MLC: Do you remember the first mystery you ever read? If so, what was it, and what pulled you into it?
AUTHOR: I read the Hardy Boys series. My childhood friend and then backdoor neighbor David Walt, who is now a physician in our hometown of Cleveland, MS, had the series, and he loaned them to me.
MLC: When did you first decide you wanted to write a mystery, and what led you to that decision?
AUTHOR: I decided to write a novel somewhere around 1985, and it took ten years for my first mystery House Call to be completed and published. There are a multitude of writers and authors from Mississippi, some much more well-known than others. I started collecting first-editions of some and decided if the contemporary lawyers and musicians could write and publish fiction set in the South then maybe I could also. At the time, I knew of no other practicing physicians that were writing murder mysteries, so I thought my doing so would be a little unique.
MLC: Do you write in any other genres? If so, which ones?
AUTHOR: I describe my genre as mystery, suspense, and medical thrillers.
MLC: Which comes first for you, the plot or the characters?
AUTHOR: Varies for me…The characters were born first for novel number one, House Call, because I had all these unique medical and social characters swirling around in my head, and then the plot evolved as I enriched the characterization of those quirky folks. I threw in a murder mystery and several sub-plots and due to their popularity have kept some of the same characters from House Call in the following two novels. However, for numbers two and three, Points of Origin and Fresh Frozen, the plots came first, and I have found that method to be a lot more fun as an author.
MLC: When you are all wrapped up in the story, do you feel like you could solve the crime, or maybe even solve all the world’s mysteries?
AUTHOR: All of my readers tell me that they are consistently surprised by the ending of my novels. “Never saw it coming,” they say. I think that’s what a good story is all about. As far as solving all the world’s mysteries? Now, wouldn’t that make for a boring world!
MLC: Do you write every day, or what kind of a schedule do you have? Do you write fulltime, or do you have a “day job”?
AUTHOR: My “day job” as a full-time, board-certified obstetrician-gynecologist with a busy office and hospital practice makes it impossible for me to write every day, except in medical charts. However, I try to make up for lost time with my novels on the weekends. The “business part” of being an author occupies some of my time at night or on the weekends as well.
MLC: Other than your writing, what do you enjoy doing? What is the most important thing to you in your day-to-day life?
AUTHOR: I enjoy spending time with my wife, two grown children, and our friends. Sally and I just took a series of couples’ dance lessons together and can now do a mean swing. My wife and I also take long walks around our neighborhood for exercise. We have recently enthusiastically followed the successes of the football team of our mutual alma mater, Ole Miss.
MLC: Who are your favorite mystery authors? Do you try to emulate them in your own writing?
AUTHOR: I enjoy frequently reading Greg Iles, James (Jim) Rollins, Steve Yarbrough, Carolyn Haines, and Joe Lee and have had the privilege of meeting all of them. However, I like to think that I have my own writing style.
MLC: In your present book, is this part of a series, or is it a standalone book?
AUTHOR: Fresh Frozen is a stand-alone book although a few characters from the earlier two novels return.
MLC: If you are doing a series, do you see an end to it sometime, or do you plan to go on for several years with it?
AUTHOR: In my WIP (upcoming fourth novel, tentatively titled Wiggle Room), I plan to have an entirely new set of characters, except for one of the most outlandish, Minor Leblanc. I do not consider my novels a series.
MLC: Do your characters ever drive you a bit crazy by going off in their own direction? If so, how do you rein them in, or do you just let them run off on their own?
AUTHOR: Writing a novel is not like playing with a Ouija board or attending a seyonce. The author certainly should have some direction in mind for his/her characters, not necessarily a rigid outline, but at least an ending point of development. Who’s the boss here anyway?
MLC: Do you pattern your sleuths after yourself or someone you know? If so, do you let that person know they were your “pattern”?
AUTHOR: Never should an author admit that a fictional character is patterned after a real person. Of course, many “real” persons are certainly “characters.” Characters in novels are generally a conglomeration of persons the author has known or would like to know.
MLC: How long did it take you to get published? How many rejections did you have to suffer through first? Were you ever tempted to give up? What do you think made the difference when it was accepted?
AUTHOR: I have received over 100 rejection letters, although the latter were much more polite and professionally written…some even personalized in script offering suggestions for improvement and encouragement to keep going. Each rejection letter made me more determined to be published, to see my work in print. “Never, never, never give up,” Winston Churchill once said.
