Could you please start by telling us a little about yourself?
I've been a scientist, professor, and expert consultant on science-related projects not only in the US, but also in the Marshall Islands, Beirut, the Philippines, etc. Now I'm a writer, who tries to put bits of science into her novels.
Please tell us a little about your newest release without giving away too much of the plot.
In Coming Flu (published by Oak Tree Press in July 2012) a new flu strain—the Philippine—kills more than two hundred in less than a week in a walled community near the Rio Grande. The rest face a bleak future when quarantine is imposed. One resident, Sara Almquist, a medical epidemiologist, pries into every aspect of her neighbors' lives looking for ways to stop the spread of the flu. She finds promising clues—maybe too many!
Why do you write fiction?
I enjoy being a storyteller, but I also want to make people think about big picture issues (things that bug me in my blog, www.jlgregerblogspot.blog.com). For example, I was appalled when I compared the amount of column space devoted to crime versus the amount of space allotted to science and health issues in my local paper (The Albuquerque Journal). In Coming Flu, I gave readers a chance to assess who was more dangerous: a nice neighbor infected with the Philippine flu virus or a drug dealer.
That’s kind of heavy.
Not really. Coming Flu is filled with interesting people, quirky and yet like your neighbors. Some are funny and a joy to relax with on a hot afternoon; some you’d rather see only briefly at the mailbox. There’s also lots of action.
What was the hardest part of writing your book?
Writing the opening chapter.
How do you come up with ideas for your novels?
As I read weekly scientific journals, like Science, I “clip” interesting articles. Before I start to write a new novel, I review my file, looking for emerging themes.
For example, about 18 months ago, I noticed many scientists were interested in how the millions, actually billions, of microorganisms in our guts influenced our ability to lose weight. I also noted the exaggerated claims of “so-called diet doctors” in the popular press and on TV. I thought maybe dieters, which include most of us at times, would enjoy a murder mystery, involving scientists studying weight loss. Oak Tree Press will publish Murder: A New Way to Lose Weight in April.
Will any of the characters in Coming Flu appear in your next novel?
Yes. I envision at least three books in this series.
Sara Almquist, an epidemiologist, is the protagonist in Coming Flu and her sister Linda, a physician, is a minor character. In Murder: A New Way to Lose Weight the roles are reversed. The personalities of the sisters set the tones of the novels. Linda is more introspective, i.e. more suited to a mystery. Sara is more of a risk-taker, i.e. suited to a thriller.
What are you working on now?
The next novel in the series. Sara, as an epidemiologist, will accept an assignment in Bolivia. And yes, I have traveled across the Altiplano from Lake Titicaca to La Paz in Bolivia.
What do you like to do when you’re not writing?
Travel and spend time with my dog Bug. Unfortunately, Bug can’t go with me to exotic locations.
Coming Flu is available at Amazon http://www.amazon.com/Coming-Flu-J-L-Greger/dp/1610090985?
and Oak Tree Press http://oaktreebooks.com/Shop%20OTP.htm#ComFlu
JL Greger has been a scientist, professor, textbook writer, and university administrator and is not a writer. Coming Fu, a medical thriller, was published in July 2012. The sequel, a medical mystery called Murder: A New Way to Lose Weight will be published in April 2013. The inspiration for the Japanese Chin Bug in Coming Flu is her real dog, Bug. She and Bug live in the American Southwest.