Welcome, Guest Hound Charles Salter
By Jeff Salter
Or, I should say “welcome BACK,” to my big brother, Charles A. Salter. He’s been my Guest Hound before, perhaps twice before, but he’s back today to share with us about the four new childrens’ titles in his new Kare Kids Series.
Folks, I was a professional librarian for nearly 29 years and for several of those years, I evaluated and selected (i.e., purchased) childrens’ books. There were oodles of picture books for the pre-readers, and a goodly assortment of titles for the so-called “young adults.” But I found there were pretty slim pickings for reading kids in Grades 3-7 or so. Back then, I would have ordered sets of these Kare Kids titles for each of my public library system branches.
And they’re even enjoyable for grown-ups to read, whether or not you’re still a “kid at heart.” After all, a good story is a good story.
Anyway, I’ve convinced my brother to stop by 4F1H and tell us about his series. Following the short interview you’ll find blurbs and covers for the four titles already available. Buy these for your young readers — they’ll make delightful Christmas presents.
What inspired you to write about the Vikings in The Travel Twins and the Lost Secret of the Vikings?
[C.A.S.] — I have always been fascinated with the Vikings. I spent my junior year of college at the University of Leeds in England and spent all my vacation time touring Europe. I absolutely loved the natural beauty of Norway in particular and have been back a couple of times since then. The locations in the book, including that scary train ride through the Scandes Mountains all the way down to a branch of Norway’s largest fjord, are all absolutely authentic. I’ve been there and I rode that train—the steepest normal-gauge train in all of Europe—and the experience has been rumbling around in the back of my mind ever since. I knew it would make an exciting location for one of my novels, especially since the Vikings lived in that very area centuries ago.
Each book in the Kare Kids Series has different protagonists. How is it writing new characters for each book? What’s the common theme that links them all?
[C.A.S.] — My plan was for the first four books to introduce all six major characters and for planned future books (not yet written) to mix and match these six preteen kids in later adventures. They are all related in one extended family, and each is based on one of my grandchildren. Three are brothers in one nuclear family; the other three (a pair of fraternal twins and their sister) are cousins in a different family. Book #1 is the adventure of the twins’ mother when she was a young girl (Kelcie) in Maine; #2 is about grown-up Kelcie’s daughter Charlotte; #3 deals with the three brothers who are Charlotte’s cousins; and #4 is about the twins in Norway. All six kids are spunky, independent, and courageous. All six really care about family, friends, animals, and the environment and translate this concern into concrete action to make their corner of the world a better place.
The Travel Twins and the Lost Secret of the Vikings is book four in your Kare Kids Adventure Series. What have you learned so far writing this series?
[C.A.S.] — Gosh, I’ve learned a number of things! I suppose the main thing I have realized is that most books for preteens which are popular now deal with either some form of magic or superheroes. Kids today do enjoy reading those kinds of stories, but they are not exactly realistic. I thought it would be fun to have books in which resourceful and resilient kids live in the real world and use their normal human skills to solve the kinds of problems we all face. To get out of a jam, help a friend, or save a trapped pet, the Kare Kids can’t wave a magic wand or fly through the air wearing a superhero outfit. Rather, they must use their ordinary youth skills. I think books like this can encourage kids to look within for their own heroic qualities and grow up with a more assertive and independent outlook towards life.
What’s your writing and production process like? And how crazy is your schedule right now?
[C.A.S.] — I took many months to write, edit, and polish the first three book manuscripts, but I timed publication so that one would come out each month of summer, intending to provide a reading series for kids out of school. My writing process involves coming up with unique characters who are confronted with an unusual situation or problem they must struggle to handle. But right now I sometimes wonder if I bit off more than I can chew myself! It can be difficult handling several different books at once, each in a different stage of development. I started writing book #5 a few weeks ago and then realized, “Nope…it will have to wait till the others are finished…I just don’t have the time and energy for yet another one right now.”
What advice would you give to writers who may be starting to write their first series?
