Name Mark R Hunter
Age Well … over fifty.
Where are you from
Albion, Indiana—the northeast part of the state, not far from Fort Wayne.
A little about your self `ie your education Family life etc.
I live in small town Indiana with my wife/editor/book designer/horse wrangler Emily, our humongous dog Baewulf (the spelling’s a long story), and a cowardly snake named Lucius. I have two daughters from a former marriage, and twin grandsons who just turned eight! As for education, I never got a degree beyond a high school diploma, although I ended up taking correspondence writing classes and a whole bunch of advanced emergency services training. At one time I was certified as an EMT, Master Firefighter, Hazardous Material Technician, and Fire Instructor.
For twenty-five years I’ve been with the Noble County Sheriff Department, over twenty of those as an emergency dispatcher, and I’ve been a volunteer firefighter for thirty-five years. The only thing I’ve done longer is write. Well, and whine about winter.
Fiona: Tell us your latest news?
My newest book just came out: Hoosier Hysterical: How the West Became the Midwest Without Moving at All. Timed for Indiana’s bicentennial, it’s an attempt to break into that lucrative humor-history market. Actually, although I’ve always considered myself primarily a fiction writer, out of eight published books that makes my fourth non-fiction, and my third history.
Fiona: When and why did you begin writing?
When I was around six, my mother sat at her typewriter while I dictated to her a story about a young man who happened to have my name traveling to the Land of Oz for an adventure with Dorothy, Ozma, and the rest of the Emerald City gang. It was my first fanfiction, although after a short time I lost interest and drifted away.
Within a few years I was writing stories, often based on dreams, which of course meant I needed to work on my plots. By the time I was fifteen I’d finished my first novel manuscript, and at eighteen I “celebrated” my first short story rejection.
Why? Because I can’t not write.
Fiona: When did you first consider yourself a writer?
I never gave that much thought. I guess in my mid-teens, when my grades started falling because I was busy in the back row, creating stories. From then on writing, firefighting, and girls were about the only things on my mind, not in that order.
Fiona: What inspired you to write your first book?
My first finished manuscript was inspired by Star Trek: a space opera that I think could best be described as “theft”. Later, as I became fascinated with firefighting, I wrote a series of stories—usually I just finished the first drafts—about a family of firefighters.
But my first published novel has a stranger origin: I wrote a humor column making fun of the old romance novels my mother used to read, so my first wife—a romance reader—challenged me to try some of the modern romances. She also reminded me what a huge market it was. I read some, realized they were pretty good, and my third try became my first published romantic comedy: Storm Chaser.
Fiona: Do you have a specific writing style?
Yes, but it’s not something I consciously think of … and I’d probably screw it up if I did. Generally I keep things light, and I don’t sweat the rules of grammar too much. I write, in other words, the way I’d like to talk.
Fiona: How did you come up with the title?
Titles! My sworn enemy. My working titles are usually awful, and it takes a lot of brain power to come up with something a little less than awful. In the end Storm Chaser was a bit too common, but I liked the sequel, The Notorious Ian Grant. As for my newest book, after making some lists and checking which ones weren’t already book titles, the answer became clear: Hoosier Hysterical, a takeoff on the common Indiana basketball term, “Hoosier hysteria”. The ironic part: I hate basketball.
Fiona: Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?
I don’t deliberately put a message into any of my books. My purpose is entertainment: I want people to have fun and leave with a smile. If I did have a common theme in my fiction it would probably be something like “Love will find a way”, and do I really want to go around spouting such clichés? I do like it when the reader learns something, though. As I said in Hoosier Hysterical, if someone picks up a bit of history in between laughs, who am I to say?
Fiona: How much of the book is realistic and are experiences based on someone you know, or events in your own life?
I’m going to go to my fictional works for this one. At first glance the answer is not very much, at least as far as the characters go. I do have a self-insert: A very minor character who’s me, and who pops up just for fun in three of my four works of fiction. (All four are in a related “Storm Chaser universe”, although my young adult novel, The No-Campfire Girls, is mostly unconnected to my short story collection and two romantic comedies.)
Still, a writer can’t help but have himself sneak into his writing in a less literal way. I’m a volunteer firefighter, and so is my male protagonist in Storm Chaser; I’m a photographer, and so is the female protagonist. Also, the books are mostly set in Noble County, where I live. So a lot of the settings are real, and a lot of the situations they find themselves in have some relation to my real-life experiences.
Fiona: What books have most influenced your life most? A mentor?
I didn’t really have a writing mentor so much, unless it’s L. Frank Baum. My parents bought me Baum’s 14 Oz books as a kid, and I would read them in sequence, over and over. The sense of whimsy, humor, and adventure stayed with me, as did the strong characters. It may be no surprise that in the books Dorothy Gale is blonde, and so is the little sister who tends to take over every scene she has in the Storm Chaser series.
Fiona: Are there any new authors that have grasped your interest, and who is your favorite author, and what is it that really strikes you about their work?
