Meet Debut Novelist Mark R. Hunter

Mark Hunter’s debut novel, Storm Chaser, a contemporary romantic comedy set in rural Indiana, will be released by Whiskey Creek Press in June, 2011. He’s a part-time newspaper writer whose humor column, “Slightly Off the Mark,” has been a presence in northeast Indiana newspapers for almost twenty years. He’s seeking representation for three other completed novels: two romances and a YA mystery.

Mark lives in a small northeast Indiana town with his fiancée, a college student who’s working on her first novel, and a cowardly ball python named Lucius. He has two daughters and twin two-year-old grandsons, and is employed as a dispatcher for the Noble County Sheriff’s Department—a day job that he ironically works at night.

Mark is safety officer, instructor, and public information officer for the Albion Volunteer Fire Department, is finishing his second term on the Albion Town Council, and when he’s not writing he laughs hysterically at the notion of having spare time. Still, he likes to take time out to look to the sky, both at storms and stars, and of course play with the grandkids. A history buff, he’s working on a book length history of the local volunteer fire service. He collects Matchbox-sized emergency vehicles, Oz book memorabilia, and, of course, books.

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Mark Embarks on His Journey

•When did you begin writing romances with a goal of publication?

It would have been around 1990. At the time, I wrote a weekly humor column that still appears in three local papers. My only exposure to romances had been the old-style “bodice-rippers” my mother used to read by the score, and I wrote a column making fun of the bare-chested men, silly names, and various other clichés.

My then-wife was reading more modern romances, so she called me on my misperceptions, and also pointed out that romances comprised over half of all paperback books being sold in North America. Clearly, someone was doing something right! So I read some, and was blown away; within a year I had subscriptions to four different Harlequin book series, and a year after that I began plotting the first of my own stories.

•How many manuscripts did you complete before selling?

Three: Radio Red, about an actress who gets a job at a Michigan radio station, was first, and an editor actually planned to buy it back about six years ago – just before that publisher went out of business. The second one, Storm Chaser, sold, but not until after I’d completed my third romance, Coming Attractions, about a battle to save an Indiana drive-in movie theater.

Romance wasn’t your “first love.” What other genres have you explored?

I learned to love romance, but I started out in science fiction and action/adventure, my “adult” mystery morphed itself into Young Adult, and I’m still anxious to someday write my own take on L. Frank Baum’s Oz books. I don’t know if that’s a common situation with fiction writers, but it might cause problems in building a “brand”.

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Mark’s First Sale

You’d been submitting for many years when you received The Call. When did it come, and how did you react? Did you jump up on a chair, beat your chest, and belt out a hearty Tarzan yell, or was your reaction more subdued?

I received the news as an e-mail on May 29, 2010, from submissions editor Melanie Ann Billings at Whiskey Creek Press. Naturally, I’d fantasized about the moment many times, imagining screams of joy and/or an emotional crying jag. Didn’t happen that way.

My fiancée and I had been up for more than 24 hours, due in part to a bad accident my daughter got into the night before. My other daughter called to say she was stopping by after I’d been asleep for only a couple of hours, so I dragged myself out of bed and, while waiting for her, checked my e-mail.

There it was. I stared at the letter and contract, printed off two copies, then handed one to my daughter and asked her to have my ex-father-in-law (a lawyer and former Circuit Court judge) take a look. Then I went back to bed, without telling my fiancée. She was not happy with me when she found out.

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Mark’s Wealth of Experience

•You’ve held a variety of interesting jobs and done some cool things in your life. What have your experiences taught you?

I’m a living example of what not to do. I moved out at age 17, and never attended college – after all, I’d be a best-selling author by age 21 … wouldn’t I?

The problem was, I didn’t pay much attention in high school English classes – I was busy writing stories in the back row. After graduation, I discovered I didn’t have any grasp on the mechanics of writing: spelling, grammar, punctuation. (I’m still not great at punctuation, but I love parentheses.) It was like deciding to be a carpenter without knowing how to use a hammer or saw.

So I bought a used English textbook and a whole shelf full of reference books, and went to work teaching myself. Since then I’ve taken three writing correspondence courses (short story writing, novel writing, and journalism), but I’m mostly self taught, as is evident by the entire bookshelf full of books on every aspect of writing. If I’d paid attention, stayed in school, and not given into bouts of self-doubt, I’d have had a novel published years earlier.

