A Different Kind of Hero

I swore I’d never do it. Having been a paramedic for seventeen years, I swore I’d never write a book about one. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve written books where paramedics have had recurring roles or cameo appearances, and that was fine, but a paramedic in a lead role was another matter entirely, and not one I wanted to get involved in.

Why? You might well ask.

I think there’s a two-part answer:

  1. I wouldn’t want people to assume said paramedic was some thinly disguised version of me. I have a couple of names, and Mary Sue is neither of them.
  2. Contrary to popular portrayal, paramedicking is not sexy. It is an incredibly rewarding career, but it is also antisocial, bad for your health, and utterly exhausting. The uniform comes in one size fits no one, most of our calls involve octogenarians or people who should know better, and a “good job” is a patient who’s independently mobile and doesn’t puke on you. And who would want to read a book about that?

Then Jemima Pardon came along. A joke name at first, which gradually developed into a story idea I couldn’t shake off. Jem was a paramedic, a perennially unlucky, chronically wheezy paramedic, who was the very antithesis of those striding, heroic, drop-dead gorgeous paramedics so beloved of writers who aren’t me.

That’s not to say Jem isn’t a hero. She is. She’s brave and good at her job. She cares for all the patients who don’t want to thump her, and she’s dedicated to her career. To quote the meme, Not All Heroes Wear Capes. Some of them wear bashed-up Magnum boots and a fleece that lets all the cold in, and carry a Ventolin inhaler.

So there you have it. Breathe is the first book of mine that’s truly set in my world. I’ve administered those drugs, dealt with some of those patients, and slogged my way through thousands of those twelve-hour shifts. I’ve got the insomnia, the short-term memory loss, and the irritable bowel. I hear the damn radios go off in my sleep and am forever conditioned to respond to the bleep of a data screen. That family in green, who swear too much and eat too much crap and long for an uninterrupted meal and an on-time finish, they’re my family. That family in blue, who actually do have a very nice uniform and come along to help us out, share our sweets, and take the piss with us, they’re my family as well.

Oh yes, very sexy!

When I first told people what Breathe was about, someone immediately commented, “Sexy paramedics!” I couldn’t fault his enthusiasm, but he really should have known better. I hope Breathe redresses the balance somewhat, plonking a dose of reality slap-bang in the middle of a genre more famed for its dashing and daring. It’s not that we don’t need heroes. We do, now more than ever. But everyone has their own definition of what a hero is, and Jem fits perfectly into mine.

Breathe will be released on 1st September via the Bold Strokes website and 10th September everywhere else.

About Cari Hunter

Cari Hunter is the author of "Snowbound", "Desolation Point" and "Tumbledown", "Alias", "Breathe", and the Dark Peak series of crime thrillers - "No Good Reason", "Cold to the Touch", and "A Quiet Death" - all published by Bold Strokes Books. Her new novel "Unbreakable" is now available to buy.
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13 Responses to A Different Kind of Hero

  1. Renee Roman says:

    Breathe is a masterpiece set in world that is anything but glorious, but it is definitely the real world. Cari once again had me up too late at night, ignoring my own writing due date because I was driven to finish hers. Not a bad thing, but don’t tell my bosses. If you haven’t read a novel by Cari, shame on you. You’re missing out on some great, sometimes funny, sometimes dramatic, writing. You won’t be disappointed. The characters in “Breathe” are heroes of the real type. Thanks, Cari. Well done. I’m glad you caved…

  2. Sue Robinson says:

    Cari, thank you for this super addition to your impressive and increasing body of work. It’s engrossing and a real window into how paramedics really are just ordinary folk with their own issues and obstacles in life. The characters are so well written it’s easy to see the human side to them and to quickly want the best for them, despite the mis-steps.
    I’ll be heartily recommending Breathe to anyone who’ll listen!

    • Cari Hunter says:

      Cheers, Sue! I hope ‘Breathe’ gives a little snapshot into life as a paramedic – the book has its dramatic moments (as does the job, I was wading across a stream the other week to reach a kid who’d fallen off a nine foot wall!) but those are balanced out by the more routine, bread and butter calls that rarely get a mention because most authors who write about this line of work have never actually experienced it. The book has a special place in my heart, so I really hope that people enjoy it.

  3. 58chilihed13 says:

    Waiting not at all patiently for my copy to arrive…and after reading this blog am REALLY not patient! Looking forward to a few hours of tea and chocolate and uninterrupted page turning!

  4. Devlyn says:

    Looking forward to reading your latest. I do love the ‘hero’ books, regardless of the package. Having served so long in the military, I am fully aware that hero’s come in many shapes and usually the unexpected provide the highest form.

    • Cari Hunter says:

      Precisely. Jem is an atypical, wheezy little heroine but she’s good fun to hang around with and Rosie is just lovely. They were a joy to write and I miss them a lot.

  5. Gaby says:

    Great Post, Cari! I’ve absolutely loved the book and would like to ask you: how did you come up with all those calls stories? Are any of them based on your own experience?

    • Cari Hunter says:

      How do! Chuffed to hear you enjoyed the book 🙂 Jem and Rosie are absolute favourites of mine, so it’s lovely to see how much enthusiasm there’s been for this story so far.
      At a rough guess, 80% of the calls mentioned – i.e. the one Jem describes for Sylvie and the three she doesn’t describe – are based on actual jobs. The lad with the twisted leg is my own personal fallback when people ask me what’s the worst thing I’ve ever seen (and loads of people do ask this) because, like Jem, I know people don’t want to hear about the others. The jobs featured as actual jobs are a mix of personal experience and imagination. Septic little old dears with water infections are ten a penny, as are kids with stupid names and even stupider parents! Thankfully, I’ve never experienced Jem’s job in the middle of the woods nor the one in the cellar. As for babies, I’ve lost count of the number of deliveries I’ve been to, but they’ve all come out the right way round 😉

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