Monday, October 18, 2010

And Then There Was One

© Patricia Gussin 2010 all rights reserved

AND THEN THERE WAS ONE is my fourth and a half book; my fourth in the thriller genre. The half-book is non-fiction book. WHAT’S NEXT…FOR YOU?, co-authored with my husband, Robert Gussin. This book specifically answers the question that I keep getting asked. “How did you totally change your lives from careers in medicine and medical research to books and wine?” Formerly doctors, we are now authors, publishers and grape-growers in New Zealand. This “together” book has been called inspirational and humorous and is quite a departure from my thrillers.

How did all this happen and what led up to my latest book, AND THEN THERE WAS ONE? My background is medicine, and as the wise ones say, “Write what you know”. So I drew upon my experiences.

My first novel, SHADOW OF DEATH, is the story of Laura Nelson, a young medical student with two small sons, starting medical school in 1967 in Detroit at the epicenter of the riots there that year. Laura Nelson was pretty much me; where I was in my personal and professional life. By the time I graduated from med school, I had two more children. Lots of things happened to me in Detroit, but fortunately not all the bad stuff that happened to Laura. Suffice it to say that with four small kids and a horrendous on call schedule, I was too busy surviving to write. But somehow I always knew that I would revisit that era, and I finally did.

But a funny thing happened on the way to publication -- it’s all explained in WHAT’S NEXT…FOR YOU – my husband, who had been a medical researcher, started Oceanview Publishing. SHADOW OF DEATH was the first book on Oceanview Publishing’s list. A list that now, five years later, features more than thirty authors and more than fifty titles, most in the mystery, thriller, suspense genre. See

An unconventional road to publishing, but one filled with incredible joy in finding and supporting new and emerging authors. My parallel path in life is now writing and publishing. What could be better?

Again, back to AND THEN THERE WAS ONE, the focus of this discussion and my latest thriller. This is the story of the abduction of two of three identical triplet nine year old girls. The Monroe triplets live in Tampa, but are visiting their mother’s relatives in a suburb of Detroit. Their father, a former professional baseball player is in the Bronx, attending a Yankees game. On the last day of their visit, a nineteen year old cousin takes the three girls to a movie theatre, a multiplex. There’s a squabble about what movie they want to attend so the triplets split up. Jackie goes in with the older cousin. Sammie and Alex go into the adjoining theatre. Sammie and Jackie never come out.

The Monore parents are beyond devastation. The FBI is called in quickly. Every aspect of the family’s life examined for clues. Especially the professional life of the triplet’s mother, a forensic pediatric psychiatrist, who has helped separate many abusive parents from their children. The Monroes are a biracial family, could racial bigotry play a role? The emotional scale ratchets up as the array of possibilities expand and contract as to who took Sammie and Jackie and why. Are they even alive? But in the background as the tension and fear and terror escalate, what is happening to Jackie, the safe triplet?

That’s the premise of AND THEN THERE WAS ONE, based on the most primal fear of a parent, the loss of a child or children in this case. As the mother of seven children and having trained as a pediatrician, I believe that this fear is beyond even the most vivid imagination. To express the intensity of these terrifying emotions was my prime objective in writing AND THEN THERE WAS ONE.

Despite the depth of emotion embedded in AND THEN THERE WAS ONE, the actual inspiration for the plot was very banal. I was driving down Rt. 41 in Sarasota and I noticed a woman pushing a double stroller down the sidewalk. I love kids so I did a double take. There were two toddlers in the stroller, maybe eighteen months old. And beside the stroller, toddled another. All three looked to be about the same age and they looked a lot alike. But the moment was fleeting, and I drove along.

I kept thinking. Why was one walking and the other two being pushed? Were they siblings, or not? That got me thinking about what if they were triplets? What if one triplet was separated from the others? What would be the family dynamics?

That led me to something else. Something in my archives. Buried somewhere in my documents on my PC. My second novel, TWISTED JUSTICE. TWISTED JUSTICE is not considered a sequel to my first thriller, SHADOW OF DEATH, but it does feature Laura Nelson again. Laura was the medical student in Detroit in SHADOW OF DEATH, and TWISTED JUSTICE follows seven years later when Laura is a thoracic surgeon in Tampa. I won’t get into the plots of these two novels, but Laura now has five children. Two are twins, Natalie and Nicole. They are ten years old in Twisted Justice.

When my agent and editor first read TWISTED JUSTICE, they both said, “You have too much going on. You need to simplify the story.” So I took out one of my favorite sub-plots and guess what? The novel improved just the way they said it would. The sub-plot that I removed was a kidnapping scenario. Natalie and Nicole were kidnapped out of a mall.

Voila! I went back to my former versions of TWISTED JUSTICE, extracted the kidnapping details, and modified them to meet the needs of Sammie and Alex’s abduction in AND THEN THERE WAS ONE.

It wasn’t exactly that easy, but you get the point. That leads me to my writing habits. I’m not proud to say it, but they are erratic. I write whenever and wherever I can. I am bouncing many balls and I don’t have as much time as I’d like. And I’m behind in my next novel which will feature Laura Nelson, again, seven years after the last one. And this time will involve bioterrorism.

