Dr. Richard Mabry’s first novel of medical romantic suspense, Code Blue, was officially released by Abingdon Press on April 1, 2010, and will be followed this fall by the second book in the Prescription For Trouble series, Medical Error. The third book in the series, Diagnosis: Death, is scheduled for publication next spring.
Dr. Mabry was in the private practice of medicine for twenty-six years, and then he served as a professor at Southwestern Medical School, his alma mater, for ten more before his retirement in 2002. During that time, while building a worldwide reputation as a clinician, researcher, and teacher, he wrote or edited eight textbooks, had more than one hundred papers published in medical journals, and was an invited guest speaker all over the world.
Richard entered the field of non-medical writing after the death of his first wife, with the publication of his book, The Tender Scar: Life After The Death Of A Spouse (Kregel, 2006). His work has also appeared in Christian Communicator, In Touch Magazine, Upper Room Devotional Guide, and Grief Digest, as well as a number of online ezines.
Richard and his wife, Kay, live in North Texas where, in addition to his writing, he works at being the world’s greatest grandfather while trying to improve his golf game. He’s “a nut” for the Dallas Cowboys and Texas Rangers, even though they haven’t given him a lot to cheer about for quite a while.
Join me as we learn more about Richard and his journey to publication.
Richard’s Journey Begins
•When did you shift from the field of medicine to writing as your profession?
When my first wife died, in 1999, I was devastated. I used journaling as a tool to help with my healing. Eventually I let a trusted friend read my unedited journal entries, he shared them with a grief group he facilitated, and the response made him encourage me to make them into a book.
After a number of false starts, I attended a Christian Writers’ Conference in Glorieta, New Mexico, where I began to learn the ins and outs of writing, at that time with emphasis on non-fiction. Eventually, I incorporated portions from my journal into a book that was published in 2006 by Kregel Publications as The Tender Scar: Life After The Death Of A Spouse. It’s still in print, and has ministered to many thousands going through what I faced.
While at that same conference, authors Alton Gansky and James Scott Bell helped fan the flames of my interest in fiction. That was the beginning of a long journey, or what I term “the road to writing.” After that there were more conferences, lots of books on writing, and the production of three novels that still languish, unpublished, on my hard drive.
•You entered the realm of fiction writing with a strong background in non-fiction. Do you find that experience has helped you craft your novels?
Although I wrote or edited eight textbooks and had over one hundred professional papers published during my years in practice, I soon found that the style of writing employed in scientific work wouldn’t transfer to writing fiction. The one part of my past that was helpful was an excellent background in English, both grammar and literature, and a lifelong habit of reading the work of some very good contemporary authors.
•I understand you’ve had some articles published recently, pieces not medical-related. Please tell us about them.
Because of the ministry I developed with The Tender Scar, I’ve had pieces on grief and recovery published in In Touch magazine and Grief Digest, as well as the collection, Praise Reports. I’ve also had numerous meditations published in Upper Room devotional guide.
•Have you taken part in any writing contests for romance writers or those for other types of writing? If so, what were the results?
I’ve never really considered myself a “romance” writer, so I’ve never entered any romance writing contests. However, I’ve always tried to include a romantic element in my novels (the unpublished ones as well as the three under contract). My stories have a medical setting, and include both suspense and romance. That’s why I’ve adopted the tagline, “Medical suspense with heart.”
I did enter the first three chapters of one of my early novels in a contest for fiction by physicians, and placed second in the nation. It was through that experience that I became cyber-friends with fellow physician Michael Palmer, a New York Times best-selling author of medical suspense.
•Wow! Second place in the nation is impressive. Congratulations! At that point, you must have been encouraged to keep writing and submitting. Which you did. And after four years of serious study, you were offered representation by highly respected literary agent Rachelle Gardner. The story of how this came about is so incredible I’d like you to share it.
I’d spent four years writing four novels that had garnered forty rejections between them. Then editor-turned-agent Rachelle Gardner had a contest on her blog, offering a prize for the best first line for a novel. I dashed off one and was totally surprised when I saw that I’d won with my line.
The prize was a critique of the first several pages of a work-in-progress, so I sent Rachelle the first scene of my latest novel—one that had been rejected ten times. Her comment was, “Send me something that needs editing.” One thing led to another, and I submitted a query about representation. I expected to have to send a partial manuscript, then the full manuscript, for her to read. Usually, the process takes six weeks or so. Instead, I got a return email within an hour. “Of course I’ll represent you.”
•One hour? Amazing! Rachelle obviously saw your talent from the start. She went right to work submitting your story, and after some initial disappointment, you received The Call. Please tell us about that life-changing conversation.
The happy ending didn’t come right away. There were three rejections before Rachelle pitched the work to Barbara Scott, the new chief fiction editor for Abingdon Press. Barbara liked the work, she and I met at the ACFW, and about six weeks later I got the call from Rachelle: “You’ve sold your first novel.”
