Dr. Jay D Roberts, MD is a board-certified physiatrist, a specialist in physical medicine and rehabilitation. He has always been drawn to helping those with pain and wounds. He just could not heal his own. That was not until he went to prison and learned the mysterious power of forgiveness. Dr. Roberts volunteers as part of Kairos, a Christian prison ministry. He and his wife, parents of two grown sons and proud grandparents, live in Indian Wells, CA, with their dog, Milo. Break the Chains is Dr. Roberts’ first book. He is currently working on a novel, Tin Kids, a medical, political thriller about kids forced to work in tin mines.
Why don’t you begin by telling us a little about yourself and why you started writing?
I always wanted the love of my father, even just for him to like me or be proud of me. That is what drove me to be the best in what ever I did. But it did not work. He never told me once he loved me or that he was proud of me. It is “interesting” that I gravitated to treating people for their pain and wounds, while I could not heal my own.
After I was healed in 1999, I had a deep 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.
Break the Chains must have been a challenging memoir to write. What compelled you to do it?
As I have just mentioned, I felt a compelling need to write after I was healed. I tried to ignore it for years, but it would not go away. I was frightened to tell the family secret, afraid that my mother would die reading it. But I continued to feel the calling to write, and so I did.
Yes, I was blessed with three as they encouraged and guided me. I will use school as my explanation: Minrose was my grade school mentor, Julie my high school and college mentor, and Joan my graduate mentor. I am very proud that with their guidance I wrote all the words in my story, including the painful memories they prodded for me to express.
Who is your target audience?
- People needing forgiveness
- People with history of abuse — mental & physical
- People needing healing, or wanting it
- People searching for a loving God, or just a God
- People living in two cultures
What do you hope readers will get from your book?
My hope and pray is that my story will help others to break their chains and be set free.
What was your writing process like while writing this memoir?
I did have a rough outline at the beginning. But as I wrote I went to places I had never planned to go. So there went the outline. I found my best writing was early in the morning, between 3am and 6am, while drinking coffee. I always prayed at the beginning of each day for God to guide me with the right words. After three hours, I would eat and get ready to go to my office. In the evenings I wrote a little, but the next day I would often not like what I had written. I sat in my home office and played the same CD over and over- “Filipino Love Songs in a Classic Piano Mood, volume 4, by Raul Sunico. It always put me in a good writing mood. On weekends I would sit out on our patio to do stream-of- conscious writing, if I was stuck (afraid of digging up an old memory). A few times, I stayed in a mountain cabin to be alone and scream if I had to. I did the more painful writings up there. I went back to the Philippines for 40 days and nights to add texture to my story. I wrote and re-wrote and re-wrote some more.
How long did it take you to write it?
I started about 10 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.
What was your editing process like?
It was a great experience. I learned a lot through editing. I particularly like the exercise of “What if….,” while still staying true to the story. I thank my mentor angels for that. I admit that towards the end I did not cherish doing another re-write!
How did you find your publisher?
After many rejections, one glorious day, one of my mentors, Joan, found my book a home with Tate Publishing & Enterprises, a Christian-based, family-owned, mainline publishing house.
I thank Dr. Tate for believing in my story and all the staff at Tate for their help in making my book a reality.
Where is Break the Chains available?
What is your advice for aspiring memoir authors?
Never stop writing. Never take “no” for an answer. I was rejected — by many editors, publishers, and agents. I was even told to my face, “Even if you can write, which you can’t because you’re a doctor, and, anyway, no one will ever buy your book because you’re a nobody.” Believe in yourself. You are somebody!
I’m still learning to write, always will be. I’m currently working on my first novel, Tin Kids, about the abuse of kid in tin mines. I am pleased with it. Can’t wait to send this baby out into the world!
So continue to write daily and be patient. It will take time to birth your “baby.”
This interview originally appeared in Blogcritics Magazine.