MLC: Do you ever attend any conferences? If so, which ones?
AUTHOR: I would highly recommend the International Thriller Writers Conference held in New York City in 2009 and scheduled for the same in 2010. Also, I have attended my local Mississippi Writers Guild Conference in Vicksburg. I would encourage all writers and authors to attend and support their local instructional venues.
MLC: Do you have to promote your own work, or does your publisher do that for you?
AUTHOR: I do all of my own promotion. I listen and watch what others are doing to see what is the most beneficial. I am convinced more everyday that unless the author is already famous or infamous that he/she must perfect the art of self-promotion. Of course, if the work is good, then the effort is easier. I would advise that an author watch every dime spent on promotion and use every free and reputable avenue out there to publicize his/her work. Carry a professionally done “calling” card at all times to give to anyone interested in your writing listing Web site, titles, e-mail, etc. Keeping a few bookmarks around to handout is also a good idea.
MLC: If you have to do marketing, what methods have worked the best for you?
AUTHOR: My website www.dardennorth.com has been important in describing my work and listing my appearances, announcements, and book signings. As I have joined and actively participated in such Internet sites such as Facebook, MySpace, Twitter, as well as AuthorsDen and many others, I have watched the monthly hits on my Web site more than quadruple. I invite everyone to follow me on these sites. Blogging is important but time-consuming, but I try to do as much as possible as long as I have something unique to say.
MLC: Do you have any idea how your book is selling?
AUTHOR: I watch the sales on the book distributor’s Web site. We have a lot of great bookstores in Mississippi, so I am able to monitor things locally as well.
MLC: What has been the best review you have gotten, and why?
AUTHOR: In a review of my third and current novel Fresh Frozen, Nan Graves Goodman of Portico Magazine summed it up by saying that “North is becoming the master of the medical thriller” and Bluffs and Bayous Magazine stated in an earlier review that “North may become to the medical mystery thriller what Grisham is to the legal thriller.”
MLC: Have you won any awards, either as an author or for your books? Please tell us about them.
AUTHOR: Fresh Frozen (2008 - hardcover) Winner, Best Cover Design and Finalist, Regional Fiction in the 2009 National Indie Excellence Awards; Honorable Mention in General Fiction in the 2009 San Francisco Book Festival Awards; Finalist, Best Cover Design Fiction and Finalist, Regional Fiction in the 2009 New Generation Indie Book Awards
Points of Origin (2006 - hardcover) awarded in Southern Fiction by the Independent Publisher Book Awards (IPPY) in 2007
House Call (2005 - hardcover, 2007 - paperback) Finalist in Mystery/Suspense in 2008 New Generation Indie Book Awards
MLC: Is there any one certain thing that a reader has written to you that made you just want to jump up and shout “Yes!!!!”?
AUTHOR: One reader e-mailed me this recently: Pulled up your website for the new book (Fresh Frozen) and I am simply crazy about it. Your picture is great and the (book) trailer, well what can I say but, look out Hollywood here comes a movie. I am very impressed and very proud for you.
MLC: What is your next project, and when will it be out?
AUTHOR: My fourth novel is tentatively entitled Wiggle Room and I look for it to be out in late 2010.
MLC: If you could write anything at all, ignoring what editors and publishers say they want, what would it be?
AUTHOR: A story of what it is really like to live in the contemporary Deep South and what personal responsibility really should be.
MLC: Do you have any words of wisdom for aspiring mystery authors?
AUTHOR: Never discard anything that you write, no matter what you think of its quality. Also, listen to everything anybody has to say about writing and publishing and believe about a third of it.
MLC: Do you have any teasers for your readers and fans about the next book?
AUTHOR: The upcoming work from Darden North…Wiggle Room…What if an Air Force surgeon returns from overseas deployment to find that he’s the target of an assassin? Serving four months in Iraq, Dr. Brad Cummins fails to save an injured soldier even as he mends the GI’s attacker. Once back in the U.S., still blaming himself for returning the insurgent to the killing fields, Cummins discovers his own brother shot to death and soon realizes that he is the intended target.
MLC: If a genie suddenly appeared and said they would grant you just one wish for your books, what would you wish for?
AUTHOR: I would wish that one of my novels becomes a wildly successful international major motion picture…Hey, I’m only human!
MMLC: Please give us your Web site url and your e-mail address where people can contact you.
MLC: Thank you so much for giving us a little glimpse into your books and your life. We look forward to a lot more books from you.