Millicent Eidson and I connected through the Sisters in Crime organization. She is the author of Anthracis, the first of what she expects to be a 26-book series featuring microbes and other bad guys.
What are we fiction writers trying to do? And can we do it all in one novel? For everybody?
I try to answer those questions as my characters journey through my microbial mystery series starting with “Anthracis,” the bacteria causing anthrax. ANTHRACIS (drmayamaguire.com)
I’m retired from full-time employment as a veterinary epidemiologist. One primary focus has been zoonoses, diseases from animals. The microbes are fascinating and scary creatures. Everyone learns a little about them as we get infected, particularly now with COVID-19. But how do these organisms threaten us and what can we do about it?
One creative writing goal is education about zoonoses and the diverse group of scientists who battle them. But the first word in the title of this blog is entertainment. Humans are hard-wired to communicate through compelling stories. With our free time, most of us want to be immersed in someone else’s world in a way that’s entertaining and distracting. Often the farther away that world is from our own, the better.
Vivid characters, complex relationships, sharp dialogue, dramatic settings, surprising action—all these increase the entertainment value when I read Tony Hillerman’s southwestern mysteries or Tess Gerritsen’s medical thrillers. I’m also looking for those payoffs when binging on General Hospital, Yellowstone, and This is Us.
Several of those examples take place in the West. Novelist and environmental gadfly Edward Abbey said that we’re imprinted by the place we grew up in. For me, that was Tucson, Arizona where I danced in the desert and pulled rattlesnakes out of rock caves.
For my novel series, I created a young immigrant named Maya Maguire who’s assigned to New Mexico as a veterinary epidemiology trainee. Maya’s journey to personal and work fulfillment should capture readers all the way to “Zika.” I hope that readers identify with her imperfections and struggles.
But Maya isn’t the single focus. In “Anthracis” she’s part of a ‘three musketeers’ team with a passionate physician working for the Indian Health Service and a laconic agriculture department veterinarian. Their anthrax fight interweaves with the diaries of a young, indoctrinated boy until the timelines cross. In later novels, other characters will take center stage during flashbacks to microbial threats of the past.
Sometimes we look for our entertainment in expected, reassuring ways, so we want books that fit into a clear niche. For me, genre mashups are more intriguing. The MayaVerse combines elements of medical thriller as Maya tackles multiple microbial threats, romantic suspense as she navigates friendships, attraction, and commitment, and women’s fiction as she matures from a panic-stricken statistics nerd to a commanding kick-ass public health leader.
Enlightenment is my final goal as a person and author. I love being intrigued by new ideas, different cultures, and diverse ways of living. Can we think about themes like immigration and climate change through characters who care? How do different parts of the world balance home and family life? What are our obligations to ourselves and to others?
Committing to twenty-six novels provides me a big canvas and lots of opportunities for my photos on the book covers. Painting and photography are other passions that I enjoy sharing.
In answer to my final question in the blog title, you can tell me if the MayaVerse appeals to everybody. Sign up for my Reader list at HOME (drmayamaguire.com) to receive a free epub and pdf copy of my award-winning short play “Monuments,” where two women of different backgrounds collide one night at the historical monument in the Plaza of Santa Fe, New Mexico.
You can find out more about Millicent Eidson on her website, including free shorter works. Links to purchase the e-book, paperback, hardcover, and large print formats of “Anthracis: A Microbial Mystery” are available at ANTHRACIS (drmayamaguire.com).
And check out last month’s guest post by Sarah E. Burr, as she muses about entertaining novels, and some of my earlier guest posts, such as this one on research by author Eva Montealegre.