Saturday, June 1, 2013

Darden North's Wiggle Room

Dr. Darden North has written another novel. It’s my please to have him join us this morning.
A practicing, board-certified physician in obstetrics and gynecology, Darden North writes mysteries and thrillers. His three published novels have received national awards, most notably Points of Origin in Southern Fiction by the 2007 IPPY Book Awards. The screenplay adaptation of third novel Fresh Frozen is in film development by Frank Vitolo and Scott Alvaraz. North lives with his wife Sally in Jackson, Mississippi. They have two children and two dogs.

Darden, it's great to have you back on the blog. Congratulations on the screen play adaptation and on the new release, Wiggle Room, published by Sartoris Literary Group in print and ebook in early June 2013.

Thank you, Susan.

Before we get into your new book, please tell us how you balance a successful medical career with a successful writing career.

I am fortunate to practice in a large single-specialty ob/gyn group, so I have flexibility in scheduling vacations and other trips out-of-town (including book signings.) I have not slowed my medical and surgical practice, and the time not spent working or being with family and friends is spent writing, working in the yard, and walking for exercise. I guess if I had been gifted in golf, tennis, or mountain climbing, things might be different … maybe I would have written only two novels.

I’ve read your novels and I know writing is in your blood.
Please provide a brief synopsis of Wiggle Room.

Dr. Brad Cummins saves a man’s life. Now that man wants him dead.
Serving as an Air Force surgeon at the height of the Iraq War, Major Brad Cummins fails to save an injured soldier yet must mend the Iraqi national maimed in the same IED blast. Still blaming himself for losing the soldier after successful surgery, Brad is haunted by the words of the Iraqi: Maybe you should rethink what you really are.

After returning from deployment to home in Mississippi, Brad soon discovers his twin brother shot to death in a suspected robbery. He cannot forget the anonymous text I will give you a little wiggle room and suspects that he was the intended target.

Not only does Brad’s new surgical partner Diana Bratton rescue him during repeated attacks on his life, the heroine pushes for answers. Diana wonders if more than one killer is still tracking Brad, someone who may have also murdered the young soldier in Iraq.

Sounds intriguing, Darden.

Give us a little background into why you chose to tell a story about an Air Force surgeon in Iraq.

About the time that I was looking for an idea for book #4, a reader at a book signing in Louisiana seemed intrigued that I was both a physician and author of fiction. His physician son had recently returned from overseas military service, emotionally troubled over requirements to treat unfriendly nationals at our military bases hospitals alongside injured US servicepersons. Simultaneously, my son was in medical school and studying under a trauma surgeon who had recently served in Balad, Iraq.
Everything seemed to fall in place as my imagination reached beyond my comfort zone since I have never served in the military. Many of the sub-plots in the novel required a lot of research as well including the murder scenes (i.e., bullet trajectories, blood splatter patterns, masking intentional hospital deaths, etc. – concepts that would not come naturally to a kind-hearted, conscientious physician.)

I really like Diana Bratton. Quite a feisty lady :-) Is she based on a real life person or did you create her in full?

I like that phrase “create her in full.” Diana Bratton is my first true female protagonist although all my novels have women characters. (An editor once said that I do women well.) Diana is an amalgam, a portrayal of someone abused by a spouse when a young mother and resident in surgical training who then looks beyond her professional career for fulfillment. In other words, through her attempt to reinvent herself as a desirable woman while being a top-notch surgeon, she becomes sexually involved with Brad Cummins. It is not really love that spurs her to protect Cummins and find his attacker, but frustration over a man who becomes complacent to danger. She makes herself beautiful, more feminine, yet becomes more resilient and confident. This makes her even more dynamic.

I think both my female and male readers will be drawn to Diana Bratton. I plan to make her a major player in novel 6 as well.

Daren, how do you develop your characters?

Characterization may be the main reason I write. At least that aspect of this journey is the most fun for me. Developing a character involves weaving in a combination of traits, mannerisms, and mentality that I might both cherish and abhor. A thriller is all about watching a character squirm in a situation while another one delights in the same circumstances. It was tough for me to kill off a couple of characters in Wiggle Room because that ended the prospect of a sequel or series including those guys …or did it?

The names given to the major characters in Wiggle Room were derived from names chosen by patrons at charity events or fund-raisers for non-profit organizations both in Mississippi and elsewhere. The character assigned to each was the author’s choice. While the characters in the novel in no way resemble the real people who happen to bear the same names, I cannot imagine having used any other name for the individual characters.

I think of all the characters in my novels as a mixture of people I know well or have met casually or would like to meet or avoid. That is what is fascinating about writing. You can transform a nice person into someone even nicer (almost to the point of absurdity) while gaining great satisfaction in tormenting a character who deserves it. One of my editors summed this up well when commenting that he really “liked” one of the darkest characters in Wiggle Room, almost to the point of regretting the guy’s circumstances as the plot unfolds.

What challenges did you encounter while writing your latest book?

A challenge for any writer is balancing the time demands of life and work (the “day job”) while reaching beyond his familiarity with a subject -- again, leaving the comfort zone.

How many books have you written?

I have written three other novels, all available in print and ebook: House Call, Points of Origin, and Fresh Frozen.

And I can tell folks that they're all great books.
Can you tell us about future projects? Events?

As mentioned in my bio, Amy Taylor’s screenplay adaptation of my third novel Fresh Frozen is in film development by producer Frank Vitolo and director Scott Alvaraz. Plans are to film Mississippi. Upcoming book signings include the annual Mississippi Picnic in Central Park in New York on June 8, 2013, and Lemuria Book store in Jackson with the Sartoris Literary Group in July.

Where can readers get more information about you and your books?

Check out my website for blog updates and a growing list of upcoming book signings as well as online links to purchase. Readers can contact me at and follow me on Twitter, Facebook, Goodreads, AuthorsDen, and You-Tube.

Thanks for dropping by, Darden, and continued success with both your practice and your writing.

I appreciate your having me over, Susan. I wish you success with your novels as well.


randi lee said...

Dr. North seems like a very interesting person with a very interesting book! Guess I'll be adding one more to the ole reading list :)

Susan Whitfield said...

Randi, I've read all of Darden's books and I can tell you that they're all worth reading. Thanks for stopping by.