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. Those who join the Reader List will receive a free e-book copy of “Monuments,” the 10-minute play taking place in the Santa Fe, New Mexico Plaza.
Dr. Eidson teaches a course about animal diseases (zoonoses) at the University of Vermont Larner College of Medicine. Her work as a public health veterinarian and epidemiologist began with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). It continued at the New Mexico and New York state health departments.
Millicent critiques the twist ending of the award-winning film “The Power of the Dog” based on research for her first novel “Anthracis: A Microbial Mystery.” (152) The Power of the Dog: Confused by the Surprise Twist Ending? – YouTube
What’s your latest book title? “Borrelia: A Microbial Mystery” will be published in June 2022, first in e-book, then paperback, hardcover, and large print formats https://drmayamaguire.com/borrelia
Tell us a bit about Borrelia: As she begins a second year with the CDC, veterinarian Maya Maguire has had no time to recover from Arizona anthrax and its fallout on those closest to her. Squiggly spirochete bacteria transmitted by blood-sucking lice and ticks challenge her developing confidence while she manages an arrogant trainee. Immigrant-associated Borrelia in Europe during a summer heatwave is a chance to escape the overwhelming demands and one more opportunity to succeed.
What brought you to writing? Like many authors, a love of reading is my foundation for writing. I was blessed with book-obsessed parents who taught me to read by age two, so I’ve been absorbing written language before my first memory. When my grandfather gave me the complete works of Shakespeare at age seven, I was hooked. I wrote at every opportunity, although keeping a journal about my own life bored me.
Where do you write? What, if any, distractions do you allow? Unfortunately, having retired to a small apartment, I don’t have a separate office. So my computer table is in the corner of the combination dining room, living room, and kitchen. Fortunately, playing classical music from a local public radio station keeps me focused, and periodic gazes out at spectacular Lake Champlain keeps me peaceful.
Tell us about your writing process. I’m more alert and energetic for writing first drafts in the morning. I’ll take a lunch break, then work on editing for my writing workshops or promotional efforts. I learn so much from receiving and giving feedback, so it’s a major commitment to my process.
Who’s your favorite author? As mentioned previously, I can never get enough Shakespeare. For mysteries, having grown up in the Southwest, no one can match Tony Hillerman. With my novels having a medical twist, my queen is Tess Gerritsen.
How do you come up with character names? Choosing character names is fun. Sometimes it’s a nod or wink to family and friends. If the character represents a group or profession, I’ll look up real names and combine them in different ways while still keeping the sense of authenticity.
What is the most challenging thing about writing characters from the opposite sex? Fortunately, my husband is my first reader, so he’ll give me advice about male characters. He thought the male cowboy veterinarian who works for the U.S. Department of Agriculture was similar to some of my veterinary school classmates. So I doubled down on that character, and he has been a leading colleague and friend for my protagonist.
Do your protagonists ever disappoint you? Of course. There are a number of ways in which my protagonists differ from me, even though I use my own experiences in public health work. Borrelia, has a “Me, Too” subtheme. The protagonist’s decision-making is the subject of considerable debate, similar to the famous cases in real-life. The third book about coronavirus planned for late 2022 has three female protagonists, all balancing personal and professional lives. They make some difficult choices that are different than my own.
Do you ever kill a popular character? In the first draft of Anthracis, Maya Maguire’s love interest did not survive. All it took was a couple of early readers to suggest changing that ending, and I made the adjustment. Readers of Borrelia will be glad I did!
Do you outline, or are you a pantser? It’s a joy to sit at my computer and jump into my characters’ lives without knowing what they will do next. For me, immersion in their thoughts and feelings is the best way to make them vibrant for the reader.
What kind of research do you do? Despite being a pantser, my novels are solidly grounded in real science about these pathogens. PubMed is my source for finding old and new peer-reviewed scientific journal articles to augment my training and experience. CDC’s MMWR is a goldmine for breaking news about disease outbreaks. Because vivid settings are very important, I always research them even when they’re ones I’ve experienced.
Where do you place your settings—real or fictional locations? In my fiction reading, I like recognizing a location, so I generally use real ones. I want readers to experience my settings with all of their senses. For events that might be upsetting, I’ll create a fictional business. For agencies or groups that are real and can’t be changed, the characters and their actions are my creation, like an alternate universe where the real people and how they would handle their jobs are replaced by my fictional ones.
