Robert Bauer is the author of the soon-to-be-released CJ in a Pickle. We reviewed it here.
Robert was kind enough to answer a few questions, here’s what he had to say.
TCBR: In preparing for this interview, I did a little background research and found that you’re an elementary school teacher and a proud dad to four children. Please tell us who inspired CJ, the main character in your first book, CJ in a Pickle?
RB: The main inspiration for the character of CJ was one of my children. This event actually happened about 8 years ago and some of the same lies were told. After the event was over, two days later, I sat down and wrote the story. Of course there was no elephant in my house….at least I don’t think so!!
TCBR: Truth is a universal theme, present in literature since time immemorial—mostly geared to adults—but we’ve read about characters searching for the truth, we’ve read about the dilemmas that telling the truth sometimes presents, we’ve read about the problems caused when the truth isn’t told. It’s the main theme in your book as well. And yet it remains a problem for many of us and I think it’s something we unwittingly transmit to our children, when we tell “little white lies.” What do you tell your children when they catch you in a little white lie?
RB: I try to be as honest as I can since our children are adopted and this has been a huge issue. I think we all are tempted to lie and when we are “caught” we need to be honest and model for our children the “right thing to do!” That’s not to say I have never lied, but I’ve had to apologize to my children many times for messing up…I hope that has made them better people today.
TCBR: How do you encourage your children to tell the truth?
RB: I’ve always encouraged them to tell the truth because…. “When you tell a lie, most of the time you get caught and get in more trouble than you would have in the beginning.” It doesn’t always work, but I think being open and honest and being a good role model for them (admitting my mistakes) is one of the most effective ways to encourage them to do the right thing!
TCBR: I read that you’ve been writing since childhood. Can you tell us your earliest memories of writing? Were you encouraged to write or was it something that came naturally?
RB: I don’t remember writing in school like I do with my students, but I was always creative as a child. I would make up stories and plays for my parents and family. I really began writing stories as a teenager. My aunt would ask me to write a story for a character she was going to dress up as at Christmas, so I would begin working and eventually make it into a homemade book. Those stories really sparked my desire to become an author. Since then, I have written for enjoyment when I get inspired and have written stories for my students to inspire them.
TCBR: Can you give us any hints as to what you’re working on next?
RB: I have other stories in my computer, but currently, I am working on CJ’s next adventure. If CJ in a Pickle does well, I would love to do a series based on different character traits like Responsibility, Perseverance, Caring, Honesty, Courage, Fairness, Respect, Integrity. I am currently working on a story about self-control and it includes the elephant again…he really needs a name, don’t you think?
TCBR: I do think he needs a name! But in the same vein, how difficult has it been for you to come up with your topics?
RB: Really it hasn’t been too difficult. I encourage my students to write about “what they know.” I follow that rule as an author. I tell them, “you can’t write about Timbuktu if you haven’t been there or haven’t learned about it.” When I wrote one of my first stories about an elf for my aunt, I had to do some research about the North Pole and elves because I had never personally met one.
TCBR: What’s the biggest obstacle you face when writing?
RB: I think that choosing just the right words is a difficult task. Whether I am describing something or picking a character name, I want my readers to be able to connect and see it in their minds. My wife and kids often are helpful in finding the right words to use. Others can be a great help when you get “writer’s block!”
TCBR: Conversely, what brings you the most joy?
RB: I get excited when someone picks up my book and loves it as much as I do! I gave my neighbor a pre-release copy of my new book the other day. A couple hours later I got a voicemail. He was so excited about the story and the concept….and he’s a grown man! When I write something I read it to my kids. If they like it, I know it is going to be good. That brings me great joy. They are my best critics!
TCBR: If you could have a chat with any author, who would it be, and what would you ask?
RB: I would love to chat with Margie Palatini. She is a phenomenal author. Her book Piggie Pie was up for the Hoosier Book Award when I was a student teacher. I fell in love with her books then. That would be a dream come true to meet her. I would want to know about how she comes up with her ideas and ask her for tips to become a better writer.