Dr. Shira Shiloah's “Grave Intervention” has medical themes, but borders on the paranormal.

Anesthesiologist turned novelist spins her experiences into medical thrillers

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Anesthesiologist turned novelist spins her experiences into medical thrillers

Dr. Shira Shiloah's “Grave Intervention” has medical themes, but borders on the paranormal.

Meet Dr. Shira Shiloah, the author of two medical thriller novels, “Emergence,” published in 2020, and “Grave Intervention,” in 2022.

She is the daughter of an Iraqi Jewish father and a Syrian-Yemenite Israeli mother. Shiloah was born in Israel, moved first to Lexington, Ky., when she was 3, and after two years to Memphis, where she lived until recently.

She graduated from the University of Tennessee Medical School and did her residency in anesthesiology at Northwestern in Chicago. Her father is a periodontist, and her mother is a nurse. In addition, her husband, Matt, is a nurse, and her brother is a dentist.

Shiloah said she and Matt moved to Boston a year and a half ago. “The impetus was that my niece was going to Harvard Law School, and she and I were extremely close. My husband got a job at Northeastern, so, we migrated Northeast.” She said she is not currently working as an anesthesiologist due to medical issues.

The Journal interviewed Shiloah at Temple Emanuel of Andover on April 14, where she gave a presentation to 30 Hadassah women about her books and her father’s family’s journey from Iraq to Israel.

Q. You’ve written two books. How did you become interested in becoming a writer?

A. It was a pretty organic situation. You hear a lot in medicine of intense patient encounters, some of us do not process it very well, and one of the ways is to write. I had a really intense encounter with a patient that really touched my heart. I went home and just started writing the story. It was innate.

I had always been an avid reader, and most writers are avid readers. I wrote a short story about this experience, and I really enjoyed the process of writing. I then looked into what was available. There was a physicians’ writing conference, and I submitted the story and won third place. I decided to go to the conference and then started writing more. I reworked that story, and it became my first novel, “Emergence.” The pivotal moment was that the short story was good. I had never done creative writing. That award told me I might have some talent.

Q. Both your books have medical themes. “Grave Intervention” borders the paranormal. I read your ghost was a real person, Patrick Doyle, who was hanged in1854 and still haunts Naperville, Ill. At what point did you want to write a book about it?

A. Well, it really started so innocently. I heard a voice in the shower and I’m like, what is that voice? And then my writer brain is like, who? What if it’s a ghost?

If I wanted it to be a thriller, my ghost had to have a vengeance. I needed a ghost with vengeance. I told my best friend who lives in Naperville all about it, and she told me that Naperville was haunted. That’s when I went ahead and read about the city. I called Kevin Franz, who was a ghost hunter and he told me the story of Doyle. I went to Naperville and went on a ghost tour. I then reached out to their archivists and their museum, and they gave me a wealth of information about Doyle, and the story just started to unfold.

Q. The main character of “Grave Intervention” is an Iraqi Jew, and a doctor. How much of your dad is in the character of Amir Haddad? In “Emergence,” the main character is an anesthesiologist based in Memphis. How much is that based on you?

A. Amir Haddad is like my father only in that he is a doctor, and his family had to leave Iraq. But Savta Sabiha’s, Amira’s grandmother in the story, is much more based on my father’s mother.

As far as “Emergence,” they say when you’re writing, you’re supposed to look out the window and not in the mirror. I just want to be clear that the book is completely fiction. However, Roxane Roth is a very young, fresh-out-of-residency anesthesiologist, and what she experiences by way of her interactions and romantic life, and the stress of the job, is very realistic.

Q. Are you working on your next book, and if you are, what will that be about?

A. It’s called “Not Yours to Take,” and I am going to traditionally publish it. I’m currently dealing with some agents to see which way we’re going to go.

It is a domestic thriller set in Chicago where I did my residency. It is about a transplant surgeon who was wayward ethically, in his professional as well as in his personal life. There is a love triangle between him, his personal assistant, and his wife. And there is a crux that occurs that changes the trajectory of what’s going to happen to all. Θ

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