Janet Lane-Walters writes in many genres including fantasy and romance. Recently I had the pleasure of reading her medical suspense thriller, Code Blue, a page turner if there ever was one. She’s graciously agreed to answer some of my silly questions.
SRW: Welcome, Janet! You’ve been a very busy writer! I understand Code Blue isn’t representative of the usual fare you right. Tell the readers more about the books you publish.
JLW: Actually Code Blue is the only suspense I've ever written. While it does involve nurses, doctors and hospitals the romance is downplayed. I also write a lot of paranormal stories. Some of the paranormal are considered time-travel but they're really more reincarnation or alternate world. When I sit down to begin a story, I generally know the sub-genre before I begin and my mind slips into that sort of world.
SRW: Please let everyone know a little bit about Code Blue.
JLW:Code Blue is a medical suspense. I like to read this kind of books but the doctors and nurses are always the evil ones. I wanted to try something different and wondered "What if someone was killing the doctors and nurses?" That was how the story began. I was lucky to have an acquaintance who was a forensic psychiatrist and I picked his brain to help develop the killer. The heroine has recently suffered a life changing situation when her controlling husband died. She's finding her way. Planting clues was fun, especially the gifts she receives. Who would suspect candy, books and flowers of being sinister?
SRW: I’ve read that you used to be a nurse. It certainly shows in Code Blue, very authentic. Either that or you’re a glutton for research. So, how much of the tale is autobiographical (excluding the murders, of course. I hope!)?
JLW: I'm a nurse, yes and I worked on an orthopedic floor for several years. I did use the construction of that unit in the book. No murders, though.
SRW: The book is a constantly P.O.V. shifting tale, a method I like to use. And it fits the tale very well. Is this your usual writing style? Or do you change it up with different books?
JLW: Point of view for this book was different from my usual tale telling. I call this the book of diminishing characters. There are two ways to keep the suspense rolling, one is to do a first person. This wasn't a book for that. The multiple character viewpoints allowed the suspense to build. My books usually have three or maybe four viewpoints, except my YA fantasies and they are multiple. For romance hero, heroine and perhaps villain usually works best.
SRW: I know writers work in different ways. For you, what comes first? Setting, characters, plot? Just an incident you imagine?
JLW: Now this is an interesting question. I'd say none of the above. My stories usually come when I'm bored and can't fall asleep. Then I start telling myself a story. This probably means the plot sort of comes first and there have to be characters. Settings, never. I have trouble remembering not to have my characters exist in a bubble. Actually the stories just sort of appear.
SRW: One fascinating aspect of Code Blue is how you delve into the psychotic mind of the killer, inviting the reader inside his head for how he views things. I believe your husband is a psychiatrist (psychologist? I never can keep the two straight.). Did you run the “watcher’s” segments by him for input?
JLW: Actually other than talking to a forensic psychiatrist. the story evolved from my twisted mind. My husband is a psychiatrist and has only ever read one of my books and that was because he'd had major surgery and had nothing else to read. My critique group did a lot of the feedback on the story.
SRW: There’re a whole lotta affairs and shenanigans going on at your fictional hospital, particularly between the nurses and the caddish doctors. Is it fair to say this happens a lot? Scoop, Janet, scoop like the wind!
JLW: Of course there are. Nurses and doctors are people who work under stressful situations. As to whether it happens a lot, if I told you... I've known of a few situations but none like the ones I brought up in my book. I just have a vivid imagination.
SRW: One of the hardest things for me to write is action scenes. Maybe love scenes. You handle both well. Is there anything in particular you struggle with?
JLW: Love writing action scenes and when I began the biggest love scenes were holding hands and a kiss at the end of the story. Learning to write love scenes was a challenge and I have a lot of books on the subject. What I still struggle with is what an editor pointed out when I first began writing. "Your characters exist in a vacuum." So I have an entire draft devoted to getting the setting in place.
SRW: Okay, I found your protagonist, Susan, alternately strong, admirable and frustrating! This is coming from a guy’s perspective, but her insistence on keeping her neighbor/pal Patrick at arm’s length due to a fear of having her independence snatched away by him drove me nuts. Not all guys do this (even though her late husband apparently did). As a male reader, I call foul, Susan! Defend yourself!
JLW: Susan is a character so she can't defend herself. I needed her to be fearful of Patrick's wanting to control her. He was her husband's best friend. If she hadn't felt this way, she would have confided in him earlier and there wouldn't have been a story, at least not a suspenseful one. Also, If Patrick didn't have to fight to gain her trust there would be no romance story either. Characters need to be tailored for the story you're telling. I've never had a character take over a story, Whether that's good or bad, I don't know.
SRW: While reading the book, I couldn’t quite put my finger on what year it takes place. As the interview detective I am, I looked into it. I see that you published it in 2012. Yet in the book there are no cell phones and the nurses aren’t fully up and computer functional. This leads me to one of two beliefs: either it was written much earlier; or you (like myself) find that cell phones and modern technology sometimes get in the way of writing thrillers.
JLW: This story was originally published in 1998. When the publisher returned my rights, I didn't want to change and put in modern things like cell phones. There weren't computers in the hospitals back then either. They're a very recent entry into the health field. If I were to revise and re-write, I would put those things in and it's easy to write scenes where something happens to the cell phone, either a smart of a dumb one. Forget to recharge. In a chase scene have it dropped and no time to pick it up.
SRW: Tell everyone what’s up next on Janet’s keyboard.
JLW: Working on The Cancer Capricorn Connection - a nurse doctor romance. Only have the rough draft done so time will pass before it appears. Also revising a Rights Back book now titled Past Betrayals Past Loves. Reincarnation novel.
SRW: Thanks very much for stopping by, Janet! You can check out Janet and her books at: