Friday, May 10, 2013

Interview with Author April Kempler: A Memoir about an In-law

Author April Kempler was born in Southern California and has now adopted Reno as her city. She has written a book called The Altered I: Memoir of Joseph Kempler Holocaust Survivor. Joseph Kemper is April's father-in-law. Kempler also writes articles and personal stories on various subjects: health, fitness, pets, food, recipes, etc.
Follow her blog HERE.
TradeMark Remark: If April Kempler was on a camping trip, what would her role be?
What inspired you to write The Altered I?
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.
How is it different from other books about the Holocaust?
Joseph Kempler's story is unique in that he was raised Jewish, but as a result of what he saw and suffered in the camps he became an atheist. However, because of a group of Christian's also imprisoned in the camps, he later converted to a Christian faith. This is very unusual behavior, it is also something viewed as betrayal among the Jewish community. Once the reader experiences Joseph's life in his own words I believe they will understand why he made certain decisions. He is very open and honest about the good and bad of his actions. I find that refreshing and different when compared with the other first-person narratives out there.

What is something surprising that readers will find out about the book?
Isn't that a plot spoiler? Just kidding, seriously though, I think readers will be surprised to learn that Joseph Kempler isn't the "hero" of his own story. Many people don't know that there were a group of Christians also imprisoned in the camps. The book shines light on this aspect of the Holocaust history as well as Joseph's own tale of endurance under persecution.

How is writing a nonfiction book different than a fiction book? How has if at all changed your relationship with your father-in-law?
Namely the research involved. The story had to be impeccable, factually speaking. The Holocaust is a sensitive subject, open to criticism and naysayers. I did not want to leave any room for negative reactions as far as the facts go. Of course, everyone has an opinion and I may get a bad reaction anyway, but the facts need to speak for themselves. I believe with some fiction there is wiggle room with the facts. An author can change the locations, or even the time-period. Although some historical purists react in a negative way to that too! I think fiction is easier to write than nonfiction just purely from a research point of view.
I feel a lot closer to my father-in-law as a result of writing his memoir. He jokes that I know his story better than he does, and it's true in some ways.

Do you have a favorite book written about the Holocaust?
There are so many great books written on the Holocaust and I like most of them, but if you want to read only one book, then read Man's Search For Meaning by Viktor E. Frankl. My top three choices would be that, followed by Survival in Auschwitz by Primo Levi and Night by Elie Wiesel. Those are the best.

What has the writing and publishing process been like?
This has been an up and down process. If I could sum it up in one word it would be, patience. A new writer needs to learn the art of patience. Once a writer sends off his work it will take an enormous amount of time before that work is in a publishable state. I learned that everything took double the time, and sometimes even longer, than what I thought it would take, or what I was told it would take. So, in the meantime an author needs to build their platform by blogging, by networking, by face-to-face interaction if need be. This is a great time to start research on another project, or develop your marketing skills. The marketing and editing alone have taken longer than writing the original manuscript. In my opinion, the writing aspect is fun, the waiting period is not fun, and the marketing and platform building can be strenuous on a writer's precious time and nervous system. But I will tell you that it is worth it.

When can we expect it to be available to buy? Hard copy? E-book?
Soon! It will be available in an oversize paperback edition very soon. I had an early date of May, but I believe that is pushed back slightly. I'm in final edits with my publisher and they tell me "soon!" The e-book will be out some time after the paperback edition. I'm as excited as everyone else to see the finished copy!

You state on your blog that you moved from California to Reno. How is your "adoption" of Reno going? What is something unique you have found out about the city?
I love my "adopted" city. It is so pretty here. I feel blessed to live in a part of the world that has become a vacation destination for many people. Not only because of the casinos and gambling, I don't do that, but for the variety of outdoor activities that are available. We've got of course skiing, snowboarding, ice skating, and sledding in the winter, but those who love the outdoors can camp, hike, backpack, or river and lake (if visiting Lake Tahoe) kayak, and sail during the summer months. One special event I'm looking forward to this summer is Artown. This is the time when artists, musicians, and poets, share their talent and culture throughout the city. It is usually free and open to the public. Our falls are so gorgeous. The leaves turn astounding colors. Right now the spring is terrific. The trees are just loaded with blooms. People are always surprised to learn that we have a full four seasons here: autumn leaves, snow, warm rain, hot summers (not too often above 100 degrees, so it is more comfortable than Vegas!). We also get fantastic thunder-storms during August, I love it!
Reno is really a family town, it has a small town feel with big city action.
I've also been surprised by the history of Reno, Nevada. In fact I joined the Historic Reno Preservation Society to learn more about my adopted city.
Reno, has so much to offer. I recommend people visit us here!