I started writing what became SHADOW OF DEATH on airplanes. I was a worldwide vice-president for Johnson &  Johnson, and that involved lots of travel to Asia. Those are long flights, and I took out a yellow note pad and began writing. After many flights, I had stacks of notepads. I was tripping over them all the time, so I bit the bullet and put them on the computer. A very daunting task as I am a physician and cannot read my own handwriting.

I knew nothing of the ins and outs of the craft of writing when I started. I attended many conferences, sought the help of other writers, and I hired an editor who taught me so, so much. I kept track of the versions of SHADOW OF DEATH alphabetically. The published version is “M” so you know how many revisions it went through.

THE TEST, my third thriller and the story of how a billionaire’s Last Will and Testament went terribly wrong, only went to version “F” so I guess I’m getting more efficient.

AND THEN THERE WAS ONE was easier as I borrowed from TWISTED JUSTICE, and so far the reviews have been fabulous so I hope that my writing is getting better. But as we writers know, we are always filled with self-doubt all the while propelled to push on.

Please visit my website at  and email me from there should you have any questions. And check out my Facebook page. For great books in the mystery, thriller genre, you can count on Oceanview Publishing, that’s a promise. Check out Oceanview at  to see my Conversation with Author for more insight into AND THEN THERE WAS ONE.  Follow Oceanview on Facebook, too.

About the author:

Board-certified in Family Medicine, Patricia Gussin practiced medicine and has directed medical research in her role as worldwide vice president for a leading healthcare company. She is the author of Shadow of Death, which was nominated for “Best First Novel” in the Thriller Awards, sponsored by the International Thriller Writers, Twisted Justice, and The Test. She and her husband Robert Gussin are the authors of What’s Next…For You? The Gussins divide their time between Longboat Key, Florida, East Hampton, New York, and their vineyards in New Zealand.

Visit Patricia Gussin online at:


Bob Gussin said...


Aaron Paul Lazar said...

Patricia, welcome to MB4 today! Are you currently in New Zealand, Florida, or New York? Fascinating life you've had, and your book sounds intriguing.

My question for you is what grapes grow best in your vineyard? I'm up here in the Finger Lakes region, where our Rieslings are our pride and joy. ;o)

Bob Gussin said...

Hi Aaron,

Our vineyards are both in Marlborough, northeast section of the south island, New Zealand.
Savignon Blanc is the most prevalant grape of the region and our vineyards, too, followed by Pinot noir and some chardonnay.
Right now, we are in New York following a book tour in Michigan. This week we'll be leaving for Florida and then on to New Zealand in November.
Thanks for asking about the grapes. Wine and Books, not a bad combination.
Patricia Gussin

Bob Gussin said...




Aaron Paul Lazar said...

Oh, I agree. I sign my books exclusively at a beautiful winery on Keuka Lake called Heron Hill. I love the combo of wine and books, and always have a nice glass of Riesling at my side when I'm signing! Only once did a customer actually spill their wine on my stuff - but no harm was done. LOL.

You must get dizzy with all the travel! I did Germany and Thailand this summer (for work) and was glad to get back home to catch up on gardening, etc. when it was all done.

Sonya Bateman said...

Hi Pat,

I've heard a great many good things about Oceanview Publishing. Congrats to your husband - and you - on your success! It's damned hard to run a good publishing company.

I have a question too: Is there any special reason you've timed your novels to take place 7 years apart?

Marta Stephens said...


Isn't it interesting the paths our lives take? One thing leads to another and, BAM! We're doing the most unexpected things and having a blast. :)

All the best with AND THEN THERE WAS ONE and thanks so much for sharing today on MURDER BY 4!

Aaron Paul Lazar said...

Patricia, I meant to say I'd also heard excellent things about Oceanview - congrats on that, as well!

Bob Gussin said...

Hi Sonya,
What a great questions. Here's what drove this decision. I wanted to write about a medical student in Detroit, starting school in that infamous year,1967. Med school is a four year proposition, that took me to 1971 for SHADOW OF DEATH.
I jumped 7 years forward to 1978 for TWISTED JUSTCICE, wanting to take Laura Nelson to Tampa and wanting her to be established as a thoracic surgeon.
For my next Laura Nelson book,I will move 7 years forward to 1985. Again, everything is different in her life. I believe that this 7 year leap is enough to consider each book a stand alone and still maintain a connection. THE TEST (2001) and AND THEN THERE WAS ONE (2009) do not feature Laura Nelson and are unencumbered with timelines.
Thanks for the great question.
Patricia Gussin

Bob Gussin said...

Hi Marta,
So true. That's why Bob and I wrote WHAT'S NEXT...FOR YOU?
You never know what's around the next bend.
Patricia Gussin

Kim Smith said...

Congrats on being able to work with your hubby. Isn't that what a marriage is?

Bob Gussin said...

Thanks, Kim.
I will point out that we have to work on opposite ends of the house.
Especially when I'm writing thrillers and he's writing humor!
Patricia Gussin