A tough heroine gets to the bottom of a string of St. Louis killings in Eileen Dryer's With a Vengeance.

In your sixth medical suspense novel, With a Vengeance, the feisty main character, Maggie O'Brien, reflects your more than 16 years of medical experience as a trauma and forensic nurse death investigator. You recently attended (and passed) Tactical Emergency Medic Services School at Camp Ripley, Minn. What was the greatest lesson?

My biggest physical accomplishment was, I had to learn how to run an eight-minute mile, but team building was the biggest lesson—what you can accomplish as a person so that you don't let your team down. You would do things like having to communicate without any sight or sound. Remember that old camp exercise when you cross your arms, close your eyes and fall back, and your guys were supposed to catch you? We did that off the top—not the top rung—but the very top of a 10-foot ladder. You have to have absolute trust in your team, that's the whole point of an emergency response unit. You have to know exactly what your team is doing and not even question that they're doing their position, or you can't do your job effectively.

Maggie could be described as one tough cookie, and yet she refuses to use a gun. Should she be required to?

It depends on how your team is set up. In most teams, the paramedic is not armed, they're not licensed and they don't want them in the ER. On your smaller team, sometimes they cross-train—Maggie is medically trained, so it was pretty easy for her to get away with it.

Do you identify with Maggie, and will you return to this character?

Sure, absolutely—Maggie, the professional. Have I gotten to the point where I wanted to kill a drunk driver? Well, yeah. But have I ever done it? No. I'd like to return to Maggie—to investigate her boyfriend Sean's place in her life and where her relationship with her father goes.

In your novel, the names of offensive patients posted in the staff lounge of Maggie's hospital puts Maggie's life in jeopardy when she begins investigating them. Do you think most work places have some form of such a list?

Oh, yeah. You can only take so many drunk drivers screaming at you when they've just killed an entire family.

Why do you write romance, as Katherine Korbel, and medical suspense?

Loren Estleman calls it "literary crop rotation." Romance is character driven, and it's much easier for me to do character than plots. When you're writing suspense, the language is completely different. I enjoy different focuses. I love action, too. I began writing romance while working as a trauma nurse. I never started to write suspense until I was out of nursing for about a year. There were things I dealt with in the ER that I couldn't

What's next?

A Silhouette romance, Some Men's Dreams. The next suspense, Head Games, a sequel to Bad Medicine, will be published later this year.

Who would you ask for help in a crisis—a nurse, doctor, cop or firefighter?

Firefighter. I have known nurses I don't like. I have known doctors I don't like. I have known cops I don't like. I have never met a firefighter I didn't adore. They always make their decisions based on what's important to the person around them.

Do you think trauma nurses are overworked and underpaid?

All nurses are underpaid. This is a crisis. The more nurses we lose, the more dangerous our hospitals become. Nurses are your only educated patient advocate who can negotiate between every doctor caring for you.