An Interview With
When C.B. Jonnes, co-owner and treasurer of American Polywater Corp., awoke from a particularly lucid dream five years ago, he scribbled the outline of a story about a man who can dream the future. It was recently published by Salvo Press as Wake Up Dead.
"Finding time to write was not easy," says Jonnes (pronounced "Jones"), 42, who has worked for 27 years at the family-owned company in Stillwater, Minn., founded by his father. The many hats he wears at the manufacturer of lubricants and cleaners for the electrical industry--he is also chief operating officer--gives him a typical work week of 55 to 60 hours. As treasurer, he not only oversees the 50-employee company's 401(k) plan and insurance coverage, prepares financial statements, compensations analysis and budgets, but also is Polywater's "Webmaster." Last year he had the uninvited distinction of serving as the point person to the Internal Revenue Service when it selected Polywater for a year-long, random computer-generated audit. (I'm happy to report we did not owe one penny," he says.) This year, he'll engineer an expansion by either doubling Polywater's current plant or relocating to new facilities so the privately held company can continue its 27% annual revenue growth.
In his spare time, this father of three (Jacob, 24, who works in the mortgage loan industry, Abby, 20, who just got her accounting degree, and 10-year-old Taylor) plays weekly games of softball and horseshoes and regularly rides horses and trains for marathons. So when does he find time to write? "I spend a lot of late nights at the computer," says Jonnes.
But he is not your usual novelist. Jonnes never attended college, became a father at 18 and has "no formal training in either writing or finance."
What he does have is literate parents who love books. His mother is a published poet; his dad writes military history. Jonnes, though, read many rejection notices before he entered his manuscript in a national mystery contest sponsored by Salvo. "They told me they couldn't give me the prize, which was a publishing contract, because the book is technically not a mystery--it's a suspense novel. But since Salvo liked it better than the actual winner, they gave me the same prize," he says. "They published my novel."
With the publication's first-run sold out, "Wake Up Dead" is now in its second printing. Meanwhile, Jonnes--who has done numerous book signings--is working on a second manuscript (Big Ice) and thinking about a sequel to Wake Up Dead.
"The folks at work have been supportive" of his efforts, Jonnes says, noting that he hadn't mentioned his literary aspirations to anyone until the book was actually published. "Most bought my book, but I'm still thought of here as the boss and treasurer. Nobody's started a fan club."
"Writing will be a sideline for some time yet," he adds somewhat wistfully. He loves his job, he says, but gets a real high out of being an author. "Hopefully, writing will be my future career." --Sharon Kahn