It’s Author Interview Thursday and I have to admit, I’ve been looking forward to sharing this interview with you for a very long time. One of the pleasures of doing these interviews is that along the way, I’ve gotten to meet some very talented and creative writers who I’ve admired from afar and enjoyed reading their books. One of such writers is today’s special guest. I have read the four books in his ‘School is a Nightmare’ series and I’m looking forward to the next instalment when it comes out. He lives in New York and is a school teacher there too. He’s been publishing for quite a while now and Amazon actually contacted him to do an exclusive interview which you can find on his Amazon author page. I appreciate his generosity in agreeing to do this interview and I’m excited at the wealth of information he’ll be sharing today. Ladies and gentlemen please join me in welcoming Raymond Bean.
Can you tell us a little bit about yourself and how you ended up being a children’s book author?
I’m a teacher with fifteen years classroom experience. I love helping students discover a love of reading. Somewhere along the way I started writing for children.
How have your students adjusted to the fact that their teacher also writes cool books and have any funny shenanigans transpired as a result?
Each year I begin with a new set of students. They seem to accept early on that I’m a teacher and an author. I think many of them find it odd that I enjoy writing in my free time. For many students, writing is viewed as a chore. One of my biggest goals as a teacher is to help them discover a love for writing.
No shenanigans…I run a tight ship 😉
I thoroughly enjoyed reading the four books in the ‘School is a Nightmare’ series. Can you tell us the inspiration behind the ‘Justin’ character and the writing process in bringing all the characters, plots, sub-plots etc. together?
I’m happy to learn you enjoyed the series. I’ve had the idea for quite some time to write a series that follows a reluctant fourth grader through an entire school year. I find that many young readers are more comfortable with an episodic format rather than a novel or extended reading format. I approached each book in the series like an episode in a television show. The story lines are very linear and take place in a short period of time.
Each book takes place during a specific time in the school year. For example, the first book, First Week, Worst Week, takes place during the first few days of school. The second book, The Field Trip, takes place on the first field trip of the year. The entire book takes place over the course of one wild field trip. Book three, Shocktober, takes place during Halloween, and book four, Yuck Mouth and the Thanksgiving Miracle, over Thanksgiving. I’m working on more titles in the series and plan to take Justin all the way through the school year. Book five, Winter Breakdown, comes out in a few weeks.
The main character, Justin, doesn’t like school and doesn’t see the importance of it in his life. To me he represents the feelings many kids have about school at that age.
You’ve been self-publishing now for about 5 years. How would you say the landscape has changed in that period and how has it made you evolve as a writer and publisher?
That’s a great question and one that I really had to dwell on for a bit. November 11 is the five year anniversary of the publication of my first indie title. I’ve reflected a great deal on the changes over the years. There are too many to mention here, but I’ll share several that stick out.
When I first self published, it was referred to in the industry as “Vanity Publishing” and didn’t have a very good reputation. I had a sense at the time that the industry was changing and that self publishing would become more popular and accepted, but I never imagined it would happen so fast. Now is definitely the best time to be a self published author.
For the first year or more my books were strictly available in paper. The digital revolution hadn’t happened yet. I remember creating my kindle files thinking they might provide a little additional revenue, but I had no idea they would become my main revenue source. I think self publishing and digital reading for kids is still in infancy. Other genres have exploded with self publishing success over the past few years. I don’t think we’ve seen that happen in children’s books yet, but it’s on the horizon.
I don’t. I believe the creative process never stops. Even when I’m not writing, I’m kicking ideas around in my mind. I might be driving, playing with my kids, or any other daily activity, but my mind is always working out potential story ideas. I think the key to avoiding slumps and creative droughts is discipline. You read it all over, but writing daily is priceless. Avoiding distraction is essential.
What has been your most successful marketing method for promoting your books?
I think the most successful marketing for my books has been my other books. Usually when people discover one of my books it’s because a friend or family member has suggested it. Of course I’ve tried many promotional tools, such as free promos, email blasts, social media, etc., and I’ll continue to try new methods moving forward, but having new content available for readers to read is paramount.
What were some of your favorite books as a child?
Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing was the first book that made me laugh. That was all it took, I’ve been on the hunt for funny books ever since. I loved the Encyclopedia Brown books, Hardy Boys, Roald Dahl, and anything to do with baseball.
How do you reward yourself on completing a book or achieving a specific publishing goal?
For my birthday, my wife framed the cover image of each of my books and hung them on the wall in my office. It blew me away. Now on the release date of a new book, we hang the framed cover along with the others. I highly recommend doing this. There’s something nice about seeing your work on the wall as you write. I find it inspirational.
They find it a pretty regular thing. My daughter loves looking at the dedication page on my foreign books and seeing her name.
Quite a few best-selling authors have a background in education. What would you say are the advantages and disadvantages of this?
I think the clear advantage to being a children’s writer and children’s educator is that I learn a great deal about what children like and dislike about books. I try to write books that I feel are needed in the genre. The disadvantage is that it’s hard to visit schools as a writer when you’re busy teaching in the classroom.
Can you tell us about your worst day as a teacher?
9/11…hands down. At the time, I was teaching second grade. It was only a few days into the school year. We had many students with family members working in the area. We got the news first thing in the morning like everyone else. It was very difficult trying to remain calm and create a sense of normalcy.
What has been the craziest request/question a child has asked you at a school/reading event?
I wish I had something crazy to share, but I don’t. My favourite comments are when kids tell me that my books helped them learn to love books. When they tell me one of my books made them laugh, I feel the most proud. It’s important for kids to have fun with books. It was that first laugh in Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing that turned me into a reader when I was a kid. Now I want to provide that first laugh to young readers.
Only 3! Hmmm… that’s a tough one. No matter what I say, it won’t be sufficient, so I’ll say at least 3 full days and nights. Anything shorter won’t be enough. New York is the kind of place where walking down the street is an exciting experience. You pretty much can’t miss. Rather than name three specific activities or locations, I’d suggest at three different points during your visit go into a random place and dive right in. If you’re passing by somewhere and you hear live music, go in and stay there a while. If you smell something interesting cooking, go in and eat it. You’ll be glad you did, and you probably won’t want to leave.
What can we expect from Raymond Bean in the next 12 months?
I’m releasing book 5 in the School Is A Nightmare Series toward the end of October. In January my first release with Capstone Kids comes out. It’s called, Benji Franklin: Kid Zillionaire. I’m really excited about the book and hope to write more. I hope to put out a few more School Is A Nightmare titles and have a few other projects in the works.
Where can fans and readers of your books discover more about you and connect with you?
Or email me firstname.lastname@example.org
Keep writing and trying new things. I’m five years in and feel like I’m just getting started. Publishing is like a day in the city. You never know where it’s going to take you 😉
It has been an absolute pleasure having you today Raymond and there is so much wisdom to be gleaned from your answers. I was particularly inspired by your response to how you reward yourself on completing your books. Visually having a representation of your achievements must be a source of inspiration on a conscious and sub-conscious level to help you stay focused. I can’t wait to see the next book in the ‘School is a Nightmare‘ series and you can grab a copy of one of Raymond’s books by clicking the link below.
Below is an interview Raymond had with Amazon a while back.