In the end, the classes that did me the most good in high school were journalism and typing (of course, it’s called keyboarding these days).

All that might be for the best. All I’ve done since then has given me perspective, ideas, and subjects. The volunteer firefighting, the town council position, plus all the jobs big and little that I hated while working them are now grist for my writing mill. I’ve learned to experience first – then write.

•And write you did, but you hesitated to put your work out there to be judged in contests. Why was that?

Fear. I wallowed in self-doubt, afraid to go up against all those other wonderful writers who were entering contests. It was foolish – after all, submitting to publishers and agents also put me up against great writers – but it’s only within the past few years that I’ve finally been able to tell myself that I’m a good writer. Self-doubt sinks more writing careers than anything else.

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Mark’s Perseverance

•You wrote. You stopped writing. What happened to your perseverance?

The problem is, I didn’t have any. I’m a writer: I can’t not write. A week without writing and I start getting antsy. However, selling is another story, and I kept giving up in frustration and self-doubt.

In the mid 2000’s, I was diagnosed with Seasonal Affected Disorder. It came as a surprise to me – I’d just assumed everyone became depressed and listless during winter – and also came as a relief, as I now had a name to my condition. Imagine how hard it is for someone to send out queries and partials during winter, when they’re already shy and lack confidence by nature?

So even as I gained experience and skill as a writer, I’d give up trying to sell my work: For weeks at a time, sometimes months, and, after my children were born, for years.

Since the turn of the century I gained the confidence, faced my personal demons, and began the regular submission process that eventually led to the sale of Storm Chaser. Even then it took a few years! The lesson, of course, is don’t give up.

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Mark’s Debut Novel

•Please tell us about Storm Chaser.

The black funnel of an approaching tornado makes all other troubles seem small. But when Indiana State Trooper Chance Hamlin “rescues” Allie Craine from a twister, his troubles are just beginning: Allie, a disaster photographer, rescues him when he drives into the storm’s path.

Chance doesn’t like being rescued, he doesn’t like photographers, and he definitely doesn’t like being stuck with Allie when she wants to stay in calm, peaceful Indiana. Too bad his family, friends, and even the other members of Chance’s volunteer fire department think she’s great. Suspicious of Allie’s motives, he decides to drive her away out of sheer boredom – but that’s not so easy when someone begins causing fires and other catastrophes around the area. That someone might be Allie, who has plans of her own…

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Mark’s Journey Continues

•You’ve sold your first book. What are you working on now?

I’ve completed Red is For Ick, a young adult mystery, and I’m using it on my agent hunt. At the moment I’m polishing Sleepless Nights and Smoky Days, a local history book that will be published as a fund raiser for the Albion Fire Department. Then, once my novels Radio Red and Coming Attractions are out the door and on their way to a publisher or agent, I’m thinking of working on some short stories before turning to my next novel idea – partially because I haven’t decided which novel idea to pursue next. Story ideas swirl around me like a snowstorm.

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Five Fun Questions for Mark

•What is the best $100 you have ever spent, and why?

Hm … my first computer, I suppose, although of course it was more than $100. It opened up a whole new world to me, from word processing to research to meeting other writers.

•If you wanted to wow your fiancée by taking her on date sure to earn you romantic guy points, what would you plan?

A picnic lunch along a remote lake somewhere, followed by swimming and a nice view of the sunset … she’s the outdoorsy type.

•What is something many people consider a modern-day convenience that you, quite frankly, consider a pain in the neck?

I’m a fan of modern day conveniences, but power tools don’t like me. Put away the circular saw or snow blower and give me an ax or a snow shovel – if I can get power tools started at all, they’ll just hurt me.

•If someone were to look in your garage, what would s/he learn about you?

They’d learn that I’m a level 1 packrat, a level zero organizer, and that to me tools are just strange items with mysterious purposes.

•What is the best piece of advice you’ve ever received?

Make people smile, and you have friends. Make people frown, and you have none.

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Mark’s Questions for You

What do you think of men writing romance? If you didn’t already know the author was a man, could you tell by the writing style? Do you see a big difference between a romance written by a man versus one by a woman?

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Mark’s Drawing

Mark has generously offered to give away a $10 Barnes & Noble gift card.

