Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Personal Interview with YA/MG Author C.K. Volnek

Today I am posting a personal interview of author C.K. Volnek. C.K., also known as Charlie, wrote Ghost Dog of Roanoke Island due to be released September 2011 and The Secret of the Stones to be released late 2011 both from MuseItUp Publishing.
September 2010
Did you grow up in a ‘reading’ household? Do you think that made a difference in the amount of reading you do? Did it affect your desire to write?
I spent a lot of time reading books when I was young, living the exciting lives of the many characters. Being the youngest of six it gave me the outlet since my older siblings were way too busy to mess with a little sister. I loved books and spent a great deal of time at the local library, reading as much as I could to win the various reading contests. I still have my very first book I won. It holds a special place in my heart, kind of like a badge of honor.
I suppose reading gave me some desire to write. I’ve always loved to put the words on paper. But it was watching my middle son that gave me the passion to write for MG, Tween and YA. He hated to read, but he’d stick his nose into the Goose Bumps collections. So I decided to hone my skills in this genre, hoping to give younger readers something the sink their teeth into. Kids are fun. Kids are cool. They’re not adults, but they’re not babies either. They like to be challenged and if you can keep their interest, are ready to learn.
As a youngster, what did you want to be when you grew up? When did this change, if it did.
I’ve always love writing and drawing. My desire as a teenager was to write and illustrate children’s books. I have my degree in Commercial Art. Unfortunately life got in the way, making my muse take the back seat. I still use my Art degree but mostly do layout and design work. But  now that my kids are growing up, time is allowing me more creative space to go after my dreams and someday make writing and illustrating my full-time career.
What was your favorite childhood activity and why?
I was one of those typical ‘horse-crazy’ teens. I was fortunate to live where I was able to have my very own horse. So I spent a lot of time taking care of her, riding and showing. Ahh, for the long summer afternoons of cantering down the dirt roads behind my home town. My third novel, A Horse Called Trouble, is near and dear to my heart, reminiscent of my days riding horses.
Has your writing ever been influenced in any way by this activity?
I have written one horse story. A tween story of a neglected tween and a troubled horse and how they come together to save each other. I wrote it for one: to share the story of the many ‘horse therapy programs’ around the united states, two: to tickle my muse’s fancy, and three: to tickle the fancy of all the horse-crazy tweens like me. 
What was your favorite book as a teen and why?
I honestly read more freely as a pre-teen. As a teen, I focused more on the books we needed to read for English. I admit, I still think back fondly on Animal Farm, The Scarlet Letter, Tale of Two Cities and Lord of the Flies and read them multiple times.
What was your favorite subject in high school and why? Least favorite and why?
I’m all right brain. I loved Art and English. I’d have spent all day in those classes. I hated History and Science. Dates, facts and figures befuddled me. I’ve found as I’ve gotten older, I enjoy these more. Maybe it’s called research? I’m looking up things that interest me. As a teen, I wasn’t interested and it was just that, memorizing facts and figures. My current novel, Ghost Dog of Roanoke Island, due to be published in September 2011, has a lot of history in it. It’s based on the mystery of the Lost Colony, how in 1587, 117 colonists disappeared without a trace. With this book I hope to tease tweens with history. It’s a totally fictional story, but the facts about the Lost Colony are all based on extensive research.
Do you have children? If, so, what age group (0-7, 8-14, 15-20, adults).
My husband and I have three lovely children. Christopher is 27 and recently got married, adding sweet Jillian to our family. Chris is in the Navy so they are stationed in Naples, Italy. Alex, my middle son is 24 and will be getting married in March to add Ashley to our growing family. He lives about 4 blocks away from us, working for the same company as his father. My youngest daughter, Keri, is 20 and is attending Nursing College. She is quite the dynamo and gives me a lot of inspiration for YA novels.
If you have children and write, when do you find time and how do you manage it?
It was really tough to find time to write when my children were young. I have always worked full-time so my days were really full. I dabbled more with short stories back then and even had a story published in the Chicken Soup for the Christian Family Soul titled ‘Just Another Day.’ I still see it making its way around the internet. I’ve always supported my children and encouraged them to follow their dreams but was really surprised several years ago when they gave me a gift of my very own laptop, to go after my dreams of writing novels. The true gift was their support and confidence in my writing.
How do you find time/manage writing while attending school or working full-time at another job?
Yes, I still have a day job. Hopefully some day that can change to writing all day. But for now, it’s working. With my children responsible for themselves I’m much more free in the evenings. I do my reading and research in early evening and make myself cozy after about 9 p.m. and write, write, write into the wee hours. My hubby laughs when I’m looking at the clock at 9 and he’s not in bed yet. He knows that is his cue to leave me to my muse.
How does your spouse/significant other respond to the demands writing takes on your time, energy & finances?
My hubby is supportive of my writing. Especially when we can take something off taxes. Since he’s an early bird and I’m a night owl, it works out great for both of us. We still find time to be together, but allow each other our own space to go after our other life passions. I am truly blest to have such a  wonderful partner.
If your child declared they were going to an author while a senior in high school. How would you respond?