I think I covered favorite author and what strikes me above, with L. Frank Baum. Past that I couldn’t begin to name all my favorite authors in so many genres; I’m pretty eclectic in what I read. Sadly, trying to write full time while holding down a day job leaves little time for reading! Most of the reading I’ve been doing, beyond research, has been of writers I know personally, and I couldn’t list a bunch of them without missing others.
Fiona: Name one entity that you feel supported you outside of family members.
Outside of family members? Not an entity, that I can think of, unless you count the Writer’s Digest Book Club. Back when I started writing, in the days before the internet and in small town Indiana, I felt very lonely as a writer … but when I went online I discovered a lot of people just like me who’ve been very supportive, indeed. Now my wife is my main support, and as a fellow writer I try to support her, too.
Fiona: Do you see writing as a career?
Of course. In fact, I’ve seen it as a career since I was fifteen. Back then my plan was to support myself as a full time firefighter, get published at eighteen, hit the best seller list at 21, then retire from firefighting to my mansion in Hawaii with an all-female staff.
My plans since then have gotten just a bit more realistic. Now in three years I can get full retirement from my full time job, but only if I earn enough at writing to make up the difference in income—and pay for insurance. In other words, I want to make enough money at writing so I have more time to write.
Fiona: If you had to do it all over again, would you change anything in your latest book?
The only thing I’ve noticed is that I forgot to put in a photo of the state flag. A book about Indiana, without the Hoosier flag! Thank goodness I thought to mention the Indy 500, or they’d run me right out of the state.
Fiona: Do you recall how your interest in writing originated?
Not really. I loved reading, and so I just started writing what I wanted to read.
Fiona: Can you share a little of your current work with us?
Here’s a section from Hoosier Hysterical:
Facts is Facts
Well, you have to assume these facts are true, don’t you? I mean, how do you really know? Are you going to drive around the state with a ruler and a calculator, and check them personally?
Just doing my part to promote modern paranoia.
Indiana became a state on December 11, 1816, after the inhabitants of the other eighteen states kicked out anyone who chewed tobacco, walked outside barefoot, or used the word “Hoosier”. Eventually the first two habits worked their way back into the rest of the country, especially when Southern states were admitted. Well, how many Minnesotans walk around barefoot? (As for Hoosier, that word will get a whole chapter of its own. Jealous, Buckeyes? I haven’t even given you a book.)
Why did we start in December? Well, there was nothing else to do. At that time people made their own presents, so the Christmas shopping season wasn’t a factor.
As of the turn of the century (this one, not the last one), the population of Indiana was 6,114,745 … 6 … 7 … oops, 4 …
The highest point in Indiana is 1,257 feet above sea level, in Wayne County. This is a measure of distance. The ongoing rumor that the people in Wayne County choose to stay high because their neighbors are Ohio is a dastardly rumor, possibly started by pot smokers in Denver. Actually, the people of Colorado laugh at the thought of us being high, in every sense of the word.
I’m not sure if it’s in the purview of this book to make fun of other states. This is mostly because I have no idea what purview means.
The lowest point in Indiana is in Posey County, which is way down in the southwest corner and thus, like the highest point, qualifies in more ways than one. It’s at 320 feet, so we’re still safe from rising sea levels. It is not safe from the Ohio River.
Perhaps ironically, the county seat of Posey County is Mount Vernon. The county was named after General Thomas Posey, who was Governor of the Indiana Territory and so got naming rights. He grew up next to George Washington’s house at Mount Vernon, and rumor had it Posey was Washington’s illegitimate son. It could be Posey was a poser.
Sorry, I hit a low spot and veered off on a tangent.
Indiana was once home to elk and bison, giant animals last seen in the state around 1830. No one who ever hit a deer in the Hoosier state—which includes almost everyone who ever drives here—is shedding any tears over the loss of any bigger animals.
Don’t even start me on the woolly mammoth, which died out due to a warming climate when wool got too hot.
The largest limestone deposit in the world can be found in southern Indiana, which ships it all over for construction. In the mid-1800s the English Navy, mistakenly mixing up “limestone” with “lime”, ordered a large shipment to help their sailors ward off scurvy. The order was canceled after the first three ships sank.
I mentioned earlier that Indiana is the smallest contiguous state west of the Appalachian Mountains, which themselves are the largest chain of mountains east of the Rockies. I don’t know if that last is true, but it looks good on a map. Still, at 35,867 square miles, Indiana is the 38th largest state. This is because so many of the earlier, eastern states are so old they’ve shrunk. Clearly Rhode Island got washed on hot.
Another interesting fact is that the first professional baseball game was played in Fort Wayne, which is Indiana’s second largest city, has three rivers, and has been owned by four different countries if you include the original tenants. This series of numbers is a statistical coincidence, but statistical coincidences can be fun.
Fiona: Is there anything you find particularly challenging in your writing?
Research—for both fiction and non-fiction—is challenging, but also a lot of fun. I wonder how many times the government has put me on their watch list because of some of the stuff I have to look up? Otherwise the biggest challenge is scratching and clawing for writing time.
