Oklahoma’s second Reading Roundup kicks off October 3rd and 4th in Mustang with Young Adult author Roy Deering, 2015 Oklahoma Book Award winner for his very first work, Finders Keepers. Roy will be visiting schools and public libraries in Mustang, Antlers, Perkins, Enid, and Yukon during the next month as part of the 2016 DoubleR author tour.
More than 1900 people attended the events during the 2015 tour. Sponsors for this year’s tour are the Oklahoma Department of Libraries, the Oklahoma Center for the Book, Friends of the Oklahoma Center for the Book, Friends of Libraries in Oklahoma (FOLIO), Best of Books, the Oklahoma City Dodgers baseball team, and the federal Institute of Museum and Library Services.
To get ready for the big tour, we asked Deering some questions to learn more about him, and about his acclaimed first YA novel, the story of a town turned upside down by the discovery of a cache of old baseball cards.
ODL: Thanks for talking with us, Roy, and congratulations on the great critical reception of Finders Keepers. You have a writing background as a journalist, and now you teach English at an Ada middle school. When did you realize you wanted to combine these talents and write a book for young people?
Deering: For years, like every other “would-be” writer, I wanted to write the great American novel – the best seller that would make me rich and famous. For various reasons, that dream continued to elude me, and I became a teacher in 2000. Eventually, I spent so much time reading books for middle school students that I began to think about possibly writing for that age group. I became a HUGE fan of Richard Peck and Gary Paulsen, and eventually began to experiment writing for that 10-14 age group.
ODL: In the book, people are competing to own some very valuable baseball cards. And you use this set-up to address some pretty heavy issues, like racism, violence, and the search for justice. Did you know you would be imparting particular lessons, or did the writing take you there?
Deering: It wasn’t something I thought about as far as specific ideals and lessons I wanted to teach. But I want all my books to have a purpose. I want them to do more for students than just entertain. Don’t get me wrong … I DO certainly want them to be entertaining. But I want them to do more than just entertain. I want students to be better people when they finish one of my books.
ODL: How are young people reacting to your book and its characters? What do they want to talk about after reading Finders Keepers?
Deering: First, they want the answer to the book’s cliffhanger ending, and that’s not happening. Secondly, they want to know if there is a sequel in the works, and the answer again is “No.” But there is a lot of discussion about what they would have done with the windfall of money from the baseball cards.
ODL: While we’re talking about the reaction of young people, tell us what your book’s success has meant to your own children?
Deering: They were so supportive for so many years of my dream to be published that their first reaction was that they were happy and proud for me. Secondly, when the book won the Oklahoma Book Award in 2015, they were thrilled for me. They have also enjoyed going to my book appearances and school events. Finally, now that I’m working on the National Parks series, our family has had a WONDERFUL time visiting and experiencing so many wonderful places all across the US.
ODL: Last year, Finders Keepers was Oklahoma’s featured book in the National Book Festival’s Pavilion of States. Tell us about your Washington, D.C. experience.
Deering: I had the honor of signing and giving away some of my books, and meeting so many young people who love reading. That was encouraging and exciting. Secondly, I had the chance to visit DC again, and I loved it. Thirdly, my youngest son, Caleb, had the chance to go with me for three days, and we explored DC together. That was a wonderful experience.
ODL: We’re intrigued about this new series of books you mentioned. Tell us more!
Deering: I have JUST finished the final rewrites on the first book of my new National Parks Mystery/Adventure series for young adults. That book is the fulfillment of a longtime dream – writing books for young people and being able to also encourage people to experience and explore some of the most amazing places in the world. The first book in the series is set in Yellowstone, our first National Park – and my family had the chance to visit there with me on two occasions as we did research and made some great memories. That book should be out in a few months.
ODL: We can’t wait! Thanks, Roy!