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Interview With Richard L. Mabry, MD

I'd like to introduce and congratulate Richard Mabry, MD on his debut book, Code Blue. After 26 yrs as a practicing physician, 10 more as an educator, and the publication of one non-fiction book and numerous short pieces, Richard has turned his skills to creating medical suspense.

When did you first know you wanted to write fiction and medical suspense in particular?

When I began writing fiction, I followed the advice to "write what you know," so my first book dealt with a man who failed as a professional baseball player, completed his medical education, but yearned for a second chance to play the game he loved. A lot of people liked the work, but it never made it past the pub boards. I then wrote two other novels (three if you count a complete re-write of one), all with a medical theme, none of them successful.

There were a number of fits and starts after that, including one disastrous attempt to write a cozy mystery. However, what that taught me was how to give my story a single compelling arc while cutting scenes and even chapters that didn't keep the reader engaged. I learned the role of a love interest in a story, even a story designed to keep the reader in suspense. What emerged was what I consider my writing voice: medical suspense with heart.

Was it hard to make the switch from non-fiction to fiction?
Before my retirement, I wrote or edited eight textbooks and authored over one hundred papers published in professional journals. My non-fiction book, The Tender Scar: Life After The Death Of A Spouse, was different from anything I'd ever written, because it dealt with feelings, as well as facts. However, writing that book helped me make the transition to fiction, where facts play a subsidiary role to emotions.

So, does 'retired' mean you get to sit around and write all day?
Hardly. It does, however, mean that I could take my coffee cup into my study and write in my pajamas in the morning if I wanted to do that. But I've found that my best writing comes if I shave, dress, and go into my office as though going to work, not just stumbling in like a person about to play Klondike on the computer for a bit. I guess that's a way to demonstrate to myself that I'm serious about my writing.

How do your faith and spiritual life play into the picture and affect your storytelling?
At my first writer's conference, I felt a distinct call to write, not just writing to say I'd completed a book, but producing works that convey to others the faith I'd tried to live out for many years. I want my books to show how a follower of Jesus might react to the adversity we all face in this fallen world, and the way God can work in our lives to accomplish His purpose.

What do you consider the greatest moment of your writing/publishing career?
I've had some great moments: getting "the call" from Rachelle Gardner offering representation, then hearing the news that Barbara Scott at Abingdon Press would be offering a contract for my first book. But nothing beats the thrill of holding the actual book, a sensation I was able to enjoy just a few weeks ago.

Who/What spurs you to write? Where do your story and character ideas come from?
I wish I had a sure-fire formula for finding a story idea. The truth of the matter is that I learned from one of my mentors, Alton Gansky, to constantly play the "what if" game, and that's what I do. For example, what if a doctor came back to her hometown after her world fell apart, only to encounter conflict, opposition, and danger? Characters and settings are a product of my imagination, modeled in part on people and places I've encountered, but always fictionalized to meet the needs of the story.

What spurs me to write? The call I felt years ago at that Christian writing conference. The moment I find that I'm writing in order that people will praise me or buy my books, I have to do a mid-course correction and recognize that I write for an Audience Of One. Anything beyond that is in His hands.

Are your books strictly medical suspense or are there other elements, like romance, involved?
My books deliver "medical suspense with heart." One or more of the characters will be a medical professional and the setting will involve medical situations, because that's what I have known for almost four decades. And I'll always try to provide an element of suspense, although I like to say it's not of the "sleep with the lights on" kind. But I learned early in my writing endeavors that, just as in real life, romance keeps the reader involved. After all, romance provides a kind of suspense, too.

Finish this sentence…After reading a Richard Mabry book, I hope you feel . . . fulfilled, hopeful, and ready for the next one.

Any parting words?
I wrote for several years, produced several unpublished novels, garnered forty rejections, and once gave up writing completely before a series of events that could only be termed a "God thing" brought me back to writing, hooked me up with a fantastic agent, and culminated in the publication of my first novel, with two more under contract.

If God has called you to write, continue to do so. If publication is ahead, God will arrange it in His time. If your words are never read by anyone but your spouse, or a friend, or your crit group, it will nevertheless reach at least that far. And you will be a changed person for writing it.

Thanks for this opportunity to be here.

Thanks for sharing with us, Richard!

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