Please welcome our March featured author, Eileen Dreyer!
Eileen Dreyerís novels have been called ďsmart, provocativeĒ (Tami Hoag), ďa roller-coaster rideĒ (Nora Roberts) and ďintense, remarkableĒ (St. Louis Post-Dispatch). For sixteen years, Dreyer was a trauma nurse in two of the busiest ERs in St. Louis, Missouri. Today, she is the only Tactical EMS School trainee and forensic nurse writing suspense. With her compelling books, she is what she writes and comes from a place of complete authenticity in her story lines. Her previous book, With a Vengeance introduced readers to one of the most kick-butt heroines of our day, nurse Maggie OíBrien. Her new thriller, HEAD GAMES, was inspired by Dreyerís work in the masterís course in death investigation at St. Louis University Medical Schoolís Department of Forensic and Environmental Pathology covering the activities of Jeffrey Dahmer. With HEAD GAMES, Dreyer gives readers an even tougher heroine taking care of business, forensic nurse and death investigator, Molly Burke.
Molly has seen every type of atrocity and more than her share of heartbreak in her home city of St. Louis. She can save some kids but others she loses to abuse. There is seemingly little that is ďprettyĒ about Mollyís job and life, but itís all about to turn more strange and troubling than even she could have imagined. A child she once tried to save is now a grown up. His hard and difficult childhood has only become worse as he grew older. Now, his deeds are horrific, and for Molly the worst is about to erupt. As Molly becomes immersed in this trouble more complications arise when brother asks her to watch his sixteen-year-old who is apparently involved in a series of ďincidences.Ē
HEAD GAMES is a breathtaking, rollercoaster ride into the deepest, darkest realms of the human heart and mind. Tightly plotted and compelling, Dreyer has created a tour-de-force thriller set against two backdrops the author knows extremely well: the ER and the Office of Death Investigation in St. Louis.
Youíve written a very real and very disturbing story, what were your feelings during its creation?
I basically remembered how it felt to walk into the room of an abused child and know there was nothing I could do to save him. As a writer, itís like attending a nine-month wake. Thatís one of the reason I make sure I have humor in my books. Not only is it the way trauma people compensate, but as an author I couldnít face the darker side of my book that long without running screaming into the night.
Itís apparent youíve done some research on the subject of child abuse and how it relates to future violence, tell us a bit more about your research into the subject.
The research into the cyclical nature of abuse is extensive. For HEAD GAMES, though, I focused on the research as it applies to serial violent offenders. To do that I was privileged to study with John Douglas, Ann Douglas and Robert Ressler, who did the seminal studies on serial violent offense and founded the Behavioral Sciences Unit at the FBI. I was able to study with them at the Masters Course in Death Investigation at St. Louis University. Itís Resslerís theory of the making and the possible prevention of a serial violent offender I rely on the most. Also the profile of Jeffrey Dahmer. The book was really born at the Masters Course when we did Jeffrey Dahmer Day. And I have to admit that as opposed to any other serial killer Iíve studied, I still feel very sorry for Jeff. He is the paradigm for Kenny, who really only wanted to make a person who wouldnít leave him.
What was the most surprising thing you learned?
Not just how young a serial violent offender seems to be cemented into his pattern(Ressler believes it to be 6 years, others as young as 3), but the fact that he also believes there is a chance to prevent that child from becoming a serial offender. Until Iíd talked to him I didnít think it was possible. I really did play The Game at work, and the results were the same that Molly discovered.
What is the principal point, if any, youíd like your readers to glean from your novel?
I wrote this book because Iím tired of serial killers being portrayed as the monsters under the bed. Every serial killer is someoneís child.
Molly is such a authentic and empathetic character, where does she come from?
Molly is a combination of people. I have such a great and abiding respect for veterans of any war, but the nurses from Vietnam suffered more than most, and are still struggling with what happened to them. I wanted to write a heroine who had that as part of her make-up. I also love the people with whom I worked. Trauma nurses have a certain personality range, and Molly certainly falls within it. Opinionated, decisive, quick on her feet and empathetic.
Youíve written books featuring many different characters, who is your favorite?
