings and other events. I participate in Goodreads, Readers Meet Authors and Bloggers on Google + in addition to and among others. Find me on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn as dardennorth.

Buy Links: (Amazon – Kindle and Trade Paperback)
Signed Copies – Lemuria Bookstore
Darden, thank you so much for being with us here today. I know my readers will enjoy your work and your interview.


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