Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Doret Interviews Derrick Barnes, author of the Ruby Booker Series

Community, we are featuring our first male author. Mr. Barnes is the author of the wonderful children's book series, Ruby Booker. Powers that be don't think Ruby is bringing in enough sales (maybe if there was serious promotion behind the books more readers would be buying and reading) so for those who don't know Ruby or Barnes, Doret took some time to chat with the author. Show some love, friends.

Hello Derrick. Please tell us a little about yourself?
I always answer this question the same way: I'm a husband, father, and children book author---in that order. My family means everything to me. Everything I do, I do it to make sure that they are taken care of, loved, safe, and prepared, in the case of my sons, to grow up to be strong, game changing, young men.

I wish we were talking about your upcoming YA novel, We Could Be Brothers. Next time. Now its all about Ruby Booker.

Who is Ruby Booker?
Ruby Marigold Booker is my fictional 8 and a half year old daughter. We have three boys and no daughter. Its funny, I always spend the first ten minutes of presentations answering questions on how that occurred. After failing to land a deal about three African American boys (the Booker boys), my agent suggested that I make the little sister the protagonist, and thats what I did. Within months we had landed a four book (plus an additional two) deal with Scholastic in 2007.

Imagine a fusion of the family from Spike Lee's Crooklyn, The Cosby Show, and Pippy Longstocking all rolled into one. That's Ruby and the Booker Boys. It's the life and times of a beautiful, talented, eccentric, and intelligent nine year old African American girl in a Brooklyn-esque city called BellowRock. Ruby navigates herself in a world where her three big brothers (the Booker Boys) are extremely popular. Each book is a hilarious, heartwarming, and positive tale about carving out your own identity and a tangible message of self, family, and community love.

Ruby has a great personality. Vanessa Brantley Newton's wonderful illustrations help showcase it. I can't help but love a girl who rocks a guitar bookbag.
Ruby has three older brothers. Younger siblings will easily relate to Ruby's struggles to not be lost amongst her brothers. Did you write Ruby through the eyes of a younger or older sibling?
I guess I wrote Ruby through the eyes of my nieces, daughters of a few of my very close friends, and really every little Black girl that I've ever known. Sure I subscribed to American Girl Magazine, started watching the girlie shows on Disney, but it really wasn't a stretch for me. The series is more so about the family, But I've been around Black women my whole life. I'm crazy about Black women. Love you all to death. Respect, care for, admire, and every single positive glowing adjective you can think of, is how I feel about Black women.

So as an artist, I just thought that if I don't create the type of characters that are not currently available for our little Black girls, than who will?

I really enjoy the interaction between Ruby and her brothers, as well as her parents. The Booker family plays a large roll in this series. How much time did you spend developing Ruby's family?
I really developed the brothers and the parents before I developed Ruby. I was a kid when the Cosby show was a huge hit on NBC and I remember how it made me feel to watch this educated, loving, strong Black family on Thursday nights and begin to feel as if it was really possible for me---a kid from a poor, single parent household to one day become a dad and a husband. The images that artist create are so powerful. I'm conscience of that, so I wanted to create almost a literary version of that Cosby family, for kids of all races to identify with.

What did you do with the first letter you got from a Ruby Booker fan?
I put it in a frame and put it on the fridge. It was a little girl from Rhode Island.

Who do you think loves the Ruby Booker books more, the kids or their parents?
Definitely the parents. I mean, the kids appreciate the candor and the sense of humor in the dialog, but I think the parents can't believe that finally, there is a family and a main character that exists that wasnt there when they were children.

When you tell people the Ruby Booker series is in trouble what has been the response?
There has been an overwhelmingly push to help out however they can. I created a Ruby fanpage on Facebook and within a twelve day span, we already have close to 600 fans! People have been buying books #3 (The Slumber Party Payback) and #4 (Ruby Flips For Attention) like crazy! I love it. The publisher informed me that the books are doing well in the schools, but need a boost in the stores/online in order for them to release the subsequent books. So far, if things keep going the way they are with the fan support, books #5 and beyond will see the light of day.

What can be done to help the Ruby Booker series?
A few things. Please, ask your readers, and every person that they know to 1) purchase books #3 and #4, either online or in a bookstore. The books may or may not be in the store. Please ask the person at the desk to order them. If you order from Amazon.com, please leave a review. 2) If you have a Facebook account, in the search field, just type in Ruby and the Booker Boys to find the fan page. Join the fan page and suggest it to your friends.

I need to boost the sales of those two books, but also show the publisher that there is definitely a demand for the series.

I need your help!

*Derrick Barnes
Ruby and the Booker Boys Facebook fanpage


Jeannine said...

My daughter is only 4, not sure if they are appropraite for her age yet but I will go ahead and buy them. They can wait on her!!! Sorry to hear Mr. Barnes is having to work so hard to save them. Sounds like a great series.

Jessie Carty said...

these sound great! i'll definitely be looking to purchase these when my niece starts reading :)

April (BooksandWine) said...

The Ruby Booker books look cute, I almost wish I had kids so I could share it with them, actually I think I just want kids so I can share many of my favorite books with them. That's so odd, lol.

Okay and for serious when that YA book comes out, I will definitely check it out, because YAY young adult reading is AWESOME!

Mama C said...

Loved this interview. I am going to bring this piece in to show all my want to be game changing 6-7-8th grade readers of color that I teach-another professional choice!

You must have seen the photo at My Brown Baby, of the girls reading your books right? (here is the link http://mybrownbaby.blogspot.com/2010/03/everybody-should-read-black-childrens.html)

Off to join the fan page, and to order the books. I don't have to be asked twice.

Thank you Susan as always!

susan said...

Hi C,

Mama's link is posted on the fan page. And Denene links to a piece she wrote for Parenting.com and one parent in particular said she would have been devastated if her mother had given her a black doll. Yes, it got ugly.

Mama C said...

Thanks for the follow up! After I read here, I went to the fan page. I knew you must have seen it, but thought some folks here might now have? I only buy books with characters of color as birthday presents now. (Easier for the 2-5 set perhaps?) I'll be adding the black barbies to the gifts for the girl parties now! Well, after we have given his nearest and dearest the Princess and the Frog!

I can't imagine how ugly that got! WHOA.

Jodie said...

Awww if I knew younger kids I'd get these for them, they sound great. If they ended up on the Colour Online wish list I'd totally buy them for the girls who use the library if they're the right age...Love that the first review got framed AND stuck on the fridge - double proud.

Kelly said...

Thank you for featuring Derrick. Ruby & the Booker Boys is such a special series. I'm proud people are standing up and showing that we want it to stick around. Thanks, Derrick, for creating such wonderful characters. And thanks, Susan, for supporting Derrick and other authors of color. We appreciate you.

MissA said...

Lovely interview :)

I loved Mr. Barnes' first YA novel The Making of Dr. Truelove and I can't wait for his next one *jumps up and down in excitement*

now I don't have any younger siblings who fit this reading level (well my brother does but I'm not sure if he'd want to read them).

However, I'll go and request the first book in the series this weekend at Borders. It makes me sad that we have to fight to save these books but I'm up for the challenge :)

I'm also saddened that a series about just the Booker Boys wouldn't sell. I'd like to see more books about african Americans boys for the younger reading set.