Stephen Sprinkel is a marriage and family therapist, pastor of St. Mark's Fellowship of Reno, and author of Pure River … Dark Hearts, a mystery novel and first volume of a planned trilogy.
You don’t seem to have trouble keeping yourself busy.
I don’t. I’m usually pretty busy, and I guess I thrive on that.
You’re an author, minister and therapist. The first two are avocations, and therapy is your full-time job?
Well, therapy is my full-time job and being a minister is my second job. And it used to be the other way around. When I came to Reno in 1977, I was a full-time minister and a part-time therapist. And that changed in 1990, and I went to full-time therapy. … For a time I dropped out of the ministry when religion was becoming too political.
How do they overlap?
Oh, gosh. Well, whether it’s the church or it’s in the therapy office, people struggle with the same human needs and concerns. The church becomes a place, for me, that’s a very positive, uplifting place to respond to people’s needs and hurts. And in therapy I do a lot more teaching and intense kinds of work that I did as a minister.
How did you choose this line of work—or these lines of work?
I was heavily influenced as a young man by a man that was both a minister and a marriage and family therapist. And in high school, he sort of took me under his wings, and by the time I was 17 or 18, I decided I wanted to be both a therapist and a minister.
Did he know of the impact he had on you?
Actually, many, many years later—it was about four years ago—I had a chance to meet him again. It had been probably 30, 40 years since I’d seen him, and I shared with him the impact he’d had on his life. I think it meant a lot to him.
And there was a girl somewhere in this.
Oh, yes, yes. That was the reason I’d started going to church to begin with, to sit next to a teenaged girl that I had a crush on. I didn’t grow up in the church. But I wanted to date her, and her father wouldn’t let me date her unless I first went to church.
What happened with her?
I have no idea. We broke up when I was 18 and told her I didn’t want to get married. She threw my class ring at my head.
How does the therapy and the religion work its way into your writing?
All the characters in my novels are characters who reflect people I’ve met in life and all walks of life. I’ve worked with people in politics, I’ve worked with prostitutes, I’ve worked with religious fanatics, and these are all characters in my novels. And I’ve also worked with some very kind and sweet and gentle people who also are in my novels.
Has anyone every come to you and said, “Hey, that was me.”
Yes, Yes. I’ve had that happen numerous times, not just in the novels, but sometimes in my homilies and sermons.