Barbara Ebel, M.D. is a best-selling award-winning author whose first book in the Dr. Danny Tilson series became top finalist for best-selling medical mystery books in 2012. She is a physician, speaker, and former chemist, and her writing draws heavily from her experience as an anesthesiologist, her dealings with family court, and her interactions with people and places from around the world.
Welcome, Barbara, and thank you for breaking from your busy work schedule to chat with us here today. Before we talk about where you are now, would you like to tell us if there was any one thing that motivated you to write in the first place?
Hi, Rik and readers! Thanks for sliding me into an interview spot!
Because of a bad outcome with several shoulder surgeries, I was forced to leave clinical practice as an anesthesiologist. I still lecture and keep up my licenses, but I can’t do the ‘hands-on’ required for anesthesia. I had to conjure up some ideas about what else I could do with myself! Writing was the perfect avenue for me to turn to with my talents.
Clearly a tenacious lady, tell us a little about your work. I know that your experiences are filtered into your stories with regard to medicine, but are any of the plots a play on reality?
Many of the scenes and themes in my novels I crammed into my head from my training and many years in the O.R. Yes, it’s fiction, but many authors know where they get their ideas from!
Do you consider your works different to others in your genre? If yes, how so?
I will answer that with a senior book reviewer’s just-published remark from the Midwest Book Review about my latest book, DESPERATE TO DIE:
“Too many medical thrillers casually set the backdrop for intrigue, yet fail to build realistic descriptions of the medical environment; but Dr. Ebel takes care to build both – and that’s part of what contributes to an exceptional story.” – Diane Donovan, Senior Reviewer
How to go about research can look like a minefield to an aspiring writer. Is there anything you would like to share that might bring light and ease that worry?
It’s easy for me since my finger is still on the pulse with medicine. I still attend lectures and give lectures. I often only have to refresh topics as I go along with my writing and look up, in credible medical literature, certain subjects needing more detail.
However, my advice is to assemble much of the research material you’ll need for writing a manuscript ahead of time so once you start in, you’re not deviating too often to ‘search’ for things. It will be accessible and ready to be peeked at quickly.
Tell us about your current work.
I am working on the fourth book in the Dr. Annabel Tilson series. However, even though it’s fun for a reader to read these books one after the other for character development, each of the books can stand alone.
Annabel is a young, spin-off character from her father’s series, who is a neurosurgeon. She is a medical student rotating through the different specialties before becoming a resident. Even though she’s the ‘low man’ on the totem pole, she’s smack in the middle of suspense on the wards. She also has a modern, amusing, and chaotic personal life!
Would you describe the plots of your stories as being realistic? If yes, did they come from an extrapolation of your experiences or are they all from your imagination?
I am tagged as ‘the credible medical fiction author,’ and there’s a lot of truth to that!
You move between adult fiction and stories about the animals you live with, so your approach to writing must vary between the two. How would you describe your writing style or styles?
Yes, I have penned and illustrated a children’s book series about a dog … using real pictures which go along with the stories beautifully. My Chesapeake Bay retriever, who I just lost at 13 years old, was a working therapy dog and was well-known in the region. Because everyone knew I was a writer and because they loved Chester, I was asked to write a book about him. It was a big hit so his followers begged me for more. There are five of them, the first simply called Chester the Chesapeake. They are the most beautiful memorial of my loving and loyal canine friend and kids and adults love them, too. They mostly sell as paperbacks while my medical fiction mostly sells as eBooks.
How important do you think social media is and which of the many platforms you use is your favorite?
It’s very important! It’s the only way to bridge great distances. Twitter is world-wide. Even posting an appropriate book promo spot on a twitter trend for the day can reach thousands of people. It’s amazing the feedback I receive from readers who have found me on Twitter!
Which of your works do you feel most proud of?
In all truth, I have a soft spot for each one of them. I do have one stand-alone novel, however, called OUTCOME, a Novel. It took me three years to write, it’s so multi-layered. The main story is about an organ transplant (very revealing) and the sub-plot is about a lost dog (due to the original disaster). I think this book has its own special ‘cult-following.’ Readers become emotionally attached to both the transplant medical story as well as the sub-plot about the dog. Two books in one!
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Any insight you’d like to share about your main protagonists?
The main protagonists in both book series – Dr. Danny Tilson and then his daughter, Annabel Tilson – are both exceptional in their medical fields but flawed in their personal lives. Each of them has their own demons to contend with.
There are many choices; fame, money, respect, or maybe just having someone enjoy one of your books. What is your take on success?
There is a great feeling when I am contacted about a new release and a reader fan thanks me and says “I can’t wait to read it.” That is success for an author.
Are there any final words of advice you would give to those looking to develop a writing career?
Honestly, don’t give up your day job. It takes years to develop a platform to be consistently ranked in the top 1% of all Amazon eBooks … at least in the U.S.
However, if you’re not looking at a serious writing ‘career,’ then write that little autobiography or family story for the generation you’ll leave behind. There’s no better way to talk to them when you’re gone!