Darden North is interviewed by Jean Henry Mead on "Mysterious People"

This interview originally appeared 04/2009 on Jean Henry Mead's wonderful blog "Mysterious People" as part of her series of conversations with and articles by
mystery/suspense/thriller/crime authors. http://mysteriouspeople.blogspot.com/

Sunday, April 19, 2009 ...
A Conversation with Darden North, MD, author of FRESH FROZEN

Hosted by author Jean Henry Mead

Darden North, a practicing obstetrician, is a graduate of Ole Miss and writes award-winning medical thrillers from John Grisham territory.

Darden, how did your novel writing evolve?

I decided to write a novel because there were characters, unique characters, screaming to get out. That might be a corny answer, but after 24 years of formal education and 10 years of private medical practice, it was time to share some of those squirrelly folks with others. Of course, I would take another 10 years for my first novel to hit the shelves. I think that I can speak for any southern author in declaring that “down here” we have lots of “character references.” Just dose the eccentrics that comprise a large chunk of the medical profession with several capsules of southern flair and an author has a wealth of material.

Tell us about your novels, which I understand have all been honored by the Mississippi Institute for Arts and Letters as well as the Southern Independent Book Association.

All three novels have been released in hardcover with a paperback release of House Call to add to the bunch, which I do not describe as a series. In House Call, my premiere novel, the murder investigation of a young hospital nurse weaves through a southern town consumed in self-indulgence, reverse discrimination, diverse characters, and more death. This fictionalized behind-the-scenes look at the medical industry was also a National Finalist in Mystery/Suspense in the 2008 New Indie Book Awards.

In my second novel, Points of Origin, also set in contemporary Mississippi, the death of Flowers Ridley costs Dr. Dan Foxworth his reputation, his fortune, his plastic surgery dynasty, and ultimately his own life. Still reeling from the tragedy and struggling to overcome his rejection from medical school, Dr. Foxworth’s son, Sher, breaks with family tradition and becomes a fireman. His new occupation pits him against a former schoolmate, now an arsonist hired to torch the mansion of Cordell Pixler, the same medical malpractice attorney who ruined Sher’s father. Points of Origin also placed in Southern Fiction in the 2007 Independent Publishers Book Awards.

My third novel, Fresh Frozen, is a timely medical thriller that explores the debate over unbridled infertility practices with a murder mystery thrown into the mix. In Fresh Frozen, a young policeman and his tormented wife discover that human reproductive tissue can become a fatal commodity. A grisly southern murder, a movie star, and a heist of frozen human embryos draw mystery and suspense readers into an intriguing twist of human greed, mental torment, and medical science.

How do you manage to find time to participate in so many writer organizational conferences as a panelist as well as conduct so many media interviews?

I never waste any time and have always had several projects in tow. Maybe it’s because I’m an only child and was forced early on into entertaining myself. Fortunately, I am one of the more senior members of a well-established, multi-physician obstetrics and gynecology practice in Jackson, MS. All of the doctors have other interests besides practicing medicine and are available to share on-call duties. Regarding promoting myself as an author, I continue to pay very close attention to marketing trends and available options while still striving to write good fiction. I enjoy speaking to groups and giving live presentations and interviews. There is something to be said for self-confidence, whether it’s justified or not!

And when do you have time to write? What’s your writing schedule like?

I’m afraid that my writing schedule is sporadic. I write when I can, but my mind is always in gear. That’s what “they” call creativity. Once our two children graduated from high school, I was able to carve out an hour or two during nights at home to write since I was no longer needed to help with homework. Teaching myself how to type and becoming semi-proficient with the use of a computer has made it possible for me to produce in a four-year span three novels of between 80,000 to 100,000 words each. Ideally, I would like to write for an hour or two before work each morning, but when you have to be at the hospital by 7:00 a.m., getting up a couple of hours earlier is a little rough.

How did growing up in the Deep South influence your work?

Being from Mississippi seems to give one the desire to write. After all, there is a long literary heritage: Faulkner, Foote, Welty, Morris, Grisham, and Iles to name an illustrious few. It was the exposure to the works of contemporary Mississippi authors that drew me to the craft. Since I knew of no physician in active medical practice who was writing novels, I decided to try to fill the void. Also, the historical events and people of the South have been tumultuous, controversial, murderous, joyous, and benevolent, with the contemporary becoming increasingly progressive. Therefore, this rich, juicy birthright yields a smorgasbord of characters and plots. I actually grew up in the Mississippi Delta, and you just can’t get any deeper than that.

With a degree in zoology and minors in English and chemistry from Ole Miss, why did you decide to train in obstetrics and gynecology? And are all your novels medical thrillers?

When I was an undergraduate at Ole Miss in the late 1970s, a student pursuing admission to medical school was termed a pre-med student, which, of course, is still an accurate description for the 2000s. From the beginning of the freshman year, my peers and I considered our major to be pre-med. Therefore, a more declarative major was not necessary until diploma time came around. I happened to have the hours in zoology, chemistry, and English enabling me to declare those majors. To further date myself as a dinosaur, Ole Miss pre-med students no longer even take zoology.

I need to point out that Ole Miss (the University of Mississippi) is located in Oxford, the home of William Faulkner and is, therefore, no better place to absorb the mystique that should envelope a writer. I was lucky enough to spend four wonderful years there. Also, I was fortunate to choose a medical and surgical career in ob/gyn that has brought me close to so many, many families during important milestones in their lives. That profession remains rewarding for me. Regarding my response to the second part of this question, I will be exploring the consideration of my novels as medical thrillers in my accompanying article.

Did the work of fellow Mississippian John Grisham influence your work in any way?

John Grisham’s success has inspired many of us. I have read all but his most recent novel and recently had the opportunity to meet him at an Ole Miss Alumni Association function in Oxford. There were a few seconds to chat when I shared with him that I had written three novels and plan to write more. I added that some readers have commented that I am “the John Grisham of medical thrillers.” I referred to his speech given earlier in the evening’s program in which he mentioned that while a lowly law school student at Ole Miss he successfully approached Mississippi author Willie Morris for an author endorsement or book jacket blurb. Sadly, John did not take the hint at doing the same for me. After kindly posing with my wife Sally in a picture as I served as photographer, he wished the two of us luck.

Who are your favorite authors?

Greg Iles, Martin Hegwood, Robin Cook, Steve Yarbrough, Gayden Metcalfe and Charlotte Hays.

Advice to fledgling writers?

Never give up, work as hard at your craft as you can, never turn down a legal opportunity to promote yourself as an author or writer, and never discard anything that you have written. Also, try to remember to enjoy your journey while maintaining and perfecting your “real” job as well.

Thank you,
Darden

Darden's web and blog sites:

www.dardennorth.com
http://www.dardennorth.com/blog/index.html
http://novelsbydardennorth.ning.com/

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