The main sources of ideas for novels are the imaginations of the authors. But what revs up their imaginations?

Pet peeves, news headlines, travel, special interest columns in Sunday papers, and people encountered daily are all sources of novel ideas. The list is endless.

The ideas for MALIGNANCY, my medical thriller released in October, came from two sources: my trip to Cuba in 2013 and my pet peeve that there are so few woman protagonists in thrillers and suspense novels. The women who populate suspense and thrillers are often young action heroines, like Lara Croft or Super Woman, or old women, like Miss Jane Marple. That leaves out women from thirty to sixty-five. According to the US Census in 2000, about fifty percent of females in the U.S. are between thirty and sixty-five.

In other words, authors should populate their novels with more smart, fit women in their forties and older. Characters who could be played by Helen Mirren, Sigourney Weaver, Salma Hayek, Marcia Gaye Hardin, and Alfre Woodard. Now that’s a novel idea.

The birthing of MALIGNANCY
Among the propaganda spouted by Cuban tour guide in 2013 was the statement: Cuban researchers had patented a drug for cancer. When I got home, I investigated her claim and found it was true.

This patent for a vaccine against a rare type of lung cancer demonstrates Cuban scientists are doing competitive science and understand the importance of commercialization of their research. I also discovered U.S. scientists were trying to augment existing scientific exchanges between the U.S. and Cuba, despite the embargo on Cuba. (Check out the editorial “Science diplomacy with Cuba” in the journal Science on June 6, 2014.)

I thought Sara Almquist, as an epidemiologist and heroine of my previous medical thrillers Coming Flu and Ignore the Pain, would be the perfect protagonist to do a little “scientific diplomacy” in Cuba. Let’s face it, a twenty or even thirty-something heroine hasn’t had time to get a Ph.D. and gain enough experiences to be an international science consultant.

Here’s a blurb on MALIGNANCY. Men disguised as police officers shoot at Sara Almquist twice in one day. Albuquerque police suspect Jim Mazzone, a drug czar who Sara has tangled with several times, will order more hits on Sara. Thus when colleagues in the State Department invite Sara to arrange scientific exchanges between the U.S. and Cuba, she jumps at the chance to get out of town and to see the mysterious Xave Zack, who rescued her in Bolivia. Maybe, she should question their motives.

Read Malignancy and imagine Helen Mirren or Marcia Gaye Hardin as Sara Almquist. Now that’s another novel idea.

Malignancy is available at Amazon and Oak Tree Press:

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 the instructor attaches stories to the processes. 

Now I have two great passions – my Japanese Chin dog, Bug, and travel. I’ve included both in my novels. You can learn more about me at my website: and blog (JL Greger’s Bugs): I also answer question directed to:

From Marilyn:

This books sounds great! Anxious to read it. Good post, my Deputy Tempe Crabtree falls in the early forties range.


Janet Greger said…
Marilyn, thanks for hosting me.
I've read the book now, and it's a true page turner--lots of action and plenty of plot twists!

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