Sunday, March 28, 2010
Well, obviously I use what I learned in 36 years of medical practice to make that part of my writing authentic. In everything else, I use a lot of imagination to make the characters come to life. I don’t think that there’s much of me in the male leads of my books—maybe what I’d like to be. For the female characters, especially the protagonists, I depend on my wife for input.
Kay didn't lead you astray with any of the female characterizations. What is the quirkiest thing you have ever done?
Conquered my fear of heights long enough to walk across the Capilano Suspension Bridge in Vancouver, BC. It’s 150 yards long and 230 feet high (that’s 23 stories!) and it sways with every step. Never again.
When did you first discover that you were a writer?
I guess it depends on what you mean by “writer.” While I was practicing medicine, I wrote or edited eight textbooks and had over a hundred medical papers published. After my first wife died, I used journaling as a coping tool, and the process of turning those thoughts into the basis for a book (The Tender Scar) was the first step toward writing seriously. I think the turning point came at the Christian Writers’ Conference at Glorieta, NM, in 2003, and the people who got me started on the road to serious writing were James Scott Bell and Alton Gansky.
Tell us the range of the kinds of books you enjoy reading.
More than 90% of what I read falls into the realm of adventure, suspense, mystery, and police procedurals. The other part consists mainly of non-fiction work like the books written by my pastor, Dr. Chuck Swindoll.
What other books have you written, whether published or not?
I mentioned The Tender Scar: Life After The Death Of A Spouse. Kregel published that in 2006, and it’s still selling and ministering. My first novel was about a doctor who failed as a professional baseball player, then got a second chance, but discovered that there’s more to life than either medicine or baseball. The second novel dealt with a young surgeon struggling with the frustration of a fledgling marriage, a dying father, and a wife who’s the target of a stalker. The third novel involved a surgeon who was kidnapped in a case of mistaken identity. About that time, I began to figure out that, with 85% of readers of Christian fiction being women, I’d better have a female protagonist. Thus, Dr. Cathy Sewell, the lead character in Code Blue was born.
How do you keep your sanity in our run, run, run world?
I suppose the question of whether I’ve actually remained sane is open for discussion, but assuming I have maintained my tenuous grasp on mental health, I have to give a lot of credit to Kay. God has blessed me once again with the love of a wonderful woman, and she keeps me grounded. In addition, I’ve played golf once a week for over ten years with my friend and attorney, a standing date that began with my need for support after Cynthia died, continued after the death of his wife, and now that we’ve both remarried, just involves beating a little white ball around the course while not keeping score. Oh, and I can’t forget our church. Since moving to this area, we’ve been members of Stonebriar Community Church. Every Sunday, Dr. Chuck Swindoll blesses us and sends us out ready for the next week.
In the beginning, I just chose random names, often combining first and last names from my past. I even dug out my high school yearbook for this. However, I soon learned that names should help the reader paint a mental picture and keep the characters straight. Now I spend a good bit of time going over names until one seems to fit the image I have in my mind for the character.
What is the accomplishment that you are most proud of?
I’ve been blessed with so many things, both personally and professionally, that it’s hard to settle on one. It’s not an “accomplishment,” but I’m terribly proud that my three children (Allen, Brian, Ann) have grown into fine Christians. They are all married, are making significant contributions to society, and are living out the values Cynthia and I tried to model for them. And I can’t leave out my grandchildren—again, not an accomplishment, but a source of pride nevertheless.
If you were an animal, which one would you be, and why?
I suppose I’d be a cat. That way, people would feed me and care for me, and I wouldn’t have to answer to anyone.
What is your favorite food?
That’s an easy one. Anything Tex-Mex. Since moving across town, I’ve become especially partial to the chile relleno at Christina’s.
What is the problem with writing that was your greatest roadblock, and how did you overcome it?
The periodic crisis of faith that every writer experiences. You read a great book, and think, “How can I compete with this?” When that happens, I find that it helps to dig out something I’ve written and polished a while back. Quite often, I end up thinking, “I don’t really remember writing this, but it’s good.” Then I thank God for the opportunity, and try to leave the ultimate reception of my writing to Him.
What advice would you give to an author just starting out?
There’s so much to learn. You can’t sip from a fire hose, so take it in small doses. Learn the basics of plot and structure, point of view, all the groundwork that has to be as natural to you as breathing. The best way to do that is to attend writers’ conferences if at all possible, and supplement that with reading and re-reading some of the classic books on writing. While you’re doing all that, examine carefully the reason you want to write. If it’s for money, forget it and get a job as a greeter at Wal-Mart. If it’s for fame, stand in line to audition for American Idol. If it’s to fulfill what you feel is a divine call, ask God to keep that flame burning every day, because there are going to be many tough times that will almost extinguish it. And look upon other writers as friends and colleagues, not competitors.
Tell us about the featured book.
Why don’t I share the back cover copy? “Code Blue means more to Dr. Cathy Sewell than the cardiac emergencies she faces. It describes her mental state when she finds that returning to her hometown hasn’t brought her the peace she so desperately needs. Now two men compete for her affection; the town doctors resent the fact that she’s a woman and a newcomer; and the potentially fatal heart problem that results from one of her prescriptions may mean the end of her practice. But a killer doesn’t just want to run her out of town—they want her dead.”
Please give us the first page of the book.
As I write this, the final edits aren’t in, but here’s the opening as it currently stands.
The black SUV came barreling out of nowhere, its oversized tires straddling the centerline. Cathy jerked the steering wheel to the right and jammed the brake pedal to the floor. Her little Toyota rocked as though flicked by a giant hand before starting to spin off the narrow country road, hurtling toward the ditch and the peach orchard beyond it. For a moment Cathy felt the fearful thrill of weightlessness. Then the world turned upside down, and everything went into freeze-frame slow motion.
The floating sensation ended with a jolt, and Cathy’s scream was lost in the screech of ripping metal. The deploying airbag struck her face like a fist. The pressure of the shoulder harness took her breath away. The lap belt pressed into her abdomen, and she tasted bile and acid. When her head began to clear, she found she was hanging head-down, swaying slightly as the car rocked to a standstill. In the silence that followed, her pulse hammered in her ears like distant, rhythmic thunder.
See, Readers, isn't that a good hook? Now, Richard, how can readers find you on the Internet?
My website is http://rmabry.com/ , while my blog is http://rmabry.blogspot.com/ . I am also on Facebook as RichardMabry and on Twitter at http://twitter.com/RichardMabry .
Lena, thanks for this opportunity. I appreciate it, and treasure your friendship.
Richard, thanks for allowing me to showcase your debut novel.
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