Madrona resident Susan McCormick was just a kid when she wrote her first book.
Named “Death in the Cemetery,” McCormick’s first foray into the literary world as an author didn’t lead to publication, but she was chosen to attend a writer’s conference at the time. While McCormick now looks back and laughs at the title of her book, she can’t help but remember how excited she was to attend that writer’s conference.
While McCormick grew up to become a doctor rather than a writer, she never forgot her passion for writing and her childhood dreams. She now gets a whole new sense of satisfaction from merging her two passions, writing and the medical field, as a published author.
“I loved being a doctor, and I love being a writer,” McCormick said. “It’s like a dream come true.”
McCormick no longer writes to gain entry into conferences, although she attends them frequently. Now, McCormick writes for all types of audiences and genres.
“Over the past decade or so, I got serious about writing again,” she said.
Her renewed passion has resulted in her fourth book published book, “The Antidote,” released this month by The Wild Rose Press, is a fantasy for middle-schoolers and up, and features a boy, 12-year-old Alex Revelstoke, who can see disease, injury, illness and anything wrong in the body. In “The Antidote,” like the Revelstokes before him, Alex must fight against an ancient evil — the creator of disease.
While McCormick’s books are not directly about medicine, each has some element of her background in healthcare included. Her inspiration for “The Antidote” actually came when she volunteered in her son’s middle school science class on a day they were dissecting chicken wings. While the students were excited about the dissection, McCormick said she was struck by how little they knew about anatomy coming into class, compared with other topics, like mythology and author Rick Riordan’s fantasy books incorporating myths and mythology.
“I think the human body is something kids aren’t as savvy on as they are with other things,” McCormick said.
While the seed for “The Antidote” was planted in a middle school science class, it actually didn’t blossom until years later, but before the coronavirus pandemic.
The book took two years to write, McCormick said, as she was still a practicing gastroenterologist when she began. She retired last year, as did her husband, who is also a doctor, to pursue other goals and interests.
“We had a lot of things we wanted to do,” she said. “One of the things I wanted to do was write more.”
In addition to “The Antidote,” McCormick has published three other books.
She self-published her first book, “Granny Can’t Remember Me,” after her mother was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s to help explain the illness and dementia to children.
Her next two books launched her cozy murder mystery series, “The Fog Ladies,” which feature “spunky senior sleuths and an overtired medical intern” who live in an apartment building in San Francisco, which consequently is where McCormick launched her medical career. Her third “Fog Ladies” book is due to come out this October.
She is also working on a thriller, which will be set in Leschi, as well as her fourth Fog Ladies book. McCormick said she has not ruled out writing another children’s book or dipping into other genres, but she will always return to her original series because she is attached to the characters she has created and loves the cozy mystery genre.
“I love my Fog Ladies, so they have to continue on,” she said.
While other authors develop their own style and process for writing books, McCormick starts out with a loose outline when writing but leaves a lot undeveloped. She said she doesn’t like to plot out too much of the story arc ahead of time because she likes to see where her imagination and creativity take her.
Her favorite part of the process is writing the first draft, McCormick said, when she takes that kernel of an idea and puts it on to paper.
“You sit there and write, and magical things just get created,” she said. “Because of all that spontaneity, all that magic, all that fun, I love that first draft.”
In the second and following drafts, using her editor’s suggestions as a guide, McCormick takes a critical look at her writing, making additions or tightening up the text, tying up loose ends and “giving up all your favorite words.”
“So while I love the first draft, and I could write a first draft all day long, all those other drafts are painfully tedious but necessary,” McCormick said.
When she is not writing, McCormick is active in the world of authors, expanding her knowledge by attending writing conferences, and participating in a podcast with other authors locally.
“The more you know how other people do it, the more you see ways to do it yourself,” she said.
McCormick said that is a good practice for all writers, including those who are just starting out.
The best advice she has to offer young or new authors in the making is to just carve out the time and sit down and write. Starting each session with a smile and a positive attitude, even on challenging days, is also key.
Before she retired and the coronavirus pandemic, McCormick said she would wake up early before her family, and write. To this day, when she gets stuck she clears her head by going for a run.
She also takes inspiration wherever and whenever it comes to her, even in the middle of the night. Frequently her ideas are not fully developed when they come to her, and can percolate for a long time, even years, before they take off.
“So the kernel just sits in there and festers for a bit until you finally say, ‘Oh I’m going to do something with it now,’ ” she said.
She also said authors should not expect to be picked up by a large publishing company, either.
While the publishing world is changing, and the number of large publishing houses becoming fewer, this is actually a good time to become a new author, McCormick said, especially for people taking the self-publication route, like she did with “Granny Can’t Remember Me.”
“There are a lot more ways to get your book out there than there used to be,” she said.
People interested in buying McCormick’s books can do so through a number of ways, including placing an order through a book store, off Amazon, at Third Place Books in Ravenna and at Leschi Market.
“They support neighborhood writers, which is very fun,” McCormick said.
People can also order books from her website, www.susanmccormickbooks.com, which also more information about her books and links to different webpages and interviews.