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Write On Magazine's Celebrity Author
Frank C. Strunk

Madeira Beach Author Frank C. Strunk talks
about the craft of writing and his new suspense thriller, Throwback (HarperCollins)

by Evelyn Manak

"Being a novelist is a goal I wanted more than anything else," recalls Frank C. Strunk, relaxing on the porch of his Florida beachfront condo. Strunk paused to watch a seagull glide over the expanse of white sandy beach and dive for fish in the gentle waves of the Gulf of Mexico as he talked about the decision he made eleven years ago.

"I decided to move to Florida to become a fiction writer and when I got here discovered I didn't know how to do it," he laughed. "Writing clear, clean precise prose is something I'd always tried to do. But to use this to craft a novel, I just didn't know how. So I started frantically trying to learn."

With publication of his third novel this summer, a suspense thriller entitled, Throwback, (HarperCollins Publishers, New York; August 1996; $20) Frank C. Strunk has achieved his goal.

After attending countless workshops, reading numerous books on the craft of writing and producing two unpublished novels, Strunk met a writer who gave him valuable advice. He was Gary Provost, true-crime writer, novelist, lecturer, and celebrity biographer, who passed away last spring.

From Provost and other talented authors, Strunk learned techniques to hone his writing skills. He often shares what he has learned as a guest lecturer with the Florida Suncoast Writers Conference and Gail Provost's Writing Retreat Workshops. See Frank C. Strunk's Writing Tips.

    "I love to go to the mountains every chance I get,"
    said Strunk. "I love to hike in the back woods. I have
    friends who are hunters, and I go out on hiking
    expeditions with them. We sit around and play music,
    sing, laugh, tell stories and have a good time."
Strunk was born and raised in Eastern Kentucky, the setting for Throwback, his third novel. After the army Strunk attended the University of Kentucky where he earned his journalism degree. He worked on the state desk of the Lexington Herald, was editor of a weekly paper in Mount Vernon, Kentucky; served as editor of Rural Kentuckian Magazine, then went to Washington D.C. as Associate Editor of Rural Electrification Magazine and in the mid-sixties founded his own advertising and public relations firm, of which he remains a principal.

Strunk, who currently resides in Madeira Beach, Florida, is the author of two previous novels, Jordon's Wager and Jordon's Showdown, both of which take place in the mountains of Kentucky.

"I'm endlessly fascinated by mountain people, their culture and their ways," Strunk said. "I like the mountains. I have very deep roots in the mountains. My ancestors on both sides settled in the Appalachian Mountains about 200 years ago."

"Something about the character of the mountain people is very appealing to me. The lack of pretense and the inherent honesty and integrity that I find (obviously not in everybody--you don't find that in everybody any place) but that's the ideal that mountain people strive for," Strunk said.

"In the old mountain culture , those old kind of virtues were of paramount importance to people. You could be relied upon to keep your word. And you did not transgress against anybody and you would not be transgressed against. And you were self-reliant, in wanting to take care of yourself and the people you were responsible for. I think those ideas arise from two things: first, the kind of people who settled the mountains--mostly English, Scotch-Irish and German, who brought with them a lot of those old ideas and virtues. Second, their virtues came out of the lessons they learned about life in taming the wilderness. If you're going to survive in the mountains, you have to be able to depend on what another man tells you; you have to work together. These are things that are particular to the Appalachian Mountain people. I am fascinated by that and the history. I have studied mountain history for many years and I love to read about it so it was a natural thing for me to write about it."

Frank C. Strunk was born in Stearns, Kentucky in Southeast Kentucky
near the Big South Fork of the Cumberland River, the setting of his third
novel, suspense thriller, Throwback. "I'm endlessly fascinated by
mountain people, their culture and their ways," Strunk said.

Strunk's first two books were also set in the Appalachian Mountains, in the days of Prohibition and the Great Depression in the 1930s. His latest book is a contemporary novel, also set in the mountains and the character is, as the title suggests, a throwback to those earlier values and how those ideas and that old culture has collided with the new culture.

"The conflict with all the old virtues that are still held by many of the mountain people seemed to make a good theme for the book, and that's how Throwback has developed," Strunk said.

Strunk's main character, Cole Clayfield, is a responsible, decent human being with good values, good instincts--a virtuous man. He finds nothing wrong with hunting a deer and bringing it home and using it for food.

"Most mountain people are that way. Clayfield teaches his ten-year-old granddaughter Shelby the ways of the woods, teaches her how to hunt rabbits, and that's a little politically incorrect these days," Strunk said. "But the things he's taught her turn out to be very helpful and valuable to her when she's taken hostage in the woods by a bad guy. The things she learns about life and the woods from her grandfather are things that are extremely important to her for her survival."

The books that Strunk writes about Kentucky and the mountains give him a chance to write about things that are important to him.

"Novels are supposed to reach people. The cardinal sin, I think is to bore people with your novels. People buy a novel to be entertained and if the author doesn't tell a good story and tell it well, he hasn't done his job as a novelist. So whatever message you have, that you want to get across, you better do it in a very subtle way so it doesn't come across as a sermon or lecture.

"Nevertheless, in our selection of who our heroes and villains are going to be, we inevitably tell something about ourselves and our own values and our own ideas. If a writer doesn't want to reveal a lot of who he/she is, he'd better stay away from writing novels because you're not going to write a very good novel unless you're willing to reveal a good bit about who you are and what you believe about things.

"As a matter of fact, unless you have some strong beliefs about something, why do you want to write a novel anyway? If the novel isn't about something that's important to you, it's a pretty shallow piece of business isn't it?"

Strunk overlooking the Big South Fork of the Cumberland River
in Eastern Kentucky. Strunk is working on his next book
set in Kentucky and Washington, D. C. that will feature a
contemporary setting involving mountain people,
politics, city people, intrigue and drama.

Strunk teaches workshops at the
Florida Suncoast Writers Conference at USF, St.Petersburg,
and at Gail Provost's Writers Retreat Workshops

Upcoming Book Signings

About Throwback by Frank C. Strunk

a suspense thriller set in the Appalachian Mountains
HarperCollins Publishers

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