Good Life

10 questions with author J.L. Delozier

Jennifer Delozier, of State College, who is a physician for Veterans Affairs, recently published her first book, “Type & Cross.”
Jennifer Delozier, of State College, who is a physician for Veterans Affairs, recently published her first book, “Type & Cross.”

After nearly 22 years in medicine, Dr. Jennifer Delozier could basically write her own ticket.

Instead, she decided to write her own book — which hit Kindle, and Barnes and Noble’s website just last week.

“Type & Cross” is a medical thriller about a virus that targets people with Type O blood. The first-time writer, who has spent the past 13 years focusing on geriatric and disaster medicine at Veterans Affairs, drew on her medical career to help round out the plot.

Below, the State College author discusses getting started and her writing processes.

Q: What’s the first book you ever remember reading?

A: “The Poky Little Puppy,” which was one of the Little Golden Books. I adored them. We started young in my household. By the time I was in sixth grade, I was in love with Edgar Allan Poe. By seventh, I was into Stephen King, which probably explains a lot about my adolescent psychological development.

Q: When did you first seriously begin to consider the possibility of writing a book of your own?

A: I was already convinced I would become a writer, and I sent off short stories to many of the great mystery and sci-fi magazines of the time, with absolutely no clue as to what I was doing. By high school, my attention shifted to science, and writing a book was relegated to my bucket list.

Q: Why was now the right time for you to get to work on “Type & Cross?”

A: It wasn’t until two years ago, when an old friend of mine was struggling, that I resurrected the idea of writing a novel, mostly to help him. He would write his musical, I would write my novel, and we would Skype weekly to assess each other’s progress. That’s how it started. A year later, “Type & Cross” was born.

Q: Where is your favorite place to write?

A: My favorite place to write is not at my computer. Instead I sit on my couch, preferably with a cat curled at my side, and write longhand in a spiral-bound notebook. I scribble madly, cross things out, and draw arrows and other glyphs that only I can understand. Once I have a few pages in place, I move to the computer and type it all in. My process allows for some degree of editing even in the first draft.

Q: Do you set page goals for yourself?

A: I set modest daily goals — 1,000 words on weekdays and 3,000 words on weekends. ... That’s the minimum Stephen King recommends in his book “On Writing,” which I highly recommend to any aspiring novelists out there.

Q: What was the first piece of the plot to fall into place?

A: “Type & Cross” began with a simple question, one which occurred to me while reading a medical journal. The article discussed how sickle cell disease and the sickle cell blood type developed as a protection from malaria in those areas where the disease was endemic. If a blood type could serve as protection against a disease, why couldn’t it also serve as a target? What if someone could develop a weaponized virus that attacked only a certain blood type? Almost half the world’s population is Type O, for example. Imagining such a scenario made my stomach churn, and I started writing. They say a writer’s job is to poke a stick into the dark corners where others fear to go. I guess that’s what I did with this book.

Q: Did you ever get writer’s block?

A: Once I had that first piece to my plot, the rest just flowed. I have yet to suffer writer’s block, although I’m sure my time is coming. My writing did spit and sputter some throughout the process, but that was due to being busy with my day job and life in general.

Q: How did your day job help to inform elements of the book?

A: If it weren’t for my day job, though, I could never have written this book — at least not with any scientific credibility. I don’t remember who my hematology professor was in medical school, but I owe him a great big high-five. My job is a constant source of inspiration.

Q: Who was the first person to read your finished manuscript?

A: My mother, which is why it contains only one, very short sex scene. Seriously, though, after I finished the book, I never really thought about publishing it. It was more of a personal accomplishment — something to cross off that bucket list. But my mother wanted to read it, and since she’s well-read and brutally honest, I knew she’d cast a critical eye. ... After she was done, she nagged me to send it out for publication. She’d never let me make a fool of myself, so that’s when I knew I might be on to something. Those people who say you should never trust your family to give you an honest opinion about your writing have never met my mother.

Q: What’s the last book you remember reading?

A: I just finishedWorld War Z” two weeks ago. I know — I’m behind the times. But I figured I’d better get it read before the movie comes out. Oh, wait ...

Frank Ready: 814-231-4620, @fjready