After 42 years as a hospital pathologist, Dr. Jane Bennet Munro of Twin Falls knows a thing or two about death: how it happens, what it looks like, and what happens to the people it affects. This extensive experience gives her books the ring of authenticity as her heroine, Dr. Toni Day, a hospital pathologist, adds solving murders to her already hectic schedule.
Although Munro just retired from her pathologist position last May, she started getting serious about writing in 2011, but first stuck her toe in the literary water years before.
“I attended Murder on the Grove in 2003 in Boise at the Grove Hotel. It was a chance to meet with editors, agents, and publishers by submitting something you’d written and then getting a 10-minute appointment with the person who had selected your work,” said Munro. “I got matched up with an agent from New York City who critiqued my work, telling me she was up all night reading my stuff, but couldn’t sell it. She told me I needed a subplot and that my main character was pretty wimpy. And, she was right. So, I went ahead, changed my book, finished it, and started another.”
But it wasn’t until a good friend kept hounding her to get her books published that Munro actually got serious about getting her work out there for people to read.
“I basically just Googled a list of publishers and picked one with no real information. I filled out a form online and a half hour later, the publishing house rep called me.”
Munro hasn’t looked back since that fateful call. Today, she’s published six books and is working on her seventh. Munro said her ideas for the characters and plots are usually drawn from her own four decades of experience. Murder Under the Microscope is a reflection of a time when an unusually difficult person worked in the lab with Munro.
“I thought to myself, I’m going to write a book some day where I get to murder this character, and that’s where my inspiration came for that title.”
Another book, Too Much Blood, got its story line from the dreaded Black Monday stock market crash. Many people Munro knew lost thousands of dollars due to being involved with an unscrupulous schemer.
“It was really a difficult time for people who were deceived and who ended up owing a lot of back taxes with penalties,” she said. “It was the perfect situation for a murder mystery.”
The germ of the idea for Grievous Bodily Harm came from hearing about a sleezy hospital administrator.
“All of my books are a result of things I’ve experienced or heard about,” she said.
“For example, my idea for Death by Autopsy came about when a young woman, learning I was a pathologist, said, ‘Eww! You do autopsies on dead people!’ My friend, Rhonda, who was there at the time, said I just had to write a book called Death by Autopsy, so I did!”
Although Munro was born in Maine, she and her mother moved to California when she was young and stayed there through medical school. Drawing again on her own experience, Munro really wanted to set a murder mystery in Long Beach in the house where she grew up.
“There was a creepy house nearby that was relatively isolated, and it looked like a Scottish castle, and I wanted to include that in my book. But the editor suggested I set the house in the 1920s and have it operate as a speakeasy, so that was the genesis for A Deadly Homecoming, which is my latest book.”
For several years, Munro went on cruises with a dear friend, and it was those experiences that resulted in Body on the Lido Deck she said.
Clearly, building on her own experiences has been the key to success for this Idaho author. But writing isn’t an easy task for anyone, and Munro is no exception.
“The hardest part is getting towards the end of the book and still not knowing how I want it to end or if I need to add another character,” she said. “If that happens, it means I have to go back and rewrite a lot of the book, because you just can’t toss in a character without significant foreshadowing before the end. It all has to actually make sense.”
Munro noted editorial evaluation is critical to polishing her novels.
“It’s so hard to edit your own work,” she explained. “You can read it over and over, but you really need another person who knows how good books come together to edit your work.”
Writing is a craft, and like all endeavors, the more you work at it the better you get.
“I really focus on each chapter having a snappy ending that draws the reader right into the next chapter,” Munro said. “I want to create a book of substance, a book that is satisfying to the reader. There needs to be background, of course, but I don’t want a bunch of fluff to get in the way of the story.”
Although Munro has a publisher, she also promotes her books via her blog, website, Facebook, and Twitter. Her fan base is growing rapidly, so her marketing strategies must be working well.
At 74, Dr. Munro has no intention of giving up her writing career any time soon. “I’d go crazy if I didn’t have something to do in retirement,” she said.
Busy with her next book, The Twelve Murders of Christmas, it appears Jane Bennett Munro is going to keep her eager readers happy for many years to come. ISI