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Author writer Tammy Euliano explores the events that inspired her to write her new medical thriller, Fatal Intent, on The Table Read, “The Best entertainment magazine in the UK“.
Written by JJ Barnes
I interviewed author Tammy Euliano about her new book, Fatal Intent, what inspired her to write it, and her creative writing process.
Tell me a bit about who you are.
By day, I’m a Professor of Anesthesiology and Obstetrics & Gynecology at the University of Florida where I care for patients and teach medical students and residents. Before pursuing my encore career as a fiction author, I did clinical and education research and had a bunch of boring administrative titles. I still make some educational teaching videos and am proud of my >100,000 views on my YouTube channel. Oh, and was featured in a calendar of women inventors (copies available wherever you buy your out-of-date planners).
By night, I play games with my family and friends, play tennis (badly), cuddle my dogs, read, and write medical thrillers. I’m intrigued by ethically blurry topics and enjoy positioning characters on all sides of a debate, each with a well-reasoned position…or humor…or dogs.
Vacations are for exploring our amazing world. I’ve dragged my family of five to all the major US national parks, Alaska, Hawaii, Canada, Costa Rica, the Caribbean, the Galapagos, the Mediterranean, Europe and New Zealand. Trips are spent soaking up the history and culture while also experiencing nature, often in extreme fashion.
When did you first WANT to write a book?
I knew I wanted my name on a book spine during my anesthesiology residency. I wanted to teach a broader group than only those students at my university. It was only after that was accomplished, and my mentor suggested we continue our collaboration from non-fiction into a novel, that I re-discovered a love of writing lost after childhood.
When did you take a step to start writing?
When my mentor and I started our novel, we made little progress before he fell ill and eventually passed away. But even the few short chapters we’d started had me intrigued, and aware that writing fiction held little resemblance to journal articles.
So, researcher that I am, I decided to learn how to write. First step, search Amazon for books on the craft of writing. How many could there be, after all? Ha! Thousands. I chose one that was well-reviewed, KM Weiland’s “Outlining Your Novel,” and followed every step to plot my novel. MUCH came after, but that was a first and essential step.
How long did it take you to complete your first book from the first idea to release?
Seven years! That included a lot of learning from books/courses and conferences, writing, re-writing, pitching, querying, recovering from rejections, writing a different novel, more of the same, finally finding success with some short stories, and then serendipitously meeting my eventual publisher.
How long did it take you to complete your latest book from the first idea to release?
The sequel to Fatal Intent took less than a year to write, but will take another year for release (January 2023).
Focusing on your latest release. What made you want to write Fatal Intent?
My latest release is my debut, Fatal Intent. The idea of managing the end-of-life has fascinated me since way before any kid should think about such things. We had a debate in my 5th grade class about the fate of Karen Ann Quinlan, a young woman in a persistent vegetative state whose parents wanted her ventilator disconnected, while the State of New Jersey disagreed.
I don’t recall what side my 10-year-old-self argued, but the question never left me. Medical technology and the ability to keep the body alive has far out-paced our ethical ability to deal with the implications.
In medical school and residency, the question resurfaced repeatedly, while watching families’ extended mourning in the ICU, and anesthetizing patients for innumerable procedures despite little to no hope of a meaningful recovery. Meanwhile, the absurd cost of medical care in the US frequently made the news, especially expenditures in the last few months of life and final hospitalization.
As I began to consider this “encore career,” the characters of Fatal Intent took up residency in my head, invading my sleep, and even my waking hours. It was time to give them voice and I couldn’t be happier to finally share Kate and her crew with the world.
What were your biggest challenges with writing Fatal Intent?
The biggest challenge was realizing that just because I was a good reader and a good doctor and a reasonably intelligent human being didn’t mean I knew ANYTHING about writing fiction. That there was no shame in starting at square one and taking beginners classes and writing and writing and receiving critical feedback that made me want to sulk and even give up at times, but also to improve.
While medicine has much art to it, there are still some rights and wrongs. This is much less true in writing, and for every criticism I received, the same line was complimented by someone else. I found that subjectivity excruciating early on.
Specific to this book, determining the level of detail for the medical scenes proved challenging. It had to be realistic enough that medical personnel found it believable, but not boring and obtuse to the general population.
In part, that’s where my character, Jenn, came to be. As a medical student, it made sense for Kate to speak normal English to her rather than doctor-ese.
Who or what inspired you when creating your Protagonist?
As with many beginning authors, my protagonist started out as basically as a white-washed me. The me I thought I wanted to be. Then terrible things started happening to her, and she showed a resilience far beyond what I think I could handle.
It was fascinating to watch her evolve in my mind and on the page over the course of several years and innumerable edits. In the end, she turned out way cooler than me, and someone I’d love to be friends with.
Who or what inspired you when creating your Antagonist?
The antagonist was actually more challenging for me. A writing friend introduced me to the concept that the villain is the hero of his own story and I knew I wanted my villain to have a reason for his villainy. But I also wanted it to be clear he was a bad guy. I struggled with that balance quite a bit.
What is the inciting incident of Fatal Intent?
The inciting incident is when Dr. Kate Downey learns that a couple of her elderly patients died at home soon after minor surgery that should not have been life-threatening. Despite reassurances, she feels compelled to investigate.
What is the main conflict of Fatal Intent?
Though there are several sources of conflict, the main one is between Kate and whatever is killing her patients.
Did you plot Fatal Intent in advance, or fly by the seat of your pants and write freely?
I plotted in advance, but the book and its characters caused many changes in direction over the years.
Did you get support with editing, and how much editing did Fatal Intent need?
Over the years, many critique partners’ and masterclass editing suggestions were incorporated, but there was no official edit until my publisher requested some minor changes. Anesthesiologists tend to be quite detail-oriented so it didn’t need much in the line-edit department.
What is the first piece of writing advice you would give to anyone inspired to write a story?
The FIRST piece would be…write. But that’s not terribly useful without other pieces like reading in the same genre, taking classes that provide individual professional feedback, attending a writing conference to find a supportive group of writers at a similar stage, develop thick skin, write something you love, consider writing some short fiction in the same genre both for what you’ll learn about language and the little victories of getting something finished and likely published if you’re sufficiently persistent.
Can you give me a hint about any further books you’re planning to write?
The sequel to Fatal Intent comes out next January. It’s the same cast of characters faced with another challenging series of events. The third in the series will find Kate on a medical mission trip to Haiti. Separately, I’ve written a novel about a near-future with world-wide infertility and the woman physician-scientist who solves the problem but risks her life to ensure the world can benefit.
And, finally, are you proud of your accomplishment? Was it worth the effort?
I am proud of it! I love the book and I love that people seem to enjoy the world of my imagination. I hope it causes them to think about end-of-life issues as it relates to their own family so they are as prepared as possible.
Pop all your book, website and social media links here so the readers can find you:
LINKS TO SOCIAL MEDIA:
Amazon Author Page: https://www.amazon.com/Tammy-Euliano/e/B001IXU51M
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