by C.J. Darlington
Mark Mynheir Interview
someone would have asked me as a young man to list the jobs I would want
to do from first to last, writer would have been dead last. God has a
good sense of humor."
Mark Mynheir is the author of the Christy Award nominated The Night Watchman, the first Ray Quinn mystery. He has worked undercover as a narcotics agent, as a SWAT team member, and recently retired from his work investigating violent crimes as a detective with the Criminal Investigations Unit in central Florida, where he lives with his wife and three children.
It wasn’t until later in life that the writing bug bit you, after much struggle as a kid with school, writing, and the like. How did you know God was calling you to write?
I certainly had some struggles in school. When I was growing up, writing was the worst thing imaginable to me. I loathed putting words to paper. I’m Dyslexic and the very reason, I believe, that God invented spell check. But soon after I became a Christian, I felt the Lord leading me to write. It didn’t make much sense to me and seemed impossible. I shared what I thought God was telling me with my wife, and she encouraged me to go to school and learn the skills I needed.
It took about ten years of classes, writing, and more classes. I met my agent at a writers’ conference. He shopped my first novel, which got some good reviews but didn’t sell. I wrote the proposal for Rolling Thunder, my first published novel. He sent it out. I expected it to take six months or so before I heard anything. But about a week later, I got an e-mail from Multnomah, asking if I would be interested in writing a series. I had to wake my wife up to read the e-mail just to make sure I wasn’t losing my mind.
I look back now and have to laugh at how God works things out. If someone would have asked me as a young man to list the jobs I would want to do from first to last, writer would have been dead last. God has a good sense of humor.
You’ve said before that your purpose in writing novels is to reveal God’s truth through fiction. When you set about writing a novel, The Corruptible for example, do you always have the take away or “truth” in mind, or is it something that usually develops during the writing process?
I usually have a theme or spiritual concept that I want to delve into, but it’s generally just a loose idea. It doesn’t really take shape until I put the characters into the story and see what happens. It can be as much of a journey of discovery for me writing it as it is for the reader flipping through the pages.
Ray Quinn has now appeared in two of your novels. Did you face any challenges writing his character again since he already had a significant character arc in The Night Watchman?
There’s a little challenge there. Now that many of the readers have already been introduced to Ray Quinn, I had to dig deeper into his character and motivations to move him forward in this story. The secondary characters are being fleshed out a little more, too. Crevis, Ray’s sidekick, has a stronger role in The Corruptible.
As a retired cop writing about police work, are you ever tempted to just take someone you know and plop them into a story? :)
Regularly, but I resist the urge. When my first book came out, guys would stop me in the hallway and ask, “Is this character based on so-and-so?” I wouldn’t confirm anything, of course. :) I don’t model a character after any one person. The characters are more of an amalgamation of traits and personalities of people I’ve encountered through the years. Once the character is developed, though, they tend to go in their own directions, often surprising me.
I have always been intrigued with how police officers who are Christians balance doing their jobs, which can often involve deception to catch the bad guys, and still maintain their faith. As someone who saw this firsthand, what are your thoughts on this subject? How did you draw the line with your work?
It’s tough. Because police work can be ugly business sometimes, it’s a daily challenge to your faith. When I first became a Christian, I had been a police officer for almost five years. So I had to reconcile my new-found faith with the rigors of the job. I nearly walked away, thinking I couldn’t serve God and continue the work I was doing. I patrolled a very high crime area at the time, and I had to lay my hands on people almost nightly. (The laying on of hands has a completely different definition for police work.) I didn’t know if I could stay in law enforcement. Then I read an article by Billy Graham, talking about the necessity of police officers and a standing military in a fallen world. It really spoke to me.
But, yes, sometimes we have to use trickery and deception to net the bad guys. I think of Rahab who lied to protect the spies and the prophet Nathan who used trickery to confront David with his sin. But there are lines I won’t cross in my person or professional life—period.
You’ve worked several arms of law enforcement, from SWAT to detective. Which one did you enjoy the most and why?
I’ve been very blessed and enjoyed all the assignments. S.W.A.T. was fun, but stressed out my wife a little too much. When I worked undercover narcotics, I got burned out fast. The drug world will do that.
