Dr. Persephone (Seph) Smith is a psychologist with enhanced empathy, allowing her to feel the emotions of others.
But her gift comes with a price. Plagued by nightmares and insecure in her work, Seph absorbs the suffering of her patients by day and swills tequila by night.
When Seph is deployed to an abandoned air hangar turned medical shelter during a massive hurricane, one by one, as the wind howls overhead, staff and evacuees disappear into the dark recesses of the vast space. The missing return as mutilated corpses. The living, trapped in the shrieking metal structure by the storm, descend into varying levels of paranoia and madness. Seph, as both counselor and detective, must determine who, or what, is preying on them.
Is the panic and mayhem “shelter shock,” as the lead physician, Anne Parrish, insists? Or is everyone, Seph included, in danger of losing their minds—and their lives? Storm Shelter is a prequel to TYPE AND CROSS (WiDo Publishing, 2016) which features an older, wiser Dr. Persephone Smith. TYPE AND CROSS was recently nominated for International Thriller Writer’s “Best First Novel” of 2016.
That tired, yet ubiquitous advice haunts first-time novelists and stifles the creativity of even advanced writers. Without dreamers—think Jules Verne and Arthur C. Clark—certain genres such as scifi, which relies on imaginative world-building, would be boring indeed.
That said, when I committed to writing my first thriller, Type & Cross, I succumbed to the comfort of what I knew—science, medicine, and psychology. No research required, right?
As I wrote, I soon realized I’d entered Michael Crichton territory: a story built on a foundation of scientific fact, but with details so twisted and warped, I’d entered the fringes of possibility. I’d created my very own Jurassic Park, and I needed to do some research.
For me, research meant digging out my old, dusty medical textbooks and boning up on hematology and virology—the study of blood and viruses, respectively. I had the added pressure of knowing my medical colleagues would be lying in wait, scalpels in hands, ready to shred my science to bits. I had to make the details genuine, but also salient and accessible to the average reader (i.e. not boring!) The science needed to drive the story, not drown it. Dr. Crichton was a master of this delicate balancing act. I was a newbie. Did I accomplish the task? You be the judge. I’ve had reviewers comment both ways.
When I started book two, Storm Shelter, I swore I would make it easier on myself. No international hijinks (thank you, Google Maps.) No bizarre medical conditions. This time, I would write what I know. The end result: Storm Shelter takes place almost entirely within a single air hangar-turned-hurricane shelter in San Antonio and is based upon my real-life experiences as a disaster physician for the federal government.
I’ve been in three such scenarios, and I merged the people, locations, and situations into one authentic and terrifying wild ride—no research required. Much of what you read in Storm Shelter actually happened in one form or the other (up until the grisly murders, that is!) It’s as close to a biography of those years as I’ll ever write, with details obscured to protect the innocent. Storm Shelter is available now on Kindle and releases in print on June 28th.
But now I’m onto book three, the sequel to Type & Cross. And guess what? I’m in the Basque community of Spain (research) running through the medieval streets of Bilbao (research) while chasing a mad scientist who’s attempting to genetically modify people’s blood types in order to create a master race (research, research, research!) I am not writing what I know.
I’d like to think Michael Crichton would approve.