In 2012, I began writing the Jill Quint, MD, Forensic Pathologist series. I was new to writing and not familiar with cozy mysteries featuring amateur sleuths. I'd left the health care industry and had an extensive working knowledge of hospitals. In my career as a hospital executive, I'd sat on many quality reviews and listened to the patient's autopsy report. I wasn't a physician or nurse by training, although my first degree was in respiratory therapy. I thought the world of hospitals to be rather boring for the setting of a mystery. There were any number of soap opera story-lines in my former work environment, but I wasn't writing in the romance genre.
When I began creating the series, my biggest first dilemma was how to get my character on the case without her being a cop, secret agent, or private investigator. I wanted her to be a professional, but not on the job of law enforcement. So I came up with the concept that she had built a reputation within the law enforcement community, but then walked away from her job because she was frustrated with paperwork and court testimony.
Instead she bought land and used her undergraduate degree in botany to start a vineyard. Like me, Jill likes Moscato wine and when I was first creating her character I imagined her living in Napa Valley. However, research soon pushed my protagonist's vineyard into the central valley of California as the Moscato grape likes hot weather to produce sugar. A vineyard has to be planted for five years before it can be harvested for wine, so what was she doing in this waiting period?
I suppose I should have thought of all of this before I started writing the story, but these nuances about my protagonist and her everyday life grew as I continued to write and she formed in my head. She was reluctantly pulled back into forensic pathology after she got the odd law enforcement referral for her to provide a second opinion on the cause of death. Slowly, Dr. Quint found herself back on the job, and this time it was a more interesting job with generally only one case a month instead of several every day.
She could avoid the paperwork and court testimony of her previous position. All she had to do was come up with enough information to turn the case over to police to prosecute. From there, her duties expanded to private investigation and she found herself bringing in her best friends, each with their own specialized skill to help on cases. Her reputation and skills grew from there and so she sought her private investigator license to provide more legitimacy to her investigations.
Dr. Quint has a good nose for wine and had moved on from her first vintage of Moscato to purchasing juice to expand the vineyard's offerings. In the current story, SICILIAN MURDER, she's exploring adding the Nero d'Avola grape as it also likes heat. Needless to say as the creator of Dr. Quint, I've been experimenting with wines featuring that grape as I want to provide an accurate account of its taste.
Is that not the flimsiest excuse you ever heard for someone to drink wine?