An Interview With J.L. Greger

J. L. Greger writes mysteries and thrillers with “sound bites” of science and travel.

  • Discover who killed the set doctor in Murder… A Way to Lose Weight (winner of 2016 Public Safety Writers Assoc. [PSWA] contest and finalist for New Mexico/Arizona Book Awards. http://amzn.com/1610092392)
  • Follow a woman as she uses clues from her past to extract a nuclear scientist from Iran in I Saw You in Beirut. (http://www.amazon.com/dp/1610092201) 
  • Shadow a woman scientist as she tries to escape the clutches of a drug lord and accepts a risky assignment in Cuba in Malignancy. (winner of 2015 Public Safety Writers contest.http://amzn.com/1610091779)
  • Learn the truth about childhoods in the 1950s and 1960s in The Good Old Days? A Collection of Stories. (http://amzn.com/1537743813)
  • Her other books include Coming Flu and Ignore the Pain. Learn more about her at her website: http://.www.jlgreger.com and Amazon author page: https://www.amazon.com/-/e/B008IFZSC4

 

BMH:  What is something you wish someone would have told you before you became an author?

JG:      I knew I would have to do publicity for my writing but I didn’t realize that would to learn so much about social media, i.e. blogs, Facebook, Linked In, and Twitter, during the last ten years. The Blurb and PR are harder to write than the novels.

BMH: You can go back in time, meet and chat with anyone, who would it be? What would you talk about?

JG:      That’s a hard question. Marie Curie or Elizabeth I of England. Both women didn’t meet society’s norms for women. I’d ask both the same question. Would your life have been easier if you were a man? I suspect they’d say no, but it would have been different.

BMH: Why crime fiction?

JG:      I guess I write the type of novel I enjoy reading. I like novels with strong plots that make me think and that have lots of action.

BMH:  Have you written in other genres?

JG:      I written The Good Old Days? A Collection of Short Stories. The stories could be classified as historical or maybe even literary fiction.

BMH: What is something you’ve never written about, but hope to some day?

JG:      I want to write about real social problems and I have. In several of the stories in The Good Old Days?, I address child and spousal abuse. It’s annoying how many seem to think these are new problems in our society or that these problems do not affect middle-class, so called “nice” Americans. In all my thrillers and mysteries, I try to gently probe the stereotypes that hinder women in the work place. That’s why my heroine, Sara Almquist, is an outgoing scientist, not a shy, bookish nerd.

BMH:  How big a part did your upbringing have on your writing?

JG:      I always knew I would have to support myself. So I trained to be a scientist, and figured I’d do arty things after I had an established career. Thus I was professor in biology and wrote hundreds of research reports and 4 editions of a text on nutrition. I learned to enjoy writing and retired early so I could write novels.

BMH: What two words best describes your writing style?

JG:      Fact-based and fast-paced. I cheated and used hyphenated words.

BMH:  How do you create your characters?

JG:      My characters grow out of reality and are and often are an amalgam of traits I’ve observed in others. For example, the dean of the medical school in Murder…A Way to Lose Weight is not any one person but a combo of about a dozen university administrators I observed. Several of them would hold their hands in a praying position when they were finessing a point. I couldn’t resist have my medical school dean do it whenever he wasn’t exactly telling the whole truth.

BMH:  Outliner or seat-of-your-pants writer?

JG:      I’m a combination. Each of my novels start with a what if question. Then I comb the scientific literature and news headlines for ideas for information related to the topic. Usually I prepare about a 5-page outline with plot, scene, and character sketches. Then I let the character take over and tell me what they think.

BMH: When did you know you wanted to be a writer?

JG:      First off, no matter your career, you have to become a writer to succeed. Scientific research is really just a hobby, unless you write the result clearly and get your results disseminated in journals. Publish or perish is reality. Now I’ll give more the type of answer you expected. As an assistant professor, I realized sometimes the best way to tell the truth was through fiction. But I decided bide my time and gain life experiences before I tried to write a novel.

BMH: Do you have a daily writing routine?

JG:      Yes and no. I try to spend 40 hours a week on writing related activities. That includes writing and editing fiction, publicizing my work (through blogs, Facebook, twitter, talks, book signings, etc.), attending conferences or writers’ meetings, and doing research. The percent of time on each activity depends on where I’m at in the writing cycle and my mood.

BMH: How do you handle research?

JG:      Carefully and thoroughly. Ok, enough of being a smart ass. I collect ideas, both electronically and in paper files, daily. I have hundreds of files. Some are on interesting travel sites and of course my travel experiences. Others are on interesting scientific ideas, for example your gut bacteria can affect your weight. I used that idea in Murder…A Way to Lose Weight. Still others are news clippings with interesting quotes or character profile. Before I start a novel, I spend a month reviewing my files and picking out ideas and locations that fit together.

BMH:  How much editing do you do as you write your first draft?

JG:      I’m a slow writer because I revise constantly.

BMH: How do you use social media to promote yourself?

JG:      I try to write one or two blog a week—my own and guest blogs. I advertise it on twitter and on at least twenty Facebook sites. I also used to use Linked In sites.

BMH:  What do you think of the new faces of publishing….ebooks, POD, indie-publishing?

JG:      I’m not sure my opinion matters. They’re reality and have to be used strategically.

BMH:  Do you blog?

JG:      Yes, my blog is called JL Greger’s Bugs. I write mainly about writing and publicizing books with bits on travel and science. The title of my blog can represent the things that annoy or interest me. It also is a way to include my Japanese Chin, named Bug. He sits by me when I’m at the computer. He’s also featured as himself in all my novels. My main character, Sara Almquist, is dotty over her dog also named Bug. Both the real and the fictional Bug are pet therapy dogs who regularly visit hospitals. This is a major feature in the book I’m now working on. You know you meet a lot more people and hear a lot more stories when you’re with a dog.

BMH:  What comes first for you, characters or plot?

JG:      I’ve had one lead character in my novels I Saw You in Beirut, Malignancy, Ignore the Pain, and Coming Flu but the other characters come and go. I actually start with a plot and a location. I love to travel and to learn about other cultures so I try feature a different location in each novel. For example, I built on my experiences as a scientific and education consultant in Lebanon and the Emirates in I Saw You in Beirut. My travels in Cuba and Bolivia are featured in Malignancy and Ignore the Pain.

BMH: How about some hard-earned advice.

JG:      There is no such thing as too much research or too much editing. Talks at libraries in the Albuquerque area are generally bombs.

BMH:  How did you celebrate when you held your first book in your hands?

JG:      I didn’t. I knew the worst was ahead – all the publicizing of the book.

BMH:  Tell us about your first appearance as an author.

JG:      I had been a professor for over thirty years and a popular speaker to health professionals on nutrition and toxicology. I was used to and comfortable with large audiences. I arranged with a local library o speak on “Science in Fiction” and to discuss my new book Coming Flu. Three people showed up for the talk, which I had spent days preparing PowerPoint slides for.

BMH: Have you had any strange fans you can tell us about?

JG:      I had one, who was bit of a stalker. Enough said.

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