'I see a story in everything'
Fred Funk turned a love for story telling into a new career as an award-winning writer.
At the age of 70, Funk published his first book based on his days as a Methodist minister. He has since completed five more books and is working on a seventh.
All of his stories are based on real events and people in his life. His friends often warn others to be careful what they say or they could end up as a character in Funk’s next book.
“I see a story in everything,” said Funk.
Funk’s first book, “Ministry and Moonshine,” was based on his days as a minister at two Methodist churches in East Texas.
“It was pretty much a nightmare,” Funk said of his time in East Texas.
He ended up with enough material for three books. He says his first book, “Ministry and Moonshine,” is about 90 percent true.
Moonshiners are only part of the story that Funk tells in three of his books. Things were so wild there that he became a pistol-packing pastor. Six murders took place under a bridge that separated the two churches where he served as pastor.
Funk also weaves childhood memories into his books. He said that was especially true of his second and third books.
“All the childhood memories are absolutely true,” said Funk.
Funk was born and raised in Denton and has lived in Krugerville for the past 45 years with his wife of 55 years, Dana. The two were high school sweethearts. They have two daughters and a son, seven grandchildren and one great-grandson.
Funk’s father, Joe, was also a Methodist pastor who served in Pilot Point and Aubrey, among other places.
“I just kind of followed in his footsteps because it was expected of me,” Funk said. “After a few years, I made the decision that really wasn’t what I should be doing, so I switched from that to accounting and finance – polar opposites. That’s what my mom did.”
He worked for Haverty Furniture Company for 35 years.
Funk never had much thought about becoming a writer, but his involvement with the Kiwanis Club presented him with a life-changing opportunity. He is a Kiwanis Club lieutenant governor for Texas and part of Oklahoma.
When there was a cancelation one day at the Denton Noon Kiwanis Club, the program chair called Funk to ask if he could come talk about his time in East Texas.
“So I did and it was very well received,” Funk said. “I had people just swarm around me afterwards and said, ‘You gotta write a book.’” I said, ‘I’m not a writer.’ “I really kind of blew it off.”
Since his first program was so well received, Funk was offered another chance to speak to the club.
“I like to talk,” said Funk, so he agreed to give another talk.
Once again, people at the meeting — including a former mayor of Denton, a retired UNT professor and some members of the Denton school board — encouraged him to write a book. The professor, Dr. Ray Stephens, even offered to edit the book if Funk would write it.
“When [Stephens] said he would edit it for me, that was really the catalyst,” Funk said. “I wasn’t a writer, and I knew he was very well-educated. I’ve learned so much from that man.”
When Funk turned in his first chapter, Stephens told him: “This won’t do.” But by the time Funk turned in his last chapter, he had made progress in his writing style. Stephens has edited all of Funk’s books.
In the beginning, Funk wrote “more like textbook— facts, just the facts ma’am.” His wife also advised him to write “where you can see it and smell it and hear it.”
Funk said outlines don’t work for him. Instead, he follows advice from his actor friend and fellow author, Ken Farmer: “Let the characters tell the story. Let them guide you.”
“If you don’t feel it, your readers are not gonna feel it,” Funk said, quoting Farmer.
Dana Funk worked as a professional writer for 18 years and helps with the books. She does all the historical research and gives feedback a chapter at a time.
“She’s been a big help,” Funk said. “She’s done a lot of research for me, and she helps me remember the stories and keeps me straight on that. She helps me keep the timeline and all that.”
Another big help for Funk has been Crystal Woods of Tattersall Publishing. She has created the book cover designs for each book.
“Ministry and Moonshine” was published in 2012 and won first place at the 2013 North Texas Book Festival in Denton.
“When I won the first one — first place — on ‘Ministry and Moonshine,’ I was absolutely blown away,” Funk said. “I had no idea that I would even be a finalist or anything, I floated around cloud nine for awhile.”
After writing the first book, Funk became hooked on writing and soon wrote a sequel, “Moonshiner’s Revenge.” It received an honorable mention at the North Texas Book Festival in 2014.
Funk has now published five books, has submitted a sixth to his publisher and has another in progress. He has placed second twice in the North Texas Book Festival. He was also was a finalist for the 2015 USA Book News International Book Awards for “The Throwaway Son.”
“The Throwaway Son” is based on the story of Funk’s best friend, who suffered severe abuse and neglect from his mother. Writing “The Throwaway Son” affected Funk in a profound way. Reading the epilogue still brings him to tears.
Funk makes the rounds at book signings, festivals and craft fairs in an effort to promote and sell his books. He is not afraid to talk to people about his books and he says that helps him garner interest.
Funk’s latest book, “Justice for Cassie” is about elder abuse and is based on a true account of a nursing home in another state. It is still being reviewed by his publisher, Tattersall Publishing of Denton.
“After I finished ‘Justice for Cassie’ and turned it over to the publisher,” Funk said, “I thought, ‘Well I’m just gonna take a little rest from all this.”’
The break was short-lived, however.
“I was restless,” he said. “I had to be writing something.”