Writers talk about getting “the call.” For some, that’s the phone call (or email or letter) from an agent offering representation. For others, the call is one that extends a contract for publication. I’ve received both these calls, and I can’t tell you how wonderful and exciting they were. But they wouldn’t have come about had I not responded to an earlier and much more important call.
My road to writing began with a tragedy. Maybe yours did, too. Perhaps you lost your job and decided to fill those empty hours between interviews and resumés by starting the novel you always thought you had inside you. Or you found yourself with an empty nest and a broken heart, so you decided to write to take your mind off the loneliness. In my case, it was the death of my wife of forty years that provided the impetus for me to write.
After Cynthia’s death in 1999, one of the coping mechanisms I employed to combat depression was to journal. I laid out my feelings, bared my soul. Then I looked back at what I’d written, and wondered if I could turn this stack of raw journaling into a book that would help others. There was a problem, though. I had no idea how one went about writing a book. So, in 2003, I attended a Christian Writers’ Conference. That’s where I came under the influence of writers Alton Gansky and James Scott Bell, who inspired and encouraged me. An editor challenged me to try my hand at fiction, as well as non-fiction. And at the end of the conference, I got “The Call.” I emphasize this one, because it came from God. I knew, with the same certainty that I know my name, that my retirement from medicine was just a transition to another endeavor. I was to write.
In 2006, my non-fiction book became a reality with the publication of The Tender Scar: Life After The Death Of A Spouse. Fiction, on the other hand, was a different story. During four years spent learning the craft I produced four novels that were rejected a total of over forty times. Then, finally, I got “the call”—twice. Both came from agent Rachelle Gardner, the first offering representation and the second telling me I’d sold my first novel. But neither of those calls would have come had I not listened to The Call, the one God handed down to me at that conference.
Four of my novels have now been published, and I’ve signed with Thomas Nelson Company for three more. Of course, I’m thrilled to have the opportunity to share my stories with others, but I don’t want to lose sight of the reason I’m writing in the first place. I guess it’s best summed up in the last line of the Acknowledgement I wrote for my first novel: “When I retired from medicine, God opened another door and pointed me in the direction of writing. I have no idea what comes next, but I can hardly wait to find out. To Him be the glory.
Dr. Richard Mabry is a retired physician, past Vice-President of the American Christian Fiction Writers, and the author of four 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 latest novel, Lethal Remedy, won a 2012 Selah Award from the BRMCWC. His next medical thriller, Stress Test, releases in March 2013 from Thomas Nelson and Sons.