“I’m totally convinced that I am a writer today because I loved books as a kid.”—Ron Roy
Ron Roy is the author of the popular A to Z Mysteries series, as well as the Capital Mysteries series, and several picture books. He lives in Connecticut.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
“When did you first know you wanted to be a writer?” I have been asked that question many times since my first book, A Thousand Pails of Water, was published in 1978. Now that I’ve had so many years to think of an answer, I guess I have to say that at age nine I had an inkling that words were going to be a big part of my life.
When I turned nine, I received for my birthday a wonderful gift—a book. It was about King Arthur and his knights. Even though I vividly remember the shiny blue and red cover and the smell of the new paper, I don’t remember the author. But I thank her or him every day of my writing life. That writer stirred up something in me that has been bubbling ever since: a love for reading, and the urgent need to put words down on paper.
In spite of my love for reading, writing as a profession never occurred to me until I became an adult. I worked at an odd variety of jobs before I realized that writing was what I really wanted to do for the rest of my life. Over the years, I waited tables, sold hot dogs, and drove a “Tooth” van from which I taught kids how to brush their teeth and floss. One year I traveled across the world to Hong Kong and taught English to Vietnamese adults. I wrote feature stories for a newspaper and designed letterhead for a printer. One happy summer I worked as a camp counselor.
After two years in the navy and more travel, I landed in the freshman class at the University of Connecticut. Naturally, I majored in English literature. More doors opened for me as I read poetry, novels, essays, and did my share of writing. Still, I did not see myself as a writer. I knew that I enjoyed being around kids, so I became a schoolteacher.
And then, finally, in a fourth-grade classroom, the light bulb in my head flickered on and shone brightly. Its message was, I WANT TO WRITE! In my classroom, I was surrounded by kids and their books. I read those books and fell in love with the characters, the authors, the messages. I was hooked, but I never fought. I allowed myself to be reeled in.
My writing life began one evening after reading parts of Charlotte’s Web to my class. Home from teaching, I walked into my apartment, dropped my bookbag, and headed for the typewriter (this was before word processing came along!). I wrote my first story that night and sent it to a book publisher the next day. Four weeks later I received my first rejection slip. But by then, I had written more stories, and they, too, were in the mail, soon to appear on editors’ desks around the country.
The rejection slips came in, often flooding my mailbox. But I wrote, and I sent my best work along to a long list of publishing houses. Although more rejection slips arrived with each mail, I never felt rejected. My routine was set, and it didn’t change: I taught by day and wrote by night. Each evening found me hunched over the typewriter creating characters, settings, and plots. Most weekends I walked on the beach with a dream in my head and a notebook in my back pocket. From those dreams and notes I wrote story after story.
Four years passed. Dozens of book manuscripts had been written, sent, and rejected. Then the day came when one of those “rejection” envelopes turned out to contain not a rejection but an acceptance. “Dear Mr. Roy . . . We are happy to tell you that we would love to publish your book. . .” Those seventeen words changed my life. I was no longer a schoolteacher who tried to write. I was going to be a published author!
Today, with more than 50 children’s books behind me, I can think of no other occupation that would make me as happy. As a writer, I get to do all the things I love most: speak to kids, invent stories, travel, and of course, read. My A to Z Mysteries series sends me to classrooms where I listen to and learn so much from the students. I receive letters from young readers across the globe, and I answer every letter. Many of the letters contain suggestions for new plots, titles, characters. One girl asked if I would use her dog in one of my mysteries. What a great idea, I thought, and invented a canine character for an upcoming book.
Children ask about my writing, but they also want to know about my personal life. “Where do you live?” “Do you have any pets?” “What’s your favorite food, color, author, TV show?” I’m happy to tell kids about my life as a writer as well as my life as a person. I live in an old farmhouse in Connecticut. My property consists of three acres of large trees, a barn, and a wonderful chicken coop. Recently, I brought a few chickens to live there, and they have become pets. Like E. B. White (my favorite author!) I love the sound and smell and warmth of animals. But since I travel a lot, I can’t fill my barn with critters.
“Where do you get your ideas?” is a question that teachers ask often. “Everywhere,” I respond, then I give specifics. Ideas come from reading newspapers and books. Ideas come from TV shows and movies and the news on the radio. I bring ideas back from trips, from church, from the grocery store. The letters I receive from kids are often filled with ideas.
The idea for my first published book evolved from a stroll on the beach. While walking, I came upon an overturned horseshoe crab. With legs frantically waving, the crab tried unsuccessfully to flip over onto its stomach. I uprighted the crab, then watched it scurry into the water and swim away. From that little episode came A Thousand Pails of Water, my picture book about a boy and a beached whale. Not really much of a leap—I saved a crab, the boy in my book saved a whale.
I smile when kids ask me if I write every hour of every day. Some writers do, I suppose, but I find that I need a balance. I spend a goodly number of hours each week actually writing but leave plenty of time for playing with friends, going to the movies and on vacations, and taking naps with my cat. I also work on my house, which seems to require a lot of attention.
In many ways, however, I am “writing” even when doing chores. As I paint my barn, I am thinking of story plots. As I weed my garden, I daydream about new characters. When I nap, I dream about the next mystery in my series . . . and the next.
It’s a cycle, really. As a child, I loved to read. Reading led me to writing as a career. I share my books—and thus my love for reading and writing—with children. From them I receive warm feelings and some great ideas.
Now when I write my books, one of my hopes is that I can give back at least a part of the joy I have received.
You can learn more about Ron Roy and his books at RonRoy.com