Two Important Questions

I’m pleased to welcome back fellow medical thriller author and good friend Dr. Richard Mabry.

Richard’s latest and greatest novel, Heart Failure, has just released and I hope you’ll take some time to read his work if you’re a fan of this genre. Personally, I can’t wait to get my hands on it!

Welcome back, Richard!

I wish I had a nickel for every time I was asked, “Where do you get your ideas?” And the answer, for me and for most authors of fiction, is pretty much always the same—ideas are all around us, if you ask the right questions.

Early in my writing experience, Alton Gansky taught me that the most important question for an author to ask is, “What if?” I’ve taken that advice to heart, and it’s led me to the plots of all my books. For the latest, Heart Failure, I read a story about a man living under another name in an unfamiliar city because he’d been placed in the Witness Security Program.
I wondered, “What if the man fell in love and was about to be married? Would he tell his fiancé about his past? What if something happened that forced him to reveal his secret?”
And thereby hangs a tale, as the saying goes.
Jeff Gerke is responsible for the other question I’ve learned to ask myself when considering a plot: “So what?” I spent a very frustrating half-hour in the lounge at the Mount Hermon Conference trying to explain a story idea to Jeff, and each time I paused for breath he’d ask, “So what?” I finally figured out what he meant. If the protagonist fails, what would be the consequences? What would failure mean? If the stakes aren’t high enough, the reader will lose interest. That’s why this is such an important question.
For Heart Failure, the “so what” was initially that the protagonist might lose the woman he’d come to love. However, as the plot develops, it becomes obvious that both their lives are in danger, and the driving force changes to staying alive.
For all the writers reading this blog, I’d urge you to ask two questions when developing a plot—“what if” and “so what?” When you get the right answers to those questions, you’re on your way.

Richard Mabry is a retired physician, past Vice President of the American Christian Fiction Writers, and author of “medical suspense with heart.” His novels have been a semifinalist for International Thriller Writers’ debut novel, finalists for the Carol Award and Romantic Times’ Reader’s Choice Award, and winner of the Selah Award.  You can follow Richard on his blog, on Twitter, and his Facebook fan page.

Dr. Richard Mabry: Stress Test

I’m so pleased to host fellow medical thriller author Richard Mabry, MD today to Redwood’s Medical Edge. Richard has a new book out and we are running a contest to give away one FREE book to a commenter who is willing to post a review of the novel. In the comments section– please leave a note about what you’ll do to help promote Stress Test along with your e-mail address. Winner chosen at random. Must live in the USA. Winner drawn Saturday, April 20th at midnight and announced here on April 21, 2013.

Welcome back, Richard!

I love the books written by the late Robert B. Parker. You may not recognize his name, but Parker is the man who wrote the novels on which the TV shows featuring private detective Spenser and police chief Jesse Stone are based. I think one reason I like Spenser is that he’s just enough of a smart-aleck for me to identify with him. Someone once asked him why he was a private detective, and I love his answer: “Because I can’t sing and dance.”

What Spenser is saying is that he does what he does because he likes it and can do it well, as opposed to other choices he might have. So, when I’m asked why I write, I have two standard responses. The first, like Spenser, is “Because I can’t sing and dance.” The second is the oft-quoted and very true phrase about true writers: “We write because we can’t NOT write.” And there you have it.

I’m a retired physician. I was in solo private practice for 26 years, then spent another 10 as a professor at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center. Although I wrote or edited eight textbooks and had over 100 scientific papers published in professional journals, I never once thought about non-medical writing. Then my wife of 40 years died, and one tool I used to help me climb out of the deep depression I felt was journaling. When a friend read these raw journal entries, he encouraged me to turn them into a book. But I had no idea how to proceed.
From there, it was a matter of attending writer’s conferences, going through the cycle of write/edit/write/edit/write, and shopping the finished product to editors. Fortunately, The Tender Scar: Life After The Death Of A Spouse found a home with Kregel Publications, and it continues to minister to thousands each year. But while I was writing my non-fiction book, authors and editors urged me to try my hand at fiction. I tried it and found that I liked it.
Over the next four years, I quit once and almost quit another dozen times. You’ll notice I said I “almost quit” along the way. Why didn’t I quit? Because, time after time I found myself sneaking back to the computer to write some more. Truly, I couldn’t NOT write.
So that’s why I write “medical suspense with heart.” The genre fits. I enjoy the challenge. And…I can’t sing and dance.


Dr. Richard Mabry is a retired physician, past Vice-President of the American Christian Fiction Writers, and the author of five published novels of medical suspense. His books have been finalists in competitions including ACFW’s Carol Award and Romantic Times’ Inspirational Book of the Year. His last novel, Lethal Remedy, won a 2012 Selah Award from the Blue Ridge Mountain Christian Writers Conference. His most recent medical thriller, Stress Test (Thomas Nelson), was released in April, and will be followed by Heart Failure in October.