Q&A With Ritu Mukerji

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Q&A With Ritu Mukerji 

My latest Q&A is with author Ritu Mukerji. Ritu is the author of her debut novel Murder By Degrees which will be released on October 17th of this year. I can’t wait to read it. It sounds like a great murder mystery! 


Q: Ritu, would you like to tell the readers of the blog and I a little bit about your novel Murder By Degrees? How did you come up with the concept for this book?

A: Murder by Degrees is an atmospheric historical mystery, set in 19th century Philadelphia. It follows a pioneering woman doctor, Dr. Lydia Weston, as she investigates the disappearance of a young patient, who is a chambermaid for a wealthy family. Lydia is a professor and anatomist at Woman’s Medical College, a unique real-life institution that was one of the first medical schools in the United States devoted to educating women doctors.  I attended medical school in Philadelphia, a city steeped in the history of American medicine. While living there, I discovered places like the Mutter Museum, the medical library of the College of Physicians and the historic surgical amphitheater at Pennsylvania Hospital, the nation’s first public hospital. It was years later that I learned of the Woman’s Medical College, and I knew it would be the perfect setting for a mystery, with a trailblazing woman doctor as the investigator.

Q: Did you always know your calling was to be an author? What made you choose to write in the murder mystery genre? 

A: I have been a huge fan of mystery fiction since I was in middle school, when I discovered Agatha Christie’s books. I read And Then There Were None and have never looked back!  Since then, I have read the depth and breadth of the genre: from the classic crime fiction of Dorothy L. Sayers and Ngaio Marsh to the Scandinavian noir of Henning Mankell and Karin Fossum, to private eyes like Sue Grafton’s Kinsey Millhone and Sara Paretsky’s V.I. Warshawski. I love it all!

I am a doctor and have worked as an internist for the last fifteen years but I had always dreamed of being an author. So you could say these two interests, my medical career and my love of mysteries, simmered in my mind for many years. I drew on a lot of my own experience as a medical student and doctor and also did extensive research to get the historical details just right. 

Q: If you are writing another novel right now, is it a sequel to Murder By Degrees or is it a standalone novel?

A:  I envisioned the first book as the beginning of a series, and now I am working on the second novel featuring Dr. Lydia Weston. It takes place at the 1876 Centennial Exposition, the World’s Fair that was held in Philadelphia. One of the exhibition halls was the Women’s Pavilion: a forum for women artists, inventors and engineers to display their work. The medical college was invited to put on a pharmaceutical display. That is all true historical detail, but as a novelist, my imagination then takes flight. The plot of the novel involves a surgical procedure with a demonstration of anesthetic technique, and the mystery that surrounds this when things go awry. I won’t give too much more away!

Q: Do you have a favorite writing spot (or spots) where you plot and type out your stories? 

A: My favorite writing spot is my kitchen table! I wrote the book early in the morning before going to work as a doctor and late at night after my three kids was asleep. It was the easiest place to work and fit best with my schedule, and that did not change over the five years it took to write the book. Occasionally, for a change of scenery, I will go to a local café to work—strong coffee is always good for inspiration.

Q: Does Hollywood have the rights to your book? The entertainment industry needs original content again. Who would be your dream cast for Murder By Degrees

A: What a fun possibility to consider! Right now, I am focusing on writing the second novel but stay tuned—more to come! Thank you so much for featuring Murder By Degrees.