Bookpleasures.com welcomes as our guest New York Times and USA Today best-selling author Patricia Gussin. Pat has practiced medicine and has worked in medical research as worldwide vice president for a leading healthcare company. She is a graduate of Aquinas College, Wayne State University School of Medicine, Columbia University Business School, and has an honorary degree from Duquesne University.
Pat's first novel, Shadow of Death, was nominated best first novel by International Thriller Writers. Twisted Justice, The Test, And Then There Was One, and Weapon of Choice followed. Her latest, After the Fall, is her sixth novel and the fourth in the Laura Nelson series.
She is the mother of seven children, she and her husband, Dr. Robert Gussin, live on Longboat Key, Florida, and in Amagansett, New York. The Gussins also own and operate two vineyards in Marlborough, New Zealand. They co-authored a non-fiction book What’s Next...For You? in response to frequent questions as to how they transitioned from careers in medicine and medical research to authors, publishers and vintners.
Norm: Good day Pat and thanks for participating in our interview.
How did you get started in writing? What keeps you going?
Pat: Thanks, Norm. It’ a privilege for me to have been chosen for this interview. My writing began as a reflection on my life as a mother and a physician and was particularly influenced by my medical school days in Detroit during the devastating riots there in 1967. I felt that this experience should be chronicled. Problem was that I am not a fan of memoirs, but rather a fan of the thriller genre. That’s why my first novel Shadow of Death is a thriller.
Norm: Did you read any special books on how to write? As a follow up, how do you approach the work of writing and does it conflict with your medical career?
Pat: I plunged in and started without much knowledge. If only I had known about writers’ groups and organization like International Thriller Writers. It’s essential to have great characters and a killer plot, but the craft of writing is vital. I wish I’d understood that from the get-go.
Norm: Can you tell us how you found representation for your books? Did you pitch it to an agent, or query publishers who would most likely publish this type of book? Any rejections? Did you self-publish?
Pat: I was very fortunate to have a well-known agent take me on. He’s the one who told me that my story, characters, and voice were good, but that I needed an editor to teach me the craft. The best advice I’ve ever been given. From there my story is quite unique. My husband decided to start a publishing company (Oceanview Publishing). And even though I had an agent, Shadow of Death became the first book on the Oceanview list and the rest is history.
Norm: In the past few years have you seen any changes in the way publishers publish and/or distribute books? Are there any emerging trends developing?
Pat: Huge changes. Self-publishing has become not only technically feasible, but has risen dramatically in esteem. All my books have been published by Oceanview, a traditional independent publishing house of mystery, thriller and suspense, but I know so many authors who have successful titles with either big or small publishing house and who have also successfully self-published. So I’d say the hybrid-author is the new trend.
Norm: What do you want your novels to do? Amuse people? Provoke thinking?
Pat: I want my novels to carry the reader to another place, immerse them in the lives of the characters so much so that they don’t want the novel to end. Of course, a thriller must deliver fast-paced action, danger coming from every angle, and the most important of all, a protagonist that the reader is cheering for.
Norm: Is your work improvisational or do you have a set plan?
Pat: I don’t have a set plan. I write when I have a two hour period free of other demands. I don’t use an outline. I don’t know what’s going to happen next or which road the characters will take. Until close to the end when it all has to come together—that’s outline time.
Norm: What was the first novel you authored and what inspired you to write it?
Pat: Shadow of Death is a reflection of my medical school days, I wanted to explore the challenges of a mom and a medical career in the most challenging of times, under the most dire of circumstances.
Norm: How has your environment/upbringing colored your writing?
Pat: I’m really a very nice person, but my thrillers are populated by some very evil people, using very distasteful language, doing very vile things. Thank goodness I did not have to live through the scenarios I write about.
Norm: How much of your novels are realistic? As a follow up, are the characters in your book based on people you know or have encountered or are they strictly fictional?
Pat: The technical details of my novels are real, including the medicine, of course. The characters are an amalgam of people I’ve encountered.
Norm: How much of you is in your novels?
Pat: More of “me” is in my first novel Shadow of Death and in my last novel After the Fall. They bookend my career in medicine from a medical student with young kids to a pharmaceutical executive with grown kids. In the middle of this four-book Laura Nelson series are Twisted Justice and Weapon of Choice, which veer farther from my life experiences.
Norm: Where do you get your information or ideas for your novels?
Pat: The Test was inspired by neighbor who was obsessing about how to distribute his estate. And Then There Was One was inspired by a mother pushing a double stroller with two toddlers and a third toddler walking along beside them. My Laura Nelson series is a blend of medicine and family and tragic circumstances. So I’ve combined random encounters with real live experience.
Norm: Could you tell our readers something about your most recent novel, After the Fall?
Pat: My protagonist in After the Fall is a transplant surgeon who has been leading a large clinical trial on an anti-rejection drug. While attending an FDA meeting, a fall on the ice results in a catastrophic hand injury. Not able to return to surgery, she’s goes to work for a big pharmaceutical company where she finds herself in the cross hairs of a malicious FDA employee willing to destroy anybody in his path.
Norm: Where can our readers find out more about you and your novels?
Please visit my WEBSITE
Norm: What is next for Patricia Gussin?
Pat: I am in the middle stage of a novel about a parenteral abduction of a five year old child to Egypt during the 2011 uprising there. I was in Egypt at that time and have wanted use that place and circumstance for a thriller. So far, no title.
Norm: As this interview draws to a close what one question would you have liked me to ask you? Please share your answer.
Pat: What authors have most influenced your writing?
I owe so much to the brilliant authors who have gone before me. I have been inspired by many, but to name a few—and not all in the thriller genre: Ken Follett, Barbara Taylor Bradford, Wilbur Smith, Nelson DeMille, Lisa Gardner…and many, many more.
Norm: Thanks once again and good luck with all of your future endeavors