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Interview with Darden North author of 'The 5 Manners of Death'.

Interview: Thriller Author Darden North

A native of the Mississippi Delta and a board-certified physician in obstetrics and gynecology, Darden North is the nationally awarded author of five novels in the mystery/thriller genre, most notably an IPPY for Points of Origin.

He practices medicine at Jackson Healthcare for Women in Flowood, Mississippi, where he is a certified daVinci robotic surgeon and also delivers babies. Now Chairman of the Board of the Mississippi Public Broadcasting Foundation and local director of the American Institute of Minimally Invasive Surgery, North has served as Chief-of-Staff of both Woman’s and River Oaks hospitals and as Chairman of the Board of Mississippi Health Partners.

North graduated magna cum laude from the University of Mississippi, where he was inducted into the Hall of Fame, vice-president of the Associated Student Body, president of the Interfraternity Council, and a member of Kappa Alpha Order and ODK as well as the first male inducted into Mortar Board at Ole Miss. He was an AOA graduate of the University of Mississippi Medical Center School of Medicine and completed his ob/gyn residency there.

His writing and publishing career began as Editor-in-Chief of the 1978 Ole Miss yearbook and continued for the 1982 Medic. He also presently serves on the Editorial Advisory Board of the Journal of the Mississippi State Medical Association and on the Editorial Board of the Obstetrics & Gynecology International Journal at MedCrave Publishing. To date, Darden North has authored five published novels, most recently The Five Manners of Death/WordCrafts Press/June 2017.

North has presented at the Southern Expressions Conference on the construction of mysteries and thrillers and participated as an author panelist at “Murder in the Magic City,” “Killer Nashville,” “Author! Author! Celebration of the Written Word,” “Murder on the Menu,” and “SIBA Thriller Author Panel.”   Darden North lives with his wife Sally in Jackson, Mississippi. In his spare time, he gardens, enjoys family, walks for exercise, and travels. Sally and Darden have two young adult children who work in the medical field.

Congratulations on the release of your latest book, The Five Manners of Death. When did you start writing and what got you into thrillers and murder mysteries? 

My first novel, a murder mystery, was released in 2005, about the time Hurricane Katrina hit the Gulf Coast. In fact, some of the book stores that had scheduled signings for House Call disappeared in the storm. I spent about 10 years toying with the idea of writing that first novel and finally getting it published. After 5000-6000 copies sold, I decided to keep going with this thing.

What is your book about?

In The Five Manners of Death there are five ways to die. As bodies collect around her, surgeon Diana Bratton believes that homicide is the only way left. Then the police prove her wrong. A crumpled, 50-year-old note written by her aunt convinces Diana that murder is her family secret.
What was your inspiration for it?

Coroners or medical examiners classify the cause of death as resulting from either natural cause, accident, suicide, homicide, or undetermined. All murders are homicides, but not all homicides are murder. For instance, the police do not consider an unintentional homicide, or manslaughter, as murder. A few years ago, I was intrigued by a lecture on the five manners of death and at that moment decided I would work that concept into a thriller.

What type of challenges did you face while writing this book?

The novel has an important backstory set in the 1960s at Ole Miss, the University of Mississippi, so I needed to interview alumni from that era to portray the setting and atmosphere accurately. There is a poker scene in a school dormitory that took some additional research. The Five Manners of Death is a sequel of sorts, or follow-up story, to my previous novel, Wiggle Room, so there were timeline concerns. The characters have a lot of secrets in The Five Manners of Death and sometimes they kept them from me. 

Did your book require a lot of research?

I am certain that fiction readers still want the facts right! I made sure that my premise for The Five Manners of Death met the classifications set by the Centers for Disease Control, understanding that murder is homicide but not all homicides are murder. A part of my research was a trip to the morgue at the State of Mississippi Medical Examiner’s Office. He said that the Mississippi outdoor hunting season generally leads to more finds of skeletal remains and that this year had set a record.

How do you keep your narrative exciting?

Dialogue, dialogue, and more dialogue. Dialogue drives a story. With diligence and craft (and a lot of elbow grease), a writer can weave setting, character description, and plot into dialogue and avoid long, descriptive passages that quickly turn the bedside lamp off at night. 

Do you have a website or blog where readers can find out more about your work?

My website is Darden North, which includes a blog page. I run an active author page on Facebook, posting when I have something important or interesting to share. My Instagram site is: instagram/dardennorth.

What is your advice for aspiring authors?

Do not be shy in telling people that you write, and never be afraid to ask someone to help you with this career. If the answer is no to your request for an author blurb, for a promotional feature in a publication, for some other endorsement or referral, or to schedule a book signing, try to accept that people are truly busy and have conflicts … and that some have forgotten that others helped them along the way. However, take solace in that there are many out there rooting for you and make that “no” a challenge.

About Mayra Calvani

Mayra Calvani writes fiction and nonfiction for children and adults and has authored over a dozen books, some of which have won awards. Her stories, reviews, interviews and articles have appeared on numerous publications such as The Writer, Writer’s Journal, Multicultural Review, and Bloomsbury Review, among many others. Represented by Serendipity Literary.

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