I would be thrilled. My daughter is actually quite a good poet and has had several published. I’m extremely proud of her and encourage her right brain efforts.
If your daughter wants to marry an author who is just starting out and has no other job, what would you tell her? If your son wants to marry an author… Does it make a difference?
If my daughter wanted to marry an author, I’d tell her she would probably be the bread-winner for a while. I know it takes a long time to write, and even longer most times to get published. And to make a living at it??? There are very few J.K. Rawlings or Stephen Kings in the world. I would bless their union but would be happy that she will have a medical degree to support that venture. I don’t think it would make any difference whether it was my son or my daughter. I’ve always worked full-time, shared the financial responsibility. If either my son or daughter wanted to allow their spouse the time to follow their dream and passion, I would support them, but also tell them to go into it wisely, with a set plan in motion.
What one book do you think everyone should read and why?
Oh my gosh, that is a hard one. I’ve read so many great books. I can honestly say I get something from everyone I read. Some of them I may not even appreciate at the time I read them, but in an hour of life that comes up to make me reflect upon the very message and essence the writer was offering. I also read a lot of MG and YA which many adults may not find as interesting as I do. But some of them have the most powerful lessons.
Some of my favorites: Black Beauty, Follow My Leader, My Side of the Mountain, Animal Farm, Lord of the Flies, Tangerine, oh geesh, I could go on and on.
What is your ultimate vacation spot and why?
I love to travel. We’ve been fortunate to take many family vacations to fun places. I’m a very tight penny pincher but we’ve had some great fun. We took the kids on a last-big-family vacation on a cruise. The kids sailed for $179 for an entire week! With boys ages 14 and 16, I definitely got the best of the deal. We couldn’t have bought their food for $179 for a week!
But I think my favorite vacation spots would be hiking in the mountains. Doesn’t matter what mountain, they’re all beautiful. How can one not feel the glory of God when beholding such breathtaking beauty. It’s a great place to relax, have fun, commune with God, and put life back in perspective. It also gives my muse the desire to write, write, write more.
Would you rather go on vacation alone or with others? Why?
I enjoy having family around for vacation. How can you celebrate the joys all by yourself? Same reason I write. I enjoy the time by myself to create, but I’m creating to share my celebration of life.
When you go on vacation, do you write or work on WIP?
It depends. I’ve done both. Usually I do something when I’m on vacation, whether it’s journaling or working on a wip. As I mentioned before, my hubby is an early-bird so I need to have something to do when he’s gone to bed, even on vacation.
What would happen if you lost the ability to type or speak?
Lose the ability to speak … it would be hard. I love to sing, and I can be a talker if I get on a subject I’m really crazy about. But I think I could handle losing that over the ability to type. My muse would go crazy if I didn’t have any way to get my stories out. If I lost both of them, I guess I would have to find someone to invent a machine that could capture my thoughts to paper. Smile.  
What do you do as a hobby? Have you had to stop or reduce the amount of time you spend doing it?
Hobbies... I have many. I love to work in my flower garden, I have four Papillon puppies, love to walk and hike, make jewelry, sing, bake, read and of course write. I try to find time for all of them. They each have their moments though I’ve pushed writing to the forefront.
Do you volunteer anyplace? Have you in the past? If not, do you wish you could and where would it be?
I wish I had more time to volunteer. But I do some. I am a canter for church and I teach 5th grade CCD. I’m going on my 9th year of that. I love this age. Guess that’s why I love to write for tweens. One of my Papillons is a therapy dog so we’ve visited our local retirement homes and he even goes to CCD with me, teaching lessons of ultimate love, forgiveness, waiting, etc. I also offer my services as babysitter for friends so they can attend bible studies, a necessary date, etc.
If you could live in or have another house in another country or place, where would it be and why?
I’d love to have a house tucked away somewhere in the mountains. I love the beauty and the majesty... just don’t like cold. I love my home town so I can’t see us leaving it but it would be grand to have a couple of houses elsewhere.
If space-flight became viable during your lifetime, would you take a trip to Mars or elsewhere? Why or why not?
If I had the opportunity to go, could afford it, I wouldn’t run away from it. But it’s not something on my bucket list. There’s too many places closer to home I want to see first.
Would you live in a space colony on another planetary surface? Why or why not?
I’d rather not. I love nature and I think I would miss it too terribly much to live in a space colony. Another planet, maybe, if it was similar to earth. I need my green plants, the feel of rain on my face, and most important, my family close at hand. Having my son in Italy has already stretched the heart strings. I miss him so much. Thank goodness for Skype!
What genre of movies do you like to attend?  Do you go to the movie theatre much anymore or watch on TV like Pay Per View or Netflix?
I’m a penny pincher so we seldom go to the theatre. If we do, we try to go to our local small-town theatre which offers a bargain compared to the cinemas in the city. But we are big movie buffs. We generally go after old-fashioned scary movies, action flicks or a good drama. Neither one of us are really into the comedy thing though I have seen some pretty good ones. I love a good romance. Titanic is still one of my favorites. But I really love a movie that grabs my heart, twists it and won’t let go.
If there were no restrictions of any sort (time, money, etc) what would you love to do and why?
No restrictions... oh my, I’d love to travel, travel, travel, and write, write, write. I’d have to balance them with family, but then again, if there were no restrictions, the family would always be with me anyway. LOL. And the writing would give me my alone time. Everyone needs a little ‘me time.’
