In his teens, Mark R. Hunter dreamed of becoming a full-time firefighter and a bestselling author.
"By the time I was a sophomore in high school, I had a plan: I would write fiction between my shifts as a career firefighter, hit the bestseller list by age 21 and, by age 25, be writing full time from my Hawaii mansion with its all-girl staff," Hunter wrote in an email interview. "Let's remember, I was a teenage boy. I was also convinced I'd never age after 25.
Teenage dreams rarely come true, and that's probably a good thing where dreams about becoming professional video game players or a snack chip testers are concerned.
"Instead, I've been a volunteer firefighter for 35 years," Hunter said, "and take 911 calls for a living, and don't even get me started on the "bestselling" part."
Still, Albion resident Hunter doesn't seem at all daunted by the lack in his life of chic Manhattan literary soir'es. He has built up a regional literary renown with meteorologically themed romances, a long running if itinerant humor column and his latest book, Hoosier Hysterical. Hoosier Hysterical is either a humorous history book or a historical humor book about Indiana.
There is a tradition here that used to be practiced by such authors as Will Cuppy and Richard Armour. Writers don't try to write funny history books as much as they used to, but that doesn't mean it's not worth doing.
The impetus for the book, Hunter said, was Indiana's bicentennial.
"I'd written some columns poking fun at history, and they went over well, so I got ambitious: Why not write a book poking fun at an entire state, just in time for that state's 200th birthday?" he said. "Who could possibly have a problem with that?"
It took Hunter two years to research and write Hoosier Hysterical, which isn't long at all in either geological or book-crafting time.
"My first history book, Smoky Days and Sleepless Nights, was over 25 years from conception to publication," he said. "Even elephants only carry their children for a year and a half."
Researching Hoosier Hysterical was "pure joy," Hunter said.
"(My wife) Emily and I roamed the state from top to bottom for two summers, filling up three camera memory cards," he said. "We especially fell in love with our state parks. For two winters I read every book I could get my hands on, took copious notes and tried to figure out my notes."
Hunter said it's his history books that have sold the best so he has high hopes for this one, of course.
He has already done book signings sponsored by the same library system through which he discovered his love of reading and that is always a special kind of thrill.
Hunter's literary interests are wide-ranging, obviously, but he owes his forays into the romance genre to his first wife.
"I wrote a humor column poking fun at the old romances my mother used to read, which provoked my first wife into challenging me to read modern romance novels," he said. "I found they'd changed much for the better, and decided to take a stab at one myself, after writing mostly SF and action/adventure up until then. One of my favorite romance novelists was Andrea Edwards, which turned out to be the team of Anne and Ed Kolaczyk, fellow Midwesterners. Men write romance novels! How very Nicholas Sparks."
The romances he has written and released thus far are set against a backdrop of meteorological chaos because Hunter, who clearly has free time to spare, is also a trained weather spotter.
Hunter promises that his next romance, Radio Red, will feature only a special guest appearance by weather.
Most of Hunter's books to date have been published by Whiskey Creek Press, a New Jersey eBook publishing house.
Hunter's kids are grown now, which means he has more time to write. Still, he said, having young children in the house should not be an impassable barrier to book finishing.
"I did carve out writing time, and lots of parents get book contracts even while the rug rats are still ratting on the rugs," he said. "It's a matter of determination, which a writer must have, and time management skills, which in my experience many writers don't."
The trick, Hunter said, is to write whenever and wherever a window of opportunity opens, even if it is a dollhouse-sized window.
"In early morning, late night, during nap time, while waiting in the car for school to let out," he said.
Writing should be prioritized not back-burnered, Hunter said.
"The dusting, laundry, vacuuming- they come next, not first," he said. "The meals- Hey, they make lots of healthy, fast-to-prepare meals these days."
Hunter is aware that unknown and little known authors are generally advised to stick to one genre as an aid to establishing a personal brand, but he just can't help himself.
"I have two other completed novel manuscripts, one a young adult mystery and the other science fiction, which I'm shopping around," he said. "That makes something like- what?- five or six genres for us, not to mention [that my wife] Emily's been writing horror. I just want to write books, and humor. Well, and eat chocolate, preferably while writing."