By Deena Adams
Mark Wainwright is a fellow member of American Christian Fiction Writers and an author of middle grade and young adult fiction. I hope you enjoy getting to know him and learning about his writing.
Be sure to comment on this post by July 13 for a chance to win a print copy of Trapped in a Hot Air Balloon. I’m sure there’s a special child in your life who would love to read it!
Welcome to the blog, Mark! Start out by telling us a little about yourself and your family.
Above all else, I love the Lord. This love extends to my wife and kids and also to serving the body of Christ.
After graduate school, I spent 3 years directing the editorial staff at Christian Books Melanesia, the largest Christian publisher in Papua New Guinea. Then, when I returned stateside, I managed the publications department at Emmaus International for 13 years. Since 2017, I’ve been serving as a professional writing instructor at Pensacola Christian College.
My wife (Kari) and I have been married for 15 years and have two children. Megan is 11, and Tyler is 10. They definitely keep us busy, but also young at heart.
Sounds like you’ve had wonderful opportunities in your career. What inspired you to write middle grade and young adult fiction?
One of the reasons I wrote Trapped in a Hot Air Balloon was because a number of the books I was reading to my own kids (like the popular “I Survived” series) had humanistic philosophies woven into the plotlines. These survival-type books were fun and fast paced, but the evolutionary and secularist teachings frustrated me. I thought, “I wish a Christian author would write exciting adventure stories for young people—stories that taught biblical principles and dependence on Christ.” Then, to my surprise, I felt the Lord prompting me to get started on this. And so I did.
I love that! What unique challenges do you face writing in this specific genre?
Writing for middle grade and young adult readers requires careful analysis of both external and internal issues these audiences face. Because attention spans can be short, I edit my writing to be as concise yet powerful as possible. I’ve got to create an immediate connection between character and reader, and then work to hold that interest throughout the book.
Additionally, readers seem to be struggling emotionally these days. Themes of isolation, loneliness, fear, rebellion, relationships, peer pressure, and coming-of-age have always existed, but seem especially relevant today.
Yes, our young people today certainly need uplifting books that address prevalent emotional struggles. How do you incorporate Christ and hope into your writing?
Because of Christ, we have hope! And what better way to show readers the dramatic contrast of hope versus despair than through story. In a novel, we convey to readers a character’s innermost thoughts, the fear he or she experiences, and the pivotal decisions that help or hurt them. When we illustrate through story the consequences of doing right or wrong, we remind our readers to follow Christ.
Ultimately, I want my writing to do more than tell a suspenseful adventure story. I want to weave in biblical principles that draw people to Christ and show them the hope that He brings.
I couldn’t agree more! Are any of your stories inspired by true events or personal history?
Yes! When I was 12 years old, I experienced my first hot air balloon ride. And even though that was a long time ago, I’ve never forgotten the thrill of soaring through the sky with a giant balloon above my head.
Having traveled to 48 states and over 30 countries, I’ve had lots of adventures, mishaps, and close calls. Many of these experiences form the basis of my creative writing.
That’s so cool! I’m not sure I could conquer my fear and ride in a hot air balloon. Did you conduct much research when writing Trapped in a Hot Air Balloon?
Absolutely! To make my writing as authentic as possible, I worked with a hot air balloon crew and asked dozens of questions to balloon pilots. I also did a lot of math calculations to determine a hot air balloons’ rate of ascent. This involved understanding the total basket weight, balloon temperature, ambient temperature, elevation, wind speed, etc.
Another example is when I wrote about a hospital scene in Colorado Springs. I talked with a hospital representative by phone to understand medical terminology, ICU equipment, patient locations, and visiting procedures. Every component of research takes time but ultimately provides credibility.
In depth research, along with writing novels, takes much of our time. How do you balance writing with your life and family obligations?
Good question . . . and I wish I had a great answer. I believe the Lord has gifted me with writing and editing skills, but I’m still trying to figure out how to use those gifts while also spending quality time with my family and providing excellent teaching instruction to college students.
Writing requires a sacrifice of time, but I don’t want my kids to remember me as the dad who ignored them because he was always staring at his computer screen. On the other hand, I’d love to always be playing with my kids, wrestling with them in the living room, and taking fun vacations. But if I did that, I wouldn’t be able to produce much writing. Finding the proper balance is important. The more I write, the more I commit my time to the Lord and ask Him for help in managing my schedule.
I can totally relate. My kids are grown, but I have grandchildren to invest in. What did God teach you through the writing of Trapped in a Hot Air Balloon?
As the story developed, I understood more fully how much bitterness destroys relationships. Sometimes those closest to us can hurt us the most, and because of that, they are often the hardest to forgive. But even though forgiving people can be incredibly hard, we should remember how much Christ forgave us, and follow His example.
I also tried to show through the novel that hiding one’s bitterness doesn’t lead to healing. It only perpetuates the destruction and further poisons one’s heart with resentment.
What a great lesson! Any last words for your readers?
Be courageous. As Christians, we still experience trials and hardship in this world. But by keeping our eyes focused on Christ, we can live joyfully. We are in this world, but not of this world. Thus, “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven” (Matt. 5:16).
Thanks so much for the interview, Mark. It’s been great getting to know you, and Trapped in a Hot Air Balloon sounds fabulous. I pray God continues to bless you and your writing journey.
Join the conversation. Have you ever ridden a hot air balloon? If not, would you? What part of Mark’s interview intrigues you most?
Be sure to comment by July 13 for a chance to win his book!
Trapped in a Hot Air Balloon by Mark Wainwright
Click the book cover for purchase link
When a hot air balloon ride goes terribly wrong, siblings Jenny and Cole find themselves soaring thousands of feet into the cold Colorado sky.
In the basket of the enormous balloon, they must overcome their differences and safely land the runaway hot air balloon. This unforgettable flight will captivate your imagination and inspire your heart.
Join Jenny and Cole on their trip of a lifetime as they learn to overcome fear, exercise faith, and extend forgiveness.
Mark Wainwright loves adventure. He’s ridden elephants in Thailand, hang glided in the Swiss Alps, and even been stranded in Morocco. But Mark also loves finding adventure through the pages of an exciting book! And now, Mark is using his travel experiences as material for writing suspenseful stories for young adults.
For 16 years, Mark led the editorial departments at several Christian publishers. Then, in 2017, Mark transitioned to teaching professional writing courses at Pensacola Christian College. He uses this publishing experience to help guide the next generation of writers and editors.
Mark’s writing credits include publication in textbooks, newspapers, magazines, and literary journals. He’s recognized as an outstanding writer, editor, and contributor. Abeka, one of the largest publishers of Christian school resources in the world, released Mark’s novel Trapped in a Hot Air Balloon in June 2021.
Please share this interview on social media to support Mark and help spread the word about his book!
If you missed last week’s post about my top five must-read historical novels, find it here.