Millicent Eidson is the author of the alphabetical Maya Maguire microbial mystery series. The MayaVerse at https://drmayamaguire.com includes prequels, “El Chinche” in Danse Macabre and “What’s Within” in Fiction on the Web, and a side story, “Pérdida” in El Portal Literary Journal. Author awards include Best Play in Synkroniciti and Honorable Mention from the Arizona Mystery Writers.
Dr. Eidson’s work as a public health veterinarian and epidemiologist began with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and continued at the New Mexico and New York state health departments. She is a public health faculty member at the University at Albany and the University of Vermont.
Book title? “Anthracis: A Microbial Mystery” was published wide October 2021 in e-book, paperback, hardcover, and large print formats ANTHRACIS (drmayamaguire.com)
Book blurb? In the hottest summer on record, the spectacular southwestern desert is alive with Bacillus anthracis spores. Maya Maguire, the new veterinarian with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, battles the largest anthrax outbreak in U.S. history. Anthracis takes us to the front lines with scientists betting their lives on the investigation outcome.
How long did it take you to write your first book? After being encouraged to turn a short story into a novel by a college professor, the first draft of “Anthracis” was written in just a month. I was obsessed with getting my story into the computer, sometimes writing for twenty-hour stretches.
How long to get it published? I workshopped “Anthracis” and edited it for two years before independent publication. I queried agents for a year of that time period and received positive feedback on my writing style. But there were elements they wanted changed to fit the current market, which I wasn’t willing to compromise on.
Do you write in more than one genre? Medical Thriller, Mystery, Romantic Suspense, Women’s Fiction – My novels are a genre mashup—a cross between Tony Hillerman and Tess Gerritsen. My medical detective solves disease outbreak mysteries with microbes as the criminals. Over the timeline of the alphabetical series, readers will share Dr. Maya Maguire’s life journey, worldwide travel, romances, and warm friendships. Short stories, a play, and a poem also allow me to stretch writing styles and points of view. Although not a requirement for mysteries, my novels all end with Maya achieving a Happy for Now (HFN) conclusion, hinting at the mystery to come in the next one.
What are you currently working on? I’m immersed in the series author challenge of letting potential readers know about “Anthracis,” editing “Borrelia,” and writing the first draft of “Corona.”
We hear of strong-willed characters. Do yours behave, or do they run the show? Although the science is fact-based, I’m a “pantser,” and the characters have minds of their own. I sit down at the computer with them and see what they passionately want to achieve and what obstacles are standing in their way. Some secondary characters performing a function in the mystery investigation come to life and demand equal time on the stage.
Do you have subplots? If so, how do you weave them into the novel’s arc? I believe subplots are essential for an entertaining, educational, and enlightening read. The world is complex, and our fictional characters should face tough challenges like we do. They should interact with diverse, rounded secondary characters when possible. I like to have at least one subplot or theme beyond the microbial mystery in each novel. Climate change will interweave the stories when appropriate depending on its influence on the microbes and animals. For “Anthracis,” Maya’s sense of being an outcast as a rare Asian in the Southwest resonates with anthrax threats to those crossing the international border.
What is the most challenging part of your writing process? My mysteries are science-based. I incorporate real details about the diseases and investigation process into the novels, applying them to fictional settings and characters. Making the science clear and emotionally compelling is challenging. The third novel is particularly difficult because I focus on the connection of coronaviruses in animals and people during past and current outbreaks. The timeline for my fictional characters is even more tightly woven into real life because we’re living through COVID, but the novel shares mysteries not commonly known.
Has an association membership helped you or your writing? I can’t imagine improving my writing skill or being brave enough to publish without the months workshopping my short stories and novel chapters with Burlington Writers Workshop, Green Mountain Writers, and Sisters in Crime. For publishing, the Alliance of Independent Authors and the Authors Guild offer invaluable information.
How do you use social media to communicate with readers? FaceBook offers incredibly supportive groups like Wide for the Win. I’m also on Twitter as @EidsonMillicent and Instagram as @drmayamaguire. My Readers who sign up at HOME (drmayamaguire.com) for my newsletter are a core source of support, and I periodically reward them with writing not available elsewhere. Currently, Readers will be emailed a free e-book and pdf copy of my award-winning short play “Monuments” about a pivotal night in the Santa Fe Plaza during summer 2020 and the movement to re-examine how we honor our heroes.
Looking to the future, what’s in store for you? I continue to hone my writing craft and share the MayaVerse with readers. I hope to publish two of the microbial mysteries each year. My ability needs to expand in reaching readers drawn to vivid characters in vibrant settings who want to make the world a better place with their work and relationships.
Do you have any advice for new writers? Strive to perfect your writing skills. Seek out university and other courses to optimize it. Develop a thick skin and seek feedback on drafts. Do everything possible to create a polished book that reflects your very best effort before starting the query process for traditional publishing or the steps for independent publishing. But you can still honor your unique vision. Ask yourself—what does this story bring to the world that’s not already in it?
Millicent discusses her first novel “Anthracis: A Microbial Mystery” at Microbial Mystery Author Dr. Millicent Eidson on Big Blend Radio – YouTube.
She can be found on Twitter, @EidsonMillicent, and Instagram, @drmayamaguire.