Thursday, October 26, 2006

A Vital Source of Novel Ideas

Writing novels and short stories is Steve Whisnant's night job. He gets some of his ideas from his day job, as field representative for the Vital Records Division of the Arkansas Department of Health.

“The death certificate is one of the last documents of the living, so we want to make sure it’s filed properly,” he says. “We do queries if something on a death certificate looks wrong.”

In his story “Hospicetality,” a deputy sheriff suspects something odd about an old man’s death, but his only evidence — the body — has been cremated. In “Certificate of Death,” as the author tells it, “somebody is looking at death certificates, and they come across their own death.” The idea might be scarier if he didn’t describe it so good-naturedly. “I enjoy my day job,” Whisnant says. [Link]

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