Actually, Frank Patterson is currently my favorite. I think itís because heís such an imperfect person and he knows it. But heís found a way to fit himself into his world.
Itís obvious you have used a lot of your personal experience as a trauma nurse to shape your characters and stories, how closely related are your books and characters to your actual experiences?
The more outlandish the event in a book, the more likely it is to be based on a real event. As for the stories, what I tend to do is take a situation Iíve seen and take it to its logical conclusion. For instance, in WITH A VENGEANCE, the rage and frustration of trauma and police against the predators out there is very real. I just played a game of ďwhat if?Ē and took it past the fantasy revenge all of us regularly visit on the bad guys we have to deal with to a real revenge. With HEAD GAMES, itís The Game. We really did play it, just as Molly does. We really did try and figure out whether if we grabbed an abused child right then and there, could we save him? And so many times, the answer was already no.
What do you miss most about being a trauma nurse? Least?
I miss the action. The adrenaline high. The knowledge that I made a life-and-death difference that seemed always balanced on seconds and minutes. I miss the people I worked with, met and treated. Heck, I miss the sound of sirens. Chances are, if Earl Emerson and I are at the same conference, youíll see us by the front door with our heads tilted like retrievers listening for sirens.
I miss the least the terrible intrusion of insurance and bureaucracy upon the practice of medicine. I donít miss the arrogance of certain people who practice it. I donít miss the terrible weight of tragedy.
Tell us a bit about your writing habits?
I begin with an idea and at least two characters. Then I begin the research to flesh everything out. I love hands-on research the best. I ride along, Iíve taken Citizenís Police Academy, Tactical EMS School(I am technically qualified to be a medic on a SWAT teamÖyou note I say technical). I talk to every authority on a subject I can. For HEAD GAMES, I not only took the courses on serial violent offense, but spent time with a recently retired FBI profiler to make sure that not only were my own profiles accurate, the but the investigative process. I always double check with my experts in all forensic fields, not to mention my friends in medicine, since Iím technically out of the business. Then I sit down to work on the story itself, all the while keeping those research phone numbers handy for quick help.
As for writing itself, Iím what I call a ďBinge-and-purgeĒ writer. Iíll be at my computer every day, but I may wander around my room for two or three days staring into space, and then spit out a chapter on my third day. Iíve always written more at night, since Iíve had children, and I know the phone wonít ring at night. Since theyíve grown, Iím starting to write a little earlier. Toward the end of deadline, my husband kicks me out of the house to a local motel with my music, my sun tea and my computer. Amazing what you can get done in a bland room with nothing but a bad print of the Grand Canyon on the wall.
Any particular authors, teachers, etcÖthat inspired you to become a writer?
Sr. Mary Alice in Eighth Grade caught me writing stories for my friends and proceeded to teach me more about writing genre than anybody else. Every author Iíve read, be it Tolkien or Robert Penn Warren or Nora Roberts or Barbara Kingolver, has inspired me in some way. Iíve always internalized as I read. The author who has taught me the most about writing mysteries is Dick Francis. I am in awe of his clean, neat style. I also write romance as Kathleen Korbel, and after every romance I write, I reread every Dick Francis I have to refocus me into the world of mystery\suspense.
When did you first discover this was what you wanted to do?
I began writing for myself when I was 10 and ran out of Nancy Drews to read. I decided to try and publish when I was 31 and had burned out the second time from trauma nursing.
And finally, will we see Molly again?
To be perfectly frank, I donít know. I write my suspenses one at a time. Trauma nurse bore easily. After Iíve spent nine months with these people, I want to meet someone new. I also donítí believe I should torture my heroines too much, and Molly has already survived one book, BAD MEDICINE. But then, I said I wasnít going to write a sequel to WITH A VENGEANCE, and suddenly last summer I realized I wasnít finished with them after all.
Eileen Dreyer was a trauma nurse in two of the busiest ERs in St. Louis County. She also trained as a medic on a SWAT team and has trained as a medical/legal death investigator. Her previous novel was With a Vengeance. She lives in St. Louis, Missouri, with her family.