spend your time relaxing on the terrace of your villa on the French Riviera, reading good books and checking your enormous bank balance on your latest-model I-Phone, which would you rather?
I’d rather the Riviera. But Bob doesn’t get to choose. Bob’s the hero of Bob and the Cyber-Llama – and he’s basically flung into a life of headlong adventure whether he wants to or not (he doesn’t). Joe Caldera is an indie author who writes kids’ books (a genre we share, and which ranks, along with literary fiction, at the bottom of the sales charts). Kids’ authors write for love, not for filthy lucre. So I thought I’d explore some of the less well-travelled alleyways of the indie author’s experience, and have a chat with Joe…
So in your book, Joe, Bob is all set for a boring, humdrum life until he inherits millions together with a super-adventurous quest. Do you yourself secretly pine for a life more adventurous – or is it just Bob?
In a way, I did want more “adventure” out of life when I wrote the first draft of Bob and the Cyber-Llama. At the time, I was working at a string of jobs I hated, getting up early and putting on a suit and tie just to do something I despised. I’d always dreamed of being a children’s author and wanted to pursue that dream. But I was nervous about leaving my current job path and starting afresh with something new. There were a lot of “what if it doesn’t work out?” questions going through my head.
Everyone faces times in their lives when they have to choose between pursuing their own passions and goals and sticking with a safe, known path. I guess I could have explored that other option in the book, but I don’t know that Bob and the Sensible Career in Dentistry would have been very interesting. (Rose: Yes, it would’ve. I just love that title!)
Bob’s grandma is a beautiful, daring and adventurous woman – but she still ends up in a room in a nursing home, getting daily ‘painful injections’. Is there a lesson for us all in that?
The lesson is to eat your fiber. Lots of fiber. It might prevent someone from injecting you with weird medicine or poking around your nether regions during your golden years.(Rose: Unless you like that kind of thing, that is.)
Some people write children’s books to entertain their kids, nephews, nieces etc. Some write as a sideline – to let their imagination off that adult leash for a while. And some write to engage a wider audience. When you wrote Bob (and its sequel), what did you have in mind?
I love entertaining my younger cousins, nieces, and nephews and I’m no fan of the “adult leash” (which sounds like a euphemism for Ritalin), but that’s not why I wrote Bob and the Cyber-Llama. (Rose: Come to think of it, the adult leash sounds like something out of Fifty Shades. But I didn’t mean it like that!)
All kids and most adults have a certain amount of goofiness inside of them. Kids are constantly told to sit still and be quiet, but it’s important to give them an opportunity to let their imaginations loose for awhile. Otherwise, they’ll grow up to be miserable, humorless adults, spending their lives eating cold oatmeal in a business suit while working in some dismal, clouded-over factory from the 1800s.
It’s important not to lose your sense of humor or sense of adventure as you grow older and face some of the more dull, depressing parts of life. I want to help kids hang on to their sense of wonder as they grow up so they become fun-loving adults. (Rose: But what happens when that fun-loving adult meets the cruel, cold and unutterably boring real world?)
What makes Bob and the Cyber-Llama unique?
The Bob and the Cyber-Llama series features a level of humor and absurdity not usually seen in middle grade books. Middle grade, or MG, books are chapter books intended for 5th grade and up, roughly 9-14 year-old readers. They’re a step above early chapter books.
While picture books and early chapter books like Captain Underpants are choc-full of silly moments and ludicrous scenarios, middle grade books tend to be more serious and a lot less absurd. The Bob and the Cyber-Llama series maintains the humor and craziness while keeping the writing style, suspense, and action at a middle grade level.
The books also teach readers about history, myth, and ancient cultures without shoving information down their throats. In the first book, Bob and Jeeves explore the pyramids of Giza, and the second has them delving into Aztec ruins and meeting a character modeled after a Spanish conquistador. The third book will be based on the King Arthur legends.
Another distinct feature of Bob and the Cyber-Llama is the combination of humor and action. I have a unique ability to write action sequences full of jokes, chapters that are funny and tense at the same time. Stories like that get kids’ imaginations firing on all cylinders, which is exactly what I want to do.
One thing that struck me about the Bob and the Cyber-Llama series is that it straddles kid and adult literature, in that there are some references that are decidedly adult, although most of the book is pure ‘kid’. Did you think about that much when you were writing it – or did it just flow out as it will?
My imagination is a bizarre animal. Most of the things that pop out of my head are best appreciated by twelve-year-olds, but occasionally, a statue of Harry Belafonte juggling baby elephant seals will hop onto the page. Don Knotts and Richard Simmons tend to show up a lot, too.
I’ve seen a lot of adults enjoy the books, and they tend to appreciate the more “adult” references (and to clarify, that means old celebrities, not any kind of sexual content.) I’m not really concerned about kids not understanding certain jokes or images. My experience has been that, when they encounter a reference they’re not familiar with, kids will either skip past it or look it up in about three-and-a-half seconds using the bastion of information known as the Internet. And then they’ll enjoy it, too. (Rose: anyway in my experience kids like a bit of smut. Not that Joe’s book contains any.)
Where can people find your books?
Both Bob and the Cyber-Llama and Bob and the Pop-Up Book of Destiny are available on Kindle, in print from Amazon, and in print from Lulu.com. You can find links to all three, as well as my blog, on bobandthecyberllama.com. And be on the lookout for Bob and the Black Knight, coming soon.