Looking to the future, what’s in store for you? Because I’m planning an alphabetical microbial mystery series, I have more fascinating diseases and Maya Maguire’s character growth to share. For the third coronavirus novel, other characters take center stage for earlier outbreaks called SARS and MERS. It’s great looking forward to giving readers different perspectives on the unending battle against mysterious microbes.
How do our readers contact you?
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.
What does an emerita professor from the University of Wisconsin-Madison do when she no longer leads a research lab? She writes!
Most efforts to recruit women and minority students to science majors are minimally successful. Thus, I was fascinated when a woman professor reported a number of minority and women students majoring in biology claimed they first considered a career in science after they’d become fans of the kooky Abby on NCIS television program.
That’s when I decided the heroine in my mystery and thriller novels would be a woman scientist. I quickly decided I didn’t want my heroine tied down to a laboratory but wanted her to have skills that would make her a valued consultant by a variety of agencies. Hence, my heroine Sara Almquist emerged as a globe-trotting epidemiologist who dislikes the constraints of university departments and loves her Japanese Chin dog Bug. Sara and Bug have been together now in eight novels in my Science Traveler Series, even though Sara’s human love interests have evolved over time.
The first, The Flu Is Coming, explores the psychological effect of a police-enforced quarantine on an upscale, gated community where a new type of flu virus kills nearly half of the residents in less than a week. The Centers for Disease Control recruits epidemiologist Sara Almquist to find ways to limit the spread of the epidemic. As she pries into the residents’ lives, she finds promising scientific clues, but violence ensues when she learns too many of the residents’ secrets. https://www.amazon.com/dp/0578423251
In Murder…A Way to Lose Weight, the second novel in the Science Traveler Series, Sara helps police discover who killed the diet doctor—an ambitious partner, disgruntled patients, or old-timers with buried secrets. Sara consults on public health issues in Bolivia in Ignore the Pain and tries to increase scientific cooperation between Cuba and the U.S. in Malignancy. However, in both countries, she learns too much about the international drug trade and is nearly ambushed by drug dealers several times.
I’m fond of the fifth book in the series I Saw You in Beirut because it allowed me to write about my experiences as a science consultant in Lebanon and the United Arab Emirates. In this thriller, Sara must examine her past to find the clues needed to extract a nuclear scientist from Iran. https://www.amazon.com/ dp/0960028544
My sixth book, Riddled with Clues, is based “loosely” on a friend’s notes (a CIA operative in Laos during the Vietnam War) and my experiences working with homeless veterans as part of a pet therapy team with my real dog Bug. In this mystery, Sara is attacked after listening to the strange tale of an undercover drug agent recovering at the VA hospital in Albuquerque. As she fights to survive, she keeps receiving riddled clues from a homeless veteran. https://www.amazon.com/dp/1938436237
I think A Pound of Flesh, Sorta has one of the most mischievous first chapters I’ve read in a thriller. A box of animal guts is delivered to Sara’s home. Did I mention the box is ticking and contaminated with bacteria that cause the plague? The police and Sara can’t decide if the box is a threat, a plea from a rancher fearing another round of plague in his livestock, or a clue needed to solve a series of mysterious “accidents.” https://www.amazon.com/ dp/0960028560
My latest novel is Dirty Holy Water. In this psychological mystery, Sara’s world is turned upside down. Instead of being a trusted FBI consultant about to vacation in India with her boyfriend, she’s the chief suspect in the murder of a friend. Sara soon realizes the difference between a villain and a victim can be alarmingly small. https://www.amazon.com/dp/0960028587
I try to make my readers feel like they are part of the action in my novels in several ways. The settings are real. I’ve visited the foreign locations mentioned in my books, and I pay attention to details. Even the foods served in restaurants are consistent with the restaurants’ menus. The characters have carefully researched backstories, sometimes based on those of real people. There is a theme in each novel that reflects a current issue. For example, scientific patents and immunotherapy for the treatment of cancer are featured in Malignancy, and water pollution is a focus point in Dirty Holy Water. I include two pages called “The Science Behind the Story” at the end of each novel. It’s a way to assure my readers that the scientific facts mentioned in my books are accurate. Two of my books (Malignancy and Murder: A Way to Lose Weight) won the annual contest conducted by the Public Safety Writers Association. Many have been finalists in the New Mexico/Arizona Book Awards competition.
To learn more about me, visit my website: http://www.jlgreger.com and my Amazon author page: https://www.amazon.com/J.L.-Greger/e/B008IFZSC4%3Fref=dbs_a_mng_rwt_scns_share.
THANKS, GEORGE, FOR WELCOMING ME AT YOUR BLOG SITE.