Thursday, July 11, 2013

WHAT THE EXPERTS SAY: Author April Voytko Kempler

April Voytko Kempler, Author
Memoir of Joseph Kempler
as told to April Voytko Kempler

April Voytko Kempler brings us her father-in-law’s story about survival in six concentration camps as a teenager during the holocaust and what that experience did to him. She tells THE ALTERED I, A HOLOCAUST MEMOIR in the first person after listening to him relate his story on PBS and on other platforms.   

Currently a Reno resident, April started her life in Southern California. As with many writers, she has been an avid reader since childhood. She is patiently waiting the publication of  THE ALTERED I in between helping out with the business she and her husband operate.

Q:  Tell us about THE ALTERED I, A HOLOCAUST MEMOIR. Is it fiction or non-fiction?

April Voytko Kempler: It is non-fiction told as a first person narrative.

Q:  What led you to write THE ALTERED I, A HOLOCAUST MEMOIR?

April Voytko Kempler: I've always had a deep interest in the Holocaust, but never thought I would write a book about it until I met my future father-in-law, Joseph Kempler. I was significantly touched by his story. I 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. 

Q:  What is the significance of the title THE ALTERED I?

April Voytko Kempler: I don’t read poetry as a rule; however, The Mental Traveler by William Blake grabbed my attention. Especially one short line in parenthetical's: “(For the eye altering, alters all)” and that just blew me away. I knew somehow this was going to be the book’s title. It fit so perfectly with Joe’s life. His "eye" had altered, not by his choice or will, but his life course was so changed that everything else had changed as well. His focus, his goals, and even his spirituality changed direction. The title The Altered I is such a powerful sentiment for the theme of Joe's story.

Q:  What did you learn from writing THE ALTERED I?

April Voytko Kempler: First, I learned I could write a book! I learned a lot about the publishing world from a business perspective, I learned I can market myself. But, most importantly, I learned patience. I learned to be patient with myself and others. I learned if I stretched myself out of my comfort zone I would be OK. And I learned that there is a lot of support and camaraderie among the writer world. Writers really do want to support other writers and see them succeed. It was an unexpected and pleasant surprise.

Q:  Do you plan to write other holocaust books?

April Voytko Kempler: I definitely would like to try my hand at writing a fictionalized account of the Holocaust. Fiction is really the direction I would like to go with my writing career, unless of course another fantastic true story presents itself to me. But, I will say non-fiction is challenging. I had to research a lot of the historic facts and make sure what I was writing was accurate, especially with something as sensitive a topic as the Holocaust. 

Q:  Why are you a writer

April Voytko Kempler: I love a good story like anyone else, plus I have an overactive imagination. When I read a riveting book I can’t help but think can I do this too? Can I make people lose themselves in a world I create? Also, writing is enjoyable to me. I very often express my thoughts better with the written word than speaking face to face. There’s no delete, or back-space button in real life. I like the self-editing factor of writing.

Q: How do you make your readers care about your book?

April Voytko Kempler: I have a character, although he is a real person, who people can relate to. He is far from perfect, he makes all kinds of mistakes, he is flawed as a human but people can sympathize and emphasize with him and his plight. Strangely enough I had one gentleman come up to me and say the opening chapter reminded him of his own father. People can relate to the story even if their background and personal history is different, it resonates. And I only have four sample chapters available right now and people keep asking when can we read more? That is what every author loves to hear. There is more, I finished the book, but it hasn’t been scheduled for release yet, so I ask for a little more patience on the part of the readers (I’m trying to be patient too!)

Q: What do you consider the most important elements of any good writing?

April Voytko Kempler: A little bit of mystery, a little bit of romance, some action, and a happy ending. I really like happy endings.

Q: Who are your target readers? Who do you think will most benefit from reading your story?

April Voytko Kempler: I wish I could say one specific group of people, but honestly everyone I talk to young, old, parent, child, teacher, spiritual leader, they are all so interested in reading and learning more about the Holocaust. I especially think it is important for young, school-age children because the generation that went through WWII and the Holocaust is diminishing and so are their stories. I don’t want to see this subject end up as ancient history. As a people we are still affected by all that happened during that time. The damage still trickles down through the generations. I don’t want the important lessons of that time to be forgotten.

Q:  What’s next?

April Voytko Kempler: More writing of course and hopefully more books published!

Q:  Tell us about you. What do you like to do when you’re not writing?

April Voytko Kempler: I’m usually reading. I fool around on the internet too much! I also volunteer for my church and my local historic society. I assist my husband in our window covering business and I’m a busy wife! My husband and I love to travel so when we get a chance we are planning our next getaway.

About April Voytko Kempler

Born in Southern California, April Kempler currently resides in her "adopted" city of Reno, Nevada. She lives with her husband, who doubles as her editor-in-chief. April's first book entitled The Altered I, a Holocaust Memoir, is a first-person narrative about the Holocaust. 

April loves reading, a habit she picked up as a child. Instead of playing with the other kids, she could be found with her nose in a book.  She reads a variety of genres, but is especially drawn to historical fiction.

When April is not writing or reading, she assists her husband in their window treatment design business answering the telephone, making appointments and helping to install gorgeous draperies on naked windows.


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 Aryans 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.

Link to introduction to prologue and sample chapters:

LeRue Press website to purchase pre-order: see the tab Pre-Order Books on far right side of page.


Goodreads author: Soon!
Amazon: Soon!
Barnes & Noble: Soon!

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