Today we have with us, author C.K. Volnek. She has recently published two tween/ya books, Ghost Dog of Roanoke Island and A Horse Called Trouble, and her third tween book, The Secret of the Stones, is due out in April. Hi CK, thanks for joining us today!
Hi Marva. Thank you so much for having me.
So tell us, how did you begin to write for middle grade and young adults?
I have always loved writing for children. After reading Black Beauty, I wanted to be the next Anna Sewell. Life took me the long route to attain my dream, but I never gave up on writing for the younger market. I’ve heard it said, you write what you enjoy reading and I have to admit most of my favorite books are still stories I read from my younger years. My Side of the Mountain, Follow My Leader, and The Secret Garden still make a presence in my personal library. But I also write mg/ya because I enjoy this age so very much. Children are great. They are curious and open, full of questions on all kinds of subjects. They love to learn, if you can hold their interest. To me it was a challenge-to create a story to keep their interest while offering something they would enjoy as well as learn from, whether it be history, geography or learning a little bit about themselves.
Can you tell us a little bit about your new books and what you hope your readers to take away from them?
Thanks for asking. In my tween horse story, A Horse Called Trouble, I hope my readers will take away the message that we are all important and worthy of life, love and happiness. One must find a dream and believe in it, then follow that dream to find your life’s passion.
In A Horse Called Trouble, my main character, 13-year-old Tara, must overcome her abusive past to save the defiant horse who taught her to love and trust again. It is a story of growing up to learn you are not what others believe you to be, but what YOU believe you are. Don’t let the traps of society rule you. You may only be one person, but to one person, you may be the world.
And though it is cliché, I also hope my readers learn to not judge a book by its cover. Judging others before you really get to know them not only affects the person you are judging, but also can put you in a position you might not intend to be in. For example, Alissa, my main antagonist, is pretty, wealthy, and popular. But she is also very mean. On the other hand, Tara feels she is a misfit; looked down upon, scoffed at, and mistreated because she doesn’t belong anywhere. But she is really smart and kind beneath her introverted mask. Which person would you really want as a friend?
Abandoned by her mother at a young age, Tara Cummings has been passed from foster home to foster home; not wanted anywhere by anyone. At thirteen she’s skeptic and suspicious, with no family, and no friends.
Horse therapy “will teach trust, perseverance, respect, and the value of teamwork,” or so says the program’s instructor. Tara is unconvinced. Trust only broke her heart, perseverance meant more failures, and no one respects or wants to team up with the misfit foster kid.
At the farm, Tara meets Trouble, an angry and defiant horse, bent on destroying everything and everyone around him. Tara is frightened of the enraged horse, until she realizes Trouble is as misunderstood and untrusting as she is. Pushing aside her fear, a special bond is formed, much to the surprise of everyone at the farm. Trouble trusts Tara, and Tara in turn finds hope and acceptance as well as the will to love and trust again herself.
But, Tara’s confidence is shaken as an even greater challenge looms ahead. Trouble’s mean and manipulative owner is the one and only Alissa, Tara’s nemesis. Can Tara overcome her own limitations and fight to save the horse who freed her heart and gave her life value and meaning? Or will Alissa destroy them both?
Where did you get the idea for your book?
I have always loved horses. Such marvelous creatures they are. Proud, elegant, powerful yet gentle and compassionate. I was fortunate enough to be able to call several of these magnificent animals my friend and confidant as I grew up.
I knew I wanted to immortalize some of my treasured equine friends but I never expected to write the story of Trouble in such a fashion as I did. It was after visiting a horse farm that also entertained a horse therapy program for troubled youth that the story sky-rocketed. Tara came to life and shared her entire sad story with me and I couldn’t help but oblige and put it down on paper. And Trouble? He’s a mix of several of the horses I knew. Full of spunk, spirit, trust and devotion. It’s a horse story, full of conflict, with antagonists you’ll love seeing get what they deserve.
This story also revolves around a unique program…Horse Therapy. It was so incredible to spend time at Take Flight Farm and witness their Horse Therapy program for troubled youths. The magnificent horses in this program teach kids the value of respect, teamwork and trust. I know from personal experience how a horse can turn an irritable, scowling teenager into a calm, caring softie. And who can’t use a good dose of self-confidence. Horses can build that confidence.
You also had another book come out last September called Ghost Dog of Roanoke Island. Can you tell us a little bit about this book?
