Jungle FireJungle Fire
Dana Mentink
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The deadliest animal in the jungle is the two legged kind.

Nina Truman is a missionary nurse, serving in a tiny Guatemalan town not far from the Mexican border. It's a fulfilling life tending to the village poor, a way to serve in the country from which she was adopted. The day she leaves on furlough, is the day her life falls apart. Her bus is ambushed and she must flee from forces who inexplicably wish her dead. Trapped between a ruthless drug lord and his assassins, a corrupt police chief, and colleagues with ulterior motives, her friends may prove just as deadly as her enemies as she uncovers a plot tangled deep in the roots of her own past.
     


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Dana Mentink lives in California with her husband and two children. She has a major in Liberal Studies with an English minor. Her first love is the classroom, having taught children from preschool through fifth grade for over a decade. One of her specialties is public speaking. She earned scholarships for competitive speech and debate throughout high school and college and enjoyed competing at a national level in advocacy and dramatic interpretation.

Dana is perpetually in search of a great story, either through painfully expensive trips to the book store or in her own labors in front of the computer. Her series of UP FINNY’S NOSE mysteries debuted in 2007 from Barbour Books for their Heartsong Presents mystery line and were recently rereleased in e-book format. Dana also enjoys writing for Harlequin’s Love Inspired Suspense which garnered her a Romantic Times Reviewer’s Choice Award in 2010 and a Holt Medallion Merit Award in 2012. Her first book with Moody Publishers entitled JUNGLE FIRE, will debut in the spring of 2013.  In addition to writing fourteen novels, Dana has enjoyed her role as book reviewer for the California Women’s Retreat.


 

 Dana Mentuck Interview


 

Why did you pick Guatemala for your suspense novel?

I get that question quite a bit, in light of my upcoming release, Jungle Fire.

Hello, all. Dana Mentink here. It all goes back to that exquisite skirt. During my elementary school years, I was assigned a report to be written on a country of my choice. My mother suggested studying Guatemala, because she'd lived there briefly. I hit the library stacks and was mesmerized by the quetzal, the fantastical, jewel colored national bird of the country. Furthermore, my mother showed me a skirt, black, and festooned with the tiniest, most elaborate embroidery I'd ever seen, colors of green, red and ivory against a black background. (I still have that skirt, by the way.)

Fast forward more years than I care to admit, and I was given the honor of writing a proposal for River North about a missionary nurse, running for her life, but where should the book be set? Light bulb moment. Guatemala, of course.

So what's a writer to do who hasn't had the privilege of visiting the country in which their book is set? Find people who have. It didn't take long for me to connect with a missionary teacher who had lived in Chimaltenango. Justine was gracious enough to share her insights into the country.

Some other lovely people who planted churches there, graciously allowed me to lurk on their blogs and contributed to my knowledge base, sharing memories both hilarious and hair raising.

Below are a few facts I found interesting about this amazing country.

-The food of Guatemala: who wouldn't enjoy a delicious dobladas, a type of fried snack with meat or veggies folded into a corn tortilla?

-The weather: Guatemalans experience only two seasons, wet and dry. Guatemala means "eternal spring" in a Mayan language.

-The vegetation: the country's tropical climate is perfect for some 600 species of orchids. The endangered white nun orchid is Guatemala's national flower.

-The language: Though Spanish is the official language, there are more than 20 different Mayan dialects spoken in Guatemala. I hope these little snippets have piqued your interested in Guatemala.

-- Dana Mentink YOU TELL US: Have you lived in or traveled to Central America? What is your fondest memory of your time there?

Dana Mentink lives in California with her husband and two children. She has a major in Liberal Studies with an English minor. Her first love is the classroom, having taught children from preschool through fifth grade for over a decade. One of her specialties is public speaking. She earned scholarships for competitive speech and debate throughout high school and college and enjoyed competing at a national level in advocacy and dramatic interpretation. Dana is perpetually in search of a great story, either through painfully expensive trips to the book store or in her own labors in front of the computer.

Her series of UP FINNY’S NOSE mysteries debuted in 2007 from Barbour Books for their Heartsong Presents mystery line and were recently rereleased in e-book format. Dana also enjoys writing for Harlequin’s Love Inspired Suspense which garnered her a Romantic Times Reviewer’s Choice Award in 2010 and a Holt Medallion Merit Award in 2012. Her first book with Moody Publishers entitled JUNGLE FIRE, will debut in the spring of 2013. In addition to writing fourteen novels, Dana has enjoyed her role as book reviewer for the California Women’s Retreat.

How did you get started writing?

I’ve always been a scribbler, but I began to scribble professionally when I took a leave of absence from teaching to raise my kids (the bear cubs, as I refer to them on Facebook.) My husband urged me to take a writing class and I joined one taught by the fabulous Penny Warner, who showed me the ropes, so to speak. She gave me this sage advice. “Treat writing like a business, not a hobby.” I did and now it really is a business!

Tell us a little about Jungle Fire-- setting, characters, plot.

Imagine you’re a missionary nurse in Guatemala’s Petén jungle. You’re on a bus, enjoying some furlough time, when someone shoots at the vehicle and sends it careening into a ravine. From there, you spend the next two weeks running for your life in the wildest jungle setting you can imagine with a man who blames you for his sister’s death, the prickly Shaw Wilder. Throw in a family secret rising up from the past, and betrayal around every corner and you’ve got a good picture of what the novel is about.

How do you create suspense and thrilling action in your writing?

I try to think of the scariest possible scenario, and plop my characters right in the middle of it. Hence, I’ve written about massive earthquakes, plane crashes and now the perils of a savage jungle. Usually, the action rises out of that situation and the conflict between characters with conflicting goals.


Name one of your favorite books and one of your favorite movies that left you on the edge of your seat.
 
Oooh boy. Let’s see. A movie that completely stunned me was The Usual Suspects. That ending where everything you think you understood gets turned on its ear is just incredible. As far as books go, one of my favorites is Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier. To create such tension without adding violence and gore which is relied on so heavily now, is just incredible. To think, we don’t even learn the protagonist’s first name! Now that’s writing!

Do you relate to any of the characters in Jungle Fire? How so?

Shaw Wilder handles a dog that sniffs out landmines. He’s devoted to Axel and Axel to him. I have a German shepherd who is sitting by my side at this very moment watching me type. She’s absolutely loyal to me, so I can relate to the Shaw’s feelings about his faithful canine friend.

Besides a great story, what do you hope readers take away from this book?

I hope they can be inspired by the thought that God can use our failures and frailties even when we can’t conceive how it could be done.

Is there anything else readers should know?

I’d just like to say I really appreciate the folks who spent some time with my book. This is a noisy world, with so many choices for us all and I am truly grateful for those who chose to take time out of their busy lives to read Jungle Fire. I sincerely hope it’s in some small way a blessing to those who read it.
Thank you very much for the interview!


 
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