Visiting the Child Finder Trilogy today is author Mark W. Danielson. Mark grew up in El Cerrito, California, overlooking San Francisco Bay. He received his BA degree from the University of Northern Colorado and earned his MA from Webster University while serving as a Navy pilot. He currently travels the globe as an MD-11 captain for Federal Express. Mr. Danielson has published over 100 non-fiction articles in various periodicals since 1978. Diablo’s Shadow is his third reality-based suspense novel, following The Innocent Never Knew, and Danger Within. As a member of the Mystery Writers of America, he has participated in numerous author events, including the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books, Men of Mystery, Barnes and Noble Mystery Author’s Night, Cutting Edge Murder, Hi-Jinks on the High Seas, and Kids Love a Mystery. His interests include hiking, fine arts, tennis, and restoring cars and boats. His varied experience and travel is evident in his writing. He and his wife live in Denver, Colorado, not far up the road from me!
MA: So how did you end up writing? Did any of your professional experiences influence you?
MD: I have been painting and drawing my entire life, and writing is an extension of this. Writing has always been easy, and it certainly helped in college. I wrote a few things for the college paper, but never had the journalism bug. At the time, my goal was to graduate and become an Air Force pilot. My first published article was in Sport Aerobatics and I wrote several more for them and Sport Aviation. After transferring into the Navy, my job forced me to become computer literate, and that’s when my writing really took off. The ability to cut, paste, and spell check, made writing a lot more enjoyable. After having countless non-fiction articles published in a variety of periodicals, I wrote my first novel, but never sought publication. In fact, Danger Within may have been my first published novel, but it was the tenth novel I wrote. Inspired by real events in my current job as an airline pilot, I felt it was important enough to get published. Thankfully, the readers agreed.
MA: With all your experience writing non-fiction, why did you ultimately choose to write novels?
MD: I enjoyed writing non-fiction, but fiction allowed me to tell reality-based stories without being documentaries. This freedom opened up a whole new dimension in writing. I continue to freelance non-fiction articles, but I get more satisfaction out of fiction.
MA: Tell me about Danger Within and your other projects.
MD: I write reality-based suspense stories. As I mentioned, Danger Within is about an actual incident within the airline industry. Except for the names and locations, the first third of this story is true. While it is not autobiographical, I do share my protagonist’s frustration. Those outside the aviation community have been as enthusiastic about this book as those within.
The Innocent Never Knew is the true story about the Balkans plane crash that claimed the life of Clinton’s Secretary of Commerce Ron Brown. It is told as a side plot to this girl-on-the-run mystery, which begins with a fictitious plane crash in Albuquerque that claims the life of a US Senator. This action-packed conspiracy goes all the way to Washington DC. Those who have ever questioned Ron Brown’s death will love this one.
Diablo’s Shadow is a mystery where an estranged couple must cope when their daughter disappears on an outing with the father. Full of accusations and twists, this book was inspired by the Polly Klaus kidnapping as well as more recent missing child cases. Anyone with children will be hard pressed to put this gripping tale down.
MA: I can certainly see the reality-based nature of your writing! How do you go about develop your protagonists?
MD: Without sounding trite, my characters truly write their own stories. By the time I sit down and start writing, I have formulated the story countless times in my head, but still have no idea who the characters are until the writing begins. No doubt these characters are extensions of people I have encountered and experiences I have gained in traveling the world as a military and airline pilot. I have been very fortunate to see so many things; it is great sharing them in scenes.
MA: I can appreciate that given my own military and law enforcement background. What makes your heroes tick?
MD: My characters are real, therefore they make mistakes. Their strengths would be their determination to see things through. Their weakness is they are human, but this human quality also allows the reader to connect.
MA: What about your antagonists…anything you care to let us in on?
MD: Each story has its own version of a bad guy, and I would be foolish to reveal them. But the definition of “bad” is as vague as identifying a weed from a plant, or defining the enemy. It all depends on your point of view. It is very important that the antagonist(s) be characters with reason for their deeds. People committing heinous acts without explanation have no place in a story.
MA: Since your writing style, while fiction, is grounded in reality, I imagine many of your own life experiences come into play, other than what you’ve already mentioned.
MD: Absolutely. As an airline pilot, I was deeply affected by the incidents portrayed in both Danger Within and The Innocent Never Knew, while being a father inspired Diablo’s Shadow. Polly Klaus was kidnapped from her Petaluma home, a mere two blocks from my sister’s house. My nieces were close to Polly’s age. It could have just as easily been one of them. Events like this never leave you.
MA: So what’s next?
MD: I have a new detective series currently under consideration which introduces Fort Worth Homicide Detective Maxx Watts. A classic murder mystery, Watts investigates the murder of a small publisher in Writer’s Block. Hopefully I will have some news about this book later this year. Its sequel, Boxed In, is well under way. The third in this series is in my head, but it will be a while before I begin writing it. What I love most about this detective is I can set him anywhere in the world. The third book is set in France.
MA: Do you intend to write sequels to your stories, or otherwise feature some of the same characters in future stories?
MD: While all three of my published stories could have sequels, I prefer writing the Maxx Watts series. Some characters from Writer’s Block will appear in Boxed In, and other characters from Writer’s Block will appear in the third book. Once people get to know your characters, it’s good keeping them around.
MA: As a writer of a trilogy, I have to agree! What else would you like to let my readers know?
MD: My web site is full of articles, information, and first chapter previews. There are posts and photos from some of my international travels as well as articles that apply to some of my books. As a Murderous Musings blog author, I write a weekly story on whatever comes to mind. Some apply to the writing craft, some are on travels and experiences, and a few are simply fluff. Feel free to check them out.
MA: Thanks for spending some time today on the Child Finder Trilogy. I encourage everyone to stop by Mark Danielson’s website and blog for more information about his stories and his unique background: http://www.markwdanielson.com/ and http://www.murderousmusings.blogspot.com/