An Interview with Charles Salter, Author of The Travel Twins and the Lost Secret of the Vikings

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Charles Salter is the author of The Travel Twins and the Lost Secret of the Vikings, book 4 in the Kare Kids Adventures series:

Twelve year old twins Josh and Hannah travel from the USA to visit their Uncle Olaf in Norway. Olaf runs the Museum of Norse Antiquities in Oslo, and the museum’s greatest treasure-the Viking chieftain Leif Erikson’s fabled Sunstone-is stolen. Hot on the trail of the suspected thief, the twins ride on a dizzyingly high train through the Scandes Mountains to Norway’s largest fjord, a deep waterway which connects directly to the North Sea. While spying on the suspect’s suspicious behavior, the twins are suddenly kidnapped on the train! They elude their captors by breaking free, sneaking across the top of the train as it chugs through a tunnel, and tricking the kidnappers. Then they learn the thief’s true motivation: to use the Sunstone to interpret the coded Undredal Runes so as to re-create the Viking super-warriors known as Berserkers. Can the twins defeat the plot, return the stolen treasure, and save the world from the secret of Viking Berserkers which has been concealed for a thousand years?

Read on for an interview with Charles (you can also read his interview about The Secret of Bald Rock Island (Kare Kids Adventures #1) and How Three Brothers Saved the Navy (Kare Kids Adventures #3)).

S.R.: What inspired you to write about the Vikings in The Travel Twins and the Lost Secret of the Vikings?

C.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 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.

S.R.: 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.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.

S.R.: 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.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.

S.R.: In a previous interview you said that after four books you plan on taking time off to spend more time on book promotion, and then depending on reader interest, you may write more in the series. How’s that going so far? Do you know yet if you will continue the series?

C.S.: I haven’t made a final decision yet. I’ve had all sorts of publicity placements in print and online magazines, internet blogs, a TV interview, articles about my series on news sites, and so on. But it will take some time to evaluate whether these efforts lead to enough sales to justify continuing the series with additional books.

S.R.: What advice would you give to writers who may be starting to write their first series?

C.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.

Author Charles Salter in his basement office with shelves filled with books he has written over the years. Staff photo by Bill Green

Author Charles Salter in his basement office with shelves filled with books he has written over the years.
Staff photo by Bill Green

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.

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