Monday, November 10, 2014

Featured Author: D.J. Donaldson

About the book:

Andy Broussard, the plump and proud New Orleans medical examiner, obviously loves food. Less apparent to the casual observer is his hatred of murderers. Together with his gorgeous sidekick, psychologist Kit Franklyn, the two make a powerful, although improbable, mystery solving duo.

When the beautiful Kit goes to meet an anonymous stranger—who’s been sending her roses—the man drops dead at her feet before she even could even get his name. Game on.

Andy Broussard soon learns that the man carried a lethal pathogen similar to the deadly Ebola virus. Soon, another body turns up with the same bug. Panic is imminent as the threat of pandemic is more real than ever before. The danger is even more acute, because the carrier is mobile, his identity is an absolute shocker, he knows he’s a walking weapon and… he’s on a quest to find Broussard. And Kit isn’t safe either. When she investigates her mystery suitor further, she runs afoul of a cold blooded killer, every bit as deadly as the man searching for Broussard.

Louisiana Fever is written in Donaldson’s unique style: A hard-hitting, punchy, action-packed prose that’s dripping with a folksy, decidedly southern, sense of irony. Add in Donaldson’s brilliant first hand knowledge of forensics and the sultry flavor of New Orleans, and the result is first class forensic procedural within an irresistibly delectable mystery.

What reviewers are saying:

"D.J. Donaldson is superb at spinning medical fact into gripping suspense.  With his in-depth knowledge of science and medicine, he is one of very few authors who can write with convincing authority.” -Tess Gerritsen, NY Times best-selling author of the Rizzoli & Isles novels

“CSI meets The Big Easy.”

"Quietly, this series has a carved a solid place for itself among the many New Orleans-based crime novels. Broussard makes a terrific counterpoint to the Dave Robicheaux ragin' Cajun school of mystery heroes: analytical where Robicheaux is emotional, self-indulgent where Robicheaux is Spartan, Broussard proves it's possible to savor your crawfish etouffee without being a tough guy. Thank God for that." -Bill Ott, Booklist

Interview with D.J. Donaldson

D.J., how long have you been writing, and how did you start?
Oddly, the thought that I wanted to become a novelist just popped into my head one day shortly after my fiftieth birthday.  Part of this sudden desire was a bit of boredom with my real job. I was an anatomy professor at the University of Tennessee and had accomplished all my major professional goals: course director, funded NIH grant, teaching awards, and many published papers on wound healing. So I guess I needed a new challenge. And boy did I pick a tough one. 

I wondered, how does a novice like me learn to write fiction? Taking a few writing courses is an obvious answer. But I had the vague feeling that there were a lot of unpublished writers teaching those courses, and I worried that all I’d learn was how to fail. I’m not saying this was the best way, but I decided to just teach myself. I bought ten bestselling novels and tried to figure out what made each of them work. What tricks were the authors using to hold my attention? What made these books so popular? In a sense then, perhaps I didn’t teach myself. Maybe Steven King, Robin Cook, Pat Conroy, Michael Palmer, Larry McMurtry, and James Michener did. In any event, eight years later, I sold my first book.  So, it took me about as long to become a published novelist as it did to train for medical research and teaching.

What’s the story behind the title Louisiana Fever?

Louisiana Fever is the fifth book in a series set in New Orleans and adjacent parts of Louisiana. To help brand the series, my editor decided that each title should relate in some way to the locale. You’d think it wouldn’t be hard to do that, but I usually sit for hours playing with words and rearranging them in what I hope are creative ways. No matter what title I eventually settle on for a book, I have this nagging suspicion that even if I really like the one I pick, there was a much better one I might have used. I just couldn’t find it. I keep thinking about Margaret Mitchell, who originally called her only novel, Tomorrow is Another Day. That’s not a bad title. But it’s not in the same league as the title it was eventually given: Gone with the Wind

Of all my New Orleans books, I’m the most satisfied with the title for Louisiana Fever. Although the title doesn’t specifically mention New Orleans, it lets readers know a lot about the locale. It also strongly suggests that the story involves some kind of contagious disease. The fever part of the title actually refers to Crimean-Congo hemorrhagic fever, a bleeding disease similar to Ebola. Most writers would be thrilled to have written a book that could be related to unfolding world events. Normally, I’d be among them. But in this case, I’d much prefer that there was no reason for Ebola to be in the news every day. I hope this threat is contained soon.

