Monday, February 15, 2016

Novel Ideas--a guest post by Oak Tree Press author J. L. Greger

Today, I'm hosting fellow OTP author, Janet L. Greger, author of the Sara Almquist mysteries as she promotes her latest book, "I Saw You in Beirut". Welcome, Janet!


What revs up authors’ imaginations? Pet peeves, news headlines, travel, and memories are all sources of novel ideas. The list is endless.

The initial ideas for I Saw You in Beirut, my latest international thriller, came from two main sources: my pet peeve that there are so few woman protagonists in thrillers and my love of exotic locations.

First, my pet peeve. The women who populate thrillers are generally young action heroines, like Lara Croft or Super Woman. Census data indicate the fastest growing population groups in the U.S. between 2000 and 2010 were those over forty-five years of age. Women outnumber men after forty. My conclusion is: women over forty are a big reading market.

Accordingly, the heroine in my thrillers is Sara Almquist, a globetrotting epidemiologist (a professional medical busybody) who has passed her fortieth birthday. I like to imagine her being played on film by Helen Mirren, Sigourney Weaver, Salma Hayek, or Marcia Gaye Hardin. Now that’s a novel idea.

Next, my love of exotic locations. In the 1990s, I consulted on biological (medical and agricultural) issues at the United Arab Emirates University in El Ain and the American University of Beirut in Lebanon. I got chills as I watched ships lining up to pass through the Strait of Hormuz and gasped at the still visible shrapnel damage in Beirut, but I was also awed by the beauty and history of the region. Did you know Lebanon has Phoenician tombs that are contemporary with the Egyptian pyramids? Several major medical discoveries were made in Iran and Iraq in the 1960s. I knew several of the researchers involved in the Shiraz experiment, which identified zinc deficiency in villagers in Iran. I also smiled as I toured the laboratory and swimming pools, which one sheik in the Emirates built to help keep his racing camels in optimum form.

Thus, I included lots of tidbits on science, geography, and history of the Middle East in I Saw You in Beirut. Why not arm chair travel there with Sara Almquist? I think you’ll discover lots of novel ideas and plot twists in this book.

Blurb: In I Saw You in Beirut, a mysterious source of leaks on the Iranian nuclear industry, known only as F, sends an email from Tabriz: Help. Contact Almquist. Intelligence sources determine the message refers to Sara Almquist, a globetrotting epidemiologist, and seek her help to extract F from Iran. As Sara tries to identify F by dredging up long-forgotten memories about her student days at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and her work in Lebanon and the Emirates, groups ostensibly wanting to prevent F’s escape attack her repeatedly. She begins to suspect her current friendship with Sanders, a secretive State Department official, is the real reason she’s being attacked.

I Saw You in Beirut (paperback and Kindle versions) is available at Amazon: and Barnes and Noble (Nook version):

Bio: As a professor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, I honed my story-telling skills as I lectured to bleary-eyed students at 8:30 in the morning. Students remember chemical reactions better when I attached stories to the processes.

My published thrillers include: Malignancy (winner of 2015 Public Safety Writers’ annual contest), Ignore the Pain, Murder: A New Way to Lose Weight, Coming Flu, and I Saw You in Beirut. My website is:


Thanks for joining us, Janet, and we look forward to more of Sara's stories!


  1. Loved the post, Janet, see you in July at the PSWA conference.

  2. thanks Amy for hosting me.

    Thanks Marilyn for the kind comments.