While most folks are busy this time of the year and trying to find time to shovel snow, Mark Hunter of Albion is able to keep three professions going – even four, if you include his marriage.
And the folks involved in all four are happy about how he's doing.
Hunter, 56, is the author of 10 books, an instructor and safety officer with Albion's volunteer fire department and a third-shift dispatcher with the 911 arm of the Noble County Sheriff's Department. He's also married to Emily who helps out with the writing and the design of the books and their covers.
“The discipline he has is insane,” she says. “If he's not working, sleeping or taking care of himself, he's almost always writing or doing something related to writing – like reading, promoting, blogging, etc. Writing is fun for him, and it's like his hobby as well as a 'job.'”
The pair met through their interest in writing, so Emily understood what was coming. When they were dating, he would sit writing in a corner of IPFW while she was in class. When she works in the summer at Pokagon State Park, he often sits in the car typing on his laptop. When they travel, it's fun to brainstorm the plot of new books.
Hunter recalls telling his first story before he could write – his mother typed it up. He finished his first science-fiction novel at age 14, tried to publish one at 18 and finally broke through in 2011 with “Storm Chaser” with Whiskey Creek Press. That was followed by “Storm Chaser Shorts” and “The Notorious Ian Grant.” He recently regained the rights to all three and is working on a prequel.
There are two other novels, three nonfiction histories and a pair of humor collections.
“I always use the example of being in the snowstorm, there are flakes all over the place,” Hunter says. “All you have to do is reach out and they land on you. I have dozens upon dozens of ideas for books in dozens of different genres, and it's just a matter of finding the time to start working on them.
“It's not uncommon for me to have a dream and wake up and think about it, and by the time I get up, I have to write down another idea.”
He can't remember the last time writer's block was a problem, and he says that was probably because he hadn't experienced enough life yet. Now when he gets stuck, he'll stop and work on something else until his subconscious kicks in with an answer, either through a dream or sometimes even in the shower.
Emily is used to the solitude – often working on her own writing – unless Hunter is asking for her opinion on a passage or there's a shout from the next room such as “What word am I thinking of?” or “Check your email!”
“I understand when he's in the middle of something and needs the alone time,” she says. “I can also tell when he just needs to write, and (I'll) say, 'Give me your phone and pager and go write; I'll take care of the yard work and tell you if something is on fire.' He also knows that I won't sugarcoat any problems with things he asks me to look at, and that if I tell him something is good, it is.”
They've collaborated on “Albion and Noble County” and “Smoky Days and Sleepless Nights,” a history of the Albion Volunteer Fire Department. The Hunters also collaborated on “The No-Campfire Girls” to help support Camp Latonka in Wappapello, Missouri, which was important to Emily as she grew up.
They're currently working on another book about the fire department, which is another of Hunter's passions. As a teenager, he mowed lawns across from the station and got hooked. Pretty soon, he was haunting the library to learn more about firefighting and signed up to volunteer on his 18th birthday, which fell on the annual meeting date. Though he's not as active as in the past, Hunter still uses proceeds from some of the books to support the department he's been part of for 38 years.
“If you stay on the fire department for any amount of time, you start getting a sense of community and you start wanting to serve and protect the community,” he says. “When you are a volunteer firefighter, once the guys get over that young and restless stage, that's what it's all about for almost all of them.”
He's also been a dispatcher 27 years, all on third shift. Noble County Communications 911 Director Mitch Fiandt has known Hunter almost 35 years and has all of his books.
“As soon as he writes a new book that comes out, I get one of the real low numbers and have him sign them,” Fiandt says. “I keep telling him when he's rich and famous, I'm going to sell them on eBay. He just says, 'You might not live long enough to do that.'”
Fiandt says he's never found himself in one of Hunter's books, but he always recognizes others and area locations being highlighted.
“You can picture it,” he says. “You know exactly who and where he's talking about.”
Fiandt and the rest of Albion better keep reading and looking for familiar faces because Hunter is still getting ideas at work, in dreams and even in the shower. There are lots of snowflakes in the air.