E.E. Giorgi is a scientist and an award-winning author and photographer. She spends her days analyzing genetic data, her evenings chasing sunsets, and her nights pretending she’s somebody else. On her blog, E.E. discusses science for the inquiring mind, especially the kind that sparks fantastic premises and engaging stories. Her debut novel CHIMERAS, a medical mystery, is a 2014 Readers’ Favorite International Book Award winner and a B.R.A.G. Medallion Honoree.
Hello, Elena! Thank you for chatting with me today and congrats on the B.R.A.G. Medallion! That is wonderful! First, tell me how you discovered indieBRAG and what has been your experience with self-publishing so far.
I discovered Indie B.R.A.G. through an online search. I was looking for ways to gain some recognition for my work. I’m thrilled that Chimeras is now B.R.A.G. medallion honoree and also a Readers’ Favorite Book Award winner.
I’ve been very happy with self-publishing, but the hardest part is to convince people that your work is worthy their attention. Self-publishing wasn’t my first choice. When I finished my first book, Chimeras, I pursued traditional publishing. I had several offers for representation but, alas, my book found a wall when it came to acquiring editors at publishing houses. I believe I could’ve persisted in that path: perhaps, if I made the changes I had been requested, eventually I would’ve found a home for my book. But by then the publishing world had changed. More and more authors were not only self-publishing but they were being quite successful at it. I realized that the changes the editors were requesting were not to make my story better but to make it fit into one genre or the other: it had to either be a mystery/thriller or a science fiction. But I wanted my story to be unique. And in today’s market there’s room for every cross genre you can think of. So I remained faithful to my story and my vision and I embraced self-publishing. I have no regrets. J
Please tell me a little about your story.
I was born in the U.K., grew up in Tuscany, and lived in four different European countries and four different US states before settling in New Mexico. I am a mathematician by training, but these days I work on viral genetics, HIV in particular. I love my job: I’m constantly learning new things about genetics and viruses and the amazing things that Mother Nature invented throughout evolution. For me, what I learn at work is an endless source of ideas and inspiration.
What a perfect premise to write considering your professional background and I must say I do enjoy reading medical mysteries…will your story be a part of a series?
Yes, and the second book, Mosaics, is already out. They are all self-contained mysteries, and therefore can be read as a stand-alone. But I’m also planning some character development from one book to the next, especially for the main character, Track Presius and his partner Satish Cooper.
Tell me about your title, CHIMERAS. Does it have a meaning?
In Greek mythology a chimera was a monster: part goat, part lion, and part snake. In genetics, a chimera is a single organism with distinct DNAs in his/her body. Chimeras are often found in fiction: for example, Stephen King uses the concept in his novel The Dark Half, where one of his characters has his own twin growing inside his body. This is of course a huge poetic license, as in fact, what happens is that two genetically distinct fertilized eggs fuse together shortly after conception and form a single organism.
In recent years genetics has made spectacular advances: today we know that there are many kinds of chimeras, not just the one depicted by Stephen King. For example, did you know that we exchange cells with our mothers during gestation, and these cells can persist in our bodies even in our adult life? Many of us are our mother’s chimeras and they don’t even know it!
In my book, I play with both the mythological and the genetic meanings of the word chimera, as well as the different kinds of chimeras we have discovered in recent years. And like Stephen Kings, I too make use of a little poetic license. J
What is one of the challenges your character, Detective Track Presius face and how does he deal with it? 6. What are his strengths and weaknesses?
Track Presius is an epigenetic chimera. He doesn’t have distinct DNAs. Instead, a trauma in his early childhood “turned on” some genes that in every normal person are inactivated. This “empowers” him with an extreme sensitivity to smells, but it also makes him more irritable and more aggressive. He’s often prone to brutal force while on duty, but lucky for him, his partner Satish Cooper keeps him in check and out of trouble. Most of the time that is.
I’m sure your own profession has helped you with your story. Was there any research you had to do other than what you already know?
I didn’t know anything about police procedurals and the LAPD in particular. I had to learn everything and it was a lot of fun. I bought Miles Corwin’s true crime books set with the LAPD special units. Through a writer friend I met a retired LAPD officer, Tim Bowen, whose help was truly pivotal in writing my book. Track Presius would be issuing parking tickets if it weren’t for Tim!
Why did you choose Los Angeles, fall 2008 as your setting and period?
I lived in Los Angeles for three years, from 2003 to 2006. I’m in love with that city. It’s the city of opposites in so many ways, and yet it has a personality of its own. The year choice was dictated by necessity: when I started researching and writing the book, I used the old LAPD headquarters for all my scenes. I then learned that the LAPD were moving to new headquarters (they fully moved in the fall of 2009), but being the building still under construction, I couldn’t find any information online. I set the year to 2008 so that I could rightfully claim that Track and Satish were still using the old Parker center as their headquarters.
What is an example of scientific relevance in your story?
All my books are infused with lots of cool scientific facts. For Chimeras I used many of concepts borrowed from epigenetics, which studies traits that can be acquired and inherited even though they do not change the DNA. That’s right, there are things that we inherit from our parents, and yet they are not part of our DNA or genes. The true mystery lies in the way the DNA is packaged inside the nucleus of the cells, exposing certain genes while hiding others.
How long did it take to write your story and where in your home do you like to write?
Between writing and researching, it usually takes me a full year to complete a book. I write at my desk at home but I also carry with me a notepad to jot down random thoughts and ideas wherever I go.
Are there any challenges in writing a mystery story? If so, what are they?
Mystery plots can be very challenging! I’m not an outliner, as I like to see where my characters take me. But in a mystery, every piece has to fit together like in a puzzle, so if I reach a dead end I have to go back and start over. Sometimes a small edit has consequences that reverberate so deeply into the plot that it takes a full rewrite to fix it.
Where can readers buy your book?
Both Chimeras and the sequel Mosaics can be found on Amazon
And Mosaics here
Chimeras is now an audiobook, too, and it’s free with the Audible free trial
Thank you, Elena!
Thanks so much for having me, Stephanie!
A message from BRAG:
We are delighted that Stephanie has chosen to interview E.E. Giorgi, who is the author of, CHIMERAS, our medallion honorees at indieBRAG . To be awarded a B.R.A.G. Medallion TM, a book must receive unanimous approval by a group of our readers. It is a daunting hurdle and it serves to reaffirm that a book such as, CHIMERAS, merits the investment of a reader’s time and money.