“Viral Intent” by Judith Townsend Rocchiccioli is the third in the author’s accomplished and competent medical thriller series. A handful of medical staff in New Orleans is dealing with a viral outbreak at their hospital that is part of a wider political terrorism plot.
Alex, the heroine of the previous books, is a legally trained clerical member of staff with an ex-husband who is also involved in solving the case. The military get involved as the virus needs to be identified, an antidote found and the culprits brought to justice.
The third book brings the characters out even better than the previous ones. Their history and interplay really made this much more than a mere thriller. Whether it be the ex-lovers and their relationship, Inspector Francoise or new characters – they make this dramatic and fast paced story very real and never fail to involve the reader.
The medical background of the author shows, the political and criminological parts are well written, too and the plot of course is very believable and scarily possible. The representation of Muslims as terrorists has been carefully handled and been put in the right context to never make this reader feel uncomfortable.
A great story, excellent writing and a strong set of characters make this a very worthy read.
Tell us a little about yourself as writer and as person.
I am a regular person who loves people, life and having fun. I love to entertain, spend time with my dogs (I have six of them) and create art with my grandchildren. I am the co-owner of Artisan Galleries, an art gallery located in a historic log cabin at Massanutten Resort, a 5 Star Resort located in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia. In addition to my writing, I am a silk painter and multi-media artist, primarily working with textiles and jewelry. I love to create up cycled art.
I know you have a medical background, but did you write throughout your career or is this a new thing?
Yes, I have always written, primarily for the academic press. I began writing fiction about 10 years ago but was only able to give it the attention it needed the past few years. One of my favourite things is to write stories with my grandchildren and illustrate them! It teaches them the importance of reading and writing from the beginning.
Tell us about your books and how the ideas for them came about. Why New Orleans as the setting?
I have spent a great deal of time in New Orleans and taught at Louisiana State University for many years. I ever practiced at the Old Charity Hospital (before it was destroyed during Katrina) where modern medicine and Voodoo were often practiced concurrently. New Orleans is a fascinating city. It is rich in culture, charm, heritage and charm. Beneath the sophticated veneer, an insidious evil, deep, dark underbelly is perfect for any crime or thriller writer. The ideas for my books come from everywhere. I can find an idea in a newspaper clipping, a newscast or a friend or even from my readers. One of my plot lines came from a review of the New Orleans Police Department’s website for unsolved crimes. I check their website frequently for ideas. The hospital and clinical scenarios in my books are based on my life as a registered nurse and hospital administrator. All of the clinical situations are true and only a few facts have been changed. I have enough medical fodder and mismanagement for another 15 novels without even having to think hard.
Your books have quite serious undertones, such as mental health and the health care system. Do you find that your readers ‘get’ those messages?
Yes, my books do have serious undertones. The changes in healthcare in the US are extraordinary and I let people know what some of the changes might be in the coming years. In addition, mental health care in the US and I believe, in the world, is abysmal. I use my books as a platform to educate my readers about things that could be difficult or will be difficult in coming years. I also advocate for staff and patients in my novels. I have three goals for my books. The first is to engage them so they continue to read, the second is to entertain and the third goal is to educate readers about changes in the health care system or social issues.
I love to read thrillers and suspense. I also love historical literary fiction. I also love series and am beginning to like fantasy and paranormal. I guess I like just about everything because I love to read!
Who would you hope plays the characters in a movie version?
You know, I’ve never thought about a movie version. In a way I kind of like not having a face attached to my characters just yet. They are continuing to evolve in each book. I think I need to know them a little better before I can link them up with a face. I would have to think about that a little while longer…
What do you like best about writing? What’s your least favourite thing?
I love writing and making stuff up. I also believe the Alex Destephano series is a catharsis for me. There are lots of things in my career and in the American healthcare system that are problematic and I think writing about them helps me see them more clearly. I also think it gives me an opportunity to educate people about changes that may be in store for them. I also like the control that comes with creating your own book. By nature, I am not a controlling person but boy, there are been times in my professional life I would’ve liked to changed a lot of things to make a person’s illness experience more positive. My least favorite thing is the editing, probably because I’m not that good at editing myself and I need a ton of help with it!
How have you found the experience of self-publishing? What were your highs and lows?
I love self-publishing because it offers opportunities that I never knew existed. Chaos at Crescent City Medical Center was accepted by a traditional publisher after numerous rejections. I was ecstatic until I received my final contract. I felt my creativity was stifled and I just wasn’t comfortable with the limitations. Many of my friends who have published traditionally work just as hard as I do on marketing. Their books may be in grocery stores and Walmart, but I am happy where I am. I like my autonomy as an Indie author and I would have a difficult time giving that up. In a perfect world, I would like to be both an Indie author and a traditional author. I know that is occurring more and more.
What is your advice to new writers?
Write about what you know, Join a writing group, learn to take critique, good and bad.
Self-discipline, Research, Write, Edit, edit, edit, edit, and HAVE FUN!
Who are your favourite authors?
There are so many and you are among them, Christoph! In the thriller genre, I like David Baldacci, Patricia Cornwell, James Patterson, Lee Child, Jeffrey Deaver, Sandra Brown, Vincent Demille, Pat Conroy, I love Robin Cook (who can ever forget Coma?) and Sue Grafton (Kinsey Milhone is so memorable). There are tons of Indie authors whose work is every bit as extraordinary.
What book are you currently reading and in what format (e-book/paperback/hardcover)
I am reading Marsha Roberts Confessions of a Mutinous Baby Boomer and the second volume of your trilogy. I love my Kindle but I also like the smell and feel of a print book.
Art, having fun, working in my yard, creating stuff and time with friends and family. I teach several classes each semester and health policy and research.
What makes you laugh?
Just about anything. Love great cartoons. I am a “glass half full” person!‘
Hot or cold?
Sweet or salty?
Cat or dog?
Dogs, for sure!
Favourite colour, animal, musician, album?
I love all shades of green…Love leopards and bears, Steve Winward, Sting, Maroon Five, Cold Play, Elton
What are you really passionate about besides writing?
Music, piano, harp, art, animals, being alive…
Who would you like to invite for dinner?
You, Christoph! I would like to invite you…
What would your friends say are your best and your oddest quality?
Best is probably sense of humor, flexibility, personality…worse, need for perfection and impatience with dumb people
What would you name as those qualities?
They are my best AND worst assets. As you know, our greatest strengths are our greatest weaknesses as well.
What are you working on now?
Alex #4, Toxic New Year, hopefully to be released early next year. Also am editing a book on silk painting and a non-fiction book “Hear Me Roar” a book about resilience in women based on some academic research I have completed.
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