Please welcome Kristen Elise. She has an unusual story to tell about how she became a writer. I'm happy she did because the outcome was a most exciting book. Read on.
Author Kristen Elise
An Accident, a Dare,
and a Massive Layoff
My “Why I Became a
Kristen Elise, Ph.D. is a drug discovery
biologist and the author of The Vesuvius Isotope. She lives in San Diego,
California, with her husband, stepson, and three canine children. Please visit
her websites at www.kristenelisephd.com and www.murderlab.com. The Vesuvius
Isotope is available in both print (www.kristenelisephd.com and www.amazon.com)
and e-book formats (www.amazon.com for Kindle, www.barnesandnoble.com for Nook,
www.kobo.com for Kobo reader.)
A few months ago, Lesley Diehl participated in an
experiment. She and several other professional writers each wrote the same blog
post: Why I Became a Writer. As I neither knew Lesley at that time nor was a
professional writer, I missed the chance to join in. Today, Lesley has
graciously given me a guest slot on her blog to let me catch up.
In short, I stumbled into writing bass-ackward. Three factors
converged to spark my now full-time writing career: an accident, a dare, and a
massive layoff. Three factors that turned out to be three unlikely strokes of
My contribution to the “Why I Became a Writer” experiment
begins with an experiment of an entirely different kind—the kind that takes place in a
laboratory. A scientist since birth, I was working on anthrax at the time. My goal
was to identify inhibitors of an anthrax protein. What I found instead was an
molecule that made anthrax infection more efficient. It took very little
creativity on my part to envision a scenario in which this discovery could be
Around the same time, a friend of mine dared me to write a
story. Having never previously written a story that wasn’t required by a
teacher for a grade, I felt like a total imposter. But I wrote my anthrax activator
story and brought it to my friend’s budding writers’ group. The group quickly
went the way of the dodo, but the idea began to snowball.
The story grew into my first full-length manuscript, The Death Row Complex. The thing that
amazed me the most during that time was how addicted to writing I would quickly
become. I absolutely couldn’t put the manuscript down, and I also began looking
ahead to the next one. I don’t know when it happened, but somewhere along the
lines, writing became a permanent fixture in my life. But it still hadn’t
occurred to me that it would ever be more than a hobby.
While I was still working on The Death Row Complex, the idea for my next novel struck. I was in
Italy on vacation and paid a visit to the Naples Archeological Museum. The more
I learned of the lost city of Herculaneum, the more the idea began to develop.
I came to realize that my Death Row
protagonist belonged in both novels, and that the second story needed to be
released first. So I finished the first draft of Death Row and then shelved it to write the manuscript that would
become The Vesuvius Isotope.
I finished this manuscript in December. In January, I handed
it to a professional editor. And in February, the pharmaceutical company I
worked for cut my entire site, laying off every one if its more than 100
I had just become a professional novelist.
Mind you, I had become a professional novelist without an
actual novel to speak of, let alone a dime ever earned from said non-existent novel.
But what the hell. Truth be told, the pharmaceutical industry is a great place
to be laid off from, and I say that with all sincerity. The severance package I
received was enough. Not “lap of luxury” enough, but enough to take a hiatus
and publish my book.
I had no idea how long my Extended Spring Break, as I like
to call it, would turn out to be. I still don’t. But even then, I knew it would
be finite. So it was clear that query letters followed by months of waiting
were not going to be the best path for me. I buckled down and learned how to
That was the day I realized that I had just become my own
marketing department. So while the editing was ongoing and my sole prop was being
established, I was also turbo-charging my platform. Publishers noticed me, and
I was quickly offered a couple of contracts, unsolicited. I turned them down in
order to get the book out faster, knowing that my Extended Spring Break, and
with it the time I had for promoting the book, would eventually come to an end.
And so I became a full-time novelist without a
publishing contract and before ever completing a novel. Now that The Vesuvius Isotope is a reality, I am
returning to Death Row. And when my
severance pay runs out, if the Pulitzer Committee still hasn’t come knocking, I’ll
head back into the laboratory. I can only dare hope for another inspirational accident
before the next massive lay-off.
About The Vesuvius Isotope
When her Nobel laureate husband is
murdered, biologist Katrina Stone can no longer ignore the secrecy that
increasingly pervaded his behavior in recent weeks. Her search for answers
leads to a two-thousand-year-old medical mystery and the esoteric life of one of
history’s most enigmatic women. Following the trail forged by her late husband,
Katrina must separate truth from legend as she chases medicine from ancient
Italy and Egypt to a clandestine modern-day war. Her quest will reveal a legacy
of greed and murder and resurrect an ancient plague, introducing it into the