Welcome to Dames of Dialogue, Bette and J.J. Tell us about your latest book.
Bone Pit is the third book in our Gina Mazzio RN medical thriller series, following Bone Dry and Sin Bone. After a couple of attempts on Gina’s life in the first two books, we decided she needed a break – not from us, but from San Francisco’s (fictitious) Ridgewood Hospital and all the dark, deadly memories associated with it.
So, what better plan than to take off on a dual travel nurse assignment with fiancé Harry Lucke, who has made a career out of doing that kind of nursing, primarily in Intensive Care Units (ICU)? Their destination: a rehab facility for Alzheimer’s patients in the desolate gold country mountains in and around Virginia City, NV. Simple enough.
But Gina and Harry stumble into an illegal scheme to manipulate test results for an experimental drug that’s on the verge of gaining FDA approval as a cure for Alzheimer’s.
Bone Pit is a story of medicine, mines, madness, and murder.
Sounds like an intriguing series and I really like the cover. What’s next?
Gina, who in the first book worked as an oncology nurse, then became an OB/GYN advice nurse before taking off for Nevada, is back again at Ridgewood Hospital, this time working in the Women’s Health Clinic.
Keeping to her reputation for being unable to stay out of trouble, once again her life is threatened when she investigates suspicious circumstances in the clinic that propel her into the midst of a deadly abortion issue. The tentative title is Bone of Contention.
Gina sounds like an interesting character. Tell us more about your series’ protagonist.
Gina Mazzio, RN, evolved out of a desire to write a medical thriller that did not have a male M.D. as the primary protagonist. Bette, an RN herself, wanted an intelligent, curious, no-nonsense, and tough nurse who would become involved in a fictional medical crime that was about as far away from being a cozy as one could get. That Gina is also a streetwise, ex-Bronx, California transplant is fact as well as fiction.
You’ll note the above talks only about a single medical thriller. Gina Mazzio was never meant to be the protagonist of a series. She came into being after reading a newspaper feature article about the use of autologous bone marrow transplants as a last-hope treatment for certain types of cancer. The immediate question was what if someone stole the treated, stored marrow and held it for ransom?
We were so determined not to create a series that we dove into a stand-alone medical thriller (Sisters in Silence) about an infertility counselor who runs amok. Regardless, we continued to think about Gina; we liked her as a lead character, as did our readers. So, when we read a horrifying article about the on-going trade in human body parts, we saw it as a perfect milieu for our inquisitive, do-the-right-thing RN.
Gina also has this on-going love thing with Harry, but getting them married has run into problems.
I like that you broke away from the male MD stereotype. Does your series require extensive research?
In a word, yes.
Fortunately, Bette’s RN credentials get her interviews and into facilities that an unlicensed medical person probably wouldn’t be able to do.
Our goal is to inform the reader about real, out-of-the-ordinary medical situations and procedures without getting so technical that pages appear to have been lifted straight out of a textbook or scientific journal.
And that’s what makes it so interesting. What is your writing regimen?
Ah, if we only had one.
Each of us tries to write every day, but there are no specific hours. Bette is better at this than J.J., which is even more admirable since she’s also a sculptor and must spend time in her studio.
We do have a regimen of sorts for creating a book – we agree on a project, then one of us (usually Bette) sits down and writes the first draft, with input from the other with respect to plot and character development and settings. Then the other writes a second draft, again with input as above. For the final draft, we sit down side by side at the computer and go through the whole manuscript, word by word, sentence by sentence, paragraph by paragraph, and chapter by chapter.
Out of this comes a third voice that is different from each of our individual voices in solo works.
My sister (Caitlyn Hunter) and I are co-writing a series and I’ve found it to be a wonderful experience and what you state regarding the third voice is true for us also. I love that. What part of writing do you like and dislike the most?
There is very little that is as satisfying as holding a printed book in your hands that has your byline on it. At the other end, there’s nothing worse than that first blank page.
Being able to talk to readers face to face; exchanging thoughts on an individual basis via social media. Unfortunately, bookstore talks and signings are becoming less available all the time.
They’re becoming a thing of the past it seems. But I’ve found festivals are opening up more to writers now. If you could sit down and chat with anyone in the past or present, who would it be and why?
Bette – Florence Nightingale. Would love to discuss the courage it took for her to be a battlefield nurse, social reformer, and a prodigious and versatile writer during the Victorian era. She’s a great role model for the 21st century woman – proactive and caring.
J.J. – Mark Twain. He had the enviable ability to see and say things as they really were, and how they should or would be.
What inspires you?
Different things at different times, mostly wonderful accomplishments in literature, music, art, dance, and other creative expressions.
What’s the best expression you’ve gotten from a reader?
“I stayed up all night to finish your book. I could hardly work the next day.”
Tell us about your part of the country.
We have lived on the East Coast, in the Midwest, in the Southwest, and here in Northern California. We left this area on two occasions during, primarily out of nostalgia for places that strongly drew us back. We came back here both times, sadder but wiser. We heartily agree when someone describes Northern California as Camelot.
What’s your favorite Southern saying?
Y’all come back. (But then we’ve only lived in one Southern state — Virginia.)
For more information about Bette and J.J.’s work: http://www.jjlamb.com/