Today, Feathered Quill reviewer Ellen Feld is talking with Ron Roecker, author of Why Ball Wouldn't Bounce.
FQ: Tell our readers a little about yourself. Your background, your interests, and how this led to writing a book?
ROECKER: I have a birthmark on my neck that looks a little like a hickey. I've been teased and self-conscious about it my entire life. One day in kindergarten I experienced the perfect storm: I was teased about my birthmark, Scott Sherman brought a snake to class and I had absolutely nothing to dazzle everyone with during show and tell. So when it was my turn to show or tell, I told my class that the birthmark that everyone made fun of was actually a skin graph from when I saved a cat from a burning building on the way to school one generic Tuesday. I went home with a note from Mrs. Dodd, my canary-haired teacher, who let my mom know that I had an inspired imagination and a scary competitiveness. I took both as huge compliments. So that's where my storytelling really begin. I could create a context around anything -- usually things I didn't quite understand -- and I had a penchant for writing verse. My mother also was an English major so I was taught the power and importance of words early on in life. I graduated with a degree in Journalism and Business Communications from the William Allen White School of Journalism at the University of Kansas so all roads have led to me finally publishing my first book.
FQ: Tell us a little about your book – a brief synopsis and what makes your book unique.
ROECKER: Why Ball Wouldn't Bounce is a story about Ball who desperately wants to fit in with the popular balls but feels totally alone because he doesn’t bounce like the rest of them. It doesn’t matter how hard he tries to change, he still gets laughed at or ignored. Deflated, Ball rolls far away to hide his bounce and his tears. Eventually he meets the unlikeliest of new best friends who gives him a birds-eye view of what it really means to be unique. Because of their differences, the two friends learn valuable lessons about each other and themselves. Will Ball stay broken hearted and hide who he really is forever, or will he embrace how important and joyful it can be to bounce his own bounce proudly?
Ball, which has earned five out of five stars from LitPick Reviews, GoodReads, Amazon Books, Kindle and Facebook Reviews, is the first book in a series titled "Six of One, Half a Dozen of the Other" which is all based on idioms and adages.
Yes it's a "children's book" but I wrote it to have many layers so it didn't matter if you were 4 years old or 40, you still will get something meaningful out of It. It’s a story for anyone who has ever felt different, alone or that they just couldn’t or shouldn’t bounce their own way proudly!
The 2nd book I published is not part of the series but is a modern holiday story for the entire family. "Why Christmas is Cancelled: Santa Spells it Out" is a real on the nose look at how technology has affected the way we communicate and interact. With everyone always looking down at our devices, what kind of magic are we missing every day? Santa is hip to it all and when he gets no letters all year from anyone, he decides we all need a wake up call and cancels Christmas. He spells it all out in a familiar verse through a global group text, not so ironically. It's a really fun, eye-opening reminder that technology disconnects us and that we don't need to download an app to experience the true meaning of Christmas.
FQ: What was the impetus for writing your book?
ROECKER: It took 15 years because I didn't want to publish a throw-away, cookie cutter children's book. There certainly are plenty of those. I wanted it to say something that the world needed to hear and I wanted it to mean something. With today's environment of total judgment and exploiting differences while ignoring similarities, people -- especially kids -- need to understand how important it is to embrace their uniqueness and celebrate it while finding similarities that connect us instead of using differences to stay divided.
FQ: What was the hardest part of writing your book? That first chapter, the last paragraph, or …?
ROECKER: As an artist and a writer, I know when something isn't quite right or isn't finished. There's something in me that keeps me going back to it. So by the time I've finished something, I at least know it's exactly as it should be. The hardest part is figuring out if it's going to resonate with anyone else! But that is why this process has been so magical because the feedback has been extraordinary. When you get a call from someone you don't know to tell you that she and her daughter have been reading your book for two days because the little girl thinks the book was written for her...I mean, that's so amazing and humbling.
FQ: The genre of your book is Children's Fiction. Why this genre?
ROECKER: Children's Fiction has a formula to it and once you figure it out you can churn and burn titles out like a factory. I don't want to do that. I want my books to have depth and I want them to make people think. I want them to be stories that reflect what children of all ages are experiencing. I want to make life a little easier and happier, I've always been an old soul and hated it when people talked to me like a kid. It was really patronizing even at six or seven years old. So I want to make sure I'm being respectful of those old souls and relevant to them.
FQ: Which do you find easier, starting a story, or writing the conclusion?
ROECKER: If I'm inspired by creating something, starting the story is easy and the conclusion writes itself. I want it to be an interesting, surprising journey from beginning to end. It is the middle that is most challenging because it really has to say a lot in order for it to connect the beginning and end in an authentic, believable way.
FQ: As an author/writer, what famous author (living or dead), would you like to have dinner with, and why?
ROECKER: One of my idols is Oscar Wilde because he is so amusingly clever and surprising. "Life is too important to be taken seriously" was the first motto that I knew was written especially for me! It's poignant and clever and really deep. Whoever can come up with something such as "Everything in moderation, including moderation" has to be the ultimate dinner date!
FQ: Is this the first book in your series, the second, etc. in the series and how many books do you anticipate writing in this series?
ROECKER: Why Ball Wouldn't Bounce is the first book in the series of six books titled, "Six of One, Half a Dozen of the Other." All the books are based on idioms and adages because I never understood why people used them. I thought there had to be a better way to say what they were trying to say. The books don't try to explain the idioms/adages. They just utilize them as a premise to bring to life colorful characters who are dealing with relevant experiences, situations and challenges. The 2nd book is called "Give an Inch a Foot."
FQ: Where did the idea for your story come from?
ROECKER: That's Just the Way the Ball Bounces was always such a weird thing people would see. My retort was always, "What if the ball didn't bounce?" So I guess the idea for my book came out of my own impertinence!
FQ: Did your family & friends encourage you to write your book?
ROECKER: They liked my writing but I don't think they ever thought I would actually publish anything. I didn't publish my first book until I was 49 years old. People were shocked that I could just do something that I'd never done before and I got a lot of questions as to how I did it. My answer? I just did it.