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Friday, September 13, 2013

Author Interview: April Voytko Kempler

Today I am pleased to present to you all the 96th in a series of Author Interviews. Recently I sat down with the wine-drinking, pajama-wearing, Michael Jackson wannabe bride, April Voytko Kempler, and our conversation went something like this:

Paul:  I like to start my interviews by asking if you have any writing rituals?
April:  I really don’t have any writing rituals, however it must be quiet. I cannot concentrate with any background noise. So that means I don’t listen to any music. I hate to be disturbed. I like to wait for my husband to leave the house before I write because invariably he bursts into my office with some question or other. Usually he can’t find an invoice, or his iPad charger or headphones. It drives me absolutely crazy and I have no patience!

Paul:  What types of books do you like to read? Who are your favorite authors? Why?
April:  My favorite genre is historical fiction. My all-time favorite author is Margaret Mitchell who wrote Gone with the Wind. I also enjoy reading Edward Rutherfurd. I loved Sarum. I got my husband to read it, and now he is also hooked on all of Edward Rutherfurd's novels. I personally love an epic novel. I like to be engrossed in the subject for a long time and be completely saddened when the book comes to an end. I get so attached to the characters I feel like I’m saying good-bye to old friends…until I pick up the next giant book and make new friends!

Paul:  If someone had the power to step into your creative mind what would they see?
April:  Probably a scatter-brain. I think of so many different things! I’m jumping from one random subject to the next. I need to work on focusing! Certain instances will remind me of some song from an old musical (I grew up watching musicals like Singin’ in the Rain, The Music Man, Oklahoma…) and a song just jumps into my mind and I start singing. My friends think I’m nuts! Plus, I can’t really carry a tune, so most of the time no one knows what I’m doing. I’m completely abstract. I don’t think anyone would enjoy seeing into my mind, to be honest.

Paul:  In all the years you’ve been publishing your work, what is the biggest mistake you made that you could share so others can avoid making it?
April:  I'm still quite new to publishing, but I would say that my biggest mistake was sending off my 175k word manuscript to a publisher without having it professionally edited. Not only do I cringe in embarrassment at the memory, but it really delayed my publishing process quite a bit. Never send work out before hiring an editor. Rule number one. The next rule is: have confidence in yourself. Don’t be afraid to step outside your comfort zone. Publishing is a scary world, but there are plenty of good-hearted people to help you along the way. Ask questions, and do your research. Find the path to publishing that works for you. There are so many ways to get your work published and so many different opportunities. Find what works for you as an individual, not every way works for every writer. Don’t be afraid to explore!

Paul:  How do you find the time to write?
April:  It is a challenge. But I find I do my best in the morning. I really need to discipline myself from spending too much time on the internet. Once I get to work, I’m in the zone and it becomes an easy task. If I procrastinate, then I dread starting. Once I start typing I can’t believe how easy it is, and I wonder what I was fussing about in the first place.

Paul:  What is one thing you hope I do not tell the readers?
April:  I hope you don’t tell the readers that I am sitting here in this interview in my pajamas, hair uncombed, face unwashed, with a cup of coffee (not to mention that I haven’t even brushed my teeth yet!) I’m a work in progress, but one day I will get it together and behave in a professional manner.

Paul:  Do you plot your stories or do you just get an idea and run with it?
April:  I have no specific process. I have never outlined a story. I usually jot down all the ideas I have about the story: characters, time, place, and setting. Beyond that, the ideas roam around in my head until I get the urge to put it together. But, I have no idea where it will end up. I just read this fantastic blog post from author Pamela Morsi. She summed it up perfectly. She claims she is a writer without a plan. Of course she is a highly successful author with a number of traditionally published novels so I consider her a very accomplished author. Pamela calls it organic layering. She likens it to a musician who plays by ear. She doesn’t know where each sentence will lead her. This way of writing resonated with me, but of course I don’t think it is a technique for every writer. It has the potential to lead to a lot of unfinished work.

