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Author Interview with Mike Proko

Pendleton the Penguin and his magical friends

Interviewed by: Gary Sorkin, Pacific Book Review 


March 2012

Today we have with us Mike Proko, author of the illustrated children’s book titled Pendleton the Penguin and his magical friends.  Thank you for joining us.

MP: Nice to be here, Gary, along with Pendleton and some of his friends.

PBR: When I read your book, it was on my computer, so the colors of the illustrations really stood out with illumination.  How did you meet your illustrators?

MP: Alex Rocha did the cover illustrations for ‘Rising from the Ashes: A Spiritual Odyssey’ and the 2nd in the R.F.T.A. series, ‘A Golfer’s Tale.’ Alex was responsible for bringing Juan Carlos Baez to the table, both of them being from Chicago. Having worked with Alex, I trusted his judgment in Juan and felt very comfortable with both for this project.

PBR:  How did the concept of the characters become envisioned?  Did the illustrators work from your storyboard of come up with their own?

MP: Of course, I had my own ideas going in but being in the contracting business for 40 yrs. I learned to step back and see what my people would come up with. I didn’t even give them any inkling of what I was looking for. They read the script or text and came up with their own ideas. Needless to say, they blew me out of the water.

PBR:  Now the name Pendleton is known to me, but I doubt it is to children.  Does the company (Pendleton) have any significance to you?

MP: No, other than my own scarves, Pendleton don’t yet know. But I knew this little guy was going to be one of a kind and that he’d be around a long time so I wanted a name that would reflect that… Pendleton just seemed like a natural fit. It will hold no significance to children NOW, but in a year’s time, everyone will know it.

PBR:  The book is a classic size and format for being read to children.  Have you written other children’s books?

MP: No, actually this is my first venture into children’s books, quite by accident I might add. I had been writing a book of short stories and some of the stories were so dark that another author suggested that I do a lighter fare next time around. Pendleton the Penguin and his Magical Friends was a result of that conversation.

The book structure? I was looking for something that mom or dad could read to the kids and the children could follow alone with. By the same token, if the kids were going to read by themselves, I wanted them to enjoy the language we used and the detail in the pictures.

PBR:  Do you have kids of your own?

MP: Sara is grown and has 2 toddlers of her own, Grace and Gabriella. Grace is just starting to read so the ‘Pendleton’ series will have an impact on her reading and her imagination

PBR:  What do you believe the “take away” from the story is for children?  The moral of the story, according to you?

MP: Each story starts out the same: When the sun rises on a new day, all things are possible. Each story will end the same way: Tomorrow’s going to be a GREAT day. In between those 2 lines, an adventure takes place and the day is filled with endless possibilities. All of the characters will be unique, just like the readers. And all children should see the miracles that are all around them on a daily basis. When we were younger, we didn’t know how things worked; we looked at everything as if we were looking at it for the first time. It was magical. That would be the ‘take-away’—to never lose that MAGIC, to believe that all things are possible and to celebrate your uniqueness.

PBR:  Do you have plans for future books, and if so, what might they be?

MP: I’ve been writing non-stop for the last 11 years. I had 2 strokes then and I had no idea what I was going to do for the rest of my life. So, I started to write like a man possessed. I’ve told some interesting stories and met some very interesting people. And that has brought me to this point in my life. But if I had to pick one vehicle to get me to the end of my writing career, it would be the Pendleton series. There will be 4 more released this year alone and the guys back in Chicago are already illustrating the new ones.

PBR:  We all certainly wish you the best of success with your book, and thank you again for your time today.

MP: My pleasure, Gary. I expect that we’ll be seeing a lot more of each other. When people help you out, it’s always in your best interest to keep those people close to you. Thank you and God bless.

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