----------Interview by Renee Roberson
WOW: Hi Roxane, congratulations on your win! We are excited to chat with you today. First off, we'd love to know how you came up with the idea to use a delightfully descriptive painting of a religious figure as the focal point in your story, "The Velvet Jesus?"
Roxane: A writer/artist friend of mine purchased a historic home that, for some unknown reason, came with a picture of Jesus painted on velvet. She called the painting "The Velvet Jesus". When I told her that was the perfect title for a story, she said, "I give it to you." In all fairness, I have not seen the painting so the descriptions of it in my story are a product of my imagination.
WOW: I love that! Your bio mentions your participation in the TESOL program on two different occasions. What are some of the life lessons you learned during those fellowships?
Roxane: The Lilly Endowment's Teacher Creativity Fellowships fund proposals to help renew and rejuvenate the commitment of Indiana educators. My proposals were tailored to my interests in TESOL (Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages), travel, languages, and cultures. The experiences in England, Japan, and Mongolia taught me numerous life lessons. I learned that just because you don't speak the language doesn't mean you can't communicate. By traveling solo, I gained self-confidence and found that kindness, caring, and thoughtfulness are universal. I discovered that time is fluid; a scheduled time that is strictly adhered to in one part of the world may be a loose approximation in another location. "Soon" might mean in ten minutes, this morning, tomorrow morning, or even the day after tomorrow. I learned that things seldom go as planned, and that's not always bad. Most importantly, I discovered we are global citizens, more alike than different.
WOW: Thank you for sharing those with us. You are currently working on two middle grade novels. Could you share with our readers what they are about?
Roxane: Sure! I would be happy to share! In Rough Riders to the Rescue, eleven-year-old Addy embraces a new hobby every time her family moves. She finds it easier to collect hobbies than to make, and then leave, new friends. So far, she has learned ventriloquism, kung fu, how to play the ukulele, cook paella, and speak three languages. But in the Southern Indiana countryside, four horseback-riding sixth graders, a semi-retired spy, and a mysterious Spanish-speaking girl in trouble, put Addy's determination to avoid friendships to the test. In The Ghost Hunter's Daughter, Ella is trying to come to terms with her parents' divorce, a divorce she is convinced was caused by her father's all-consuming ghost-hunting hobby. Ella's life becomes even more complicated by the appearance of a ghost boy and his dog. She works to help the ghost boy resolve a family quarrel that was cut short by his untimely death, while hiding the existence of the ghosts from her father.
WOW: Those sound fantastic--you must let us know when they are completed and ready to be enjoyed. I imagine your work as a teacher has inspired some of the themes and characters you create. When did you first know you wanted to be a teacher?
Roxane: I always played school with my younger sister. When I was in fifth grade, I would sometimes help with the kindergarten class across the hall. I decided then that I would be a teacher. I also decided I would fly a helicopter to school and land on the roof. As an adult, I quickly discovered that the salary of my chosen profession did not invite the purchase of a helicopter. But I'm good with that. My little Prius allows me to listen to audio books, the BBC, and the Broadway channel as I travel to and from school.
WOW: Yeah, no helicopters for most teachers, ha ha! Who are some of your favorite authors to read for inspiration in your own writing?
Roxane: There is so much excellent writing in every genre, it is almost impossible not to be inspired when reading. I do my best to learn from each book. From Ta-Nehisi Coates (The Water Dancer) I am learning the power of description. Maggie Stiefvater (The Raven Boys and The Dream Trilogy) has the ability to make the reader like even the most unlikeable characters. Louise Penny (Chief Inspector Gamache novels) creates a setting that is as alive as her characters. Carlos Hernandez (Sal & Gabi Break the Universe) has a protagonist who is not perfect, but is a decent, caring, hilarious person. Jasmine Warga (Other Words for Home) and Padma Venkatraman (The Bridge Home) write with sensitivity, giving the reader insights into other cultures. Lisa Lewis Tyre (Hope in the Holler) draws the reader in with a great first line and follows up with a delightful cast of characters. I suppose I had better stop before I take up all the space in the blog. Thanks so much for letting me share!
WOW: Thank you for sharing such a vast array of literature with us. We are always looking for good book recommendations!