Named to Kirkus Reviews’ Best of 2012 for her first book, award winning author Carole P. Roman started writing as a dare from one of her sons. Using an imaginary game she played with her grandson as a base, Captain No Beard was born. It has followed with four more books to the series.
Motivated by her love of yoga, Roman has written a book that not only teaches four poses, but shows how easy and accessible yoga can be.
She has just finished the first of six books in a groundbreaking new nonfiction series about culture around the world. “If You Were Me and Lived in…” combines her teaching past with her love of exploration and interest in the world around us.
Writing for children has opened up a whole second act for her. While she is still working in her family business, this has enabled her to share her sense of humor as well as love for history and culture with the audience she adores. Roman lives on Long Island with her husband and near her children.
Hi Carole, and welcome. I know during this interview we are going to discuss your award winning Captain No Beard children’s books, however, before we discuss those, I’d like to ask some “about you” questions so that your readers (and their parents) can get to know you better. Let’s start at the beginning. Where did you grow up as a child? When you weren’t in school, what sort of things did you find fun to do? Any fond, or special, memories from your childhood that you would like to share?
I was born in Coney Island in Brooklyn New York. Every one of my neighbors was one of my aunts, uncles and the many progeny. I had seventeen cousins and the great jewel of the family, my grandmother, lived with us. We moved to Rosedale, Queens when I was three. I grew up there and was very active in the student government. When I ran for Vice President of the high school, everyone else dropped out of the race and I was unanimously elected. I won the Kellogg’s I Dare You Award for leadership, and the year I graduated I was named to the Outstanding Teenager of America Award. I studied all kinds of dance, acted and preformed my way through high school. I love to paint, draw and sing. I will do anything creative.
I met my husband when I was sixteen and married after I finished college. I taught secondary ed, social studies, but he asked me to help him with a start-up business and I agreed if we began our family. We borrowed 1200 dollars from my younger brother and started our family business which has swelled to include my brother, his ex-wife, my parents worked there and now my children. We employ hundreds of people in a worldwide business in many different cities.
As for memories, I had a wonderful childhood filled with loving parents who gave us everything they could. They worked hard, sacrificed, but always filled our days with love and attention. I am close with my brothers and one memory that stands out is of my brother who is three years younger. The ice cream truck was a special treat. There was very little extra money, so we didn’t get it often. My brother was three, so that made me six. Ice cream is just about my favorite thing on the planet and everybody knows that. We were given a nickel for a cone, and on that sultry, hot day, my brother Kevin got vanilla and I got chocolate. We sat on the stoop to eat, but the heat got to my cone, and it slid gracefully to the concrete. I looked in numb horror as it melted into puddle. The truck was at the corner, but I wouldn’t ask for more money. That was our treat, it was done, and I knew they had nothing extra. Kevin looked at the brown mess on the ground and held out his cone. “Take mine,” he piped.
I told him, I was fine; there was no reason for both of us to miss out. Kevin shook his blonde, three-year-old head and tossed his ice cream next to mine on the dirty floor. “What did you do that for!!?” I looked at another wasted cone. “If you don’t have it, then I don’t want it.” He stated. “I can’t eat mine, if you don’t have any!” It was a profound moment of true love, honor, and sacrifice. My three-year-old brother taught me what being a sibling really meant. I never loved anyone more at that moment and it set the bar for the rest of my life. It taught a six-year-old girl that pleasure is only enjoyable when it is shared.
Being that you’re a “former teacher” I’m presuming you attended college somewhere. Which one did you choose? What was the deciding factor for your choice? A new but exciting location, or had you simply located the one that provided your entire degree course and credit needs?
I went to Queens College in New York. I was the first person in my very large family to go to college. I went to Queens because it was very inexpensive. I think my tuition was about one hundred and twenty dollars. I had two brothers behind me, and my parents struggled with the economy. My father had a small hardware store where they both worked. We lived in a tiny house, where I shared a room with my grandmother. I wanted to be a lawyer, but my parents discouraged the idea, telling me to pick something that would work with having children. I don’t blame them; that was what they understood. I pushed myself to finish school in three years, because I knew they needed the money to send my brother to Hofstra. I was part of a greater whole, where we put our resources in places where they could do the most good. The irony was, that I was the only child in the family of those seventeen grandchildren to actually finish college. I pursued most of my masters, but stopped because there was just no money to finish it.
When you finished college, did you immediately pursue a career in teaching? What grade did you teach, and why?
There were no jobs when I graduated. Many men took teaching degrees because it kept them from the draft. We were at the height of the Vietnam War, and if you worked in certain professions you didn’t have to serve. Teaching was one of them. I subbed in Long Island in a middle school and worked every day. They put me in the library when no one was sick, because they didn’t want to lose me to a different school. When I got engaged, the school actually threw a shower for me! I got married that year and my husband asked me to help him with his fledging business. I left teaching to have my first son and embraced my new venture. I never cared what I did, and looked to find things to enjoy in any job. I grew to love the business and learned so much. For a long time, I felt like I was dressing in my mother’s clothes, when I went out to bring in clients. I have to say, I grew up on the job and loved every minute of it.
Carole, you mention in your bio that you left teaching to run a family business with your husband. This business employs almost five hundred people; how does it make you feel knowing that you positively contribute to so many people’s lives?
I love our business. We built it from nothing. Every year meant a year of not going to the movies, or getting my hair styled, or buying shoes. We had no money, and everything we made went towards building it. I didn’t even realize how big it became until one day I realized we weren’t struggling as much. Having it is a huge responsibility. When we moved it from our basement (we had nine people working there) to an office in Astoria, I hired from the neighborhood. My mom, my brother, my ex sister-in-law and I each took a group of kids who were on welfare and started a training program. These young people were unwed mothers; most had not graduated high school. Today, the ones that stayed have graduated school, have managerial positions in the company, and their children have gone on to higher education. Many have left for better jobs (we are delighted for them), even their own businesses.
