Friday, August 30, 2013

My Take On It: Guest Post by D.J. Donaldson, Author of "Louisiana Fever"

Portly & Proud CSI Catches Louisiana Fever
Threat of Outbreak Drives Latest in Southern Suspense Series
“D.J. Donaldson is superb at spinning medical fact into gripping suspense.  With his in-depth knowledge of science and medicine, he is one of very few authors who can write with convincing authority.”

--Tess Gerritsen, NY Times best-selling author of the Rizzoli & Isles novels

Andy Broussard, the “Plump and Proud” New Orleans medical examiner, obviously loves food.  Less apparent to the casual observer is his hatred of murderers. Together with his gorgeous sidekick, psychologist Kit Franklyn, Broussard forms a powerful, although improbable, mystery solving duo.

Astor + Blue Editions is proud to release Louisiana Fever, the latest Broussard mystery by DJ Donaldson.

When Kit goes to meet an anonymous stranger—who’s been sending her roses—the man drops dead at her feet before she could even get his name. Game on.

Andy Broussard soon learns that the man carried a lethal pathogen similar to the deadly “Ebola”—a highly contagious virus, feared worldwide for killing its victims (grotesquely) in a matter of days. When another body turns up with the same bug, widespread panic becomes imminent. The danger is even more acute, because the carrier is mobile. The man knows he’s a walking weapon and… he’s targeting Broussard.

And when Kit Franklyn investigates her mystery suitor further, she runs afoul of a cold- blooded killer, every bit as deadly as the man searching for her partner.

Louisiana Fever is written in Donaldson’s unique style:  A hard-hitting, punchy, action-packed prose that’s dripping with a folksy, decidedly southern sense of irony.  Mix in Donaldson’s brilliant first-hand knowledge of forensics, along with the sultry flavor of New Orleans, and readers will be fully satisfied with this irresistibly delectable mystery.

My Take On It: Series vs. Stand-Alone Titles
By D.J. (Don) Donaldson

I’ve written both kinds of books and have to say that I like both forms equally well. 

With a series, your characters already exist from previous books, so you don’t have to create them anew each time you start another novel.  If you’ve done it right, they should seem like old friends to you and to your readers as well.  Think about your own life. Its always fun to read that Christmas letter from people you really like (except maybe when they’ve won the lottery). It’s the same with continuing characters.  People want to know what they’re up to now.  But if you write thrillers and mysteries like I do, that doesn’t just mean your readers want to know what new puzzles your main characters have to solve or who might be trying to kill them.  Fans of a series also want to see how your characters change and grow from book to book.  And what new things might be revealed about murky circumstances in their past.  You have to peel their layers away like… (I want to say onion, but I’d rather write this with no clich├ęs in it, so, I’ll let you finish that last sentence.)

Screenwriters all know that characters in movies need arcs… that is, they must change during the film and emerge at the end different in some significant way.  Scrooge in A CHRISTMAS CAROL, for instance.  Think of the actor, Patrick Stewart’s, Scrooge (Stewart… you know… Captain Jean-luc Picard in Star Trek), giggling like a happy lunatic awaking on Christmas day to find that he’s still alive.  Though series novelists seem less aware of this need for arcs in their stories, books that have them are better than those without.  Generally big arcs are more desirable than small ones.  But once you’ve written several books about the same characters, the arcs they travel in each new book usually can’t be Scrooge-sized, they have to be more on the scale of Tiny Tim. But even if limited in scale, arcs should still be present.

 Now I’m going to brag a bit.   Look away if you must.   In LOUISIANA FEVER, the 5th book in my forensic mystery series, I was able to pull off a big surprise involving Kit Franklyn, the gorgeous (of course) psychologist who works for the hugely overweight New Orleans medical examiner, Andy Broussard.  Dang…. Imagine… A major revelation in book five… Of course, I was only able to manage a few smaller arcs for Andy.  Still…

Freedom… that’s a good word to describe stand-along novels.  The characters have no previous written history, so the writer is free to create them as he wishes.  Absence of a known past allows for large character arcs.  That can help an otherwise good book become great.  The trade-off is that readers have no previous investment in those characters.  That means the writer has to somehow make the public want to read about people they don’t know. Even folks who love gossip are bored when Grandma goes on and on, giving you all the dirt on someone she knew in the forties.  This lack of character continuity can be a problem for new writers especially, and even for experienced writers who depart from a successful series to try a stand-alone.  You’ve written a great book, but how do you convince potential readers to give it a try?  Believe me, it “ain’t” easy… unless of course the author has a long history of New York Times stand-alone best sellers.  Then, the author becomes a brand name that readers will follow anywhere.  

So, dear writer, let your heart take you where it will. 

Meet the Author D.J. Donaldson is a retired professor of Anatomy and Neurobiology.  His entire academic career was spent at the University of Tennessee, Health Science Center, where he published dozens of papers on wound-healing and where he taught microscopic anatomy to thousands of medical and dental students.

He is also the author of seven published forensic mysteries and five medical thrillers. He lives in Memphis, Tennessee with his wife and two West Highland terriers. In the spring of most years he simply cannot stop buying new flowers and other plants for the couple’s prized backyard garden.


  1. Thank you so much for sharing this post with us!! It was a wonderful experience reading your post!

  2. I enjoy both stand alone books and series, too. I will admit there have been times when I wished the series could have continued. I have not read anything by D.J. Donaldson yet. Louisiana Fever sounds so interesting..another book to add to the staggering TBR!

  3. I enjoy both stand-alone and series, too! I agree with you though--sometimes I want the series to keep going!

    Thank you for sharing with us today D.J.! The book does sound great and I look forward to reading it soon.