Interview with C. K. Volnek
This month's interview is with Charlotte Volnek otherwise known as C. K. Volnek, a Nebraska author and Nebraska Writer's Guild Member. We lovingly call her Charlie for short. She's written and markets a goodly amount of books mostly directed for the tween and teen readers. Some of her titles are
Ghost Dog of Roanoke Island: A ghost story. Young Jack must solve the age-old mystery of the Lost Colony of Roanoke Island to stop the horrible evil haunting his island home.
A Horse Called Trouble: A young girl passed from one foster home to another is placed in a program of horse therapy. There she meets A Horse Called Trouble and must overcome her abusive past to save the horse that teaches her to love and trust again.
Secret of the Stones: Young Alex finds himself in the middle of a fantastic fix when he is gifted a box, complete with the secrets to Merlin's Magic. Through a number of comic mix-ups, Alex struggles to discover how to control the magic while solving the mysterious prophecy surrounding it.
Charlie, there is no way I have touched on the huge list of works you have published. One thing I noticed with the three stories I've mentioned is that you entertain through genres that have long fascinated children and adults alike. You take these genres and add yourself into the mix. I can't help but wish I could wear your shoes for a day and have the fun of finding these ideas and putting the characters and stories together. Can you give us a hint at how you come up with the ideas?
Thanks for having me visit with you today, Glenda. So where do I get my ideas? I have to laugh. My muse is always on the alert for a strange and new story. Articles, news stories, magazines, even listening to others talk. She’s mulling over the latest news story of a man who lost his memory after falling in a ravine. For 17 days he wandered, hitch-hiking and doing odd jobs for food before meeting someone named Emma in McDonalds. The name sparked his memory as it was the name of his grand-daughter. After all this time, the family fearing he was dead, they were all re-united in a happy ending. There’s definitely a book in there don’t you think?
Ghost Dog of Roanoke Island came alive after reading an article on the Lost Colony. My muse wouldn’t let go of the mystery of how 121 colonists simply vanished, never to be heard from again. She decided she had to come up with her own version of what happened. Of course she had to throw in a dog, a ghastly monster and some Native American folklore to complete the story.
A Horse Called Trouble is a special book to me. The story came to me after I visited a horse therapy program for tweens. It was an awesome experience and I could see how the students benefited from working with the horses. They are such majestic creatures. I also grew up with horses and have a fondness for horse stories, so it seemed a natural fit for my muse. I also struggled as a child, being shy and insecure, so I drew on many of those feelings to create a character kids can connect with. I believe most kids struggle with some kind of personal issue, whether it’s feeling unpopular, lack of confidence, or being bullied. Hopefully, they will be able to identify with Tara and learn how to cope with some of these fears along with her.
The Secret of the Stones actually fermented within my muse for many years. As my children grew up, one of their favorite movies was The Sword and the Stone. The magic of Merlin has always intrigued me and I wanted to find a new way for it to come alive to kids of today. This is a much lighter story, adding a few funny mishaps with Alex changing places his sister’s guinea pig as well as his school teacher’s spoiled parrot. But it also has a lot of mystery as Alex must discover how the magic works while also solving the riddles of the prophecy surrounding it.
Your biography reveals that part of your reason of writing for the tween to teen ages is because you had a son who hated to read. My son almost had to be hogtied to get a book into his hands. What kind of satisfaction and feedback do you get from parents and teachers of hesitant readers?
I know some kids have trouble connecting with books. They’d rather be ‘doing’ rather than ‘reading.’ (That was my middle son. Still is.) So I try to create stories tweens and teens can live along with, learning unusual bits of history and folklore, solving mysteries, and maybe even discovering a little bit about themselves as they relate with the characters.
It is just a joy hearing from students who have read my books. And luckily it’s all been great reviews so far. When attending an event at a local bookstore, I was honored and humbled by one of the students making a poster for A Horse Called Trouble and saying it was her favorite book. I didn’t need a hot air balloon to feel as high as the clouds that day. J I only hope my books can continue to be introduced to more and more teens and tweens, to offer up characters they might be able to identify with.
We've been discussing your work so far, but now for some fun. I had to laugh at your 24 item list of facts about yourself. You mention you’re the youngest of five children. Do you feel that you are still a child at heart? Do you still torment your older siblings?
Have to chuckle at this. I don’t know if I’ve ever really grown up. I still love kid’s movies and am still one of the biggest Harry Potter fans. Age is only a number…though the knees don’t react as kindly as they once did. Ha.
As for my siblings…there is a rather large number of years between me and my siblings so I never really was the one to torment them. And unfortunately I lost my two oldest brothers at rather young ages. My first brother drowned when I was in high school and even though he was 11 years older than me, he was one of my biggest fans and a great support. He believed in me, even when I didn’t. Though it took me longer than planned to be a published author, (three small beings called children seemed to dominate my time and thoughts for some years) I hope and pray he is smiling down with pride at me for finally accomplishing my dreams.
I've read a lot of books that seem to try to be children's stories. Many writer's want to be Mark Twain, or Robert Louis Stevenson. We can none of us become the other author. We must read them and we can learn from them. If we try to be them, we fall far short. I've tried and fallen flat on my face.
Charlie speaks a lot about her muse. Many writers do. To me, a muse is that file in the very center of your brain that opens your heart to a new chapter or idea. I hope that makes sense. I know the word confounded even me for a long time. Oh, I knew the definition, but how to tap it I didn't know. All I had to do was let go.
Charlie (C.K.Volnek) doesn't try to be anyone but who she is. She is that child at heart who loves it all, is curious about it all and who lets her muse guide her. Children between 8 to 19 may be the focus group for her books. (I made up those numbers, I'm not sure she said other that tweens and teens.) I can tell you, they aren't the only ones who love her books. I used to get to relive Alice in Wonderland, Cinderella, orTreasure Island by reading them to my children. Now I don't feel the need for an excuse. I just read what I want.
To all you authors and yet to be authors, I learn much from the people I interview and the works I read. Television is getting boring, videogames too demanding, the answer I find, and I encourage is read, if you get an idea then write it. See what happens.
C. K. Volnek did just that and look at the satisfaction she has today of the little girl who drew the poster for A Horse Called Trouble. Charlie, I'm sure your brother is looking down and saying "Write on Sis, Write on."