Oregon author Jennifer Greer’s debut thriller, “A Desperate Place,” is getting positive reviews from national publications, and bestselling author Jeffery Deaver is quoted on the book cover as saying “a nonstop thrill ride!”
That reception gave me high hopes for my reading experience, and I was not disappointed. In fact, I became enamored of the main characters, journalist Whit McKenna and medical examiner detective Katie Riggs, and the Southern Oregon setting. The detailed autopsy scenes (there were multiple murders with a truly gruesome aspect) and fast-paced plot ensured I finished the book in two sittings.
There is a lot of McKenna’s and Riggs’ backstory to mine, and I have a feeling Greer has more morgue scenes up her sleeve. I cannot wait to find out what happens next.
First, Greer will discuss “A Desperate Place” and her journey as a debut novelist during a Facebook Live event @roseburglibrary on Thursday, September 10 at 6:30 p.m. A Facebook account is not required to watch.
Questions for the author may be submitted before the event to firstname.lastname@example.org or 541-492-7051. Alternately, viewers who have a Facebook account may post questions during the event by commenting on the Facebook Live stream.
I recently caught up with Greer by email, and she graciously answered a few questions:
Question: You had a career as a journalist, so what prompted you to make your first book a novel?
Aanswer: I’ve always wanted to write novels. In fact, I have a degree in English literature, but while I was still in college, I got hooked on the new 24-hour-a-day news streaming in about Operation Desert Storm, during the Gulf War. I was envious of all those reporters out on the front lines. So, I switched my major to journalism, got a job on the independent campus newspaper and loved being in the middle of everything, front row seats to life. I discovered a foreign correspondents seminar in Berlin and traveled over for the two-week course. While I was there the cease fire fell apart in Croatia between the Serbs and Croats, so I rented a car with a couple of students and drove down into the war zone. We were held up at gunpoint several times, all the roads were closed behind us, and airports shut down and trapped behind a line of tanks in the mountains. We ended up five miles from the front lines, and I was able to interview refugees along the way and the President of the Red Cross in Split, Croatia. My story on that ugly genocide won first place.
Fast-forward five years; I have two children under the age of three when my husband died in a car accident. Suddenly I was a single mom, so I stopped freelancing and focused on raising my children. Just when my daughters were in their teens and I felt I could work full time, the financial crisis of 2008 hit, and I couldn’t find a job anywhere. Frustrated, I decided if I couldn’t work as a journalist I would at least live vicariously through a fictional journalist and possibly achieve a lifetime goal of being an author.
Q: The landscape of the Medford/Ashland area almost becomes a character of its own in A Desperate Place. Why did you choose it as the book’s setting?
A: I was living in California when my husband died. I wanted a fresh start so I moved to the town of Medford where my brother and sister lived with their families. I raised my children there for 17 years, and all of my family still lives there so I frequently visit. I think Medford is a beautiful place to live with the towns of Ashland (theatre) and Jacksonville (the Britt festivals), the wineries, the rivers and mountains. It has such an amazing diverse landscape that I thought, why not?
Q: Tell us about a bit about your research to create the autopsy scenes.
AA: One of my favorite suspense authors is Tess Gerritsen, and her books have truly realistic autopsy scenes. Since my book has a bit of science in it and I was curious about the medical examiner’s life as one of my characters, I interviewed the Medford Medical Examiner detective. That is a unique position not found in most towns. He does the fieldwork for the medical examiner, gathering information to help determine cause of death. He picks up all the bodies and takes them back to the morgue, investigates scenes and is the first to advise families of the loss of their loved one. He also works closely with the medical examiner during autopsies. I visited the morgue and tried to understand the daily life of the M.E. detective, who in effect became my Katie Riggs. I also did a lot of online research, reading through coroner reports and watching autopsies and professional websites.