Welcome to Author Spotlight! Each week will feature a different author. We’ll get the scoop behind their writing life and dish a little. The authors will also be giving away a copy of their latest book. FUN.
The winners from last week’s Author Spotlight with Mary Ann Kinsinger are Carol Evirs Quinn, Ellen Shullaw, Lanore Lewis, Hope Anderson and Sue Whitmarch! Please email my assistant Christen with your mailing address. (email@example.com)
This week please welcome Richard L. Mabry in the spotlight! To win a copy of his new book Stress Test (Thomas Nelson), leave a comment on this post!
Share a little bit about yourself. Married with kids? Empty nester? Do you work full-time and write when you can squeeze it in?
My first wife passed away almost fourteen years ago, and our children have grown and moved away. God has blessed me yet again with the love of a wonderful woman, and between us, Kay and I have four grandchildren, ranging in age from fourteen to four.
For thirty-six years I was a practicing physician, the last ten as a professor at a major medical school. I’ve now been retired for almost ten years, and been writing for longer than that. I write my novels of medical suspense when my schedule permits—the person who says that retirees have lots of free time obviously is not a retiree.
And share something about your writing. What’s your genre(s), your areas of interest…
I authored a non-fiction book, The Tender Scar: Life After The Death Of A Spouse, which was my introduction to this thing called writing. I tried my hand at general fiction, even authored a cozy mystery, but finally it became apparent to me (as it had to multiple editors and one previous agent) that if I had any talent for fiction, it lay in writing medical suspense. So, I settled on “medical suspense with heart,” and it seems to have worked out nicely.
How did you get started writing? Did you have a dream of being a published author?
In my professional life, I authored or edited eight textbooks and over one hundred professional papers, but I never dreamed of having anything published in the non-medical field. After the death of my first wife, I used journaling as a coping tool. I wanted to turn that material into a book to help others, which is why I ended up at a Christian writer’s conference. Not only did I get the information I needed to eventually produce and get a contract for The Tender Scar, but a couple of published authors (James Scott Bell and Alton Gansky) encouraged me to try my hand at fiction.
After you started writing seriously–how long was it before you were published?
I envy writers who tell me with a straight face that their first effort was published. Although I had a number of articles reach print in some well-known Christian magazines, my novels didn’t meet the same reception. It took four years, writing four novels that garnered forty rejections, before I got an agent and, soon after, got a contract for my first novel of medical suspense, Code Blue.
Aside from a cup of good, strong coffee, what helps you get all of your “brain cylinders” firing so you can write well? Do you have any favorite places and routines when you write? How many hours a day do you spend writing?
If I have a routine (and it varies), it’s that after breakfast I go into my office, check email and the blogs I follow, and then read over the last chapter I wrote. I don’t have a daily word quota (I know, thirty lashes for that), but I’m always aware of how much I’ve written and when my next deadline is coming up. I know that some writers like to take their laptops to various places, like Starbucks or their back yard, but I prefer the feeling I get by being in my office—a feeling that this is a business, and I’m a businessman at work.
Is the “writer’s life” what you thought it would be?
I’ll sound like a politician, but my answer is, “yes and no.” It is in the sense that I’ve become friends with some of the neatest folks around: writers, agents, editors. It’s not because I’m an impatient type, and nothing—absolutely nothing—moves fast in the world of conventional publishing. For example, I turned in the manuscript for Stress Test in December of 2011. I returned the last revision in April of 2012. And here it is, a year later, ready for publication.
If you’re asking whether I get stopped on the street and asked for autographs, not at all. A few people in my home church know that I’m a writer, and I’m sometimes asked to sign a copy of one of my books for them, but that’s about as far as it goes. I don’t go to the head of the line at Six Flags Over Texas, Nolan Ryan hasn’t invited me to sit next to him in the owner’s seats at a Texas Rangers game, and my dry cleaner doesn’t give me a discount.
What do you least like about being a writer? Most like?
It’s hard for me to accept criticism of my work, even when it comes in the form of notes and revision suggestions from an editor. I sometimes have to pout for a full day before getting to work on those, at which point I generally find that the suggested changes make my novel much better. But what I like most is to read something I wrote a year or more ago and think, “Did I write this? It’s good.”
What is the role and importance of an agent?
I’ll explain with a story. A man had a machine that was vital to his business. The machine stopped, and nothing anyone could do would make it go again. Finally, he called a repairman who guaranteed to make the machine work. He looked at it for a moment, took a hammer and hit it, and the machine worked. When he presented a bill for $500, the business owner said, “I could have hit it with a hammer.” The repairman smiled. “It’s $1 for hitting the machine, $499 for knowing where to hit it.”
An agent knows where to hit it. They know what editors and houses might like your writing, and which ones wouldn’t touch it with the proverbial ten-foot pole. They offer career advice. They help talk you off the ledge when you’re down in the dumps. They’re vital to the career of a writer. Give them the hammer—in this case, the manuscript—and they know what to do with it.
What advice would you give to new writers?
Do the work! Before you get too far along, go to a writer’s conference. There are large and small ones, specialized and generalized ones, local and national meetings, expensive ones and conferences with a modest fee. Meet writers, editors, agents—but you don’t have anything to sell yet, so just listen and learn. Buy a half dozen or more of the best books you can afford on the writing craft. Read them, study them, highlight them, and go back to them if you have questions. Then write. Get someone knowledgeable to critique your work. Take their advice to heart, revise and write some more. Lather, rinse, repeat. And in time, if God wills, you’ll get the chance you’ve wanted.
Pretend I’m a customer at a bookstore looking for a good book. Give me a one or two sentence promo to convince me to buy your book.
Dr. Matt Newman’s career is going down the drain. His freedom and perhaps his life may be next. But with the police convinced he’s a killer and the kidnappers still trying to finish what they started, Matt must find the truth—and the faith to keep going.
What’s on the book horizon for you?
My next novel after Stress Test is Heart Failure, in which a doctor finds that the man she thought would fill the hole left in her heart by the death of her husband isn’t the person she thought he was…in every respect. That one’s due out this coming fall.
I’m currently writing the next book, working title Critical Condition. In it, a surgeon must deal with her own emotional issues while trying to help her recovering-addict sister who is the main suspect in not one, but two homicides, one of which took place in the doctor’s front yard.
Last question, how can readers find you and your books?
They can learn more about me by checking my website and my blog. I’m on Twitter and Facebook. And my books are available in print and e-reader format via Amazon, Barnes and Noble, ChristianBook, or your favorite bookseller.
Thank you for sharing your writing life with my bleaders! (blog + readers = bleaders)