Glowing Author #14
Common wisdom: Write about what you know about. So who should write medically based fiction? A person with first-hand medical knowledge, of course! Someone like today’s Glowing Author, Dr. Richard Mabry. (His latest book was just awarded a coveted 4-1/2 star rating from the Romantic Times Book Reviews!) So, now, to share his words of wisdom with us…
First, would you tell us something about your writing journey?
It began after the death of my wife, Cynthia, in 1999, when I journaled as a coping tool to help me through my grief. I wanted to use that material to help others, and so I ended up at a Christian Writer’s Conference. The end result was my book, The Tender Scar: Life After The Death Of A Spouse (Kregel, 2006), which is still in print.
That’s a great book, by the way. It really touched me that you sent a copy to my dad last year after my mom died. But I must say, that first book seems a long way from fiction. How did you make the leap from one genre to another?
At the conference, James Scott Bell and Alton Gansky encouraged me to try my hand at fiction. I wrote and submitted three novels (four, if you count completely reworking one of them), but received only rejections, along with “you’re very close” comments. Eventually I decided to give up. I terminated my relationship with my agent and quit writing. Then a series of events occurred that can only be attributed to God’s working in my life. I entered a “first line” contest on Rachelle Gardner’s blog, and she liked the work I submitted for a critique (the prize of the contest). We corresponded, I queried her re representation and she took me on as a client. After I reworked my last novel, Rachelle pitched it to Barbara Scott at Abingdon Press, who bought what was to become Code Blue, the first in my Prescription For Trouble series.
Medical Error features Dr. Anna McIntyre, whose life was going along just fine until someone else began living it. Soon she was under investigation by the authorities for writing illicit narcotics prescriptions and threatened with a malpractice action because one of her patients died from a medication he should have tolerated. She struggles to set her personal life back on track. The book is out now, and I’m extremely pleased with the feedback from readers.
Many writers have a “day job.” How has yours influenced your writing?
I retired eight years ago from my “day job” as a physician, after twenty-six years in private practice and ten as a professor at UT Southwestern Medical School. However, because medicine was such a part of my life for so long, I write stories featuring physician protagonists. Some of the medical scenes in my books are based on scenarios I’ve seen or heard about from colleagues, while others are fabricated. In either case, I do my research to make sure the medical scenarios and techniques are accurate.
That research for accuracy is so very important for writers, isn’t it? How much of yourself do you put into your writing?
Obviously, my medical experience comes through in my writing. Although my protagonists and antagonists don’t always act the way I would, their situations and responses are believable because I’ve either been there or seen it. On the other hand, I have to work to make sure my personality doesn’t come through in my writing. When I first began producing fiction, my wife, Kay, told me I wasn’t making things difficult enough for my central characters. I wanted everything to be smooth sailing, which doesn’t do much to hold the reader’s attention. So I have to put aside my Pollyanna attitude and adopt the Donald Maass philosophy of “make it even worse.”
I’d say that women named Kay give good advice! So, what books are on your bedside table?
I make it a habit to go back through books by writers whose work I admire. I find it makes my own writing fresher. I’m currently re-reading one of John Grisham’s legal thrillers, and before that it was a medical thriller by Michael Palmer. Of course, this is in addition to the to-be-read stack of works by my fellow CBA authors, which never seems to grow smaller.
And that is a good thing for us! You are an interesting guy, Doctor. Now I have to ask: what’s one thing that would surprise us about you?
I served three years as a medical officer in the Air Force, including a helicopter rescue of a crewman off a merchant ship, and I’m afraid of heights!
Ha! Besides working through your fears, what writing advice do you have for hopefuls?
Accumulate as many good books on writing as you can afford, read them, highlight them, and review them periodically. Write regularly, have your work critiqued by someone who is knowledgeable and willing to speak openly (not your Aunt Erma), consider the advice and then rewrite…again and again. Editors tell me that it takes writing at least three books before a fiction author begins to “get it.” I wrote four and had my work rejected forty times before I got my first fiction contract. Don’t give up.
You can learn more about Richard on his website: http://rmabry.com
and at his blog, http://rmabry.blogspot.com
“If no one ever reads your work, the very act of producing it will change you. Maybe that’s what God had in mind all along. You do the work. The rest is a matter of God’s timing and His plan.”
Dr. Richard Mabry