- A.K. Lee
Written in Cold Blood: Interview with LM Bryski
Listen to the story inside you. When the plot starts to solidify, it's time to ungoogle yourself from the internet and write.
In the blood chilling winter of 2046, the world has survived the Aging Virus epidemic although the threat of disease remains. Top researchers at the Janus City Virology Institute are seeking a cure, but Dr. Karin Bhaima, a scientist given a second chance, wants to know—why is talentless hack Graham Mogden one of them? A corpse has been found frozen under a bridge, another missing and murdered woman, and the people of Janus City are demanding answers. Detective Sonny Merrick wants in on the case and relief from his own guilty secret. When teen orphan Marble Glass becomes the latest missing victim, can a detective with a painful past and a disgraced scientist find her alive and solve the mystery of the murdered women of Janus City?
Blood Chill, LM Bryski
As I mentioned in an earlier post, I'm interviewing friends who are avid writers and also experts in their field. LM Bryski is an emergency physician in an inner city hospital and trauma referral center for over two decades who recently released Blood Chill.
(AK- me, LM - LM Bryski)
(PS. There will be medical puns.)
AK: Thank you for agreeing to this interview! Let's start by talking about your new book, Blood Chill. What is it about?
LM: Blood Chill is a dystopian novel set in late 2040s after an Aging virus has swept through the world. It's set in Janus City, a northern city similar to the city I reside in, where the freezing cold envelops everything. A body is found frozen in the river, another of the city's missing women found murdered. Detective Sonny Merrick is trying to find out who is behind the murders including of a woman he once knew.
Dr. Karin Bhaima is starting a new job at the city's Virology lab as part of the ongoing scientific research into the Agjng virus. She wonders how a somewhat incompetent elderly scientist ended up running the high-powered lab next to hers as they both work to finding a cure, and why he is secretly working with human blood instead of rats' blood like he's proclaimed.
And a young woman, Marble Glass, recently out of foster care, becomes the latest missing woman of the city after staying at a recently reopened homeless shelter. The story follows these three as they try to solve murders, mysteries, or just try to survive.
AK: What inspired you to write Blood Chill?
LM: I was inspired by some similar incidents in the news. The missing women in a major Canadian city remains an ongoing and painful mystery. My city also has the national Virology Institute based here. As well, I have a love of reading and storytelling, so I decided to see if I could weave a tale from different what if's floating around in my head.
AK: What was the most difficult to research or prepare when writing this novel?
LM: I'd say the most difficult part was the editing. (I ended up) putting the draft for this novel aside for a year, recognizing it needed more thought to get the story down pat. Also, in editing, (the challenge is in) not overediting: knowing when to stop and when pull back so it doesn't lose the spark that started the story in the first place. I learned a lot in between when I wrote the first draft and when I returned to it to make it come alive as a novel.
AK: I know you're a doctor and a writer, so what you do does influence your writing. How would you describe your body of work?
LM: My body likes to play more than work, but I've learned to just duck my head and throw myself in to the business of business.
As for the actual work, I wear a lab coat and greens every shift because I'm in the thick of things... blood, vomit, sputum... all work related hazards.
My patient population is the sickest of the sick as we are also a referral center and most of patients sent in make a pit stop in my ER. I can see anything from stubbed toes to cardiac arrests on a shift, and have to be mentally prepared to switch gears in an instant when a patient 'in extremis' rolls in. Emergency Medicine is a high density job for quick decision making so you have to be on your toes. The department I work in sees lots of people and their families come through during a time when they are sick and vulnerable. I'm humbled to be able to help, and remind myself that it's not me suffering when I may feel somewhat tired helps a lot to keep my energy going until shift end.
AK: Given that your workday can be very hectic, how do you find time to write? Do you have a writing discipline?
LM: I am very undisciplined. My writing comes in bursts both small and big. Sometimes it squeezes out in little paragraphs, other times in a torrential rain of words. The muse wills as it will. The time to write comes when I'm not doing shift work. I need a day sometimes to clear my head of medical decisions and get into writing mode. They are very different thought veins.
AK: Is there any trope or cliche in medical thrillers that leaves you cold when you see them?
LM: Not really. I'm pretty lax when it comes to stories. I'm respectful of people wanting to tell their story in their own personal words. I do look at the medical lingo and events to see how "realistic" they are if realism is what the author is intending. Even then, sometimes for plot, you must take license with medical license.
AK: In my stories, I often write about injuries and death. What do most people not realize about injuries or deaths with regards to smells, sounds, etc?
LM: Infections have smells, and their deaths can have a distinct sickly sweet smell as the dying body starts decomposing. Also blood really does leave a lingering metallic scent in the air when there's lots of bleeding.
AK: For a layperson taking a stab at thrillers, what sort of research will be helpful?
LM: Read. Explore each thought like a rabbit hole, falling into new subjects related to what you want to say, following the white rabbit of storytelling from tangent to tangent. You never know what might help your story, and this initial broad-reaching research is important. But... listen to the story inside you. When the plot starts to solidify, it's time to ungoogle yourself from the internet and write.
AK: I love the word 'ungoogle' (and I will be using it!). Alright, final question: can you recommend some books?
LM: Oh great question! I have four:
Discovered Nina George by accident. She's a German author with two books translated to English. The Little French Bistro is a novel about self discovery and how it can occur at any stage of life. It's never too late to find yourself and live your life and dreams as you always wanted.
This posthumous nonfiction book by Michelle McNamara, I'll Be Gone in the Dark, astounded me by its detail and clear writing. By storytelling alone, she renewed interest in these cold cases, and heated up the eventual trail to a killer long thought uncatchable. A great read and shows the power of the pen in capturing the sword.
Buddy Babylon: The Autobiography of Buddy Cole (as told to Scott Thompson & Paul Bellini). This is my heart favorite book of mythological storytelling that starts out in the spirit of a Québécois fairy tale and continues with a wild romp through all countries big and small. It's witty and clever with a dash of sociopolitical commentary in the tea it serves. Thoroughly enjoyed it.
The Gentleman's Guide to Vice and Virtue by Mackenzi Lee. Here's another book of rowdy subversive fun set in the empire of polite, past social graces. It reminds me of Jane Austen but with a modern daring twist of diversity. Loved the characters and hope there's a sequel.
AK: Thank you for the recommendations and interview!
You can follow LM Bryski on Twitter (@LMBryski). Their books can be found at moranpress.com and on Amazon.