Today we have the pleasure of speaking with J.L. Delozier. The author of 3 novels and several short stories, Ms. Delozier recently had her third novel, Blood Type X, published! This novel is the third installment of Delozier’s “Persephone Smith Series.” The first two novels of the series have received very positive feedback from readers, making this new novel highly anticipated. You can check it out on and on GOODREADS and AMAZON!
Along with your career as an author, you are also a federal physician (thank you for your service). Has your career as a physician helped you as a writer or vice versa?
I WAS a federal physician (and you’re welcome!) I retired from my post 1.5 years ago when I went part-time to devote more energy to my writing.
My medical career has undoubtedly helped me as a writer. First, it’s provided me with a mountain of stories ranging from horrifying to heart-breaking to humorous – and they’re all true. Secondly, since physicians spend most of their days observing, listening to, and examining people, my job has given me tremendous insight into human nature.
The main character of your trilogy is Dr. Persephone Smith, a psychologist working for the Department of Veteran Affairs who has a genetic gift which allows her to feel empathy at a primal level. With you being a physician yourself, how much of Persephone’s character is based on your own experiences/personality?
Though I’m not a psychologist, I see mental illness every day, so Persephone’s experiences are very much based on my own. In fact, I like to joke that 80% of the medical events which occur in Storm Shelter are true – until the first gruesome murder. Fortunately, no one ever got murdered during my stints in disaster shelters.
As far as her personality goes, I tried to make Persephone her own person because I knew there’d be comparisons. However, I still have a few friends who claim they can see me in her. I think that’s par for the course. I could write a story about a ballet-dancing wildebeest, and someone would still claim it’s me at heart.
After establishing yourself in your medical career, what made you turn back to writing?
I’ve always loved to write and wrote short stories until I entered medical school, where the time and psychological demands precluded most non-essential activities. I kept a running bucket list throughout what I like to call “the whirlwind years” – internship, residency, first job – and at the top of that list was “write a novel.” My nudge occurred when a physician friend of mine crashed and burned – substance abuse, failed marriage, the whole works. After he finished rehab, I wanted to keep track of him without being obvious. He’d always wanted to write a musical, so we made a pact: he’d work on his musical, I’d finally write my novel, and we’d Skype once a week to compare notes. A year later, I finished Type & Cross.
Most people would agree that the career of any medical professional is quite demanding. How do you find the time to write without burning yourself out?
The first book was easy, actually, because I had no idea what I was doing and had no expectations it would ever get published. I was truly clueless. I read Stephen King’s On Writing and thought that qualified me to churn out a book. Now I read Type & Cross and cringe a bit. I’d love a do-over (although it did get nominated for a “Best 1st Novel” award by ITW, so I must’ve done something right!) It was such a joy to decompress in the evenings or whenever I could steal some time and get lost in Persephone’s make-believe world. The hard part came once it sold. Now I had to write book two while editing the prior book, launching social media profiles and a webpage, and oh, yeah – marketing. Suddenly, I had a second career with a whole new business model to learn. I’m still learning.
After I finished book two, I decided to give this writing-thing my best shot. I took a leap of faith, left government work, and accepted a 20 hour-a-week job with the local health care system. It’s still a juggle – even a part-time physician job is fairly demanding – but I make it work. And I still get to eat and have health insurance. Bonus. Seriously, though, I’m so fortunate I can survive and have a decent lifestyle on 20 hours a week. A lot of people don’t have that luxury.
When writing a trilogy, have you found it harder to write the first, second, or third installment? Also, was the Persephone Smith Trilogy always planned out as a trilogy since the beginning, or did you plan it out one book at a time?
This was my biggest mistake. As I said above, I planned nothing. Write one book, check it off my bucket list, get on with my life. That was the plan. But while I was writing Type & Cross, I remembered joking during my deployment to a shelter in San Antonio that the place was so creepy, someone should write a book about it. So I decided to write another thriller set in that exact shelter which mashed together the morbid highlights from all my deployment experiences. By that time, I’d fallen in love with Persephone’s character, but the only way I could make it work chronologically was to write Storm Shelter as a prequel. And if you’ve got a prequel, you’ve gotta have a sequel, right? Before I knew it, I’d given her a character arc for a trilogy. I could continue the series if I wanted to, but I probably won’t.
The final installment, Blood Type X, which launches this spring, was the hardest to write. Type & Cross ended with a hanging question begging to be answered, and I felt so much pressure to meet expectations – to finish with a big bang, if you will – that I resorted to an outline after several false starts (I’m usually a pantser.)
Thank you for the interview! One final fun question: when your trilogy is turned into a movie series, who is your first pick to play Dr. Persephone Smith?
Ooo – a girl can dream, right? Seriously, though, everyone laughs when I answer this, but hear me out. By Type & Cross, Seph is in her 30s and jaded. She has a wariness to her along with a degree of awkwardness from her painful empathy that I think Kristen Stewart (yes, the Twilightactress!) could embody perfectly. Check out some of her more indie films. She’s my Persephone. But I’m open to suggestions.