[C.A.S.] — Before starting my Kare Kids Adventures I read a number of articles filled with suggestions for writing a series. I think my favorite piece of advice is this — make each book a self-contained story which a reader can enjoy on its own. After all, not every reader will start with book #1 and continue straight through the series. Some readers may jump aboard only on book #3 or #4 or later, and the writer certainly doesn’t want to disappoint them with an incomplete story in which one has to buy the next book to find the resolution of this book’s plot. However, the writer of a series should add extra touches which provide additional meaning and interest for readers who DO keep following most or all of the series. In my case, only by reading more than one volume does the reader come to appreciate fully how all the main characters are actually related to each other, and how their shared past (back to the days of their ancestors in England, Scotland, and Norway) helps shape the kind of people they are today. I’m hoping readers will love that theme as I develop it in the books…it certainly fascinates me.
What’s been the best part about writing this series, so far?
[C.A.S.] — I’ve been a writer all my life, one with an intense desire to write. You might say I can’t NOT write. I am always coming up with ideas, jotting them down, expanding them, and then developing fully the ones which appeal to me the most. The best part for me about this particular series is writing what I consider a tribute to my real children and grandchildren, each of whom as fictionalized characters appears throughout the series.
What do you hope readers will take away from your series?
[C.A.S.] — Like any writer, I want most of all to find readers who will enjoy the books and want to come back for more. But, in particular, I want to encourage youth readers to realize that they do possess heroic qualities and can make a difference in their world. They may not be able to battle dragons with magic wands or put on a cape and fly on their own power around the universe. But they can make their own corner of the world a better place if they try. I hope the KARE KIDS ADVENTURE series will help readers see that.
Kare Kids Adventures #1: The Secret of Bald Rock Island
Ten-year-old Kelcie – whose fisherman father disappeared years ago – decides to help Mr. Bartleby solve the island’s two enduring mysteries — what happened to her father… and whether Mr. Bartleby actually saw a sea creature that night. Kelcie resolves to explore the forbidden area of her island home off the coast of Maine. But as she puts the final pieces of the puzzle together, a new storm arises. Can she solve the mysteries and return to safety before the new storm claims her… as the previous one did her father?
Kare Kids Adventures #2: Charlotte and the Mysterious Vanishing Place
Nine-year-old Charlotte discovers that a patch of the woods behind her house is sinking deep into the earth. The growing sinkhole traps two puppies, including her own, and threatens an entire nearby kennel. Charlotte alerts her family and the authorities, but a fierce rainstorm sweeps in — she is the only one around as the center of the dangerous sinkhole rips open and threatens to swallow the fallen tree to which the puppies cling. Can Charlotte save the trapped pups and get herself out before the giant sinkhole swallows everything?
Kare Kids Adventures #3: How Three Brothers Saved the Navy
In their Force Recon Marine training game at an abandoned airfield one day, three brothers – aged 12, 10, and 8 – discover a sinister plot. What they first thought were ordinary skydivers are actually hostile terrorist agents training to land with guns and explosives on a navy aircraft carrier their father commands. Captured by the gang, can Matt, Ryan and Jack use their junior military skills to escape, get vital information back to their dad on the carrier, and help devise a plan to defeat the terrible plot?
Kare Kids Adventures #4: The Travel Twins and the Lost Secret of the Vikings
Twelve year old twins Josh and Hannah travel from the USA to Norway to visit their Uncle Olaf, who runs the Museum of Norse Antiquities in Oslo. Sadly, the museum’s greatest Viking treasure – Leif Erikson’s fabled Sunstone – is stolen. Hot on the trail of the suspected thief, the twins ride the scariest mountain train in all of Europe. While spying on the suspect’s suspicious behavior, the twins are suddenly kidnapped! To elude their captors, they’d have to break free somehow and sneak across the top of the train as it chugs through a tunnel. Is that even possible? Can they prevent the thieves from using Leif Erikson’s Sunstone to translate ancient Viking Runes which hold a terrible secret lost for a thousand years?
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Lieutenant Colonel (ret.) Charles A. Salter, Ph.D., S.D., served 28 years in the U.S. Army after seven and a half years as an assistant professor and then tenured associate professor at Spring Hill College. He holds a Ph.D. in psychology from the University of Pennsylvania (1973) and a Doctor of Science in public health from Harvard University (1989). He was licensed as a psychologist by the state of Massachusetts, as a nutritionist by the state of Maryland, and was a charter member of the Prescribing Psychologists Register.
He has written on family matters for the newspaper syndicate Scripps-Howard, Today’s Family, Life and Health, Woman’s World and more. He is the author of sixteen books, most recently the adult fiction series The Ebay Detective. The Kare Kids Adventures series are his first books in middle grade fiction. Charles currently resides in Maryland.