I believe my niche was in the Homicide/Violent Crimes Unit. I felt God was able to use me there, not just to catch some really bad guys, but to help the victims too. I got to witness to and pray with victims and their families, and even some suspects. I was always amazed how God would open opportunities in such difficult circumstances.
What was the most dramatic moment you experienced in your career that can only be described as divine intervention?
I don’t know about divine intervention, but I have to say the pinnacle of my police career was responding to a call of a rogue elephant. A circus was in town, and an elephant went crazy and started attacking people. I’ve never felt so puny in my life as I did when that large, angry pachyderm nearly trampled me. It had to be one of the weirdest and wildest days on the force. Unfortunately, it didn’t end well for the elephant.
Could you share with us the various martial arts you’ve involved with and what was it that drew you to train?
I’ve trained in Tang So Do karate, Judo, Jujitsu, Muay Thai Kickboxing, and Jeet Kune Do (Bruce Lee’s style of Kung Fu). I was a hyper-active kid and was always fascinated by martial arts. I practiced when I was young, but wasn’t too serious. When I was in the Marines, I started training for real—five or six days a week, hours at a time. The last few years, it’s been a bit more difficult with family life, writing, and such, but I’m back to working-out again on a regular basis.
Are there any correlations you can draw between your martial arts and your writing?
No. I’ve never been punched in the face by my laptop. :)
I gotta ask this one, Mark. What was your most embarrassing moment as a cop?
Once I got tangled in some barbed wire on the top of a high chain link fence while chasing a suspect. My partner was on the other side of the fence and caught up to the guy while I was dangling there upside-down—helpless. They started fighting, so I had to wiggle and thrash around until barbs ripped my pants and cut into my legs. I finally fell to the ground and joined the scuffle. I took a tetanus shot and a lot of teasing for that one. I’m not sure why I just told everyone this story.
Are there any authors or books you consistently turn to for inspiration?
Angela Hunt, Randy Alcorn, Michael Connelly, Davis Bunn, William Diehl, Tosca Lee, Harper Lee, and too many others to name. There are so many great books out there right now. I wish could read faster to devour them all.
Would you call yourself a Christian fiction writer or a fiction writer who happens to be a Christian? Why?
A Christian Fiction Writer. Mainly because I’ve stayed in the CBA and all my stories have Christian themes (some more subtle than others). That could change over time. We’ll see.
Do you have any advice for reluctant readers (or their parents) who are finding literature and reading a challenge?
For the reluctant reader, the best thing to do is find what interests them. Politics, suspense, mystery, historical, fantasy. Once the reader gets engaged and interested in the stories, they’ll thirst for more. For young readers, there’s wide range of reading tastes; it just takes work to find what speaks to each particular person.
On a lighter note, I’d love to hear more about your min-pin Coco. How did you come to own this little ball of energy, and how are you two fairing now that you’re retired and sharing the home space with each other?
My niece’s mini-pin had puppies, and Coco was one of them. She’s truly insane, but lots of fun. She keeps me company during the day when the kids are at school and Lori is working. Coco really believes that she is in charge of the home. If the kids and I are goofing around, she goes bananas until we settle down. Occasionally she’ll just run at me, barking like I’m a stranger. She’s got a screw loose, but she can be very lovable, too. She’s part of the family.
Anything else you’d like to share?
Thanks for having me on your website. I really enjoyed it.
What are two things people might be surprised to know about you?
I cry at chick flicks. I can’t help it. My wife drags me to every new one that comes out. (Okay, she doesn’t really drag me, but the Marine in me can’t admit that I actually like them.)
not writing, what do you enjoy doing?
Going to chick flicks with my wife and being kicked in the head by my Kung Fu partners. It’s a strange, but fun life.
You’re next in line at Starbucks. What are you ordering?
Black coffee. Very black. It’s a detective thing.
When was the last time you cried?
(See the chick flick section.)
What’s currently in your CD player/iPod?
Newsboys, Casting Crowns, Journey, and the Doors. Weird combos, I know.
C.J. Darlington is the award-winning authof of Thicker than Blood, Bound by Guilt, and Ties that Bind. She is a regular contributor to Family Fiction Digital Magazine and NovelCrossing.com. A homeschool graduate, she makes her home in Pennsylvania with her family and their menagerie of dogs, a cat, and a paint horse named Sky. Visit her online at her author website. You can also look her up at Twitter and Facebook.