The actual “call” came on my cell phone while Kay and I were vacationing in North Carolina. It was somewhat of a minor miracle that the call even went through, given the spotty cell coverage in the mountains where we were. I was sort of expecting it, based on what had transpired up to that point between Rachelle and editor Barbara Scott, but my heart still raced when I heard Rachelle say, “Well, you’ve sold your novel.”
•Do you have plans to hold a launch party?
My launch party is scheduled for 7:00 to 8:30 PM on Thursday, April 8, at Legacy Books, in Plano, Texas. This is a huge indie bookstore that serves the Dallas metroplex, the same location where Sarah Palin did her North Texas book signing. I’ll probably say a few words about what it takes to get published (a lot!), we’ll cut a cake and have some coffee, and I’ll sign some books (I hope). If anyone reading this can make it to the northern edge of the Dallas metroplex, you’re cordially invited.
•What do you think of the cover of Code Blue?
I am thrilled with it. Abingdon had the artists work through three versions before they were satisfied with the result. I think they did a great job. Interestingly, I’ve seen the cover for my second book, and they nailed it on the first try.
•The endorsements for Code Blue are in. What are some of your favorites?
(Note: I rarely include a guest’s actual reviews, but Richard is my agency mate, so I’m making an exception. :-))
I’ve been fortunate enough to get endorsements from some great people with whom I’ve become friends over the years. They all write in slightly different genres, and their approval tells me that maybe the book will have wide appeal. Here are some of my favorites:
“A healthy dose of mystery, with ample injections of suspense and romance. Richard Mabry’s splendid debut novel is just what the doctor ordered.”
James Scott Bell, bestselling author of Try Fear and Deceived.
“Rarely does a debut novel draw me in and rivet my attention as Dr. Richard Mabry’s Code Blue did. The author’s medical experience and highly likable and memorable characters make for a story that hits the ground running and doesn’t stop. I found myself reluctant to put the book down and eager to pick it up again—not a typical experience for this author, and reader, of mostly historical fiction. I’m already looking forward to Dr. Mabry’s next release.”
BJ Hoff, author of The Emerald Ballad series and The Riverhaven Years.
“With Code Blue Dr. Richard Mabry demonstrates his expertise in the medical field, but more importantly, he establishes his skills as a medical suspense writer. This is a writer to watch.”
DiAnn Mills, author of Breach Of Trust and Sworn To Protect
“Strap in and hang on. Code Blue races through the corridors of small town Emergency Rooms and the intrigue of covert revenge. Grab the rails on your gurney! You’ll never see that last turn coming!”
Austin Boyd, author of the Mars Hill Classified series
“Code Blue is a tightly coiled thriller that could only have been penned by an insider. Dr. Mabry has hit the mark.”
Brandt Dodson, author of Original Sin.
Richard’s Writing Process
•How long does it take you to write a novel?
Anywhere from six months to a year, depending on whether I have a deadline pushing me.
•Do you work from an outline?
I know how the book starts and how it ends, and have the main characters fleshed out when I start. I have an idea of the central turning point. Other than that, I’m strictly seat-of-the-pants. In previous novels, I’ve introduced characters I didn’t know existed, written in the death of characters I’d grown fond of, and revealed characters to be villains when I hadn’t pictured them in that role. I sweat blood for the first 2/3 of the book, then listen to the characters tell me what to do in the last third.
•Do you edit as you go or write a first draft without regard to editing?
My friend and mentor, James Scott Bell, preaches “get it down, then get it right.” I tried that, but what works best for me is to read over the previous chapter each time I sit down to write and edit that work before going forward. That not only helps me clean up my writing, it reminds me of where I was and (I hope) where I was going.
•Do you write every day?
I know I’m supposed to set a word goal and work every day until I reach it. However, I started out as what Lawrence Block calls a “Sunday writer,” writing when I had time. Now that I have contracts and deadlines, I’m more motivated. I try to write every day, but I don’t get heart failure if I have to skip a day or two. Heresy, I know, but it’s the way I work.
•Do you have a critique group?
Crit groups are supposed to be wonderful, but they don’t work for me. More heresy, I guess, but no one except my first reader sees my work until it’s ready to go to my agent. I have been blessed twice with the love of a wonderful woman, and my wife, Kay, is my first reader, strongest supporter, and severest critic. She’s gone to every writer’s conference I attended, and paid close attention to the lectures. She finds my mistakes, points out the weak spots, and in general helps me do my best work.
After I’ve written and polished a book, it goes to my agent, Rachelle Gardner. Rachelle is a former editor, and she’s great at making editorial suggestions. After I’ve responded to her comments, the manuscript is ready to go to my editor at Abingdon, Barbara Scott.
Richard’s Research Process
•As a medical doctor, I’m sure ensuring accuracy in your medical romantic suspense stories is important to you. Please tell us about your research process.
Research used to be a painful process for writers, often taking them hundreds or even thousands of miles away to see countryside, get a flavor of a city, and learn the mannerisms of a region. Now, I’m fortunate to have that same information at my fingertips through Internet search engines. I can find out the most arcane facts without ever leaving the comfort of my chair.
