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January 6, 2023

Roman’s latest work for children, Grady Whill and the Templeton Codex, follows Grady Whill and his struggle to get accepted into Templeton Academy, the first-ever superhero high school.

You’ve written numerous books for children. Was it always a goal to be a children’s book writer? 

I never thought about being a children’s author. I wanted to write adult fiction. I started writing when my son decided to hold a writing contest. We all work together in a family transportation business and often do side projects together.  We had to come to work with a story the next day. The best idea would be turned into a book by using a new platform at the time called Createspace. I wrote Captain No Beard, An Imaginary Tale of a Pirate’s Life, based on a game with my grandson. My two sons helped me find an illustrator and helped me publish it.  The book was named one of Kirkus Reviews’ Best Books of 2012. I learned that to market a book, you need more than one, so I turned it into a series.

One thing led to another, and I started producing multiple children’s series. I’m a former social studies teacher and I wanted to write a book introducing children to cultures around the world. Twenty-three books later, I moved on to early reader chapter books and Oh Susannah was born. I have written in various genres, including some self-help, and for different age groups, as well as three adult works under the name Brit Lunden.

What was the inspiration for Grady and his friends?

Grady is every 14-year-old that I know. He is uncertain of himself and struggles with anxiety that brings on asthma. However, he is loyal, inquisitive, and sweet. Grady Whill is a coming-of-age story. The song “Lean on Me” was constantly playing in my brain while I wrote it.

My grandson was a reluctant reader, and one of the ways I got him to open a book was to read over the phone together at night. We plowed through dozens of novels. Some he enjoyed, and others bored him. He complained that he wanted more action in the story, which served as an inspiration for the opening chapter of Grady Whill. I thought about how they opened James Bond films with a bang-up chase scene to hook you, so I did the same.

Grady Whill seems to be aimed at a middle grade audience, which is different from your other books. Why did you choose this age range for the book? 

I wrote the book with my oldest grandson in mind, who is 14. I taught middle school more than forty years ago and loved the age range. The students are on the cusp of discovering who they are. Packed with insecurities and looking for role models, 14-year-olds are at an impressionable age. I decided it had to be a four-book series, so Grady had to be graduating from middle school to learn how to turn what he perceived as his shortcomings into superpowers. Hopefully, as the books are published, my audience will grow alongside Grady and his friends.

What do you think authors need to keep in mind when writing for children?

The biggest departure for me while writing Grady Whill was doing it in first person. I’ve never written a book in first person, and I wanted the voice to be authentic. Sounding realistic is vital when writing for anyone, including children. Consistently, the reviewers state that Grady and his friends feel real and that they are not observers but part of the story. That’s exactly what I wanted. If a reader can be both entertained and learn something about themselves, then I have achieved my goal. Lastly, I never talked down to my children or students, and I don’t talk down to my readers either. 

Can readers expect a sequel?

I’ve started working on it. I like to see what readers say about the first book before I start a second one. I have learned so much from the comments made in the reviews. Sometimes, I am surprised by a perspective I never thought of and take my next book in a different direction.