Once again, I have been able to go into the creative world of an author from our site. This time I am honored to be able to interview Gwen Lepkowski, she is the author of "Cross Country Treasure Hunt and the Mystery That Followed" Check out "Cross Country Treasure Hunt and the Mystery That Followed" book summary and review here
Interview with Gwen~
I guess lots of author interviews start out with some of these same questions, but hey, they are the ones our members want to know….. In your own words, tell us a little bit about your background.
I grew up in a family of seven in upstate New York like the characters in the story. I was homeschooled for two years back in a time when homeschooling was not nearly as common. My younger brothers and sister were homeschooled for most of their school years. We did a lot of things together and were a close family. We still are! The story I wrote is based on a real family vacation in which we camped across America and visited many national parks and monuments to see the amazing wonders of God's creation. I journaled in detail along the way, and then two years ago decided to write a book based on that journal to share that special experience with others, although fictionalized so I could add a mystery to solve and even more adventure. After high school, I attended Houghton College and got a degree in education. Then I went on to get my master's degree in education. I am married, have two boys (7 and 11), and teach Spanish part-time.
What authors have made an impact on you over your life and why?
I have always been an avid reader from the time I was very small so I have many favorite authors. When I was young, I liked Dr. Seuss and then went through a Nancy Drew phase. I remember reading together as a family, kids' Christian adventure books about Danny Orlis by Bernard Palmer and the Ladd Family Adventure Series by Lee Roddy. Mostly either my mom or I would take turns reading those books aloud to my younger brothers and sisters. I remember liking the Christian message and the excitement. My siblings would beg to hear more. I suppose those stories influenced me to write something that would be educational, combined with the element of mystery I liked, exciting so kids would ask to read or hear more, and a Christian message that would leave the reader feeling that he had read something worthwhile. Some of my favorite authors of books I read now are Janette Oke and Beverly Lewis among many others who I respect for their storytelling skill and Christian themes. Of course, my favorite book of all time is the Bible. God has spoken to me so many times through something written in His Word.
When you are not writing, what do you like to do in your spare time? I like to spend time with my family.
My sons like to play baseball so that often means baseball in the backyard. However, I also like singing and playing my keyboard, reading a good book, teaching Sunday school, and working with kids.
When writing a book in which homeschooling is a major theme, do you feel any pressure or responsibility about how you represent it?
I didn't feel any pressure because I was just writing about what I knew. I have many homeschooling friends. I was a homeschooled student at one time, and my family when I was growing up was a homeschooling famly. It was a good experience, and I just wrote about my own experiences.
I know that this book was about (not sure this will make sense without a little bit of background about the book…you might want to provide a short synopsis at the start of the interview) a real trip for your family… what was it that made this particular trip so special you wanted to write about it?
It was an amazing experience to drive and camp all the way across America. I wanted others to experience the fun of gophers popping up out of the ground near a tent, the amazement of walking through giant-sized trees growing on the tops of mountains, the wonder of wood that had turned to stone, the excitement of exploring caves and lava tubes, and so much more. I wanted others to see what I saw and to realize that there is a Creator and to marvel at his creativity. There is no way that all of this could just create itself. Secondly, I wanted others to experience a close family working together. I know we all have our problems, but still I was blessed with a close family, and I wanted to show this – a family helping each other in an age where tv and some books often show dysfunctional families with siblings hurting each other with their words and putting each other down. There is a better way where everyone treats each other with love and respect even if it is not always done perfectly.
Out of all the places that the family went in the book, which place did you go in real life that was your family’s favorite? And tell us why?
In real life my family went to all the places in this book. I suppose we all had our favorite spots. One of my personal favorites was the giant sequoias. It felt like entering a world from a fairy tale. The most picturesque place to me was the lake with colored stones on the bottom and the reflection of nearby snow-capped mountains on the surface. It was truly breathtaking beauty. The spot where my family probably laughed the most and had the most fun was probably leaping off the sand dunes at White Sands National Monument. Doesn't that picture of the sand dunes in the book look fun? All of the pictures in the book are actual photos.
I think that my boys’ favorite character was Josh, (even though they liked them all) because he was the one trying to figure out the mystery mostly by himself. My personal favorite was the dad, I laughed along with the boys when he would make his rock stops, and when he lost his shoes in the desert. As the author, which character was your favorite and why?
Most of the trip is seen through Josh's eyes. However, it would be hard for me to pick just one favorite character. As the author, I get attached to each one. Also, although the characters are fictional, they are based on my own family members to some extent. My dad really is like the dad in the story. He loves rocks, and, yes, the glue holding his shoes together really did melt in the desert! My brothers do like mysteries, good jokes, and inventing things. There are seven people in my family that match the characters in the story including a set of twins. I suppose I most closely resemble Ella in the story.
Are there any plans to write another book in this series? Or is there another book that you are working on right now that you would like to share with us?
I would like to write a sequel set in Alaska or a summer camp adventure with the same characters.
What advice would you give to inspiring writers, looking to get into writing books about homeschooling?
Write about what you know. If it is a story, use all your senses (sight, hearing, smell, taste, touch) to help the reader experience the story. Start your story with something interesting to grab the reader's attention. Share what you write with others and get feedback. I read my story first to lots of kids and watched to see where they were getting bored and what they liked and then adjusted my story accordingly. Also, it is probably worth paying someone to professionally edit your book even if you are a grammatically good writer. Don't get discouraged and don't give up.
In closing, any tidbits that you want to share with our members, about your website, books or something exciting in your life?
If anyone is interested, the best place for you to purchase Cross-Country Treasure Hunt is probably amazon.com because of the discount and possible free shipping. You can read the book reviews there as well. The publishing company has a web page for my book, but I am hoping to get my own website up and running before too long.
If you have read this book, leave a comment to let our visitors know what you thought of it too!