Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Interview: JL Greger

One of the interesting things about this crime thriller is that JL Greger has real world experience dealing with these types of situations. Today we get to find out more about Coming Flu and how the Greger's experiences helped shaped the story. 

1. What was your inspiration for "Coming Flu?"
 My inspirations are the discoveries in biology announced almost daily. In Coming Flu, I wanted to make people think. As a biologist, I know a serious flu pandemic, like the one that killed 20% of those infected in 1918-20, is possible. All it would take is one, or more likely four or five, mutations in a common flu virus.

I didn’t want to write an apocalyptic tome, but one with hopeful reality. That meant demonstrating the importance of scientific research is gaining control of the flu virus and the illustrating the limitations of modern medicine, especially when resources are stretched to the breaking point.

Does that sound dire? Dramatic? Scary” Coming Flu is a medical thriller, but it is
not gory. This is a story of those who fight to survive.

2. Can you tell us about the importance of the setting of this book? The residents of the gated, neatly groomed community of La Bendita in New Mexico assume that they are protected against crime and the afflictions of the poor, including inadequate medical care. Thus the quarantine of La Bendita, which protects the rest of the Albuquerque area from being exposed to the virulent Philippine flu virus, is a shock to their sensibilities.

3. The key player in this story is Sara, a retired epidemiologist. Can you describe her character and how she impacts the situation? Sometimes we (as readers and in our lives in general) are so enamored with the successes of those who treat the sick and track criminals, we forget their successes are dependent on people, like Sara, who find the important clues.
Sara is an epidemiologist, a scientist, by temperament and training. She’s focused and sometimes interacts poorly with others, tenacious to the point of being fool hearty occasionally, and realistic, except when it comes to her dog Bug.

4. Can you tell us a little about your own scientific background and how that influenced the story? I taught, did research on nutrition and toxicology, and served as an administrator at universities for more than thirty. However, I enjoyed applying the science in “exotic” locations. Hence I’ve consulted on public health and science curriculum in the Philippines, the Marshall Islands, Beirut, and the United Arab Emirates.

5. How difficult was it to know which items to explain in detail and how much technical information to use? I tried to give brief scientific explanation so that events were logical, not magical or unexplained. I assume some will say I gave too many details, some will say
too few.

6. There is a second storyline that develops in this book involving criminal activity. What made you decide to include this other storyline rather than just focus on the epidemic? Three reasons. First, I wanted to demonstrate that the nice residents of La Bendita were not immune to crime or disease. Second, I wanted to demonstrate how completely quarantines change lives. The logical response, at least for some, to the loss of freedom during a quarantine is to try to escape. Who would be better at planning an escape from a quarantine than an experienced criminal? Third, I wanted to make readers think. Who was the greater threat: the flu or a drug kingpin?

7. Who are your favorite writers? Michael Crichton, John Gresham. Although I generally don’t enjoy the paranormal, I loved the Harry Potter series.

8. Do you have any interesting habits or rituals when you write? Not really, but my dog Bug generally sits by me as I write.

9. Can you tell us about any future projects? Oak Tree Press will publish Murder: A New Way to Lose Weight, a medical mystery and sequel to Coming Flu, in March 2013.

Dr. Linda Almquist, Sara’s introspective sister, is investigating a “diet doctor” for
recklessly endangering his obese patients, while suspecting him of murdering
his partner. She might be wrong. The murders may be related to her boss’s past.
While Linda fears for her job, the police fear for her life.

I’m working on the third novel in this sequence, now tentatively called Dull the
Pain. But the title is apt to change because I changed the title of Coming Flu
three times.

Coming Flu is available from Oak Tree Press and Amazon

You can find out more about JL Greger and her writing on her website.