A Conversation with Author Don Brobst

Posted on April 4, 2016 in Writing Life

I had the pleasure of working and building a friendship with author and physician Don Brobst in the fall of 2014 at a four-day novel writing intensive workshop. His upcoming novel, The Ghost of Africa, is a gripping tale of an American surgeon working in South Sudan who must journey beyond his medical mission into a world of brutal terrorism and global intrigue, equipped with only his faith and instincts.

I interviewed Don last week about his medical missions work and how it fueled his story. Here are the highlights of our conversation.

When did you begin to do medical missions work in Africa? How did God call you to go?

Don BrobstI began in China in early 2009 and moved to Africa seven months later. After reading the book, Radical by David Platt, my pastor at the time, I realized God was calling me to something more than living out the American dream. The moment I first visited Africa, I knew it was where I belonged. This occurred a year after losing my wife to cancer in 2008. When I began traveling on a regular basis to Africa, I knew right away it was God’s calling that drew me to that region. The suffering of the villagers from easily curable illnesses was impossible to ignore. Even though some of my friends feared I was trying to make up for losing my wife, it was much more. It was where God wanted me to be.

How long did it take you to write The Ghost of Africa? What were the greatest challenges for you in writing this story?

I started the book in 2014 and completed it at the end of 2015. After approximately eighteen months of writing and editing, it was finally done. Some of the greatest challenges of writing a story that involves such an intense environment included avoiding the Lord’s Resistance Army, one of the most brutal militant groups in the world, and making certain that the storyline was realistic and feasible. For that purpose, I commandeered several members of the Army Special Forces to the region, landed a 12-seat Cessna Turboprop airplane in a remote area to prove it could be done, and consulted with the FBI and DOD.

How much of your own life and mission experience is portrayed in The Ghost of Africa?

Screenshot 2016-02-05 12.47.45During the times that I have been on mission to Africa I’ve come to know many of the villagers and Chiefs of the region. The main character in the book is a doctor who lost his wife to cancer, as I am, and has found purpose in working among the poor, delivering essential medical care to those who have no access otherwise. I’ve had several close calls with the LRA, and have befriended several members of this militant organization who have escaped the evils of he regime. In addition, I’ve seen firsthand the atrocities committed in this part of Africa and my heart goes out to them. In many ways, much of my life and experiences have been incorporated into the story.

How did writing The Ghost of Africa change you as a disciple of Jesus and as a writer?

There have definitely been some trying times while working in such impoverished areas, and it has made me realize that, no matter how much clean water you provide or medical care you deliver, it means nothing without Christ. But meeting physical needs opens the door for us to be able to share Christ in a world that either opposes Him or has never heard of Him. As a writer, I have grown as you have under the tutelage of people like Robert Dugoni and Steven James, and learned the important lesson of telling the story. I’ve endeavored to deliver as realistic an image as possible to convey the plight of the people, while painting a “what if” scenario.

What experience does The Ghost of Africa promise your readers?

A thrill ride adventure that depicts a true to life, realistic picture of what would happen if a ruthless militant leader gained control over a region by aligning himself with self-serving governmental powers, all for the sake of profit. The Ghost of Africa also promises to follow our main character and his struggles with God’s plan for him—a plan for which he does not feel prepared. He must overcome all obstacles before him in order to save himself and countless others.

You’re working on your next novel; does it connect to The Ghost of Africa? When do you expect to be finished?

There is not a direct connection to The Ghost of Africa, but it is a Thriller/Adventure/Suspense novel as well. It takes place primarily in Chicago, but extends to New York, Egypt, and the Middle East. I expect it to be finished by September 2016. I’m on track with that projection.

The people of the villages are compassionate and generous…in Africa, where poverty and tyranny rule, they are happy with what God has given them.

What are some of the most impactful experiences you had in writing The Ghost of Africa?

The people of the villages are compassionate and generous. Even though they have nothing, they insist on feeding us the best of what they do have. How often do we do that in our society? But in Africa, where poverty and tyranny rule, they are happy with what God has given them. It was very humbling to live among the people and sleep where they sleep, eat what they eat, and live without running water or electricity. To realize that they live in that manner their entire lives is sobering and humbling indeed.

When will The Ghost of Africa be available, and in what forms?

The official release date is April 26, 2016. But readers are encouraged to preorder now by clicking here on Amazon for a discount on paperback, Kindle, and other versions. They can also reach me for updates on www.donbrobst.com.


I’m blessed to have Don as a friend and writing colleague. His dedication to God’s call on his life and the sacrifice he makes to serve impoverished people inspire me. His life and his stories will lift you up and encourage you to become all that God intends for you to become.