Jay D Roberts MD is a board-certified physiatrist, specializing in the treatment of physical disabilities with a focus of adding quality to life. He is currently in private practice in California. He is a member and lecturer at national and international conferences related to his specialty, a contributing author to Current Trends in Physiatry, and author of various scientific papers. In addition to his career, Dr. Roberts volunteers as part of a Christian ministry in maximum security prisons. He and his wife, parents of two grown sons, live in Indian Wells, California. Break the Chains is Dr. Roberts’ first book. Following in the long tradition of doctors who combine their passion for saving lives with their passion for writing, Dr. Roberts is currently at work on a novel, concerning children forced to work in mines.
VS: I want to thank you for being my guest here on The Writing Mama today. What do you do to help balance your writing life with your family life?
Jay: A schedule works best for me—when I write, I write; when I am with my family, I’m with them. But…I always have a note pad and pen at hand for those thoughts that sneak into my brain.
VS: How long have you been writing?
Jay: I started about ten years ago. But it was awful. It read like an emotionless scientific paper, so I stopped for a few years. Then I bought books on the craft of writing, attended writing workshops, and started writing again. After a year, I stopped again. This time because it was too painful to write of my past shame. I could not write for two years. Three years ago, I surrendered to my burning desire to write and dove head first into my memoir.
VS: What inspired you to write your book, which is a personal story and not an easy one to share with the world?
Jay: It began two decades ago in Palm Springs with my some of my friends – Harold
Robbins knew some of my story and told me to write a book. I didn’t. A few years later, Sonny Bono told me I needed to tell my story. I didn’t. That same year, Sidney Sheldon echoed their sentiments. I still didn’t. How could I? I can’t write. English was my least favorite subject in school.
Years later, for some strange reason I thought of my friends years ago encouraging me to write. I’d like to think they were screaming at me from heaven. So I wrote a memoir. It was awful. Read like an emotionless scientific paper. So I stopped.
After I was healed in 1999, I had a deeper desire, passion to write, despite my head telling me not to. I ignored the feeling for a few years, but I could not extinguish the burning flame to write my story. Buddy, who you will meet in my story, kept telling me that I must write, to trust him, that everything would be okay even if I told of my past.
VS: What did you find to be the most challenging part of writing your book?
Jay: Telling the family secret and afraid that my mother would die reading it. It was difficult and painful to write my story. First, I had to mentally agree to disclose the secret. Second, I had to write it down, uncovering the past that I had buried for years. I stopped writing for two years because of the pain. Then, I had to let it out of my hands and expose it to the public.
VS: What part of your book do you feel really stands out to you personally?
Jay: The epilogue—I was able to let all of the rage and anger out of me. The animalistic sounds that came out of me shook myself and scared the birds to fly away from that crazy man in the cemetery! I forgave. My chains were broken. I was set free.
VS: Is your family supportive of your writing and book?
Jay: Extremely supportive for which I am forever grateful. I’m very lucky to have their unconditional love and support. Writing can be a very lonely and challenging time with a blank page staring back at you! It’s so comforting to know you have your family behind you.
VS: What is a typical writing day like for you?
Jay: I wake at 3:00am and write for three hours, then get ready for my day job. In the evenings, I try to write after dinner, but usually find the next morning re-writing what I had done the night before. I try my best to let my head hit the pillow at 10:00pm. On weekends, I still wake up at 3am, but am able to write more hours. I break for church and all meals (I love food). Also, I make it a point to have “movie” time with my wife on Saturday evenings… we all need a break from those pages!
VS: If this isn’t your first publication, what was the first thing you ever had published?
Jay: It’s my first non-medical publication.
VS: Can you share with us a little about your current book(s)?
Jay: It is called Break the Chains, Transforming Shame into Forgiveness. Break the
Chains has two means: 1. Stopping the cycle of abuse from father to son. 2. Breaking the chains that bind your heart with unforgiveness. Break the Chains is my story—the story of a turbulent lifelong dialogue with God, beginning when I was a child being bull-whipped by my alcoholic father, and my subsequent compulsion to become a pain and wound care specialist. It’s the story of medical school in a third world country against a dangerous political backdrop, of my return home to deal with the demons I had left behind, of my spontaneous healing from a fatal illness, and of finding the ability in a maximum security prison to forgive the one I hated the most. My book affirms faith in God, the human spirit, and the mysterious power of forgiveness. It is my hope that you will read my book and believe in it enough to help me spread the word. It is my prayer that others can break their chains and be set free.
VS: What event do you feel was the turning point to your story?
Jay: There are two: The night I died to self, and surrendered to Christ. And the day in a maximum security prison I was challenged by an inmate to forgive the one I hated the most.
VS: Do you have any other works in progress? Can you share a little about them?
Jay: I am working on my first novel, Tin Kids. It is a high-stakes medical/political thriller about the abuse of kids in tin mines. It’s non-stop action, but the plot is complex—sort of like Contagion meets Bourne.
VS: What tips can you give writing parents with children at home to help them see publication?
Jay: Find a time to write that does not come at the expense of neglecting your loved ones. You might have to stay up late at night, or, as I do, wake up at 3am. I also found that having a schedule helped my family to “observe” my “do not disturb except for death” time. Of course, for smaller children that won’t work… so, my advice is to remember how you eat an elephant- one bite at a time! So, write one page at a time, or one paragraph, or just one sentence, when you can… those sentences, paragraphs, and pages will add up. After all that’s what a book is made of… and then it’s off to re-writes and publication.
VS: What do you think are the basic ingredients of a good book?
Jay: Story line, setting, and character development. And for me the most important and challenging—“description” to allow the reader to fully experience your story—to see, feel, smell, and taste it.
VS: What do you feel as parents we need to do to help our children see success?
Jay: Give positive reinforcement and encouragement in their successes and failures. Don’t give them everything. Let them want and dream. Give unconditional agape love. Remember to “listen, listen, love, love.”
VS: Where can the readers of The Writing Mama find out more about and your writing?
Jay: Visit my website: http://jdrobertsmd.com
VS: Is there anything else you would like to share with us about being a “Writing Mama or Dad”?
Jay: About being a Writing Grandpa:
Recently I was in Southlake, Texas with my wife and grandchildren. My eight-year-old grandson, Max, saw my copy of Break the Chains and became excited, actually shivered. He loves to read and couldn’t believe his Pop Pops was an author.
Later that day I took him to Barnes and Nobles to get him some books. As we were checking out he proudly told an employee, “You know this is my Pop Pops and he’s an author. He wrote Break the Chains and it’s FANTASTIC!” His smile froze and consumed his face.
The employee handed me a business card and said, “We would like your Pop Pops to do a book signing here. Is that okay?” Max nodded affirmative and continued to smile.
As we drove back to his home, I told Max he had landed me my first book signing and that he was a good agent for me. To which he placed both hands behind his head and replied, “Pop Pops, I’m glad to help you in your life. Maybe, I should now write my autobiography.”
So… you never know just how your family will help you in your writing life.
Continue to love, love, listen, listen… and continue to write!
Title: Break the Chains
Author: Jay D Roberts, MD
Publisher: Tate Publishing and Enterprises, LLC