By Ethan Cross
Patricia Gussin has practiced medicine, worked in the medical research industry, and co-founded Oceanview Publishing where she serves as president and editor. In addition to these fascinating fields, she’s also found the time to craft books that have been described as being “Authentic, insightful, and incredibly scary” and combining “Relentless suspense and pitch-perfect medical details.”
Life is good for Dr. Laura Nelson. Her kids have their ups and downs, but seem well adjusted to high school and college; her research project at the university is going well; and she is highly regarded as the chief of surgery at Tampa City Hospital. This sense of tranquility is disrupted when she is drawn into the diagnosis of the first case of HIV/AIDS seen in Tampa.
But the challenge of this new disease is dwarfed by the disaster that impacts Laura’s life a few days later. A highly resistant bacterial infection is raging in the surgical intensive care unit, and patients are dying. To make matters worse, Laura’s daughter is exposed to the bacteria and begins to show symptoms.
Desperate at this point, Laura calls her young friend, Dr. Stacy Jones, at the CDC in Atlanta. Stacy arrives in Tampa, unaware that a deadly plot is underway in Atlanta as a covert white supremacist cell plans an unthinkable attack on a massive scale.
Caught in the middle, Laura and Stacy encounter an opportunity to connect the Tampa nightmare with the impending Atlanta devastation, but can they prevent it?
Tell us about WEAPON OF CHOICE in your own words?
Laura Nelson is chief of surgery at Tampa City Hospital. She’s busy juggling her patient load, her research, and her teenage kids when her surgical ICU admits the city’s first AIDS patient. But the challenge of this new disease is dwarfed when a highly resistant, lethal bacteria rages though her ICU and infects her own daughter. Laura faces this deadly threat, unaware that a heinous plot is underway in Atlanta as a covert white supremacist group plans an unthinkable attack on a massive scale.
In addition to writing, you also help bring the work of other authors to the market through your company Oceanview Publishing. What are some of the challenges that you’ve faced as a publisher in today’s ever-changing marketplace?
My husband and I started Oceanivew Publishing in 2006 with five titles. We now publish twelve new titles a year in the thriller genre. We have 45 authors and 77 titles. In just six years, almost everything has changed. For Oceanview, it’s been all for the good. We still launch our titles in hard cover, but now with simultaneous e-books and audio. So far this year ten of our titles (including two of mine) have reached Amazon’s weekly “best-seller” status and we’ve optioned one title for a feature film and two titles for television series.
You worked previously in the medical field. What inspired you to make the transition to storytelling?
I love medicine and still stay active as a volunteer primary care physician. My experience as a medical student and mother inspired me to write SHADOW OF DEATH. Laura Nelson is very much like myself, a medical student with two small sons, encountering the terror that was Detroit in the late sixties. Three of my thrillers including TWISTED JUSTICE and now WEAPON OF CHOICE follow Laura and her kids through her medical career.
As a reader, what are some of your personal pet-peeves? In other words, what’s your list of writing dos and don’ts?
Since we’re talking thrillers, there are three huge problems: taking too long to dive into the action; letting the middle sag and drag; and at the end, when all the cataclysmic forces have to come together, a disappointing, lazy, over-simplified, overtly convenient, or blatantly unreasonable ending.
What kind of research did you conduct for WEAPON OF CHOICE?
Having a background in microbiology and medicine certainly helped, but I did have to research the early days of HIV/AIDS. A recent reviewer, who divulged that she was a year old in 1985, was shocked at the lack of understanding of the transmission of the disease versus the state of knowledge and familiarity in 2012.
Was there anything particularly interesting that you discovered during your research that you’d like to highlight?
Research into the world of hate crimes and white supremacy groups was most revealing and horribly depressing when faced with the reality of hate group proliferation in recent years.
What are you reading now? What are some of your favorite books/authors and who has had the greatest influence upon your own work?
I think that Ken Follett is the best writer on the planet. His diversity from EYE OF THE NEEDLE to PILLARS OF THE EARTH stuns me. Of course, I love Michael Palmer and Tess Gerritsen, fellow physician writers. For an exceptional look at thriller-writers, historical and current, check out ITW’s THRILLERS: 100 MUST-READS edited by David Morrell and Hank Wagner. A non thriller writer who I absolutely love for her family sagas is Barbara Bradford Tayler; A WOMAN OF SUBSTANCE is my favorite.
What’s something that you’ve learned about the publishing business that you weren’t expecting?
Thriller writers are so very generous with their time and advice — ThrillerFest is a prime example and all the volunteers who have make ITW from a dream to a reality. And as an author, it’s heartening to see so many publishers and agents come together at ThrilleFest to support new and aspiring authors.
Do you have any advice for aspiring (or struggling) writers out there?
Keep writing, keep networking, learn all you can about the craft. And once you have a published novel, realize that marketing and promotion should represent 90% of your efforts.
Can we get a sneak peek at your next thriller?
AFTER THE FALL, the fourth Laura Nelson thriller is about half finished. It will tackle pharmaceutical intrigue and behind the scene FDA interactions.
Patricia Gussin 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. Gussin’s first novel, SHADOW OF DEATH was nominated best first novel by International Thriller Writers. TWISTED JUSTICE, THE TEST, AND THEN THERE WAS ONE, followed, and now her latest release, WEAPON OF CHOICE. In addition to her writing role, Gussin is also the co-founder of Oceanview Publishing and serves as president and editor.
To learn more about Patricia, please visit her website.