Do you think people who are especially good at something, writers, singers, musicians, artists, etc, were born with talent or can it be fostered throughout a lifetime?
I do think some people are born with talent. But even those that are born with it have to have the passion to grow it. I think that’s what is most important. If you have passion, you’ll find a way to make it come true.
What is your favorite food and why?
I’m a pasta-aholic. I love anything with pasta. Spaghetti, lasagna, tuna noodle casserole, etc. But I think one reason I love it so much is because I can’t have it as often as I’d like. My hubby is the opposite so I can only sneak one meal in about every week or so. Yes, absence does make the heart grow fonder.
If you were suddenly allergic to that food and could never have it again, what might you do?
I’d be okay with it. I love pasta. But I like a lot of other foods too. I’d just supplement with my other comfort foods. Though, I’d probably sneak a little guilty pleasure every now and then, despite the cost of the allergy. I’d pay the price once in a while.
Where in the world is your favorite place and why? Have you ever been? Do you have plans to ever go or go back?
My hubby and I had the opportunity to go to Israel and visit the Holy Lands last year with a group from our church. It was such an emotional journey. Many of the sites are not what you would expect. Shrines and churches have been built over the very sites of Jesus’ birth, death, and all the sites of his preachings and miracles and we take it on faith, that this is where it happened. But one spot really touched me. There was a set of stone steps outside of St. Peter’s in Galicantu in Jerusalem. Our tour guide had been instrumental in excavating these steps and some of the site the church was built upon. St. Peter’s is built over the home of Ciaphis, the head priest that condemned Jesus and took him to Pilate. These stone steps date back to the time of Jesus, leading down into the Kidren Valley, to the Garden of Gethsemane. These were the steps Jesus would have walked down to the garden and these were the steps they drug my Lord back up to the home of Ciaphis. To know I was walking on the very stones my Lord walked was truly an emotional experience. This has to be my favorite spot... but I don’t know if I’ll go back. Maybe. If there are no ‘restrictions.’ ;-)
You’ve been asked to choose 5-10 books for a space capsule. What would you choose and why?
Wow, that is tough. What I like, and what another likes, can be as different as night and day. First off, I would put the Bible. Then, I guess some of the old classics, The Tale of Two Cities, Lord of the Flies, Animal Farm. I would add Pride and Prejudice, Huckleberry Finn, and the Count of Monte Cristo as well as the Harry Potter series as well as the C.S. Lewis series.
What is your greatest fear about being an author? What about in life?
As an author, my greatest fear would be that I would not do my characters justice. They tend to become as large as life to me and my muse and have definite stories to tell, lessons to learn, and obstacles to overcome. It’s just like being a parent. I want my characters to grow and follow their dreams and would be devastated if they didn’t succeed because of me.
My greatest fear in life would probably something similiar. One must follow their dream. One must always have a dream. Without a dream, life can get stagnant. And no one is too old to dream. Dreams give us direction, goals, a reason to celebrate.
Do you believe in karma? Why or why not?
Karma as in just fate, chance, coincidence? no. Karma as in destiny. Yes. I believe God has a purpose and a plan for each of us. He doesn’t always spell it out for us. Sometimes we must search it out. An example: God doesn’t automatically give us patience, he gives us the opportunity to learn patience. He gave us a mind to use to sort out His wishes and go after what He has planned for us. As my son once said when he was 12... Prayer really works!
Are you superstitious? If so, what about? Ever have an experience to cause this?
Superstitious? No. I believe that sometimes we are given an insight into another dimension, but I’m not superstitious.
Have you ever had a paranormal experience or know someone who did? If so, tell us about it.
Oh yes. I believe in good and evil spirits. I also believe in angels and miracles. There was a day I was driving home from work. It was a cold wintery day but the highways were clear. That is until I got to one stretch where the wind had blown a light snow over the road, creating black ice. Traffic was heavy in both directions. I took my foot off the gas but the guy in front of me put on his brakes. I knew better than to slam on my brakes but I tapped them. That was all it took. My car went into a spin. But my guardian angel was with me. At that exact moment there was a lapse in traffic and even though I spun around, twice, in the middle of the road, I hit no one. My car stalled in the middle of the road, even though I had headed to the ditch. The traffic lapsed enough to allow me time to start my car and continue home, singing God praise and thanks to my angel all the way.
How old do you hope to live to? What do you think will happen to you when you die?
I have no idea how old I will live to be. Each year is a gift. I hope I live long enough to see my newest story I’m working on published. But only God knows when I will die. And I pray to see his glorious face when I close my eyes to this world and open them to His.
If Science could make immortality possible, would you do it? Why or why not?
No... I don’t know if I could handle all the wrinkles I’d get! Ha ha. But on a serious note, I would not want to be immortal. If I was immortal I would miss all the wonders of heaven. I would also miss all those loved ones that have passed on before me.
Do you have a ‘bucket list’? If so, tell us a few things you’d like to do before moving on.
I’ve thought about this at times. I have never made a bucket list. I’ve lived a good life. I’ve seen so much more than I’d ever expected. I hope to see more but I am content. God, family, friends, my passions such as my muse, make each day a glorious adventure. What more could I ask for but another day. Below is my story from Chicken Soup for the Christian Family Soul. It kind of sums it up.

