Dr. Darden North is a well respected OB-GYN in Jackson, MS. Across the country, he has become a well respected murder mystery and suspense author. I read my first Darden North thriller, House Call when I was in high school. My sister went and stood in line and Lemuria one December and got me 3 more autographed books by Dr. North. I had no idea at the time that he was a doctor and I had no way of knowing that I would one day practice in the same community and care for patients alongside him. He also delivered my nephew Rand just three short years ago!
I had been planning to do an interview with him and I ran in to him at Mistletoe Marketplace. I got his new book, 5 Manners of Death, and have gave me an copy of House Call to give away on the blog!
KC: I have to admit, delivering babies is one of the most rewarding jobs. You get to see the miracle of childbirth almost every day and see the most full joy on mothers’ faces. Often people do not consider that you also may see a mother at her lowest moment as she experiences pregnancy loss or infertility. I have experienced loss as a mother and I have lost patients as a physician. Those days can be so incredibly heavy on us as physicians. Is writing somewhat therapeutic for you?
DN: I enjoy practicing full time as an obstetrician/gynecologist—delivering babies, doing robotic/minimally-invasive surgery, and being fortunate to care for many patients in the office with preventive and hormonal medical care. Our ob/gyn specialty is evolving almost daily with new and better health options to offer patients, and I try to stay abreast of it by attending medical conferences and online courses. My writing and being the author of five published novels (so far) has been a blessing as well.
KC: What got you in to writing? Has that always been an aspiration of yours? How did you discover that talent?
DN: I get this question frequently. The “funny” answer is that there was so much talent and so many stories and crazy characters building up inside my brain that I had to let them out—and the writing came easy. Truth is, I saw it as a challenge. Most doctors have a lot of confidence. That’s how we make it through the long hours of medical education and surgical training and the evolution of our careers. I decided to write a published novel and decided I could and would do it. I assumed somebody would want to read my books and was glad that a bunch do. My first taste of formal writing and publishing was serving as Editor-in-Chief of the “Ole Miss” annual and then later the “Medic” yearbook at UMMC.
KC: Obviously, being a physician, you want your books to be medically accurate. Do you consult with other physicians, specifically a forensic pathologist?
DN: Even when you’re writing fiction, readers can see right through a bluff. Several times I have consulted other professionals in my novels to inject accuracy and realism into scenes and to confirm the plausibility of plots. I have talked with fire fighters, police, electricians, lawyers, and personal shoppers and designers, as well as with other physicians and medical specialists. I have toured the Mississippi Crime Lab and visited the morgue. In my fifth novel, “The 5 Manners of Death,” I needed the help of a pathologist to explain the preservation of a 50-year-old skeleton, partially mummified in a leather jacket and discovered in a shallow grave on a college campus.
KC: How do you brainstorm? Do your book ideas just come to you, or do you have a place you go to think and write?
DN: As I answer this question, I’m taking a Saturday morning break from putting the finishing touches on my sixth novel, “Two O’clock Bayou,” which I hope to have completed by the time this article is published. It’s peaceful here at the house, at the island in the kitchen, just me and one of my two laptops. My wife is out showing a house to real estate clients and the dogs are upstairs taking their customary after breakfast nap. This morning has been a good time to think and write.
KC: What is your process? Do you write a basic plot and then fill in the gaps or do you make it up as you go?
DN: Most authors and writing coaches (and, yes, of course, there are conferences, books, and videos on how to write a novel) all suggest writing from an outline. In my opinion and what works for me is that this process of “outlining” can be a loose sketch, a series of short paragraphs, or a short synopsis—not necessarily the type of rigid outline with Roman numerals and capital letters that I remember from junior high and high school English classes.
KC: Have you gotten to meet other writers through the years? Who was the most intriguing one you’ve met?
DN: I have met Robin Cook, Stephen James, and Robert Dugoni at writing conferences and John Grisham and Greg Iles at book signings. It was intriguing to meet Robin Cook, who seemed genuinely interested that I was also physician writing mysteries and thrillers. I talked briefly with Grisham at an Ole Miss alumni function several years back. I was fortunate to attend a helpful writing seminar featuring Robert Dugoni, who has reviewed my work for endorsement as has fellow nationally-awarded Mississippi author John Floyd. I have met other novelists and have appreciated any advice and encouragement. I try to return the favor at my own book signings and presentations when others come to me for the same. I great experience was getting to know several other authors when I was a featured speaker at the 2018 Natchez Literary and Cinema Celebration.
KC: How many babies have you delivered? Have you every heard one of their names and thought “that would be a great character name?”
DN: I have delivered enough babies to fill up a small Mississippi town somewhere—one big enough for a gas station and a zip code. I come across great character names all the time and in various situations, combining surnames and given names and switching them around. I keep a running list.
KC: We have some pretty crazy drama that goes down here in MS. Have you every taken actual events and woven them into on of your books?
DN: Sorry, that’s a trade secret.
Kristen, thank you for inviting me to guest on your blog. I hope your readers will check out my website: www.dardennorth.com for updates and related events, including more author info, a way to sign up for my email newsletter, and a list of my current books and the new novels to come. My mystery/thriller novels are available in print, eBook, and audiobook through audible and iTunes. I enjoy speaking at book clubs and meetings and signing my books at events. I can be reached via email at email@example.com.
Thanks again, Darden North