Monday, May 22, 2006
Q&A: MINDY STARNS CLARK, PT 1
For the next three days, we are featuring mystery novelist Mindy Starns Clark, who started her career writing plays, musicals, textbooks, comedy routines, short stories, articles, speeches, catalog descriptions, marketing and PR copy—before breaking into Christian fiction. The author of the "Million Dollar Mysteries," she has also recently launched the "Smart Chick Mystery" series, the first two volumes of which are The Trouble With Tulip and Blind Dates Can Be Murder (Harvest House Publishers).
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Are you an “entertainer” or a “minister”?
I began writing as an entertainer, and my choice to do Christian fiction was purely an editorial one. I simply found that my characters seemed more real and easier for me to envision as I wrote about them if they grappled with matters of faith. (If God is the center of my life, how can I flesh out characters who don’t even mention God?)
After several books were out, however, I began to realize that people were being ministered to through my stories. I also began to feel convicted about my own spiritual growth—i.e., if I'm leading the way for others, shouldn't I be growing spiritually myself? I began concentrating on the spiritual disciplines such as prayer, study, and fasting, and through doing so God began to use me in much more powerful ways. Now I consider myself a minister first, entertainer second. The way I tell my stories is the same, but my goals, prayers, and aspirations are different. So is my heart.
Who are your literary influences?
To see writing at its best, I study the works of Kate Chopin, Michael Connelly, Frank Conroy, Earnest Gaines, Jodi Picoult, Anne Tyler, Eudora Welty—and I'm sure there are more I'm not thinking of. Of course, my work doesn't hold a candle to any of the above, but I do find that my writing is better when my reading is better, if that makes sense.
Who are your spiritual influences?
There are a lot!
I greatly admire the ministries of Steve Arterburn, John Townsend and Henry Cloud. Information I've gleaned from their books and their radio show has shaped much of my own work.
My favorite radio preacher is Pastor Paul Shepherd of Enduring Truth, and I also enjoy listening to Nancy Lee DeMoss, Chuck Colson and Chuck Swindoll.
For reading, I love Max Lucado, Pam Farrell and Joni Earickson Tada.
For daily devotions, I use My Utmost for His Highest by Oswald Chambers.
On the home front, I have an amazing pastor, a neat small group, and a wonderful church. Add to that a loving, Christian husband and two wise Christian parents and I guess you could say God has me covered on all sides!
What is the best thing anyone said about one of your books?
My favorite review says "Mindy Starns Clark may be the one to bring mystery to the forefront of Christian publishing." I loved that! I read it just before dinner and when it was time to wash the dishes, I said to my husband, "Sorry, I don't do dishes; I'm busy bringing mystery to the forefront of Christian publishing."
On a more personal level, a fan once wrote to say that by studying my character Callie Webber, she learned how a mature Christian woman should conduct herself, especially with regards to purity before marriage. If my fictional character can serve as a flawed but sincere example for a real person, then I know God is using my work in ways I could never have imagined.
What is the worst thing anyone said about one of your books?
A man wrote to tell me that my books were "okay, but you should write more like Ed McBain." Hmmm …
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Come back tomorrow for the second part of our conversation. In the meantime, find Clark online at MindyStarnsClark.com. You can also read recent interviews with her at Cruse'n With Lonnie and on the Harvest House site. Blind Dates Can Be Murder is available from Amazon and many other find retailers.
Q&A: MINDY STARNS CLARK, PT 2
Q&A: MINDY STARNS CLARK, PT 3
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