To enter the drawing, just leave a comment for Mark by midnight March 1st (Pacific time) and enter your email address when prompted during the comment process. (You don’t have to leave it in the body of your comment this way.)

On March 2nd, I will hold the drawing and post the winner’s name here as well as in a comment and will contact him via email to get a mailing address. (I don’t share your information with anyone, other than sending your mailing address to my guest, and I don’t add your name to any mailing lists.)

Note: Offer void where prohibited.
Odds of winning vary due to the number of entrants.

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Learn More About Mark

Visit his website ~ http://www.markrhunter.com

Visit his personal blog ~ Slightly Off the Mark

Friend him on Facebook ~ Mark Richard Hunter

Follow him on Twitter ~ Mark R Hunter

Following his interview here, Mark was interviewed by his local paper, the Kendallville News-Sun. The article, “Albion firefighter writes romance novel,” appeared March 5, 2011.

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About Keli Gwyn

I'm an award-winning author of inspirational historical romance smitten with the Victorian Era. I'm currently writing for Harlequin's Love Inspired Historical line of wholesome, faith-filled romances. My debut novel, A Bride Opens Shop in El Dorado, California, was released July 1, 2012. I'm represented by Rachelle Gardner of Book & Such Literary. I live in a Gold Rush-era town at the foot of the majestic Sierras. My favorite places to visit are my fictional worlds, other Gold Country towns and historical museums. When I'm not writing I enjoy taking walks, working out at Curves™ and reading.
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34 Responses to Meet Debut Novelist Mark R. Hunter

  1. Keli Gwyn says:

    Welcome, Mark! It’s great to have you as my guest and to learn more about you and your journey to publication.

    I’ve read romance novels written by men, and I can’t tell a difference between them and those written by women. In fact, I’ve complimented Dr. Richard Mabry, author inspirational medical suspense romances, on the great job he did of telling the the story in his debut novel, Code Blue, from his heroine’s POV.

    • Thanks for writing this, Keli!

      I’ve heard other people say they can tell the difference between male and female romance writers, but I’ve never been able to tell myself. My fiancee tells me I write like a girl, so maybe that makes a difference!

  2. Carla Gade says:

    Congratulations, Mark! It was great hearing your story. I’d say all in all you are a very perseverent person looking at the big picture!

  3. Rebecca Booth says:

    It doesn’t matter to me whether a man or woman writes a romance story, but please have humor, suspense and good writing. That’s what I love to read. Storm Chaser sounds like such a book.

  4. saintfighteraqua says:

    Sounds familiar…I thought I’d be published by 18 or 21, but here I am at 28 and haven’t even finished the book!

    Tools are alien to me too, I often use them for things that they are not intended for and regret it…why use a screw driver when a hammer will do…that sort of thing.

    As for romance, I’ve only read one real romance and only made it in a few pages before it got weird and gross, but a friend told me I’d picked the wrong type to start with. lol.

    Not sure if I could tell the difference if it was male or female, does the character perspective ever give it away?

    • Hey, Saint (Or do you prefer me to call you fighteraqua?)

      I’m not sure if you got my reply, because I posted it to the article as a whole rather than to your comment. If you didn’t, here it is:

      “We’re all so overconfident when we’re young … and sometimes not confident enough when we’re older.

      There are a million subgenres of romance, so your friend was probably right! I think you’ll find mine to be a bit less gross, and something more along the lines of what you might see in a movie romantic comedy.
      I don’t think character perspective necessarily gives away the gender of the writer. I have scenes set from the POV of both male and female protagonist, and that’s not at all uncommon these days for romance novels.

      Now, get writing! :-)”

  5. We’re all so overconfident when we’re young … and sometimes not confident enough when we’re older.

    There are a million subgenres of romance, so your friend was probably right! I think you’ll find mine to be a bit less gross, and something more along the lines of what you might see in a movie romantic comedy.
    I don’t think character perspective necessarily gives away the gender of the writer. I have scenes set from the POV of both male and female protagonist, and that’s not at all uncommon these days for romance novels.

    Now, get writing! :-)

  6. Karla Telega says:

    Congratulations on your upcoming release, Mark. Very well deserved. I love reading your column, Slightly off the Mark. You are a very talented and funny writer, and I’m looking forward to reading your book when it comes out.

