New to the CKN Christian Publishing family, Ken Pratt has quickly made a place for himself on the bestsellers list. If his writing alone isn’t enough to make you a fan, his faith, honesty, and dedication to what he loves will be.
CKN Christian Publishing: I know you previously published Willow Falls and Sweethome, did you think republishing them would be as successful as it has been?
Ken Pratt: No. Willow Falls and Sweethome were best sellers for a bit when they were published in 2015. So no, I thought their best days were behind them. I didn’t expect them to reach the best seller status and if they did, I did not think it would last too long because they had been out there for a few years and not much was going on with them. I am quite simply amazed by the success they have found and continue to find.
CKN: How do you feel currently having three best sellers?
KP: That is a question I never imagined being asked. You have to keep in mind that I was always told I could not write a book. I wasn’t smart enough, educated enough, skilled enough, nor dedicated enough to finish one. I kept one moment from 4th grade repeating in my head and that was my teacher Mrs. Carol Schmidt telling me I should be a writer when I grew up. She doesn’t remember that, but I do. To answer your question, it feels very humbling. It is very satisfying to work hard night after night and sacrifice so much sleep for a story and then see it reach #1 on a best seller list. I don’t know if it can do a whole lot better than that. To have all three books I have published so far reach that pinnacle is an absolute blessing! There is nothing more satisfying than seeing the time and dedication it takes me to write a book was worth it. I love to see them doing well and I hope they continue to. But, I’m also an old wrestling coach, so you put the last match behind you and focus on the next one. It’s the same with writing.
CKN: You seem to have a very busy life; how do you find the time to write?
KP: I don’t even know where to begin with this question. Yes, I have a very busy life. It is no secret and I think well known that my wife Cathy, was diagnosed with Early Onset Alzheimer’s at age forty-five in 2012. She was given five to ten years to live as her disease was supposed to progress quite fast. She is progressing, but at a much slower rate than originally diagnosed. Not to say we don’t have bad days, we certainly do. But we also have good days, and more of them than bad. And for that I am grateful. Our Granddaughter was diagnosed with Osteosarcoma Bone Cancer two years ago and that’s been a long battle with three surgeries and chemo. She is right now cancer free and Lord willing will remain so. And if you want your heart broken, that will do it for you. We have five kids and six Grandchildren who love to come visit. Our youngest daughter just got married in September, and you can imagine the Summer we had. (Just watch Father of the Bride, if you don’t understand.) And our youngest boy is a senior in high school this year. That is just a quick glimpse of the main high lights of our life. I work full time, forty hours a week in building maintenance. I am on call 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. The early evening hours are spent with my family or running errands. Around about nine or ten in the evening I begin writing and will write until two in the morning or later depending on what I am writing and how close I am to finishing the scene. I get between three and four hours of sleep a night and get up at 6:15 in the morning five days a week to do it all over again. Two hours of sleep is not uncommon either and that is my schedule. On the weekends I write until four or five in the morning and get up about nine on average. I have been keeping that schedule for so many years now that it is as natural as anyone’s schedule. I write, that’s what I like to do and those are the only hours I could, so that is how it all started. I sacrifice sleep for every story I write. Is it worth it? When I read the reviews and someone writes the words, “Thank you, for writing this.” Then absolutely, yes!! – Simply put, I love to write. So, I find the time to do it.
CKN: Does anyone in your family read your books? How do they feel about them?
KP: Let me first explain that my wife Cathy has always been the one person I would talk to about my books. She got to hear hours of me talking about the characters and the storylines. Then came the bouncing “what if’s” off her for her feedback. She was always supportive and took an active role in helping me write the role of Abby while writing Sweethome. Cathy was in an abusive marriage for ten years before ever meeting me, and that abuse is what caused her Alzheimer’s. Repetitive blows to the head. It is a subject I am very passionate about and will not apologize for the ugliness or brutality of it in Sweethome. It may be hard to read, but I’ll bet you a dollar it’s harder to live than to read. And now a days Cathy is still very supportive but can’t remember the characters or storylines too well. She has a hard time retaining what she reads, though she tries, reading is hard for her. My kids on the other hand are quite blunt. My son reads everything I write and is truly a blessing for his honesty and good sense. My daughters are quite honest, so when they say, “Dad, I couldn’t put it down,” or my favorite, “Dad, I’m very angry at you!” because of a storyline, I know it’s good! When they say, “Dad, I didn’t like this part…” I will ask questions and get a viewpoint I had not thought of. My family is very supportive and proud of the way I keep at it, even when there seemed to be no future in it. And for a few years’ things were pretty tough on us, but my writing schedule never changed. As for me, my family keeps me grounded and are more than willing to listen and offer their opinions on a story whenever I ask. So yes, I am very blessed with a wife and a bunch of kids who support their Dad.
