The process for me consists of first developing a vision for the finished product. The vision must be credible, viable, practical, worthwhile, and achievable. Once I am convinced that the vision is all of the above, I start drawing on a latent obsessive component of my personality that insists on project completion.

As part of my interview series on the five things you need to know to become a great author, I had the pleasure of interviewing Mark C. Scholz, MD.

Mark C. Scholz, MD, serves as medical director of Prostate Oncology Specialists Inc. in Marina del Rey, CA. He is also the executive director of the Prostate Cancer Research Institute. He received his medical degree from Creighton University in Omaha, NE.

Dr. Scholz is the co-author of the book Invasion of the Prostate Snatchers: No More Unnecessary Biopsies, Radical Treatment or Loss of Potency, and the author of The Key to Prostate Cancer: 30 Experts Explain 15 Stages of Prostate Cancer.

His society memberships include the American Society of Clinical Oncology, American Society of Therapeutic Radiology, American Urologic Associate and European Associate of Urology.

He continues as a primary investigator actively supervising a number of ongoing prostate cancer clinical trials and has authored or coauthored over 90 scholarly articles and abstracts in his area of expertise.

Thank you so much for joining us! Can you share the “backstory” about how you grew up?

I grew up sailing and body surfing in Newport Beach, CA. As a child it never crossed my mind that I would end up being a doctor who specializes in prostate cancer. It was after my training at USC when I realized the great need for doctors in this specialty. Prostate cancer is a very intricate disease. Each day there is new research and information available on prostate cancer. All this new information is very difficult to keep up with as a non-specializing doctor. If prostate cancer is hard for trained experts to understand, just imagine how difficult it is for patients! The health industry was lacking doctors who could help patients and treating doctors navigate the complexities of prostate cancer, so I filled the gap and became a prostate cancer specialist. Even though I could never have predicted this being my career, I did know that I would never stray too far from the ocean — I haven’t, my practice sits with a view of the boats in Marina del Rey, CA.

When you were younger, was there a book that you read that inspired you to take action or changed your life?

When I was very little, my grandma would visit once a week. Each visit she would read me one chapter of The Hobbit. After a couple of chapters, I was so impatient to know the rest of the story that I picked up the book and read it myself. This was when I first discovered my love of reading and the power a good book must have. After all, that was the only time I ever disobeyed my grandma.

What was the moment or series of events that made you decide to bring your message to the greater world?

Prostate cancer is the only cancer that is primarily treated by surgeons. With improvements in modern radiation and greater acceptance of active surveillance, surgery is no longer the gold standard of treatment. Unfortunately, with the complexity of the disease, and urologist’s (surgeons) financial and treatment biases, each year tens of thousands of men still have unnecessary surgery for prostate cancer. Over the past 25 years of treating only prostate cancer, I have seen many patients who are coping with the after effects of unnecessary treatment. I realized the need for patients to be aware of the industry bias and be able to advocate for themselves in a treatment decision situation.

So, in 2007, when Ralph Blum excitedly accosted me in the hallway of my medical office with a book proposal, I said yes. His litmus test to determine if he would use me as his coauthor was if I would accept his proposed title: The Invasion of the Prostate Snatchers.I laughed and of course agreed. This was the beginning of the Keep Your Prostate movement, to educate men on non-surgical treatment options for prostate cancer. The movement gained traction with my most recent book, The Key to Prostate Cancer: 30 Authors Explain 15 Stages of Prostate Cancer.

What impact did you hope to make when you wrote this book?

When I wrote The Key to Prostate Cancer, I was hoping to educate men on their specific stage of prostate cancer and empower them to make a treatment decision based in medical fact, not emotion. In Invasion of the Prostate Snatchers, I raised awareness about how slanted the prostate industry is toward surgery. In The Key to Prostate Cancer, I guide patients to their best weapons against the prostate cancer industry: accurate staging, education, and empowerment.

Did the actual results align with your expectations?

Yes. In 2010, when Invasion of the Prostate Snatchers was published, less than 1% of newly-diagnosed prostate cancer patients were put on active surveillance. Now in 2019, just after the publication of my second book, more than 50% of eligible men (over 40,000 men annually) opt for active surveillance instead of unnecessary treatment.

What moment let you know that your book had started a movement?

I give talks about prostate cancer to support groups across the country. At one such event, a urologist (a doctor who does prostate surgery) stood up and introduced himself as a prostate snatcher, engendering a lot of laughter. This has happened to me on several occasions. This shows that key players in the industry are recognizing their own bias and are beginning to come to terms with the benefits of non-surgical treatment options. Invasion of the Prostate Snatchersreceived the Nautilus Book Award Gold Medal for “Conscious Media and Investigative Reporting.” The judges felt the book deserved merit for exposing the truth behind the prostate cancer industry. This national recognition was an indication that our book was reaching an audience willing to start conversation and change.

