|Author Interview and Book Excerpt at the end!|
Title: Nate Rocks The World
Author: Karen Pokras Toz
Genre: Middle Grade
Ten-year-old Nathan Rockledge cannot catch a break. After all, life as a fourth-grader can be hazardous what with science projects to deal with and recess football games to avoid. Everyone, including his best friend Tommy, seems to have bad luck when hanging around Nathan. Throw in an older sister who is a royal pain, a dad who is stuck in the past, and a mom who keeps trying to poison him with her awful cooking, and poor Nathan’s life as a fourth grader appears to be completely doomed.
Armed only with his sketchpad, his imagination, and his wits, Nathan Rockledge navigates the perils of the fourth grade in style, to emerge heroic, as Nate Rocks, proving that even a ten-year-old can accomplish great things.
The Reading Pile: Hey Karen! Firstly, Nate Rocks the World sounds awesome. Who wouldn’t want to create a superhero version of themselves? But, what was it that inspired you to write about 10 year old Nate Rockledge?
Karen: Thanks so much for having me on your blog today! When I began writing, I didn’t set out to write a children’s book, however, as my work began to get critiqued, I was told I wrote in a young voice. I think that’s the polite way of saying my brain works like a ten-year-old. I took the advice, scrapped the initial story I had been working on, and here I am!
TRP: Awesome, I think a lot of people have minds like a 10 year old! To be honest, I think I do! If you had to describe Nate Rocks the World in 3 words, what words would you choose?
Karen: Imaginative, funny, and adventurous
TRP: That was easy! Since the book is about a 10 year old, I was curious, who inspired Nate? Or did you create this character without inspiration?
Karen: Nate was definitely inspired by my own three children (none of whom are named Nate by the way.) They are all extremely creative in their own right. I pulled a little of each of them when creating Nathan Rockledge aka Nate Rocks.
TRP: Awwh! Was there a specific section in NRtW that you really enjoyed writing? Was there one you didn’t enjoy as much?
Karen: As much as I loved writing all of Nate’s adventures, I think the thing I loved most to write was the interactions between Nathan and his older sister, Abby. They so remind me of myself with my own brother – taken to an extreme – sort of. The ending (which I will not give away) was difficult to write – I wouldn’t say I didn’t enjoy writing it, but it was definitely more challenging than other parts of the book.
TRP: I understand! It’ll be interesting to see the relationship they share then! When did you first realise you wanted to be an author?
Karen: Would you believe it wasn’t until I hit 40? It’s true, and I’m not even sure what triggered it. All I know is, one day I opened my laptop and began typing. I’ve been hooked ever since and feel so lucky to have found something I truly enjoy doing everyday.
TRP: 40?! I think I speak for us all, when I say you look nowhere near 40! What sparked your interest in reading? For me, it was my auntie who used to read C.S Lewis to me when she babysat. Did you have a similar experience?
Karen: I loved to read as a child and still do. My Mom was always taking us to the library. I have so many memories of just walking through the stacks of the children’s books, picking out book after book to bring home. We always had tons of books growing up. At some point, I discovered Judy Blume. She was and still is a huge influence in my life.
TRP: I recently read a Judy Blume novel! I really enjoyed it! When you have writers block, is there a special place/thing you go to or do to help you out?
Karen: Really, the best thing for me to do is to just put it down for a while. If it’s a chapter that I can’t figure out but I know what I want to come next, I’ll just move ahead. Usually by the time I’ve finished the next section, I’ve got that other part worked out. Otherwise, I’ll switch from writing to catching up on emails and social networking or I’ll work on a blog post instead. I’ve been fortunate that my periods of writer’s block generally do not last terribly long.
TRP: That’s definitely fortunate, I can’t explain the amount of times writers block prevented me from doing coursework! What is your favourite thing about being an author?
Karen: Hands down it’s hearing from readers, their parents, and their teachers. I especially love it when a teacher or parent tells me their child was a reluctant reader, and they couldn’t put my book down, or that they can’t wait for the next book to come out. I had one parent tell me her daughter nearly fell off the couch she was laughing so hard while reading (disclaimer: I am not responsible for any injuries incurred while reading any of the Nate Rocks books.)
TRP: Now for some silly questions! Are you a coke or a pepsi person?
Karen: Neither – I’m a coffee addict.
TRP: I think my boyfriend used to be able to relate to that… Favourite drink to have whilst writing?
TRP: Is there any music you have on whilst writing?
Karen: No – I get too distracted by music. I like to have complete silence while writing.
TRP: Well, thank you for your interview Karen! It’s been a pleasure having you here on The Reading Pile! And here’s a book excerpt for everyone else!
“The score is three to two in the bottom of the ninth with two outs. The Philadelphia Phillies have a man on first, but honestly folks, I think this game is over. The Phillies have just not been able to pull it together this World Series, and now with all of these injuries, who could the Phillies possibly put in to bat? It looks like this hometown team is running out of options. I hate to say this, but I think the dream of winning this year’s World Series is now over for this team. Wait a minute – is that Nate Rocks approaching the plate? He hasn’t been off the bench all season. Surely, the Phillies have someone more experienced they can use. Even Nate looks confused, as he steps up to the plate. I don’t know about this. Here comes the first pitch … swing … and a miss. Second pitch … ooh, a 95 mph fastball … and that’s strike two. The Philadelphia crowd of 45,000 is silent, as we wait for the third pitch … the pitch that determines this year’s world champions. The pitcher looks around, winds up, and … CRACK – that ball is OUT OF HERE! I don’t believe it, folks! Nate Rocks has hit a home run and the Philadelphia Phillies have won the World Series!!!”
The Phillies rush out of the dugout, running toward me, as I cross home plate. They pile on top of me. Thunderous cheers of enthusiastic fans echo through the stadium. I can barely breathe. I feel a hand reach out to me.
“You did it, Nate! You did it!” The Phillies’ first baseman yells. He pulls me to my feet.
Two other players help hoist me up over their shoulders. I wave to the crowd in victory. The players parade me around the bases and the crowd begins chanting:
“Nathan! For the fourth time – dinner is ready!”
“Huh?” I ask.
Mom is standing in my bedroom doorway, hands on her hips, staring at me, as I sit on my floor among a sea of colored pencils.
“I said dinner is ready. And for goodness sake Nathan Michael Rockledge, clean up this mess!”
“Okay, Mom,” I say. Mom turns around and heads down the steps.
I look back at my drawing. “Not too shabby,” I note, staring at the cartoon. I pick up a pencil and finish drawing myself holding the World Series trophy. Okay, so maybe I made my red hair not quite so bright, took out the freckles and added a few muscles to my scrawny body, but I still think it looks like me. I gather all of my colored pencils and scraps of paper off my carpet and throw them into my desk drawer.
Karen Pokras Toz is a writer, wife, and mom. Karen grew up in Orange, Connecticut and currently lives outside of Philadelphia with her husband and three children. In June 2011, Karen published her first middle grade children’s novel for 7-12 year olds called Nate Rocks the World, followed in 2012 by the second book in the Nate Rocks series, Nate Rocks the Boat. Karen is a member of the Society of Children’s Book Writers & Illustrators (SCBWI).
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