If you could plan your perfect day, what would you be doing?
A perfect day would be waking up with my coffee + cream, getting a pedicure, then afterward hiding beneath the shade and seclusion of a willow tree reading Anna Karenina until dusk.

Do you have another job besides writing?
Yes I do. My husband and I have an interior decorating business, Kempler Design. We specialize in window treatments, soft and hard, such as draperies, blinds, shutters, shades. We also coordinate bedding with the draperies. We started this business in 1993, the year we got married. We seem to really work well together, each of us knows what our part in the business is, in that we excel. For example, I handle the phone calls, appointments and bookkeeping, while Paul, my husband, does the design work and installation of the the window treatments. My job actually frees up my time to write, so I would say it is a perfect arrangement!

What is some inspirational advice that you can give other Rookie writers?
Something that would have helped me when I first started down the path of getting a book published was to know how to hire an editor. I had no idea how to go about this and the editors I encountered wanted an exorbitant amount of money, which was something I just could not afford. But I was torn because I knew that an editor was crucial to the finished product of my book.
True story: coincidentally, while in a Barnes & Noble book store, I was watching people in the coffee house part of the store and they were all typing away on their laptops, or going over what looked like manuscripts to me. So I thought they must all be authors and perhaps they could help me find an editor. This was a little naive on my part, but clearly I had no idea how to go about this. The first man I spoke with said that he wasn't an author but he was a teacher at the college and he was just correcting papers! But, he knew someone who was an editor for the college newspaper. He gave me her card, I contacted her and voila! The rest is history. She actually was familiar with the genre of my book, and she knew Joseph Kempler, the subject of the story, personally. She had seen him speak to the students and staff at the college. She was interested in the genre and interested in the subject matter. These were two important aspects to consider when I chose an editor. She was thrilled by the opportunity to work on the edits (I told you this is a small town!) We agreed on a price and time frame and got to work.
So, the moral of the story is ask for help, ask for direction. I find it a wonderful surprise that people in this industry are so helpful to each other. We have a support system unlike any other. Get on LinkedIn and find the professionals you are looking for. Surround yourself with these people. Join the various writing groups available, jump into the conversations, or sit back and learn. I think it is a great place to start.

What is next on your writing agenda? New books? Ideas?
I am really concentrating on the marketing aspect for The Altered I. Nowadays marketing a book isn't left up to the publisher. The writer has a lot to do with it as well. And this makes sense, who else but the writer would know more about the book and the audience they want to reach? I just read this great quote by Bob Mayer, "Content is King. Promotion is Queen." So good content and good marketing really complement one another. Beyond that I just take one day at a time. I definitely have plans for writing another book. I have several ideas for themes I'd like to pursue, but I'm keeping it close to my heart right now.

What part of your writing style or skill are you trying to strengthen?
Right now I'm trying to discipline myself to write every day. Having a blog with followers encourages me to write something interesting every week, but I'd also like to tap into my ability to write something of length. I'd like to focus on the next book and developing an interesting plot with real, human characters that people can relate to.

Anything else you would like to add?
Thank you for giving me the opportunity to showcase my work on your blog site. I'm really grateful to be a part of this revolution in book publishing. Now, more than ever, is a great time to be a new writer. There are many ways to get yourself known and many ways to share the experience of writing and publishing. I believe we, as writers, are part of a great, positive community, willing to take chances on each other and open our minds to new possibilities.

The Altered I Book Blurb:
Joseph Kempler is eleven years old in 1939, when World War II begins. German soldiers have invaded his hometown of Krakow, Poland. Forced with his family to leave their home, business and belongings, Joseph embarks upon an adventure that will change his life forever. Joseph survives six concentration camps, some of them death camps, from the ages of fourteen to seventeen. Along the way he abandons family and faith. He curses God for allowing the Holocaust to happen and becomes an atheist. When he arrives at the concentration camp Melk, he encounters, from a distance, an unusual brand of Christian. He is told they are called Bibelforscher, Bible Students. He is astounded to see these Aryan's imprisoned in the same concentration camp as Jews and is shocked to learn that they can leave the camp anytime, all they have to do is renounce their faith, but they won't do it. This leaves an indelible impression on young Joseph's mind. Many years later, after emigrating to America, Joseph miraculously encounters this group again when they knock on his door. Always curious about their faith he questions them, and ultimately he converts to Christianity. The Altered I chronicles Joseph's life and the circumstances leading to his life altering decision, while shining new light on an untold story of the Holocaust.
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