Harry Kraus, MD is a practicing general surgeon and a missionary in East Africa with a heart to reaching the Somali people with the good news of Jesus Christ. He is the best-selling author of twelve novels and three works of non-fiction. He serves with his wife in Kenya and is currently on furlough in Virginia. He is available for speaking engagements where he loves to speak on topics of God’s grace and love.
Harry, I really enjoyed The Six Liter Club. I appreciated how you didn’t overwhelm the story with too much medical detail. How did you come up with this story? Was there a specific ‘what if’ moment?
I was sitting in church listening to my pastor tell a story about a missionary in the Congo who saved his family from death by the Simbas (rebel fighters) who were conducting a house to house slaughter of all westerners. The Missionary had pulled a Passover-type move, spreading blood around the house to convince the Simbas to pass over to the next house. At that point I sat there thinking, “what if…..”
You’re a surgeon. Did anything strange or funny happen while researching or writing your book?
As I researched the true accounts of missionaries slaughtered during the Simba rebellion, I became aware that my next door neighbor in Kenya shared a common last name with a man whose story of martyrdom I’d read. When I talked to him about it, he informed me that it was his father!
Every novelist has a journey. How long was your road to publication? How did you find out and what went through your mind?
My road to publication was several years, as I needed to pay attention to completion of my surgical residency and pass my American Board of Surgery exams. Once I was beyond that and able to concentrate on finishing a novel manuscript, an offer came rather quickly. I remember how excited I was when the editorial director from Crossway Books called my home and offered me a contract. I was so happy, I jumped up and hit my hand on the ceiling!
Do you ever bang your head against the wall from writer’s block? If so, how do you overcome it?
I have had a wonderful first job of surgery which has enabled me adequate income so that as a writer, I haven’t had the need to put myself under tight time constraints with crazy due dates for completion.
For that reason, if I don’t know where a story should go, I just “back-burner” the story for a week or more as I go about my work. It is when I am not directly concentrating on the problem that a solution seems to present itself.
Do you consider yourself a visual writer? If so, what visuals do you use?
I use only my imagination. Of course, many towns that I’ve written about are either real or based on a real place so that I can keep details straight.
What’s the most difficult part of writing for you?
I enjoy the first draft more than rewriting!
How do you overcome it?
Usually, the revision process isn’t as bad as the first editor letter makes it sound. As I start back at the beginning, solutions seem to come quickly.
So you prefer creating to editing? Why?
Creating, definitely. Editing usually comes at the request of an editor at the publishing house and always has the feeling that someone is messing with my baby. Of course, it’s a necessary part of the process to make the manuscript tighter and better.
As a practicing surgeon, what does a typical day look like for you? How do you fit your writing into your schedule?
I usually write in the evenings after my day’s work while my son (I have three sons, but only one at home) is doing homework.
What are a few of your favorite books (not written by you)?
“The Christian’s Secret of a Happy Life” by Hannah Whitall Smith, and “This Present Darkness” by Frank Peretti.
What’s the best writing advice you’ve heard?
“Don’t get it right; get it written.” (advice on pushing through a first draft).
Do you have any parting words of advice?
Study the craft. Read what you can find by James Scott Bell, Donald Maass, and Sol Stein.
In 1983, Dr. Camille Weller is the first black woman to attain the status of attending staff at Medical College of Virginia. She is gritty, assertive, and used to excelling over her male colleagues. A trauma surgeon, Camille enters the prestigious Six-Liter Club on her first day on the job. A sparsely populated “club,” the Six-Liter CLub is a group of surgeons who have managed to save a patient who sheds an overwhelming six liters of blood.
Given her groundbreaking status, work is challenging enough for Camille, but her private life is even more complicated. Born in Africa and orphaned as a young child, Camille was raised by a white aunt in the South. She is troubled by flashbacks from her youth, growing up in the Congo as a child of an American missionary and a Congolese mother. After a counselor mistakenly convinces Camille that her father abused her as a child, she must learn how to find the truth and accept the faith of her father.
To read a review of The Six-Liter Club, click here.