Q&A with Jenna Podjasek, M.D. - Deborah Kalb Books

Q: What inspired you to write Particles in the Air, and how did you create your character Dr. Mallory Hayes?

A: My motivation for writing a novel is multifaceted. Part of the reason I wrote Particles in the Air is that I’ve always felt I had a story to tell. A large portion of my childhood was spent reading and, to a lesser extent, writing. After someone close to me became ill during my teenage years, I became interested in medicine as a career and eventually immersed myself in the world of science.

The premise behind Particles in the Air is an idea I’ve had germinating for years. Combining creativity and true-life science through writing has been a dream come true for me.

Dr. Mallory Hayes originated from many of my real-life experiences in medicine. I wanted to create a character that inspired women of all ages to challenge the status quo and never give up on what you know to be right.

Q: How would you compare the virus you write about in the book with the Covid pandemic?

A: That’s an interesting question. The main similarity between the two viruses is how easily transmissible they are.

Like Covid, Adenovirus is extremely infectious between people; it's one of the most common viruses to cause a cold (or viral upper respiratory infection) in humans today. A rapidly spreading virus is the most difficult to contain and, in many ways, has the potential to be the most dangerous.

Q: Did you know how the novel would end before you started writing it, or did you make many changes along the way?

A: As I mentioned, the concepts behind Particles have been slowly developing in my mind for years. Once I had enough time to dedicate to writing, I began to research those concepts. Simultaneously, I began an extensive outline, spending my afternoons camped out in coffee shops.

When a particular idea entered my mind, I would stop writing and research all aspects surrounding that idea - from aerial Google views to fact-checking scientific details. Once I had completed my outline, the words flowed from there.

Q: What do you hope readers take away from the story?

A: Each of the medical scenarios in the book is realistic, although it would take a very specific and rare set of circumstances to happen.

Particles in the Air is, in many ways, a cautionary tale. I think it’s important for people to be aware of the possibility of a bioterrorist attack. Education for both the public and government regarding disease spread and how to prevent this spread is important.

Q: What are you working on now?

A: When my book was picked up by Bancroft Press, I had a completed outline and was several chapters into writing a second medical thriller unrelated to Particles in the Air. My publisher convinced me to switch gears and write a series with Dr. Mallory Hayes. I have to say, he was right! I’m now in the midst of writing book number two with Mallory as the protagonist.

Q: Anything else we should know?

A: Particles in the Air shows what could happen. The technology exists and is accessible anywhere in the world via the internet. Health care providers, ancillary staff and key members of government should receive further training in how to identify, isolate, and treat possible future bioterrorism threats.

I would love to keep my readers up to date on new releases. Please visit my website and sign up for my email list to hear about my next book.

Thanks so much for having me.

--Interview with Deborah Kalb

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