Dr. Tammy Euliano has loved fiction writing since she was young — but her dreams of becoming a novelist were put on the back burner once she decided to be a doctor.
After her mentor, J.S. Gravenstein, suggested the two write a mystery novel together, Euliano’s childhood passion rekindled.
“I thought, ‘That’s bizarre, but OK,’” Euliano said.
Gravenstein died in 2009, but Euliano made sure her mentor’s suggestion came to fruition. In 2021, she published her debut novel, “Fatal Intent,” which told the story of fictional anesthesiologist Dr. Kate Downey and her investigation of the unusual deaths of multiple elderly patients.
The 56-year-old UF professor of anesthesiology, anesthesiologist and author released her second medical thriller novel Jan. 3: “Misfire,” the sequel to “Fatal Intent.”
Set in Alachua County, the novel explores Downey’s investigation of a new implantable defibrillator that misfires — causing the very heart rhythm problem it was made to resolve. To make matters worse, the character’s beloved Great-Aunt Irm previously received the implant.
Downey eventually discovers the misfires are deliberate attacks, and amid disappearances and murders, she must protect patients and her loved ones.
“If you like mysteries and thrillers and you want to read something set in your own hometown, then you might enjoy ‘Misfire,’” Euliano said.
Euliano works three days a week at UF Health Shands Hospital, caring for surgical patients, looking after women in labor and teaching medical students and residents — all while saving her Fridays to write. She stopped her research in 2013 and left her administrative duties to allow herself more time to write.
Euliano hopes “Misfire” helps inform readers on the role of anesthesiologists, she said, as some media depictions of anesthesiology are inaccurate. For example, she often sees CPR performed incorrectly and paramedics stopping chest compressions to transport a patient in TV and movies, she said — both of which are medical inaccuracies.
While she has extensive experience in academic writing, fiction writing was more challenging than she expected it to be, Euliano said. It took her six years to develop her debut novel into a work she was proud of, she said.
“Got a bunch of rejections,” Euliano said. “It was a very iterative process, and so I iterated far less with ‘Misfire.’”
“Misfire,” she said, took over a year for her to write.
Patricia Gussin, a physician, book publisher, editor and author, said “Misfire” pushes readers to become invested with a central plot concerning health — a basic human need.
“She has the advantage of being a physician and having firsthand information about what goes on behind the medical doors,” Gussin said.
J.D. Allen, a 56-year-old crime fiction author and Euliano’s critique partner, or a writer who exchanges manuscripts with another writer to give and receive feedback, said her knowledge of the similarities between Euliano and the novel’s protagonist makes the story more realistic.
“If there’s deep, underlying technical knowledge the author has that comes through in the character, it makes it much more interesting reading,” Allen said.
Much of the personal experience Euliano includes in her stories comes from her days at the hospital, which she has since reduced in order to further her novelist career.
“My husband keeps saying, ‘Wait, this is your hobby. It’s not supposed to be work,’” Euliano said. “But you know, it can’t be just a hobby or you won’t get anywhere.”
Euliano’s decision to write medical thrillers comes from her love of reading thriller novels, she said. With medical mysteries, she gets to discuss ethical dilemmas in health care for a less familiar audience.
With “Misfire,” Euliano said, she’d like to inform readers that people need to be careful about how medical devices are regulated and do their research before committing to anything.
Euliano is now working on the third book of the Kate Downey Medical Mystery series. She’s also writing other standalone mystery novels, she said.
"The excitement of somebody reading my book and calling me…or someone posting something on a review about how they stayed up all night," Euliano said. "It just gives you goosebumps."
Contact Zarin Ismail at email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter @zarintismail.
Zarin Ismail is a second-year journalism major and a staff writer for the Avenue. She has previously worked as a copy editor for The Alligator. She's also a writer for Strike Magazine. When she’s not writing, Zarin watches international TV shows, shops at thrift stores and plays with her two cats.