Q&A

Dr. Kwei Quartey was born in Ghana and raised by a black American mother and a Ghanaian father, both of whom were university lecturers. Even though his professional writing career began after he became a physician, his desire to be a writer started at a very early age.

Kwei Quartey now lives in Pasadena, California. He writes early in the morning before setting out to work at HealthCare Partners, where he runs a wound care clinic.

You are a practicing physician and a writer as well. How do you make time to write?

I work three days a week and no weekends. I don’t take hospital call. I have this schedule specifically so I have time to write. It wasn’t always that way, though. It has taken me years to get to the point that I can balance medicine with writing more equally.

 

Who or what inspired you to start writing and when did you start?

I started writing novellas when I was eight or nine years old. My parents had hundreds of books at home, fiction and nonfiction. I read voraciously, and I loved mysteries—both adult and children’s. Those were my inspiration to write.

 

What tools and process do you use to “get to know” your characters before and while you’re writing the books?

I create a synopsis before starting my novel. I already have an idea who the principals are, but as I’m writing the synopsis, other characters spring to life spontaneously. As I write the novel itself, the characters flesh out, and often there’s further development when I do two or three rewrites during the editing process.

 

How do you construct your plots? Do you outline or do you write “by the seat of your pants”?

I create an outline. The outline is a map. You know where you’re going, but you can take detours here and there. That’s what happens as I’m writing the novel. I discover new side roads to wander down and explore before getting back on the main highway.

 

How does writing impact your medical practice—or vice versa?

Medicine has an effect on my writing by helping me with structure. Investigating an illness takes a certain methodical approach similar to solving a murder mystery, which is my genre. A doctor gathers the story, looks for clues, and follows leads the same way a detective does.

 

What are you working on now, and what are your future writing plans?

I’m hoping to start a new series with a female private investigator. We’ll see if my editor likes it or not.

 

Tell us something we don’t know about you.

I’m scared of possums but I like snakes.