Tell us about your series. Is this book a standalone or do readers need to read the series in order?
As I mentioned above Louisiana Fever is the fifth book in a series. Even though there were four books that came before Fever, (Cajun Nights, Blood on the Bayou, No Mardi Gras for the Dead, and New Orleans Requiem) it’s not necessary to read them in order. Many readers have said that the books work perfectly well as stand-alones.

Are any of your characters inspired by real people?

Practically from the moment I decided to try my hand at fiction, I wanted to write about a medical examiner. There's just something appealing about being able to put a killer in the slammer using things like the stomach contents of the victim or teeth impressions left in a bite mark. Contrary to what the publisher's blurb said on a couple of my books, I'm not a forensic pathologist. To gear up for the first book in the series, I spent a couple of weeks hanging around the county forensic center where Dr. Jim Bell taught me the ropes.  Unfortunately, Jim died unexpectedly after falling into a diabetic coma a few months before the first book was published. Though he was an avid reader, he never got to see a word of the book he helped me with. In many ways, Jim lives on as Broussard. Broussard's brilliant mind, his weight problem, his appreciation of fine food and antiques, his love for Louis L'Amour novels... that was Jim Bell.

What book are you currently reading and in what format (e-book/paperback/hardcover)?
Years ago I remember hearing the writer, Elizabeth Daniels Squire (now deceased), talk about how throughout her life she had an extremely poor memory. It was so bad she often prayed to be delivered from that affliction. One day on vacation somewhere in Italy, she visited a shrine in a tiny cave where the ceiling was so low tourists had to enter on hands and knees. There, she prayed again for God to fix her faulty memory. Then, forgetting where she was, she tried to stand up and knocked herself out. Realizing now that she should just accept her problem and learn to live with it, she created Peaches Dann, a sleuth with a terrible memory. I’m now reading one of those books...on a Kindle.  I love how you can change the font size on a Kindle.

What do you love about where you live?
Compared to the price of housing in many other parts of the country, homes in Memphis are a bargain. I watch those real estate shows from other cities and am astounded at what people there have pay for homes I couldn’t stand to live in. 

Have you been in any natural disasters?
My wife and I lived through Hurricane Betsy in New Orleans. It wasn’t as bad as Katrina, but it did peel the bricks off our apartment building and blow out the hall windows so the stairwells became gushing waterfalls.

Yikes! I know you'd like to forget that. What’s your favorite memory?

The phone call I got from my first agent telling me that an editor at St. Martins Press wanted to talk to me about my first novel. (I have a feeling I’d better not let my wife see this.)

I'd say go with that feeling! What is the most daring thing you've done?
Marry a 17-year-old girl when I was 20. It worked out okay though because 53 years later, we’re still married.  

What is the stupidest thing you've done?
I can’t bear to think about it let alone tell anyone else what happened. (It’s also my most embarrassing moment.)

Well, at least you didn't say it was marrying
a 17-year-old girl when you were 20! 
What makes you nervous?
I get very nervous during intense thunderstorms. My wife and I live in a house that’s 110 years old. When we bought it many years ago, it was in a terrible state and there were lots of leaks in the roof. The house is now fully restored and has been for at least a decade. Yet I still dream about that leaking roof and always imagine the worst when it rains so hard we can’t see two feet beyond the front door. (And it seems like those are the only kinds of rains we get in Memphis.)

What makes you happy?
A five star review on Amazon.

How did you meet your wife? Was it love at first sight?
I still remember the first time I saw her. She was a gorgeous young blonde wearing white short shorts and a white blouse. She picked up a little girl who was eating licorice and the girl smeared it all over that white blouse. There was not one sign of irritation in my future wife’s face. She loved that little girl just as much before the ruined blouse as after. I knew then that this was a young woman with a good heart. 

What’s one of your favorite quotes?
“The outcome of successful planning always looks like luck to saps." -Dashielle Hammet in The Dain Curse

What would you like people to say about you after you die?
“Oh wait...there he is standing over there. I’ll be damned.”

Other books by D.J. Donaldson

New Orleans Requiem 
Sleeping with the Crawfish
Bad Karma in the Big Easy

About the author:

D.J. (Don) Donaldson is a retired medical school professor. Born and raised in Ohio, he obtained a Ph.D. in human anatomy at Tulane, then spent his entire academic career at the University of Tennessee Health Science Center in Memphis. In addition to being the author of several dozen scientific articles on wound healing, he has written seven forensic mysteries and five medical thrillers.