    • Thanks, Karla! I’m glad you like the column, too — hopefully it will help sell the novel, and vice-versa. And who knows, someday — a book version of Slightly Off the Mark?

  7. Jill W says:

    Great interview Mark and Keli! Congratulations on your upcoming release, Mark. I love that you are self-taught. To answer your questions, I think it’s awesome when men write romance. As far as the writing style being different between men and woman, usually I can’t tell the difference.

    • Thanks, Jill! (That’s my youngest daughter’s name, by the way.) I’ve heard people say they can tell when a man writes romance, but I’ve never been able to. My fiancee says I write like a woman, so maybe that helps. I’m sure she meant it as a compliment!

      Being self-taught leaves more of a mark on a person, I think … but it sure takes a lot longer.

  8. Eve says:

    Mark, I’ve been reading your comments on Linton’s journal and I think you sound like you’re on your way to huge success. Congratulations!

  9. Susan Mason says:

    Congratulations, Mark!

    Your story sounds great. I love tornadoes for some reason (wouldn’t want to be too close to a real one though!).

    Best of luck with your first sale.

    Cheers,

    Sue

    • There’s something about tornadoes that fascinates everyone, Sue … but I’m sure most would agree with you that they’re best seen from afar. Thanks!

  10. Hi Mark and Keli!
    Great post. As for being able to tell if the author is man or not, yes, sometimes I can. I’m thinking of one male romance writer in particular but won’t name names. But the first time I read him, I knew it before I “knew” it. LOL
    Your story sounds great, Mark. Good luck with all your future writing!

    • I’ve heard a lot about the differences between male and female writers, Jennifer, and I think as a general rule it’s probably accurate that there’s a difference. My fiancee claims I write like a woman, which I’m fairly sure she means as a compliment. Still, I have noticed in my own writing, now and then, that it’s different from what most women would do. Not worse, I hope — just different. :-)

  11. Dean Leatherman says:

    Very interesting! Didn’t know all that about you.

    I guess good song writers as well as good writers share same road to enlightenment, or at least self discovery.

    Dean

    • Well, I suffer from something that tends to hamstring creative people when it comes to making a living, Dean: I don’t talk about myself much (except in a joking fashion in my columns). Also, I don’t think you and I talked for a decade or more before Facebook came along!
      I vote for self-discovery; I don’t know if I’m prepared to call myself enlightened.

  12. Michele Wyan says:

    Hi, Mark.
    Congratulations on your debut novel and what an inspiring interview. I wish you the best and hope you find a great agent!

  13. Keli, your interview with me has gone locally viral! One of the guys on the fire department forwarded the link to all the local papers: The newspapers that feature my column are printing it in its entirety (with attributes, of course), and the nearest daily newspaper called me up for an interview of their own. Hopefully you’ll get some more followers over this!

  14. Beth Shellman says:

    Congratulations Mark! I enjoy reading your weekly column and look forward to reading the novel. Maybe you write like a girl because, with two daughters, you just got used to having females around?! Best wishes for continued success….!

    • I certainly did get used to having females around, and I think that’s helped me with my writing. It was fairly easy stepping into the shoes of a female teen for the mystery I wrote, too. Thanks for reading, Beth!

  15. Keli Gwyn says:

    Thanks to everyone who stopped by and to those who left comments for Mark.

    I realized I goofed on the drawing. I’ve had some lately that remained open for a week rather than two days, and I mistakenly thought that was the case on Mark’s post. I’m well overdue for the holding the drawing for the B&N gift card he so generously offered as a prize, and I apologize. I’ve held the drawing, and the winner is Karla Telega.

    Congratulations, Karla! I’ll be in touch.

  16. Thanks for all your responses, everyone! We all have busy lives these days, and I appreciate you taking the time to read the interview. It’s been one heck of a ride this week, between the interview and two newspaper articles about “Storm Chaser”, and now I’ll have to keep everyone’s interest up until June. I’ll announce the exact release date for “Storm Chaser”, and also keep everyone updated on my website and other sites as much as I can. Thanks again!

  17. Storm Chaser went up for Kindle on Amazon.com Sunday — and just a couple of days before, I found two big boxes of print copies on my front porch. It’s been a crazy, but very happy, weekend!

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