How much of the book is real? Uh-oh, my first response wasn’t short at all! I’ll be brief here. A few parts of the novel are loosely based on real events that I heavily fictionalized including the story-within-a-story, Vomit Boy (originally a short, creative nonfiction piece I wrote 12 years ago) and a section of the chapter depicting the first staff meeting of the school year. Personally, I would be thrilled to have a class MC, Sherpa and a general following my every move.
Did you base any (or all) of the characters on real people? Same basic answer here as above. Some personality “quirks” or traits were based on people I’ve known, but no character in the novel is literally based on anyone I know. If I had one regret about any of the characters, it was my “honoring” my former teammates by giving Eisenberg’s teaching teammates the same first initial as other teachers I once taught with. Probably a mistake since my former mates will be compared to the fictional characters. Sorry pals!
Are you afraid of how people in your teaching community will react? Sure, to an extent. I think it will be hard for some people to reconcile a middle school teacher writing a more or less R-rated satire. I read a great quote from the late Ray Bradbury, a favorite writer of mine while growing up. Living at risk is jumping off the cliff and building your wings on the way down.I like substituting the word “living” with “writing.”
Can kids read your novel? Well, they shouldn’t. An acquaintance asked me yesterday how old her daughter should be before reading Teacher of the Year. I can’t answer that question so literally because every kid is obviously different. I suppose kids who are sixteen and beyond? Of course, I know two of my fourteen year-old students are currently reading it with the blessing of their parents, which makes me cringe just a bit.
Do you have to be a teacher to understand your novel? No, I think anyone who has ever gone to school will get what is going on. Let me know what you think.