by | Aug 22, 2016 | Extraordinary Guest Bloggers | 8 comments

by Elaine Viets (Guest Blogging for Chris Goff)

I find Elaine Viets inspiring! A multi-published, award-winning writer of four mystery series, she has often gone to extremes to find her story. For example, to know of what she writes, she has worked most of the jobs in her Dead-End Job Mysteries. Now, with her newest series – the Angela Richman, Death Investigator Mysteries – the experience is even more personal. It’s impossible not to get a feel for Elaine’s sense of humor and her newest characters as she reveals WHO INSPIRED her newest debut. Thank you, Elaine for such a great blog post! I recommend everyone go out and buy a copy of BRAIN STORM today!  Chris

          The first time I heard Dr. Jeb Travis Tritt, I was in bed.
          A hospital bed. He was the brain surgeon who saved my life after I had six strokes, including a hemorrhagic stroke, in April 2007. That’s not his real name, and he doesn’t look or act like the brain surgeon in my new mystery Brain Storm, but Dr. Tritt, as I baptized him, was a real character. I couldn’t make up what he said. I’m not that creative.
          In fiction and reality, Dr. Tritt is a brilliant surgeon, but his bedside manner sucks. I expected someone who saws open skulls for a living to be a little odd. But I liked him.
          I’d arrived at the hospital unconscious and having multiple seizures. “You were circling the drain,” he told me later. “Nobody thought you were gonna make it. The ER doctor said you’d be dead by morning. But I knew I could save you.”
          Humility isn’t his strong suit. But the doc’s entitled to brag. Even a paramedic told my shell-shocked husband, “Sorry about your wife, man.”

          After brain surgery, I was in a coma for a week and I spent three months in the hospital. When Dr. Tritt got off work at midnight, he’d stop by my room. First he’d check my healing wound – a hideous red-rimmed cobblestone. Then he’d settle in for a midnight monologue. He’d talk nonstop for two or three hours. I was a captive audience – I couldn’t walk yet. He’d make jaw-dropping comments, and I’d squirrel them away. His visits were a gift. It took me eight years to use it.
          Brain Storm, the first Angela Richman, Death Investigator novel, is set in mythical, ultrawealthy Chouteau Forest, Missouri. Like me, Angela went to the ER for migraines. We were misdiagnosed and sent home for a PET scan later. Instead, we suffered a series of strokes, brain surgery, and a coma, and encountered Dr. Jeb Travis Tritt. And that’s where I used his midnight monologues.
          One night he said, “Do you remember anyone talking to you while you were in a coma?”
          “No,” I said. “No tunnel of light, no relatives waiting on the other side. I didn’t see or hear anything.”
          “Thank God,” he said. “I used to stop by every night and say, ‘Elaine! This is God! Wake up!’  But the nurses made me quit.”

          Why did a surgeon spend hours talking to me instead of going home? He answered that question in another monologue.
          “My wife is divorcing me,” he said. “She likes to shop and I don’t make enough money. She thought brain surgeons would be rich, but I don’t get that much. I only got three thousand dollars for your surgery. She wasn’t that good in bed, anyway. She just laid there, like you did, except you were in a coma.”
          Huh? The doc wasn’t coming onto me. My face was swollen, my skin was bright red thanks to an allergy to some medication, and half my hair was shaved off.
          I’d always been proud of my long hair. I was shocked when I saw it had been partly shaved off for the surgery. Late one night, Dr. Tritt said, “I’m sorry about your hair.”
          “In the grand scheme of things, it’s not the end of the world,” I said.
          “I burned your hair because I knew you were going to make it,” he said. “If my patients are going to die, I save their hair because they like to look good in their coffins.”
          I was speechless. But then I thought: What would he say if I was going to die? Would he come by one midnight, hand me my hair and said, “Elaine, you’re screwed. But here’s your hair. You’ll look great in your coffin.”

          Speaking of coffins – in real life I couldn’t kill the doctor who misdiagnosed me. I couldn’t even sue the bastard. But I killed him in Brain Storm. A drug-addled, hallucinating Angela learns that the doctor who nearly killed her has been murdered, and the chief suspect is the surgeon who brought her back to life. Angela isn’t sure that she can trust her instincts or recover her investigative skills, but she’s determined to save the doctor who saved her.
          My real life character saved my life – and he may help me pay off those hospital bills.

          Bestselling writer Elaine Viets has written 30 mysteries in four series. With BRAIN STORM, her first Angela Richman, Death Investigator mystery, she returns to her hardboiled roots. Elaine passed the Medicolegal Death Investigators Course for forensic professionals for this series.Booklist says, “Viets, a stroke survivor herself, builds her unusual premise into a compelling thriller that moves quickly and builds suspense steadily.”  Elaine won the Anthony, Agatha, and Lefty Awards. Buy it here: amzn.to/2awPsIe

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  1. KJ Howe

    Elaine, what a gripping blog. I'm so relieved and happy that you are healthy again and living life to the fullest. That doctor sure has some zingers. Are you still in touch with him today?

  2. Unknown

    No. The hospital chased him off and he's now working elsewhere. The doctor who misdiagnosed me is still at the hospital, honored and respected. Real life is not nearly as satisfying as fiction.

  3. Karna Bodman

    Wow, Elaine…what an incredible story! It's fascinating how you were able to create your fictional characters based on the real docs — one unbelievably good, one truly bad! (I wonder if that doctor who misdiagnosed you will read "Brain Storm?" Perhaps you should send him an autographed copy! Thanks for being our guest blogger here.

  4. Unknown

    thanks for having me as a guest, Karna. No, I didn't send the doctor who misdiagnosed me BRAIN STORM. I doubt he'd recognize himself, anyway.

  5. S. Lee Manning

    Jaw dropping personal story. The surgeon sounds like a trip. Now I'm going to go buy your book. Thanks for being our guest here.

  6. Unknown

    Surgeon was definitely a trip, but I liked the guy. And he is brilliant. Enjoyed being a guest at Rogue Women Writers.

  7. Jamie Freveletti

    Amazed the guy that misdiagnosed is still there, while this guy is not. Great post and thanks for guest posting!

  8. Sonja Stone

    Elaine, this is such an amazing story. Thank you so much for sharing your experience with us! I love that you killed your surgeon in Brain Storm. I have a friend who constantly kills off ex-boyfriends in her novels.