Fiona: Do you have to travel much concerning your book(s)?
For Hoosier Hysterical my wife and I took a summer off and traveled extensively across the state, especially central, southern, and western sections I haven’t gotten to much. The year before that we’d also traveled around the state, and I just realized I should have kept track of that mileage for tax purposes.
Fiona: Who designed the covers?
Storm Chaser, Storm Chaser Shorts, and The Notorious Ian Grant were done by the artist Gemini Judson for Whiskey Creek Press. I’m afraid I don’t know who did the cover of Images of America: Albion and Noble County, which was published by Arcadia Publishing. My other books, The No-Campfire Girls, Slightly Off the Mark, Smoky Days and Sleepless Nights: A Century or So With the Albion Fire Department, and Hoosier Hysteria, were all the work of my wife Emily: She did the covers, the editing, the layout and book design, the formatting—everything but the writing, and she helped with that.
Fiona: What was the hardest part of writing your book?
Polishing! Proofreading! Searching out typos, search and destroy for “was”, “had”, “ing” … once I get the fun part of actually writing the story and making the narrative as good as it can be, I want to be done! But it’s part of the job. I figure I go through each manuscript at least four times before my first reader sees it, and four or five times after that.
Fiona: Did you learn anything from writing your book and what was it?
I always learn stuff when I’m writing a book, but with Hoosier Hysterical that went to an extreme. It turns out that despite living here all my life, there’s a lot I didn’t know about Indiana! For instance, we have more interstate highway than any other state. And my favorite: the westernmost naval battle of the Revolutionary War happened here, in an almost landlocked state. I also learned, as I learn anew every time, just how much work goes into a non-fiction book before the actual writing commences.
Fiona: If any of your books was made into a film who would you like to play the lead
Hm … I think that guy who played Sawyer in “Lost” would be a good Ian Grant. Josh Holloway—thanks, internet. In Storm Chaser, I pictured a young Sandra Bullock as the female protagonist, Allie Crane … who is Ian Grant’s sister. But they’re both a little old for the roles now, and I have to admit I haven’t kept up much with the modern young actors. Although come to think of it, the girl who plays “Supergirl” on the new show would be good for Beth, the little sister I spoke of earlier.
Fiona: Do you have any advice for other writers?
Only do it if you love it. There’s no point otherwise—there are all sorts of better ways to make a living. On a related note, don’t make any plans to give up your day job. On another related note, learn your craft before you try to get published.
Fiona: Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers?
I’d say the same thing to all readers: Support your favorite writers! Leave reviews, tell all your friends. Word of mouth is the way writing careers are made.
Fiona: What book are you reading now?
At the moment I’m reading Earthbound: Science Fiction in the Old West, by Mari Collier
Fiona: Do you remember the first book you read?
The earliest one I can remember is Go, Dog, Go! By P.D. Eastman. (“Do you like my hat?” Ha!)
Fiona: What makes you laugh/cry?
Politics … for both. Actually, I laugh pretty easily—I’m easily entertained in general. I don’t cry much, but I’m a sap for sentimentality.
Fiona: Is there one person pass or present you would meet and why?
Lots of people. George Washington, for instance … I’d like to find out what made a man walk away from such guaranteed power and still be humble, and maybe bring it back to modern politicians.
Fiona: What do you want written on your head stone and why?
I think I’d just want a motion detector, and a hand that shoots out of the ground whenever anyone approaches.
Fiona: Other than writing do you have any hobbies?
Writing is a hobby? Are all hobbies this stressful? Seriously, after covering the full time job and writing full time, I don’t have much time for hobbies. Mostly it’s reading and heading out to the local state parks, where hopefully I get enough exercise so I don’t look like I’m writing full time.
Fiona: What TV shows/films do you enjoy watching?
I enjoy light, funny shows, but my wife has me hooked on The Walking Dead and Outlander. I have no explanation. I’m a big TV watcher, but don’t do that much of it anymore—see above about writing. My most recent new show is Supergirl, and my most recent canceled show is Castle—a lot of shows I like get canceled
Fiona: Favorite foods / Colors/ Music
Does it have chocolate? Then I like it. I’m partial to the color green because it reminds me of summer, which is related to why I hate white. As for music, I have eclectic tastes but it depends. My wife and I like rock and classic rock when we’re traveling, and despite myself I’m a fan of a lot of pop music (she’s not). When I’m writing, I need something without voices: preferably movie scores, but also classical music. John Williams is my music god.
Fiona: If you were not a writer what else would you like to have done?
I wanted to be a career firefighter, but at the time I was young enough my eyesight didn’t quite meet the requirements. Instead I became a volunteer firefighter, and quickly noticed eyesight doesn’t matter one whit inside a burning building. Past that, I can’t imagine what I would have chosen besides writing; it was dumb luck that I ended up an emergency dispatcher for the last two decades.
Fiona: Do you have a blog/website? If so what is it?
I also have an Amazon page which, shockingly, you’ll find on Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Mark-R-Hunter/e/B0058CL6OO