KP: I had been injured in a car accident and bruised three lobes of my brain. I was for all practical purposes had brain damage and taken off work for two years to recover. I was very angry, and my personality had changed. (My handwriting too) And I wondered as we slowly lost everything, we’d worked so hard for what good could from this horrible event. Well, a lot of good did. We rededicated our lives to the Lord and as we grew and drew closer to the Lord, I laid down the book I was writing, which is still in my closet, and said, “Writing must be a God given talent, because that’s all I want to do. Being a God given talent, then I owe it to the Lord to write stories that point to the Lord for hope in life, salvation in death, and the Lord’s providence through tough circumstances.” We had been through a horrible time, and I realized the providence of God was involved all along and throughout my life in hind-sight. I made the decision that if I couldn’t write something that reached deeper than a Dairy Queen sign, then it wasn’t meant for me to write at all. Matt Bannister was my creation of a human being first and foremost. A man who could be tough when he needed to be, and gentle when allowed to be. An introverted man who didn’t care about fame and saw through the emptiness of it. Compassionate and yet strong and stood his ground. He was a Christian man with a haunted past and realized the greatest blessings in life are absolutely free. To live with peace in his heart and no shame in his soul. To be free from his past, sleep well and be his humble, quiet self until it’s time to knock someone on their…ass. I wanted a real man who could feel the aches, pains, pressures, fears and worries that we all feel from day to day and work his way through them in a realistic manner. And a lot is going to go on with him in the future. Matt is just a normal guy put in unique situations, and that is how I came up Matt Bannister. My stories are always about the people and less about the situations they are in.
CKN: Which came to you first: the characters, the plot, or some combination of that?
KP: Long before I ever began writing Willow Falls, I had one scene in mind. And that scene was the one outside of the mercantile when Matt faces off against a teen boy wanting to make his mark in the world. With that one scene in mind, I planned a basic outline and the story evolved on its own as I wrote it basically. I would have a plan, but my plan didn’t make it on the page, something brand new did out of nowhere. And that happens a lot. It never fails though, I come up with the main characters and then there are sub-characters who have a role in the next book, you just don’t know it yet. Every story starts with one scene clearly in mind. And they grow from there. I know the end of the story, but how it’s going to get there, is always a mystery because what I have planned changes as it goes. And I don’t argue, I just ride with the flow of writing it and go back over it and say, “Wow. Did I really write that?” And then I hope someone else likes it too.
CKN: How much research goes into your books?
KP: I am first and foremost a topical person, meaning I will study a topic to death until I am confidant that I have a good grasp of it. I don’t use half of what I learn and I don’t think I go into great detail about anything really, but yes, I spend hours seeking out a subject until I am satisfied enough to understand it myself. If I can, I’ll go to a museum or recently to a working grist mill to see, feel and smell it for myself to get a working picture of it. Do I tell people I am a writer and doing some research? No, I’m afraid I keep that to myself. I have a fairly large library of history and books on various topics during the old west, people, places, and things like stamp mills, pioneer farm equipment, and a lot of local pioneer history from my side of the country, all kinds of odd things, and every book I write adds more books to a growing pile on the floor. I need another book case… My wife rolls her eyes every time I come home with a new book.
KP: I enjoy reading westerns, action stories, thrillers and yet, a good romance never hurt anyone either. Well, except Romeo and Juliet. I am currently reading a non-fiction book called “Comstock Women – The making of a mining community” by Ronald M, James & Elizabeth Raymond. I won’t say it’s more for research to an upcoming book rather than for pleasure, but it might be.
CKN: What’s the best writing (or life) advice you would give someone?
KP: For a high school student – With a Diploma there are No Red Lights!
For any writer who ever has or will ask me for advice – My answer is always the same.
“You’re not John Grisham, so don’t try to write like him. You have your own voice and talent so use them. And don’t sit around and talk about it…write it!”