10 Questions with Richard L. Mabry, M.D.
1. Dr. Mabry, thank you for this opportunity to be interviewed for my blog. Your new thriller, CRITICAL CONDITION, comes out on April 15. Tell us a bit more about this book.
I appreciate the chance to visit with you. Here’s the set-up for my next novel of medical suspense, CRITICAL CONDITION:
A celebratory dinner party becomes a nightmare for Dr. Shannon Frasier when a man is shot dead on her lawn, reviving emotions from a similar incident a decade ago.
Shannon struggles with fears that her sister may be back on drugs, is frustrated by her continuing inability to commit to her “almost-fiancé,” and feels her world crumble when her father reveals he is fighting cancer.
Could it get any worse? Then the first late-night phone call came. “What did he say before he died?”
2. Where did the inspiration for this story come from, and who is Dr. Frasier?
Unlike all my other novels of medical suspense, there was no one incident that made me think, “I should write about that.” Instead, I drew on situations I’d experienced or observed: a family member fighting prescription drug addiction, a surgeon crippled by the past, and worry over a loved one with a potentially fatal disease. I mixed all these with some totally fabricated tense situations to make CRITICAL CONDITION.
As for Dr. Shannon Frasier, there was no specific inspiration for her character. Over my three and a half decades of medical practice, I was privileged to know and work with numerous female physicians. I suppose I simply took characteristics from several of them to create Shannon.
3. You write Christian fiction. What is the role of God and religion in your works?
There are all different types of “Christian fiction,” but the unifying trait, so far as I’m concerned, is that the stories are written from a Christian worldview. My books don’t feature altar calls and exhortations to turn from sin, but rather deal with characters that are, like you and me, imperfect people in an imperfect world. Bad things happen to each of us, no matter what our relationship with God. The difference is seen in how we handle those. That’s what I try to portray in my novels.
4. Why do you write? Why Christian fiction?
During my 36 years in medicine, I wrote or edited eight medical textbooks and over one hundred published papers for medical journals, but never considered any other type of writing until my wife of forty years died suddenly. I used the journaling from that episode as the basis for a non-fiction book, THE TENDER SCAR: LIFE AFTER THE DEATH OF A SPOUSE. During the process of learning how to craft that book, I became interested in writing fiction. Like golf, bowling, or any other activity, once I took it up I decided I not only wanted to try writing, but to become proficient at it. Since CRITICAL CONDITION will be my seventh published novel of medical suspense, perhaps I’ve succeeded.
As for why I write in the genre of Christian fiction, I suppose it’s just natural for me. Many other authors have shown me that it’s possible to craft a good novel without including profanity and overt sex, and I’ve never seen any need to do otherwise.
5. You’ve been in the Air Force and also a semi-pro baseball player. What are some memories you would like to share from the time in the Air Force?
I was in the US Air Force for almost three years, stationed in the Azores, a Portuguese possession. Although we were on an isolated base, my wife and young child were able to join me after three months, and we had some good times there, including a couple of vacations in Europe.
I suppose one of my lasting memories is the time my hospital commander and I performed a relatively simple operation that saved the life of an Azorean child, something that was written up in the service newspaper, Stars and Stripes, and for which I was awarded an Air Force commendation medal.
6. What is the single most important thing you have learned during the writing process of crafting a novel?
No writer ever produces a good novel in the first draft. It takes several revisions and input from a number of people to turn out a novel people enjoy reading.
7. A word of advice for new writers?
Spend the time and effort to learn the craft. Realize that sometimes it takes writing two, three, even four novels before you truly find your “voice” and are able to turn out a good novel. Be persistent. Don’t compare yourself and your work to what you see around you—be yourself and strive to improve with each book. And, although we wish it were otherwise, it will be up to you to take the lead in letting others know about your books.
8. What are your thoughts on the latest publishing industry developments, mainly the rise of the self-publishing? Did you ever consider it or might you consider it in the future?
When I started writing, about a decade ago, self-publishing was looked on as something writers resorted to when they couldn’t get representation by an agent or interest from an editor. Now it’s become an accepted way of life, and many authors are “hybrids,” having built a readership through traditional publishing and then turning to e-publication. There are advantages to each approach, and I have to admit that I now have an open mind about both avenues of publishing.
9. What are your favorite pastimes?
A friend and I try to play golf once a week, weather permitting. I’ve had a life-long love affair with baseball (as a player, coach, and fan), and during the baseball season, my wife and I enjoy watching Texas Rangers baseball. And, of course, I like to read.
10. What is your next book going to be about?
After CRITICAL CONDITION, there’s some question about the publisher of my next book, but I can certainly share the gist of the story. The working title is DEAD ON ARRIVAL:
In the Emergency Room, Dr. Mark Baker and Nurse Linda Atkinson find themselves at the mercy of a gunman. He points to his wounded brother and declares, “If he dies, everyone here dies.” At the end of the evening three men lie dead. One of them is a police officer Mark couldn’t save. The other two are members of the feared Zeta drug cartel, a group likely to seek revenge on Mark, Linda, and others.
It isn’t long before the shootings begin—the anesthesiologist for the operation is killed. Soon Mark is high on the police list of suspects, and the best way to clear his name is to find the real shooter. It could be the Zetas seeking revenge. It might be someone administering payback for the policeman whose life Mark couldn’t save. Whoever it is, can Mark find them…before they get him?