OUR SOUTH magazine editor Joanna Holbert interviews author Darden North

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OUR SOUTH Midwinter 2009
THE DOCTOR"S WRITINGS by Joanna Holbert, editor of Our South magazine

When nurse Taylor Richards is found dead in
her bathtub, it’s a loss for the hospital staff,
but no one seems worried.
When a favorite doctor, Cullen Quinn, dies
in a hunting accident, it’s a shame, but life
goes on.
Or so folks think. They soon find there’s
more to Grace Community Hospital than
meets the eye. Doctors try to outdo each
other, while hospital administrators grab for
the last dollar. Nurses struggle to do their
best amid cutbacks and cutthroats.
Caught in the middle is Dr. Knox Chamblee, a new member of a prestigious
medical clinic. The only problem is that he wants to help people,
while everyone around him wants dollars, not health.
That’s the setting for Dr. Darden North’s first medical thriller, House
Call. North, a Northeast Jackson practicing OB/GYN, describes his
writings as “gratifying.”
“I had been toying with the idea of a book for nearly 10 years,” he
said.
North noted that during that time, he had begun to mold the characters
for his first book in his mind.
“I had an idea for some of the characters, and I began to form their
personalities,” he noted.
He cautiously moved forward with his project.
“When I first started looking into this, I began getting other authors
to read passages that I had written to see if they were any good,” he
said. “You really have to get outside
of your family to get honest
opinions.”
After having his passages wellreceived
by other authors, North
began to question himself as to
why he wanted to write.
“I’d always had an interest in
writing,” he said, “but as far as sitting
down and writing poems and
essays in my free time, I never did
that. That was partly because I
was a diligent student in medical
school.”
As a student at the University of
Mississippi, North found an outlet
for his writing interests. In 1978,
during his time at Ole Miss, North
served as editor of the Ole Miss
annual.
“We actually won an award for
the annual that year, and that was
where my first real writing experience
came from,” the author
recalled.
North began to ask himself why
he wanted to write a book.
“My answer was simple. I really
wanted to put a book out that
people would want to read,” he
said, “and each book gained interest
from a little bit farther away
than the previous one.”
North recalls the time invested
in his first book.
“When I really started working
on this, I would talk to my wife
back and forth about different
ideas I had for the book,” he said.
“Then, I began to get a lot of medical
characters in my mind.”
In 1995 North wrote the first
chapter of House Call, a book that
wouldn’t be published until
October 2005.
“That chapter was set in Point
Clear, Alabama at the Grand Hotel,”
he said. “Several years later when
I really got serious about this project
I went in and did some updating
and used that chapter in the
book.”
With the public’s interest in
medicine, and North’s expertise in
the field, he was able to mesh the
two together to create a series of
books that are quickly gaining
attention across the country.
“I always knew I would have a
book that would feature medical
characters,” he noted, “and being
in the South, the characterization
would have to be a little bit deeper.
There are a lot of family issues
and Southern issues that are
depicted in these books. The characters
want to be cosmopolitan
even though they live in a small
city which is a lot how we all are
in Mississippi.”
North describes Dr. Knox
Chamblee, the first character he
created as an attractive, young male OB/GYN.
“He’s not really the central protagonist,”
said North. “He’s a central character who’s
always there and there are a lot of things
going on around him that he is sort of oblivious
to.”
With each publication, his works reach farther
and farther.
“When I started this, I didn’t know exactly
where it would go,” he said. “I certainly have
a very fulfilling medical practice that has not
slowed down, but there is something so gratifying
about having people read your work
and enjoy it.”
In October 2006, North released his second
book, Points of Origin. In the book North
weaves another intricate tale as the characters
of a quaint, but greedy, fictional town
come to life. In this twisted Mississippi community,
appearances are not a luxury but a
necessity as arson, jealousy, and medical
tragedy tangle with old money, beauty, and
secrecy in a bizarre backdrop of extravagance
North’s books have kept his readers coming
back for more.
“I had a lady review one of my books on
the internet, and she said she was shocked
that I was such a masterful storyteller,” said
North. “Those kinds of compliments are
humbling and exciting. They keep me busy
creating more works that people will want to
read.”
The key, North explained, to the success of
a book is promotion.
“There are many times on the weekends
that I load up and head to book signings and
shows and other events throughout the
state,” he said. “But I love it. I really enjoy
talking to my readers and getting to meet
other authors at these events. I’m not shy,
and a lot of that comes from my profession. I
talk to people all day long.”
After publishing his second novel, North
began to work on his next book.
“I read somewhere that your first two novels
take in what you knew already,” he said,
“and that was true for me. It took me a little
longer to get the third book out, but that was
because I had put myself on a deadline. I
realized that it was OK if the third book didn’t
come out in the third year. There were
still a lot of people who hadn’t seen the first
two.”
In October 2008 North released his newest
book Fresh Frozen in which a young policeman
and his tormented wife fail miserably to
produce a family, finding themselves outcasts
in the renewed baby boom sweeping the
United States. Suddenly there is one last hope
for them: a catalogue of human embryo and
egg donors peddled by a woman whose standards
are easily dismissed for the right price.
“This third book is a bit deeper,” said
North. “There’s a little more controversy in it
that makes the reader stop and think.”
One of the greatest compliments North
noted that he has received as an author is
that his books are not predictable.
“I’ve had a lot of readers tell me that they
had the story figured out only to get to the
end and be surprised,” he said.
While North continues to promote his
works which can be ordered on his website
at www.dardennorth.com, he’s already thinking
ahead to his next book.
“I haven’t started on the next one, but I
have several different ideas,” he said.
His goals for his future writing ventures
include having a commercial publisher.
“I’ve had professional help with these
books, but I’d really like to have a larger publisher
one day,” he said.
In his future books, North has been toying
with the ideas of working in terrorism and
other events going on around the world.
“I want to pick up more readers without
losing the audience I have,” he said.
And with each publication, North is doing
just that. As he continues his writing, North
laughs when he says, “This is finally a doctor
whose writing you can read.”
--- Joanna Holbert OUR SOUTH magazine

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