As promised, our Harlequin Medical Romance authors are back with more. Where does their medical inspiration come from?
I guess I’m very lucky, in that I’ve lived my whole life in the medical world. My dad was a doctor, and while he was a specialist and went into a research career early, he used to do general practice locums on the weekends to keep his skills current. I learned to drive taking him to house calls and often took phone calls to listen to people’s stories and write down the details. I married a doctor and had several jobs in hospitals over the years that included fascinating tasks like collecting blood samples during cardiac bypass surgery and running outpatient drug trials. Even better, I became a paramedic nearly twenty years ago and every shift on the road, along with all my studies, meant that I became more and more involved with medicine. Currently, I work in a university in the department of paramedicine with a great bunch of people who work on the road as well as being lecturers, so I still hear all the stories.
While I have the advantage of real-life involvement, my inspiration can come from a lot of other places, too. For many years I used to clip articles from magazines or newspapers because they were stories about the kind of medical issues that many people face and overcome. Now I can find blogs or stories on the internet about virtually anything. TV medical dramas are great, too, but I find them more useful for what’s happening in the background than the actual cases, which seem to be getting increasingly farfetched and overly dramatic.
I have some golden rules about my medical inspiration. Firstly, I never use a real story (or a fictional one, for that matter) as anything more than a jumping off point so it evolves into something quite different. I make sure my medical information is as accurate as possible, and most importantly, I approach it from an emotional sphere rather than a scientific one, and that’s a whole new world for inspiration.
Medical trauma and illness affect people’s lives and relationships—not just for the patients but for the professionals who are treating them—and I think that’s what I love most about writing medical fiction. You can often find a particular case that can bring a hero and heroine together—or force them apart—and that always has more to do with the emotional side of a case than anything technical. You can tap into a whole spectrum, from the most dramatic to something gentle or tender, and you can touch hearts. Your own, your readers’ and those of the characters you’ve created. Weaving medical inspiration into any story can provide a special kind of magic.
You can pick up Alison’s latest book, The Fling That Changed Everything, here!
Sometimes, often, very often, people will tell me, “Oh, I’ve got a story for you,” and then they tell me every detail of how they met so-and-so. The thing is, I’ve never thought, Yes, that’s going to be a story I’ll write. My characters sort of pop into my head and make their own messy way toward their HEA. They misbehave, they don’t do as they’re told—and certainly not what the craft books tell me they should—or dance to the tune of someone else’s love story.
This is my hero and heroine’s story.
And it’s the same with medical scenes and inspiration.
Sometimes, often, very often, I get told—“I’ve got a great disease, or DNA or futuristic medical thing that would be great in your story.” My mum (bless) will send me an article she’s read, or a friend will attach a link, or someone will tell me gory details, but again, I confess that I don’t use them. I have found in medical romance that the story doesn’t have to be high drama or even have a whiff of blood to make it work. It can have those things, if they suit, but really I think it is a story about the characters, first, last and always. For me, the medical detail just enhances the story.
Inspiration is everywhere.
I am currently at a writing retreat, and my balcony overlooks a huge surf beach where championships are being held. The waves are choppy and there are lifeguards. On the beach are people of varying ages. There is a park on the foreshore, and I can see a mother pushing her baby and also a man and woman talking, and beside them is a baby in a stroller and a sweet old lady is waving to someone she clearly recognizes.
My brain is a bit like a disaster movie constantly rolling. I look as if I am having a glass of wine and relaxing, but there is potential there—I can see a shark, or someone being knocked unconscious in the surf and the lifeguards going out. That lovely old lady, well, she might suddenly collapse. Or maybe that guy might trip and cut his leg on a rock. Possibly that baby in the swing falls and bangs its head, or that couple chatting…what if the brake isn’t off on their stroller…?
But none of that works for the story I’m writing now.
It’s hot and sunny here, and I am writing a Christmas story set in England. I want feel-good and I want big, fat, happy babies for this story.
So I’m going to write them.
And because I love old people who know everyone and everyone’s business, I think I might mull over that for a while and see if I can stitch a sage old lady who makes me smile into the story.
The best advice I could give people considering writing medical romance is to first fall in love with your characters, rather than try to write them around a medical scene.
Have fun with your characters and get to know them, and my guess is the medical scenes will then write themselves.
You can pick up Carol’s latest book, Seduced by the Heart Surgeon, here!
As always, our authors say it best, “Inspiration is everywhere.” Happy writing!