Welcome to Readers Write to Know! I asked you, my readers, what questions they would ask their favorite authors if given the chance. This week, I am so happy to have returning to us Dr. Richard Mabry. I’ve met Dr. Mabry several times over the last couple of years, and had the privilege of attending a class he taught on writing medical dramas. I’m so thrilled he’s back with us with his new release. AND – he is giving away a copy of his latest release to one incredibly lucky winner — so read on below to see how you can enter to win!
Tell us a little bit about yourself: I’m a retired physician, now writing what I call “medical suspense with heart”. I got into writing after the death of my first wife. I turned my journaling into a book that Kregel published, The Tender Scar: Life After The Death Of A Spouse. At the writers’ conference where I began to learn about the craft of writing, I was challenged to try my hand at fiction. After four years, four novels, and forty rejections, I got my first contract. I’ve won a few awards and gotten nice reviews along the way. My latest novel, Miracle Drug, is my ninth.
Tell us about your current release: The story involves a doctor who, by a strange twist, becomes personal physician to a former President of the US. Both the ex-President and the nurse with whom the doctor is in love return from a trip overseas with a rare and universally fatal infection. There’s a chance that an experimental drug might help, but there might only be enough to treat one patient. And the tension builds from there. (And, mind you, this was written and edited before Ebola became a household word, so I’m proud of the job I did anticipating some of the actions such an infection would make necessary).
Do you feel pressured to compromise your standards in order to reach a larger audience or be more successful? I’ve been a Christian since my teens, and since I have a Christian worldview, I write that way. I’ve always felt that writers who incorporate sex, profanity, and similar things into their writing were merely using these as gimmicks. I’ve never felt pressured to descend to that level with my own writing.
How do you push past the fear of your writing being average and be bold enough to sell it to a publisher(or agent or audience if you self publish)? Like most authors, I’m a poster boy for the Imposter Syndrome. We don’t like to blow our own horns (which makes handling publicity tough), and wonder when someone is going to tell the world we’re untalented frauds. I had to learn early on to get past this by sheer willpower. But my private persona is that of an introvert who’d rather be sitting alone in his office writing instead of posting on social media, meeting with editors and agents, and interacting with the public. Nevertheless, all authors do those things, because that goes along with the job description.
What inspired you to start writing, or did you always want to write? In my thirty-six years practicing medicine, the last ten as a professor at a prestigious medical center, I wrote or edited eight textbooks but I never dreamed of writing anything non-medical. After the death of my first wife, my journaling became a book still read by thousands who have lost a loved one. Since I was retired, I tried my hand at fiction, but I have to confess it wasn’t due to any long-held dream. Rather, it was a reaction to a challenge (and you know what happens when you challenge a man).
How did you determine whether to self-publish or seek a traditional publisher? When I started writing, self-publishing was basically ‘vanity publishing’, where someone paid to have his/her book published. Now, self-publishing is not only respectable, many authors are turning to it for a number of reasons, some of them financial. I started with a traditional publisher because they offered me a contract- that’s it. I decided that if someone wanted to pay me to write, while handling the editing, cover design, and much of the marketing, I was happy to let them. And I still am, although I have self-published one novella and have another ready to go. Authors who have a foot in both worlds are called ‘hybrid’, I don’t know if we get better mileage than others, though.
Do you have your plot line and character development already laid out before you begin writing a book, or do they develop as you write? I start with a ‘hook’-a single sentence that tells me what the book will be about. Then I populate the book, figure out the arc, and rough in what Jim Bell calls the ‘knockout ending’. I often get 10,000 words in, only to find that things have changed, both in the plot and the characters, since I started. I’ve even been known to start over at that point. I don’t know who the villain will be until I’m writing the last few chapters, and often the person I had in mind won’t be the bad guy. Donald Westlake calls this ‘push fiction,’ and says that if he doesn’t know how a book will end, the reader can’t guess. Makes sense to me.
What do you do when you hit a roadblock and have NO idea what to write? Opinions vary as to whether there’s even such a thing as “writer’s block”. If I hit a point where I don’t know what to write, I may take a day off and let what Stephen King calls “the boys in the basement” work on the problem. Usually, I wake up the next day with an idea of how to proceed. Sometimes the inspiration comes on my morning walk, even on the golf course. But I’ve never been totally stuck for a prolonged period.
Which of your characters most reflects your personality? I’m often asked if one of the male doctors in my book reflects me. The answer is no. Although lead characters should have a flaw (preferably one that improves as the book progresses), I have not just one but too many to count. What most of my male and female protagonists reflect are the traits I wish I had. But they’re not real. Sometimes I wish they were. I’d like to have coffee with them sometime and find out the secret of their success.
at Barnes & Noble:
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