Since I’m a physician and my novels feature doctors in a medical setting, you might think that I never have to look up information of that kind. Wrong! Medicine changes on an almost daily basis, and what I write today may not reach the printed page for a year. Therefore, I have to carefully research every medical scene I write, looking for cutting edge (no pun intended) material about diseases and treatment. Frankly, this constitutes most of my research. Of course, I no longer have to go to the medical school’s library to do this. A few mouse clicks and I can select the latest and most pertinent articles. Progress, it’s wonderful.
Medical details are no mystery to me, but they are for those without a medical background. I’ve had so many requests from other writers looking for answers to medical questions that I’ve put together a course that I teach at writers’ conferences about how to get this information. It’s called Medical Details In Your Fiction: Get Them In But Get Them Right.
Richard’s Debut Novel
•Please tell us about Code Blue.
In the first book of the Prescription for Trouble series, “Code Blue” means more to Dr. Cathy Sewell than the cardiac emergency she has to face. It describes her mental state as she finds that coming back to her hometown hasn’t brought her the peace she so desperately needs. Instead, it’s clear that someone there wants her gone…or dead.
Cathy returns to her hometown seeking healing after a broken relationship, but discovers that among her friends and acquaintances is someone who wants her out of town…or dead. Lawyer Will Kennedy, her high school sweetheart, offers help, but does it carry a price tag? Is hospital chief of staff Dr. Marcus Bell really on her side in her fight to get hospital privileges? Is Will’s father, Pastor Matthew Kennedy, interested in advising her or just trying to get her back to the church she left years ago?
When one of Cathy’s prescriptions almost kills the town banker, it sets the stage for a malpractice suit that could end her time in town, if not her career. It’s soon clear that this return home was a prescription for trouble.
Richard’s Journey Continues
•Code Blue is on the shelves. What can your readers look forward to next?
I’m fortunate enough to have a multi-book contract with Abingdon for the Prescription For Trouble series, of which Code Blue is the first. I’ve completed the second book, Medical Error, and an excerpt from the first chapter of that book is printed at the end of Code Blue. Medical Error is due out in September 2010. Like Code Blue, it’s romantic suspense in a medical setting.
My current project is book three in the series, Diagnosis: Death, with a release date in spring, 2011.
•Please give us a sneak peek at the next two books in the series.
Medical Error ~ Dr. Anna McIntyre’s life was going well—until someone else began living it. Identity theft isn’t usually fatal, but this time it was.
Diagnosis: Death ~ Dr. Allison Williams stands accused of the mercy killings of two patients, one of them her husband. She can’t really defend herself until she finds out for sure whether she’s guilty.
Fun Five Fun Facts About Richard, The Writer
~ I have no idea who the villain in my novels will be until I write the last couple of chapters.
~ I have a well-thumbed copy of The Flip Dictionary (Kipfer) on my desk to help me find new words to say old things.
~ After my wife critiques my finished work, I pout for a few days before I realize she’s right and start making the changes.
~ My “Pandora” music source is set to play songs by The Mamas and The Papas.
~ I can hardly believe I’m a writer, under contract, with a deadline…and it makes me nervous.
Five Fun Facts About Richard, the Person
~ I played beach volleyball with the Pittsburgh Steelers the year they won the Super Bowl.
~ While serving as Captain in the U.S. Air Force at Lajes Field in the Azores, I saved the life of a little Azorean girl whose airway was obstructed by a coin, for which I was written up in the Stars and Stripes, and received the Air Force Commendation medal.
~ I played baseball with Yankee Hall-of-Famer Mickey Mantle at a baseball fantasy camp.
~ I honeymooned with Kay in Thailand, where I almost pushed her off an elephant.
~ I won the State Meet in Extemporaneous Speech in high school (and haven’t stopped talking since).
Richard’s Question for You
•I’ve enjoyed having you as my guest, Richard. You gave great answers to my questions. Now it’s time to see what your guests have to say, so go for it.
If you could choose one agent to represent you, one editor or publishing house to work with, and one book title for your “dream novel,” who and what would you pick?
Richard has generously offered to give away an autographed copy of Code Blue.
To enter the drawing, just leave a comment for Richard by midnight April 9 (Pacific time) and enter your email address when prompted during the comment process. (You don’t have to leave it in the body of your comment this way.)
On April 10, I will hold the drawing and leave a comment with the name of the winner. I’ll post the winner’s name here as well and will contact her/him via email to get a mailing address. (I don’t share your information with anyone, other than sending your mailing address to my guest, and I don’t add your name to any mailing lists.)
Congratulations to Alison, winner of the drawing!
Note: Offer void where prohibited.
Odds of winning vary due to the number of entrants.
Learn More About Richard
Visit his website ~ http://rmabry.com/
Visit his personal blog ~ Random Jottings by Richard L. Mabry MD
Friend him on Facebook ~ Richard Mabry
Follow him on Twitter ~ RichardMabry