After a fall on ice ends Laura Nelson’s career as a surgeon, she joins a major pharmaceutical firm as Vice President for Research. In AFTER THE FALL, the latest novel from Patricia Gussin, her task is to finalize the imminent approval of her new company’s groundbreaking drug.
Unfortunately there are opposing forces at work. At the center is Adawia (Addie) Abdul, an Iraqi scientist who discovered the drug and is in no hurry to return to Iraq. And Saddam Hussein’s henchmen are pressuring Nelson to finish her task. They want her home to take over their country’s bioweapon program from her dying father. As determined as the Iraqis are to get Addie home as quickly as possible, FDA bureaucrat Jake Harter is equally obsessed with keeping her near, and will stop at nothing, including murder to get his way.
In addition, Laura has to deal with a number of personal issues including some secrets from her past. No doubt, she has her hands full.
This comes as no accident. Gussin said the most challenging part of writing AFTER THE FALL was in creating a stand-alone novel that also addressed incidents that occurred in her previous three Laura Nelson books.
“I wanted to accomplish closure for the series, but make this a perfectly satisfactory read for those who had no insight into Laura’s past. I was conscious of this throughout the writing process, but used the editing process to make sure that there was the right amount of backstory so that it would all make sense to the new reader.”
Technically, Gussin found that the scenes in Baghdad at the Radwaniyah Palace complex were difficult and required “much research” since she has never been to Iraq. Emotionally, “Laura’s actual conversation with her son about his paternity was tough. I didn’t know how it would turn out.”
Gussin feels that Adawia Abdul is the most sympathetic character in the book. Addie is based on the women she met in her medical career who were “caught between the wonders of the West and the heritage of the Middle East. Maybe not so prevalent now, but in the past, residency programs and research programs have included women from many Middle Eastern countries. Getting to know them gave me the insight I needed to create Addie.”
Jake Harter was drawn from Gussin’s personal experience as well. “I have had a lot of interaction with the FDA during my career,” she said. “As with any walks in life, there are the good and the bad. In Jake’s case, he seemed a mild-mannered bureaucrat, but like so many psychopaths hidden among us, he does whatever it takes to get what he wants with no sense of conscience.”
The fun in writing AFTER THE FALL came in Laura’s new career. “I loved getting back into the pharmaceutical industry where I’ve worked in research and development. Most medical thrillers make the pharmaceutical company ‘the bad guy’; in AFTER THE FALL, the ‘bad guy’ is an FDA staffer.”
But Gussin also wanted to make sure her readers came away from the novel with something more. “Based on my own reading experience, I primarily want to be entertained; secondarily I want to walk in somebody else’s shoes and learn from that experience. My takeaways for AFTER THE FALL are an appreciation of the approval process of important new drugs; a sense of complex family dynamics; multicultural assimilation issues; and the realization of how vulnerable we are to psychopaths we encounter in the navigation of an ordinary life.
“At its core, AFTER THE FALL is a story of relentless determination in the face of crippling adversity, a story of love, heroism, and fulfillment. The themes of pharmaceutical drug development, the clash of cultures—West versus Middle East, family dynamics, and the ravages of the psychopaths among us that keep the action at a frenetic pace.”
The Laura Nelson saga began with Shadow of Death. At the time, Gussin wanted to write a story that focused “on the social upheaval leading to and following the Detroit riots of 1967, and in doing so, tell the story of a female medical student—Laura Nelson—with small children who was impacted by the riots. Thus Shadow of Death spans the four years of medical school. I had no intention to write another until I kept getting asked, ‘What happened next?’ I didn’t know the answer, so I wrote Twisted Justice.
“The jump from medical student to a practicing surgeon takes about seven years, and that’s why I chose that interval. A lot can happen in seven years and I wanted to illustrate the drastic changes. In each of the Laura Nelson novels, she’s a different person, her family structure is different, her children are at completely different stages. I like the ‘differentness’ because each novel can then be read as a stand-alone with a ‘different’ yet ‘same’ protagonist.”
Gussin sees AFTER THE FALL as the final installment in the Laura Nelson saga.
“Since I made the decision to space the Laura Nelson books with a seven year interval, she’d be fifty-five in the next one. And I hope she’s more settled by then. But, Dr. Laura has five kids and maybe one—or more—will end up as protagonists.”
Gussin is hard at work on her next novel that has an international theme: parental abduction of a child from the United States to Egypt.
New York Times and USA Today best-selling author Patricia Gussin is a physician who grew up in Grand Rapids, Michigan, practiced in Philadelphia, and now lives on Longboat Key, Florida. She is the author of SHADOW OF DEATH, Thriller Award nominee for Best First Novel, TWISTED JUSTICE, THE TEST, AND THEN THERE WAS ONE, and WEAPON OF CHOICE. She and her husband, Robert Gussin, co-authored WHAT’S NEXT…FOR YOU? a nonfiction story of career transition.
To learn more about Patricia Gussin and her novels, please visit her website.