Your bio also states that you started writing because your sons dared you to. *chuckle* Could you elaborate on how that happened? And, based on the successes of your works, I’m certain that you’re happy you accepted their challenge?
I was in a terrible funk. Both my mother and husband had a terrible bout with illness. I lost my mom, who was my best friend. My husband was so very ill. My sons prodded me out of my sad place, by making me look outward. They dared me to do something creative that would make me not only feel good, but smile. They said they would help me, when I felt overwhelmed. (Not a feeling I am used to). I think that my sons know me about as well I know them. Getting involved in a project; teasing my brain, helped lift my spirits. Picking a story about a game I play with my grandson to write about, could only bring a smile to my face. Choosing an artist, listening to their advice and trying something new gave me an occupation that chased the shadows away. We now have a new enterprise in the family, a new business we share. My husband has recovered and plays an active role as well.
I’ve been perusing your extensive list of available children’s books, and I have to say they each look super cute and fun. Do you draw the illustrations yourself or do you provide your thoughts to someone else; working with them to put your creative vision onto the pages?
Createspace has a group of talented artists to choose from. My sons and I chose each illustrator based on what we think would work with the books. They are not allowed a credit, so I made sure to dedicate a book to the two that continued with my series. They are unbelievably astute, and we work through emails. At this point they know exactly what I want. They understand the characters we’ve created. I adore both Bonnie Lemaire and Kelsea Wierenga.
What was it that sparked the idea for Captain No Beard? What was your goal for the books? Did you intend to have the initial book morph into multiple adventures or was that something that happened purely by accident? And I just have to ask … how did you come up with the name Captain No Beard?
Alexander has a delightfully smooth chin, so he is a perfect Captain No Beard. One review said the first book actually sounds as though it is a story being made up as it progresses. That is the essence of the first book – it reads like our playtime. Alexander and I had some grand adventures on our ship! However, usually it was me going overboard. Hallie was a newborn, but I had to include her in the book. I was shocked at the success at the book. It started out with a bang right out of the gate, and that was nothing compared to actually reading it aloud to my preschool audience. I dove right into Pepper Parrot’s Problem with Patience which talks about my own disability. I cannot tell my right from my left and have been teased about it my whole life. Well, little Cayla entered our family, so I had to just keep going. We have a new crew member on the way, and I am thrilled with our growing family. My goal is always to open the door for discussion between parent and child. I think everything I write has a gentle lesson, or something to start a conversation with. We are big on that in our family. Dinner is always lively with something to talk about. It is the model of what I grew up with, how we made our house and now the way my children run theirs. Children should be SEEN and HEARD!
Carole, you have written four books featuring Captain No Beard and his crew; each with its own unique story and various important life lessons hidden within the fun escapades. What’s next for Captain No Beard and his ever-ready-for-adventure crew?
The Crew Goes Coconuts is almost out and deals with the hot topic of bullying. I was bullied, my brother was bullied, and one of my sons has been as well. Three of my nephews have suffered with bullying. Captain No Beard and the Aurora Borealis is in the process of being illustrated. It is based on a conversation I had with my grandson when I babysat a few months ago. I just completed the book that introduces our newest crew member, but it is unnamed as of yet.
Would you share with us how your book, I Want To Do Yoga, Too came about?
I started doing yoga when both my mom and husband got sick. It helped keep me anchored through the worst storm of my life. The hour of quiet stretching, breathing, pushing myself to do things that my out of shape body struggled with, cleared my head, and gave me peace with all the challenges I faced. It centered my world when it was spinning out of control. My granddaughter Hallie was also my motivation. Nothing came easily to her; things we take for granted. Both her and her parents (my kids) determination and dedication is an inspiration. She is my hero! Both my sons married wonderful women. I am blessed with terrific daughters-in-law.
Tell us about your If You Were Me… books. What was your goal in creating this series? What do you want children to learn as they read them? Understanding of cultures outside of their own? Friendship and tolerance for others who are different than them? Are these books like a mini Wikipedia for the child’s mind?
Yes! Knowledge is a great equalizer. If we understand other people and the reasons others do things, perhaps there will be more tolerance in the world. Most importantly, it is all so interesting! I love both the food network and the travel channel, and they were my inspiration to do the books. I wanted these books to be elastic enough to open a gateway for further discussion based on the reader’s capabilities. Any educator can take them and use them as a unit, to explore the culture as deeply as they choose. Many parents are writing that they find the information interesting as well. I try to include something for every reader in all age groups to enjoy. I am learning so much as well, and editing the vast store of beautiful data is the hardest!
Lastly, as a successful children’s book author with an enormous amount of personal experience, do you have any nuggets of wisdom/advice to share with those who aspire to write children’s books?
Don’t be afraid to try it. I have met the most wonderful people who are willing to share their information, as well as their sources. The generosity has been astounding. I have said that this has opened a whole second act for me, and it has. I am almost sixty years old, and doing this has not only engaged me with the growing web, it has made me feel included and relevant. It is now included as one of the most exciting and delightful adventures of my life.
Carole, thanks very much for sharing your time with us. It’s truly been a pleasure to learn more about you and your books!
Lovely interview and really thoughtful questions. My pleasure!
Article first published as Interview: Carole P. Roman, Author of The ‘Captain No Beard’ Series on Blogcritics.