On March 8th, a book by New York City Publisher Regan Arts., is set for release. The villain is the terrible 4th grade teacher, Mrs. Ravenbach. Colleen Williams caught up with the author, William M. Akers and gives Her View From Home a sneak peak inside the pages of Mrs. Ravenbach’s Way.
COLLEEN: From the dedication/un-dedication page it’s clear this is not your run of the mill children’s book.
WILLIAM M. AKERS: Glad you noticed. Mrs. Ravenbach’s Way is different than every other book being published. Here’s why.
- Because, at some point in their life, almost every reader on the planet had a bad teacher.
- The story is told from the bad guy’s point of view. Almost never, ever happens.
- A fourth grade boy is the hero, sure, but Mrs. Ravenbach’s Way is equally as pleasing to grown-ups and children. Again, highly unusual.
- I wrote this book out of anger at the treatment I received by bad teachers when I was little. That’s an unusual reason to write an entire book, especially a children’s book.
- It’s about friendship between three boys and a girl. The “bromance” genre is popular in movies. Not so popular yet in middle grade novels.
Because I’ve been teaching for more than 20 years and I despise bad teachers and the lifetime of damage they do to the unsuspecting students who come their way.
- If this book is a success, it will start a national dialogue about horrible teachers and why they never get fired. Very few children’s books can do that.
- Because at TobyWilcox.com, people can tell their own stories about great teachers and horrible teachers. It feels good to get it off your chest.
COLLEEN: TobyWilcox.com. I’ll have to bookmark that! Tell me more about your book.
WILLIAM M. AKERS: Mrs. Ravenbach’s Way is about the war between a fourth grade boy, Toby Wilcox, and Mrs. Ravenbach, his homeroom teacher. It’s also about a main character who finds his voice, and learns to use it.
Mrs. Ravenbach feels that, if a child does not receive a good, solid education, he or she will end up in a penitentiary –
COLLEEN: –Oh that’s right! She’s terrible!
WILLIAM A. AKERS: She’s sooooo nasty, I really enjoyed writing Mrs. Ravenbach. She fears this new student, Toby, and his way of free-thinking, is going to destroy all the careful work she’s done the previous semester. He busts into her classroom like a dirty little hurricane, messing up everything she’d carefully constructed. It’s an explosive combination between hero, Toby, and his incredibly powerful opponent, Mrs. Ravenbach.
Schools often don’t listen to the children or their parents. If a teacher has it in for you, there’s not a lot a kid can do.
But Toby finds a few little paths that he can follow. It’s a heck of a fight, that’s for sure.
Toby has a couple of friends, and they join him in the struggle. But, because Mrs. Ravenbach lies and is extremely powerful, it’s difficult for Toby to gain a toehold. He’s smart, funny, and never gives up. Try as she might, she doesn’t seem able to crush his spirit.
COLLEEN: As parents we talk about what to do if our child is being bullied by a classmate, but not if it’s an adult doing the bulling. Especially someone a student is told to trust.
WILLIAM M. AKERS: What happens to Toby, sometimes happens to kids in real life. I just crammed all the bad parts together in one book. One of my college students saw the cover and said, “I remember that fingernail.”
The book is complicated, and it really works on an gut, emotional level. It’s also very funny.
I had a blast writing it. I think that shows. It’s also pretty dark. Any kid who’s ever had a bad teacher is going to be able to relate to Toby. Teachers have all the power.
COLLEEN: I’m 20 + years out of high school and I can still remember comments from a few teachers that made me feel worthless. It’s hard to shake. No matter how mushroom-y my hair was, I did not deserve that. Hey, it does feel good to get that off my chest!
WILLIAM M. AKERS: It’s very difficult for children, when they’re being attacked by a teacher, to do anything about it.
Toby struggles and fails and struggles and fails. Finally, he doesn’t fail. Or at least… we hope he won’t fail! At times, the story is pretty grim, and you think he will lose. That’s the wonderful thing about drama. When a character has been crushed nearly completely, and you think there’s no hope of any possibility that he will win – he pulls himself up by his bootstraps, doesn’t give up and continues the fight. It’s a lot like real life. It’s a lot like the movies.
Mrs. Ravenbach’s Way is my first novel. I’ve been teaching screenwriting at the university level for 20+ years, and know a lot about good teachers and bad teachers. I had some bad teachers myself. Also, a lot of good ones. And a couple of great ones. So, teaching is always on my mind.
COLLEEN: The story is told from Mrs. Ravenbach’s point of view, but we hear from Toby through diary entries. I like how you did that.
WILLIAM M. AKERS: All my friends thought I was crazy to try to tell a story from the bad guy’s point of view. It works incredibly well. I didn’t know if it would, but I’ve been very pleased.
COLLEEN: This is one of my favorite parts (see illustration below). I cringed more than I did watching A Clockwork Orange. Please tell me this never happened.
WILLIAM M. AKERS: I have a very active imagination. Got me in a lot of trouble in school.
COLLEEN: My son read your book too and is STILL talking about that part. (again, see illustration above) He’s also thrilled to know we have not heard the last of Toby Wilcox!
WILLIAM M. AKERS: The Astounding Escapades of Toby Wilcox is a five book series. The mean old lady across the street, Mrs. Button, will become the over-arching super villain of the entire thrilling saga. Each book will be about Toby’s titanic battle with a different oppressive authority figure: the Lucifer of teachers, the “greatest baseball coach in the world,” Toby’s own mean-as-mean-can-be grandmother who comes to live with them (her late husband was happy when he got cancer!). In Book Four, the beloved school principal is fired and replaced by a bean-counting, data-loving jerk bent on destroying Toby’s beloved school. In the final book, Toby will do battle with the Voldemort of his world: Mrs. Button, his sadistic across the street neighbor.
COLLEEN: Your book is set for release tomorrow. Where can people get it?
WILLIAM M. AKERS: On March 8, go to a bookstore near you and buy it! If it’s not there, they can order it. Today, right this second, you can go to Amazon and search for William M. Akers or Mrs. Ravenbach’s Way. They’ll deliver it right to your door.
I really wrote the book for myself, having no idea if it would ever be published, the idea that someone would actually read the book was a completely foreign concept.
Mrs. Ravenbach’s Way delivers a big emotional wallop to the reader. I hope people will have fun reading it.
FROM THE PUBLISHER:
Mrs. Ravensbach Way, is published by Judith Regan. The book is a wickedly funny novel about an irrepressible boy who goes to war with the Lucifer of teachers. It sets the stage for a conversation about bad teachers who can’t be fired. There’s even an “Un-Dedication” to the worst of the worst of his teachers, who all played a part helping to create the vainglorious Mrs. Ravensbach. Though the book is set in an elementary school, Mrs. Ravenbach’s Way is for readers of all ages. It’s the first book in a series: The Amazing Escapades of Toby Wilcox.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
William M. Akers is a writer and teacher, currently teaching screenwriting at Belmont University. He taught screenwriting and filmmaking at Vanderbilt University for nineteen years. His book Your Screenplay Sucks!, published in 2008, offers writers the tools they need to get their screenplay noticed. A Lifetime Member of the Writers Guild of America, he has had three feature films produced from his screenplays. He has traveled to Beijing, London, Paris, Southern France, and cities and universities all over the United States giving writing workshops and seminars. Akers speaks reasonably decent French and was a Jeopardy! contestant.
Mrs. Ravenbach’s Way http://tinyurl.com/h247qgt
“An edgy, subversive revenge fantasy in which kids speak truth to power.” —Kirkus
Feature Image: Mrs. Ravenbach’s Way by Williams M. Akers. Cover by: Anna Wilkenfeld