What kinds of things did you hear right away from readers? What are the most frequent things you hear from readers about your book now? Are they the same? Different?

Right away I heard profound gratefulness from men who were scheduled to have radical treatment (which frequently causes permanent inability to achieve an erection) cancelling their surgery or other radical treatments. These men were thankful to have learned of active surveillance other safer treatment options that are more tailored to their specific stage of prostate cancer. I still hear similar comments from my readers about how the book helped empower them to navigate their diagnosis in a way they are comfortable with and understand.

What is the most moving or fulfilling experience you’ve had as a result of writing this book?

To me, writing the book was a fulfilling experience in itself. Ralph Blum, the coauthor of my first book, changed my life. Prior to Invasion of the Prostate Snatchers I knew practically nothing about the craft of writing. I often say that once I learned to write, I learned to think. This was due to the endless hours spent with Ralph. When I hear from men who use my books to help them navigate their diagnosis, I am eternally grateful to Ralph for giving me the skills and confidence to share my knowledge and experience.

Have you experienced anything negative? Do you feel there are drawbacks to writing a book that starts such conversation and change?

No, not personally. Writing a book that starts conversation and change is powerful. Prostate cancer is a silent disease; it does not have side effects until it is in very advanced stages. Without PSA screening, men can live with prostate cancer for years before having a single indication something is wrong. Prostate cancer is also rarely discussed and many men cope with treatment side-effects in silence and isolation. Through the writing of these books, I have the opportunity to educate, inform, and empower men to take control of their prostate cancer screening and diagnoses. I also have the opportunity to bring a voice to the illness and urge men to talk these intimate issues. This alone outweighs any potential negatives of starting this movement.

Can you articulate why you think books in particular have the power to create movements, revolutions, and true change?

Reading a book is an intimate experience that requires focus and solitude. With other media such as TV and social platforms, users are not able to be as subjective in what they are exposed to. In reading, they make an active decision to pick up a certain book or story and engage with the subject matter. A reader decides if they are interested to know more and then actively and knowingly dedicate their time to doing so. Because of this intimacy, a book can generate a powerful, engaged following. As history has shown, a book in the hands of the right person/people can transform in to anything, after all, Uncle Tom’s Cabin started the Civil War and led to Lincoln freeing the slaves.

What is the one habit you believe contributed the most to you becoming a bestselling writer?

The process for me consists of first developing a vision for the finished product. The vision must be credible, viable, practical, worthwhile, and achievable. Once I am convinced that the vision is all of the above, I start drawing on a latent obsessive component of my personality that insists on project completion.

I also believe that the success of my books came from Ralph’s idea of soliciting advice from bus drivers, secretaries, anyone that would read and offer commentary. These conversations were not only helpful in the writing process, but also in building a community around the book. The relationships Ralph formed with our readers and the general public through these day-to-day interactions created a group of people who were connected to the book and movement on a more personal level. This network of people helped promote our book and share our message with their families and friends.

What challenge or failure did you learn the most from in your writing career?

Selling books, i.e., promoting them, is just as important as writing them. People need to be encouraged to pick up your book. Spend time figuring out who your audience is and how to market to your niche.

Many aspiring authors would love to make an impact similar to what you have done. What are the 5 things writers needs to know if they want to spark a movement with a book?

1. Become an expert or team up with an expert. Most experts know the besetting short comings of their field of endeavor. Knowing the negative is just as important as knowing the positive.

2. There are many worthy causes. The question is whether raising awareness about the cause will translate into a large enough change to justify the degree of time and energy the investment requires.

3. Be passionate about your subject. If you care and are able to express that through your writing, chances are you will be able to recruit others to care as well.

4. Invest time and money into promoting your book. If no one knows they should care, they won’t.

5. Do as Ralph would do: share your writing and discuss your ideas with any and everyone who will take the time.

The world, of course, needs progress in many areas. What movement do you hope someone (or you!) starts next?

Patients need to learn self-reliance. The medical industry is changing at a very rapid pace and most doctors can’t stay abreast of all the new developments. As the information of this modern era continues to explode, more and more responsibility for ensuring state-of-the-art care will fall into the lap of the patient. Patients must learn how to make their own decisions and question possible solutions and answers. We must all remember that medicine is a business. Not all doctors are free of bias. It can be difficult to tell where a doctor’s industry bias plays in to recommending treatment. If patients can learn how to advocate for themselves and spot industry bias, their outcomes will be significantly improved.

Thank you so much for this. This was very inspiring!


  • Sara Connell

    Bestselling Author & Writing Coach

    Sara Connell is an author and writing coach with a private practice in Chicago. She has appeared in Oprah, Good Morning America, NPR, The View and Katie Couric. Her writing has appeared in The New York Times, Tri-Quarterly, Good Housekeeping, Parenting, IO Literary Journal, and Psychobabble. Her first book Bringing In Finn was nominated for ELLE magazine Book of the Year.