Award-winning author J. L. Greger uses her travel experience and past life as a scientist and research administrator to add authenticity to her thriller/mystery novels. She Didn’t Know Her Place: An Academic Mystery (2017) is her newest release and the sixth book in the Science Traveler series (available at Amazon and Treasure House Books in Albuquerque). You’ll find the author on her website at JLGreger.com and on her Amazon author page.
What is your elevator pitch for She Didn’t Know Her Place?
Would you rather be fired or face criminal charges? Dana Richardson faces this dilemma. A research center, which reports to her, is falsifying data to help industrial clients meet federal pollution standards. The last woman who tried to investigate the problem died under suspicious circumstances.
When readers turn the last page of the book, what do you hope they’ll take away from it?
I hope readers rethink their attitudes about right and wrong. Many laws and regulations are examples of bureaucratic red tape and a waste of time and of money. However, can you lose your sense of right and wrong if you ignore too many of these seemingly petty laws and regulations? When should a boss act or a colleague report these misdeeds? The decisions aren’t always black and white.
What unique challenges did this work pose for you?
Many of the events in this novel occurred. I had to constantly remind myself I was writing a novel, not a factual account of events.
How did the book come together?
This was the first novel that I wrote. I set it aside in 2011 but revised it extensively three times after writing and publishing other novels. Finally, I decided to revise it one last time in 2017.
Tell us about your main character.
Dana Richardson, on the surface, appears to be a successful woman scientist. Many readers will wish they had her power at work and her chutzpah. However, she is haunted by feelings of inadequacy because of frequent gender harassment and a strict upbringing. The net result is she often clashes with male colleagues, who assume they are entitled to take convenient but illegal shortcuts.
What makes this novel unique in the mystery/thriller market?
Science isn’t a collection of boring facts but the search for truth in the physical world. I try to infuse this sense of wonder about new scientific discoveries into all my novels. In She Didn’t Know Her Place, I focused on the importance of honesty in environmental testing.
Did you discover anything surprising while doing research for this book?
My professional experiences as a scientist and research administrator were the research for this novel. I was always surprised how many “nice” leaders had ugly secrets and how many scientists had heroic pasts.
You’ve written six books in your Science Traveler series. What key issues do you focus on to keep readers coming back for more?
First off, my science traveler is Sara Almquist. She’s an inquisitive busybody who just happens to be a skilled epidemiologist with practical experiences worldwide. Her enthusiasm for science and travel is contagious.
Second, I include recent scientific discoveries in every book. For example, I featured new research on weight control in Murder…A Way to Lose Weight (2nd Edition, 2017) and on cancer immunotherapy in Malignancy (Oak Tree Press, 2014). Readers often comment that they always learn something new while reading my novels. These two books won the Public Safety Writers Association Annual Contests in 2016 and 2015, respectively.
Third, I’ve traveled extensively and take Sara to my favorite locations, including Albuquerque. For example, Sara escaped villains by running across the roof of St. Francis Church above the Witches’ Market in La Paz, Bolivia in Ignore the Pain (Oak Tree Press, 2013). (I only walked across the roof.)
Do you have a message or a theme that recurs in your writing?
Scientific research and mystery writing share many characteristics. Both are exciting but hard work.
Of all the books you’ve written, which one did you enjoy writing the most?
Riddled with Clues (Aakenbaaken & Kent, 2017) was the most fun to write for two reasons. My dog, Bug, and I do pet therapy at the Veterans Hospital in Albuquerque. In this novel I shared our experiences with amazing veterans in the psych and rehab units (without breaking HIPPA regulations). Second, I used a friend’s notes on his experiences as a medic in the secret war in Laos in the 1960s to create the clues for this modern-day mystery.
What writing project are you working on now?
A Pound of Flesh Sorta, the next book in my Science Traveler series, is partially set in a meat-packing plant in New Mexico. In one sense, it’s an update of Upton Sinclair’s The Jungle, but with a Southwest twist.
KL Wagoner (writing as Cate Macabe) is the author of This New Mountain: a memoir of AJ Jackson, private investigator, repossessor, and grandmother. Kathy has a new speculative fiction blog at klwagoner.com and writes about memoir at ThisNewMountain.com.
Janet, I enjoyed your informative interview. I “sort-of” knew some of this, but you filled in my knowledge gaps. Good work in creating books that leave the reader with new information while they are enjoying the fun.