Yes, Ghost Dog of Roanoke Island is a tween ghost story with a twist of Native American folklore and based on the Lost Colony of Roanoke Island. It is also a story about growing up and realizing you are stronger than you ever realize, though the ghost story plays lead in this book and history is very instrumental in solving the mystery. I hope my readers will look up the facts I have included in Ghost Dog of Roanoke Island and realize that everything that happens yesterday has an effect on what happens today.
In 1587, 117 colonists disappeared from Roanoke Island without a trace, leaving behind not only unanswered questions, but a terrifying evil.
Now it’s up to twelve year-old Jack Dahlgren to unravel the age-old mystery and save his family from the hateful beast that haunts the island.
With the help of newfound friend, Manny, a Native American shaman, and an elusive Giant Mastiff, Jack must piece together the clues of the Lost Colony to discover what really happened. Shrouded in ancient Native American folklore, it's up to Jack to uncover what the evil is and why it haunts his island. But can he destroy it...before it destroys him?
Ghost Dog of Roanoke Island is now available in both e-book and print on Amazon as well as other fine book locations.
So what is your next book about?
The Secret of the Stones is more of a fun read. It is also the first book of a series titled The Lost Diaries of Northumberland and revolves around the legend of Merlin the Magician and the wicked Vivienne. It was created mostly to entertain and encourage my readers to read.
Based in present day, young Alex Ramsey is thrust into magic mayhem when the gift he’s been entrusted to protect turns out to be the enchanted object detailed in a mysterious prophecy.
The Secret of the Stones
Trading places with a squirrel outside his window is the last thing twelve year-old Alex expect to happen. Could the gift Aunt Norma gave him be magic? The Merlin’s magic he’d read about in the ancient diary? After he unexpectedly trades places with his sister’s guinea pig, Alex realizes he must discover how the magic works…and fast. How had the trickery transformed him with the animals-and-how did it turn him back to himself?
As Alex struggles to understand the how and why of his enchanted gift, he becomes painfully aware there is more to it than he first thought. Within the magic there is a great power, a power to control, a power so strong that there is another who is willing to do almost anything to get it. Can Alex protect the gift while solving the secrets to how the magic works? And can he make sense of the riddles in the diary, the riddles surrounding the prophecy of Merlin’s return?
Which authors have most influenced your own writing?
I love to read. And I take away something from every book I read. So it is hard to pick just a few authors who have really impressed me but two come to mind right away. Jane Yolen and Jay Asher. The book 13 Reasons Why by Jay Asher still haunts my thoughts and I adore the rich prose of Jane Yolen. Her book, Briar Rose remains one of my favorites
What do you do for fun other than writing?
I dabble in a variety of things other than writing…spending time with my family is a priority but I also love to dabble with flower gardening, jewelry making, hiking, and taking long walks with my Papillon pups… I am officially known as the ‘dog woman’ around our small town. Lol.
Do you have any favorite place where you feel your Muse is more apt to come and play while you write? Or perhaps you listen to music? If so, what do you listen to?
I’m a night-owl. And I have a laptop. So most of my writing is done sitting in my most comfortable chair in the front room with at least two pups sitting by me or on the ottoman. I have my I-pod, loaded with Yanni, and a Diet Coke at hand and I’m ready to write, write, write.
What advice would you like to give to young people who want to write?
There are two important elements I would like to stress to young writers…
One - Believe in yourself. We are our own worst enemy. I still find times where I will doubt myself. I’ll read a really great book, one so good I can’t imagine my stories ever comparing. But that’s when my characters jump in and give me a good kick in the behind and remind me of one of my favorite quotes … To the world you may be one person, but to one person you may be the world. Your story might be the saving grace to one person out there. YOU have a story to tell and no one else can tell it for you. If you don’t write it, it won’t get written.
Two – Never give up! No matter what. Write, write, write and write some more. Put one story to bed and move onto another. Don’t let your muse shrivel up. She can cause you great distress if you don’t let her out to play and she will starve if you don’t feed her.
Where can readers find you?
Thanks so much for having me today. I’d love to have your readers contact me at ckvolnek (at) yahoo (dot) com.
They can join me on my web page: www.ckvolnek.com, or visit me at my blog: www.ckvolnek.com/blog.html
They can also find me on Facebook (C.K. Volnek) or Twitter (CKVolnek), Good Reads and Jacket Flap.
My book trailers are on Youtube.
My books are available at the MuseItUp Book Store.
A Horse Called Trouble
Ghost Dog of Roanoke Island
as well as Amazon:
A Horse Called Trouble
Ghost Dog of Roanoke Island
and many other fine book locations on-line.
Thanks so much for having me here today.