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Written by JJ Barnes

I interviewed author Mairi Chong about her life, what inspired her to start writing, and the work that went into her new book, Death By Appointment.

Tell me a bit about who you are.

Hi! I’m Mairi Chong and I write crime fiction with an unhealthy dose of medicine! I used to be a general practitioner doctor but retired at the age of thirty-three due to ill health. In many ways, ending my medical career was a pivotal moment in my life and I took some time to adjust and find a new purpose. This year, I have been fortunate enough to sign a seven-book contract with Bloodhound Books. It’s a dream come true for me and they have been hugely supportive. My first book: Death By Appointment is out January 2022 and is currently available for pre-order.

Mairi Chong, author of Death By Appointment, interview on The Table Read
Mairi Chong

When did you first WANT to write a book?

I wrote a lot as a child and read crime fiction nonstop. As a doctor, I wrote a few articles for medical journals but there was only so much time and head-space left when I was working. It was only when I became unwell that I started using writing as a therapy.

Most of what I wrote back then was jumbled incoherence! But as I found the words forming more of a structure and a story, I challenged myself to write a full-length novel. I didn’t believe I’d manage it. Even now, after completing seven books, I still wonder if I can really get to the end of a project and tie all the loose threads together!

When did you take a step to start writing?

I wrote about five or six books when I was adjusting to life after medicine. The novels were absolute rubbish but I did prove to myself that I could string 70 000 words together! I’m really glad I did that now. It was like a weight-training exercise where I was building up my writing muscles until my mind was ready. That was five years ago.

How long did it take you to complete your first book from the first idea to release?

That’s tricky to answer because ideas aren’t helpful things that come along when you ask for them! They usually float around in my head for some time until I find a hook and become obsessed with it. As a rule though, I write quite quickly. Sometimes, I complete a first draft in six to eight weeks. After that, it’s an all-out slog and nothing else gets done around the house! Once I have something meaningful on paper, I spend maybe another eight weeks re-writing and tweaking. Of course, when it goes to the editor, further suggestions are made, making the process far longer.

What made you want to write Death By Appointment?

Death By Appointment is the first in the Dr Cathy Moreland Mystery series. I aimed to write an engaging and realistic representation of mental illness, driven by my personal experience of it. I felt strongly that I wanted my protagonist to have bipolar, not to warrant empathy from the readers, but eventual admiration. By the end of the novel, I hope it is evident that her illness, and alternative way of looking at things, has contributed to the solution of the mystery.

What were your biggest challenges with writing Death By Appointment?

Self-doubt! It’s still an issue and probably always will be!

Who or what inspired you when creating your Protagonist?

I guess my protagonist is a projection of who I’d love to be! If I had managed to return to medicine, I’d have liked to do so with the good-grace and humility that she shows. Her best friend, an outspoken A&E consultant called Suzalinna, is my real idol though. I’d love her courage!

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Who or what inspired you when creating your Antagonist?

That’s tricky. The killer is entirely from my imagination. I guess reading all of the golden age detective novels probably served as inspiration there.

What is the inciting incident of Death By Appointment?

One of the central characters receives anonymous letters in the post. Her decision to do something about this is the crucial moment in the book and of course, coincides with a shift in the protagonist’s struggles also. Sorry, I can’t say much more without ruining the story!

What is the main conflict of Death By Appointment?

Good versus evil, as with all murder mysteries. But if we’re getting deep, I think the book is really about finding a space for self-acceptance despite the mistakes we make and the conflict between living between madness and sanity.

Did you plot Death By Appointment in advance, or fly by the seat of your pants and write freely?

I have a rough plot but often find that once I have the characters speaking, they take on a life of their own! I’m definitely a pantser!

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Did you get support with editing, and how much editing did Death By Appointment need?

Editors are an author’s best friend. Yes, the book had two superb editors work on it but fortunately, the plot didn’t need a lot of changes.

What is the first piece of writing advice you would give to anyone inspired to write a story?

Write like no one’s going to read it! Honestly, as soon as you start self-editing while you are creating, you lose the flow. Save the fiddling until the end once you have words on a page. It’s far more freeing.

Can you give me a hint about any further books you’re planning to write?

I have already written the first seven books in the Dr Cathy Moreland Mystery series and these will be released throughout 2022. I am currently writing the eighth and hope Bloodhound Books take it on also.

And, finally, are you proud of your accomplishment? Was it worth the effort?

Very proud but I never allow myself to revel in it for too long. There’s more work to be done and more mysteries to be written!

Pop all your book, website and social media links here so the readers can find you:

Amazon author bio; Mairi Chong: Books, Biography, Blogs, Audiobooks, Kindle

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