Paul:  Do you do a lot of editing or do you find that as time goes on your writing is more fully-formed?
April:  Editing of course is so fundamental to writing, but an important first step is to get the story down. Then go back and edit. Editing is done in several phases. The finished story is an ever-evolving process. I’m finding the more I write, the faster it becomes and there are less areas that need work, but I am really addicted to those little black delete and back-space keys.

Paul:  Do you have to do much research for your stories?
April:  Yes. Research is so important. It is the foundation to my way of writing. My first book is nonfiction on the subject of the Holocaust. I had to make sure all my facts were impeccable. I didn't want there to be any mistakes because there are so many naysayers about the Holocaust. I didn't want to raise doubt in the reader’s mind about the accuracy of the story.

Paul:  What is your most recent book? Tell us a little about it.
April:  The Altered I, a Holocaust Memoir, is soon-to-be released this year. It is nonfiction, told as a first person narrative. It is the life story of my father-in-law Joseph Kempler, who is a Holocaust survivor. Because he was Jewish, Joseph was sent to six different concentration camps throughout Poland and Austria. Along the way he abandoned his faith and became an atheist. He couldn’t understand how God could allow the Holocaust to happen. For that, he decided to ignore God. However, in one camp he saw a group of Christians imprisoned for their faith. This group impressed Joseph. As a result of what he learned about it, he converted to a Christian faith. The Altered I, a Holocaust Memoir chronicles Josephs life and answers the questions about his decision to change his religion.

Paul:  What inspired you to write this book?
April:  I've always had a deep interest in the Holocaust, but never thought I would write a book about it until met my future father-in-law, Joseph Kempler. I was significantly touched by his story. I had heard him speak publicly about his ordeal, but never delved into the particulars with him. Then in the early 2000s he was asked to be part of a PBS sponsored documentary entitled Knocking. That was my true inspiration for wanting to write the book. After seeing Joe's experiences in the context of the documentary my curiosity about him was piqued more than ever. I also saw that people were drawn to him and wanted to know more about him too. I had hoped he would write his memoirs, but it was clear he needed someone to jump-start him and that ultimately became me. It was a great honor to be the one to write his story for him. 

Paul:  Do you have any pieces of work that will never see the light of day?
April:  My teen-age diary! I was going to marry Michael Jackson. My diary is just full of teenage angst and other embarrassing confessions!

Paul:  How much marketing do you do for your published works or for your ‘brand’?
April:  Marketing is one of the most important steps right now for my book. As an unknown author I really need to work at it to get the word out there of my books existence. I have a Facebook page, a blog, a Twitter account. I also try to connect with as many professionals in the writing industry as I can. That has been the most surprising facet of the writing world. So many fellow writers and other people in the business of publishing or editing have been completely supportive and helpful on this rocky path to publishing. I have a lot of admiration for these people.

Paul:  What do you do when you’re not writing? Do you have any hobbies or party tricks?
April:  I wish I had a party trick. That would be awesome! I do enjoy cooking. It relieves the stress, or is that the wine I drink while I cook? Either way, cooking has always been an important feature of my life. My mother is a phenomenal cook, as was her mother, and her mother’s mother. I have recipes that were handed down from mother to daughter. It’s in my DNA!

Paul:  Thanks, April, that was very interesting. I wish you every success for the future.

About April Voytko Kempler: Born in Southern California, April Kempler currently resides in her "adopted" city of Reno, Nevada. She lives with her husband, who doubles as her editor-in-chief. April Kempler’s first book entitled The Altered I, a Holocaust Memoir, is a first-person narrative about the Holocaust. April loves reading, a habit she picked up as a child. Instead of playing with the other kids, she could be found with her nose in a book. She reads a variety of genres, but is especially drawn to historical fiction. When Kempler is not writing or reading, she assists her husband in their window treatment design business answering the telephone, making appointments and helping to install gorgeous draperies on naked windows.

April's Blog: Reno Gal Says
April on Twitter: @aprilkempler
April on Facebook: April Kempler
April's latest book: The Altered I (Pre-Order)

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