Just Another Day

Is it morning already? I rub my eyes and get up to ready myself for just another day. It's just another day...I look out my window to see the sun beaming down, caressing the Earth with its golden rays. Above, white clouds float in the brilliant blue sky. I hear a cardinal singing to his mate as he perches upon my back fence. And a bed of crocus open their purple heads to the heavens in joyful thankfulness.

It's just another day. My small daughter bursts into the room, her giggle ringing through the house as she hugs my neck tightly. Her small hand fits into mine as she pulls me to the kitchen to show me the card she has made. A stick figure with curly brown hair waves from the paper and beneath it, written in purple crayon are the words, "I love you, Mommy."

It's just another day as I stand quietly and watch a handicapped child. He struggles to get his special walker over the curb, but it won't budge. A well-meaning teacher offers assistance, but he brushes her away. With determination, he conquers the curb and is off to laugh and play with his friends. I weep inside for his handicap, but I am inspired by his courage. And I smile as I watch the children play, totally accepting their friend for who he is, not judging him for what he lacks.

It's just another day. My son proudly presents the report he did for school. He shares with me the hopes and dreams he holds for his future. His curiosity and excitement are contagious as we unfold the limitless possibilities that lay before him. I am encouraged that no dream is beyond our reach if we want it bad enough.

It's just another day. My beloved wraps his arms around me and surrounds me in love. I turn to look in the eyes that share my innermost feelings. What a special friend I have. Someone who loves me for who I am. Someone to lean on when I feel down. Someone to share my happiness. Someone to love.

Yes, it is just another day. A day to enjoy God's gracious beauty upon this Earth. A day to kiss the cherub cheeks of my children, and share in their hopes and dreams. A day to learn the value of determination and hard work. A day to learn the value of judging mankind for the quality he has, not what he has not. A day to learn the value of love.

Yes, it's just another day, I sigh. The stars dance in the velvet sky as a full yellow moon smiles cheerfully down. The house is quiet and still. The only sound is the soft even breathing of my spouse. I recall the scripture: "This is the day the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it." (Psalm 118:24) And as I lay at the side of my soul mate I pray that God will let me see "just another day"!
Write your own six-word memoir.
C.K. Volnek – Celebrating Life Through Writing
Write a Twitter tweet about your next release. (140 characters)
In 1587, 117 colonists disappeared from Roanoke Island leaving behind a terrible evil. Now, Jack Dahlgren must destroy it...before it destroys him? 
Blog 1: www.ckvolnek.com/blog.html
Blog 2
Facebook: ckvolnek
Email: ckvolnek@yahoo.com
Web: www.ckvolnek.com


Susanne Drazic said...

Enjoyed the interview. Learned some new things about Charlie.

Larion aka Larriane Wills said...

Charlie's a girl? Just joking, I knew that, but now i know a lot more about her. very nice blog.

Kay Dee Royal said...

Charlie, awesome interview. You've led an interesting life. Thank you for sharing it. Congratulations on your book releases, looking forward to the newest book you're working on.

Beverly Stowe McClure said...

A great interview. I enjoyed reading about you and your life, Charlie. Congratulations on your books. Best of luck to you.

Marva Dasef said...

Nice informative interview. I'm going to have to up the ante on my interview questions for my blog!

Well done, Charlie.

Charlie said...

Thanks to everyone who stopped by to say hello! Appreciate you all!
Cyber Hugs to everyone.
C.K. Volnek