Darleen Wohlfeil: Success seems to overshadow all the endeavors of your life, leaving your name hallowed in many arenas. From family to business, success intertwines bringing forth accomplishment and recognition. Having grown up in a large family, with the long reaching arms of 17 cousins as well as 2 brothers, must have provided great opportunity for imagination and play. Do you find a link from your childhood upbringing to the love of adventure, culture, and storytelling you find identifying your life now?
Carole Roman: Thank you, I feel honored by your description.
We grew up very poor. My grandmother lived in Coney Island, Brooklyn with all of her children within walking distance. We all played together, all 17 of us, no matter what age or gender, much like Captain No Beard's Crew. Since our poverty was rather global, we relied on our imaginations instead of high priced toys. I was positioned right in the middle, too young for the older kids, too old for the younger kids, so I had the added advantage of playing space or cowboys with the more mature group, and doctor and house with the younger kids. Perhaps the Flying Dragon along with the crew of cousins comes from there. The adventures are rooted in the storm-ravaged ship I shared with my own family. We spent hours playing and learned to resolve our differences together much like Captain No Beard's Fearless Crew.
I am the older of my two brothers and was often tasked with keeping them busy while our parents worked. I learned very young to adapt a situation to my best advantage and enjoy what occupied my brothers, opening my world to things I would probably not have bothered investigating. Though we were poor, we were rich in friendship, camaraderie, and the ability to use our imaginations to explore an unlimited horizon. If my brothers were pirates, then I was a pirate queen, if they were in a submarine, then I was the commander. Neither age nor gender ever interfered with our fun.
My family had the added advantage that we lived with the jewel of the clan, our grandmother. She was from Europe and had wonderful traditions and stories that colored our everyday life. Sometimes her remembrances were of her austere youth, a life so dismal it made Cinderella’s childhood look privileged. Other stories were of the struggles she had hiding from soldiers during World War 1 in Austria and Hungary. She was a teacher in a time when most women didn't go to college. She came to this country with nothing and built a wonderful life. I loved her stories, her grit and determination to succeed and make a better life for her children. If I have success today, it comes from learning and watching her determination and willingness to forge ahead despite any challenge. Her fearlessness set the stage for me to achieve my own success; her experiences enriched and shaped me into my identity today. She was a businesswoman in the depression, a wife, mother, and grandmother, whose gentle lessons are in everything I do today.
Darleen: In the course of time, as the Flying Dragon began to emerge, transforming the safe keep of Alexander's bed into a magical ship of high seas adventure, how did his crew mates come to shape in their comical and loving characteristics? Each one is endearing in their own wonderfully flawed way. Linus, the loud mouth lion that is actually a scaredy-cat at heart, for example.
Carole: I love those characters. Just as the crew is modeled after my four grandchildren, so are the animal crew based on composites of family members. Linus is big and huggable despite being a lion, and yes, he is a scaredy cat. Mongo is an instigator, Polly a peacemaker, and Fribbet a nervous wreck who is constantly obsessing about their safety, a "sky is falling" kind of guy. When the books are released, I often wonder if my family "gets it" and am often relieved when they don't.
Darleen: Literature is an amazing vehicle that transcends time and space. It is able to capture the thought and intent of a heart and mind in a bubble of wonder, and preserve it through generation after generation. Your work has won the acclaim of many; dons list upon list of awards, and will no doubt be granted passage on just such a vehicle. Down through time, as literature introduces to yet another generation and time, Captain No Beard and his marvelous crew, what is the silent message of the heart you hope will capture each new reader open to adventure?
Carole: Childhood is a minefield littered with so many things that children have to worry about: bullies, sharing, doing the right thing, and not giving into peer pressure. The expectations have risen so high and while each generation is smarter than the last, I don't want to forget that they are still children and need to be nurtured, reminded to love each other as well as themselves.
We live in a world that is so rushed, so many things going on—sometimes the best things are missed. Blink and it is all over, they are off to college, getting married, having kids of their own. Be a pirate once in a while with your child. Shiver your timbers and don't forget to say "Arrrgh!" really loud. Jump on their bed and fight with a sea monster. It's the best work out you will have all day. Don't forget to remind them to be nice—we can't survive on a ship together if we don't understand each other’s problems and learn consideration.
Darleen: Children are at times left in dry lands, places without a voice of leadership or guidance. They often feel alone in their inner struggle of advancement. Sometimes a book can provide a haven, an encouragement that in truth they are not alone. Hope can emerge; confidence can be fostered that they can manage the ship of their lives through murky waters. Do you feel Captain No Beard can be such a book? And why?
Carole: Captain No Beard first and foremost is a book about solutions. If you see the light at the end of the tunnel, the journey will never be too long. Whatever the problem, the captain and crew resolve their issue together, learning to adapt and adjust to make every one happy and included.
Something has gone wrong in our world. Nobody listens to each other. We have to realize that metaphorically we are all in the same boat and if we don't start learning to be kind and living together peacefully, nobody is going to be happy. The Flying Dragon is a place where problems are diagnosed and shared, friends learn that they need a support system and nobody is left to weather a storm alone.
Darleen: The wealth of your talent, the content of your heart and imagination, the mark you have made upon the world in which you live are a legacy left to those who follow you. Your success has followed you in many endeavors, a teacher, a businesswoman, an author, and a bulwark in relational circles of family. All are impressive contributions. Of these many feats, which do you most want to be remembered for?
Carole: Wife, mother, grandmother, friend. Honestly, those are my best achievements. I have enjoyed every minute of my life, doing things I never would have believed possible. Once, I was the subject of a conversation at a meeting with studio heads. They were talking about how we took an idea and built it into a really terrific business. When one of them called me and told me they spent an hour talking about my success, I responded without thinking or even realizing we were not on the same page. I said simply,"Yeah, the kids turned out great."
I love my life. I love the endless horizon, the impact we've made, but most of all I love my children and grandchildren and showing them the wealth of possibilities that have been laid before them continuing the tradition and opportunities that my parents and grandparents provided for me. The chain of love and the hope for goodness will not be broken on my watch.
More About Carole P. Roman
Named to Kirkus Reviews’ Best of 2012 for her first book, award-winning author Carole P. Roman started writing as a dare from one of her sons. Using an imaginary game she played with her grandson as a base, Captain No Beard was born. She lives on Long Island with her husband and very near her children and grandchildren—the inspiration for her books.
CarolePRoman.com | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads | Pinterest
About the Captain No Beard Series
Captain No Beard sets sail on 9 separate voyages of the imagination with his fearless crew aboard his pirate ship The Flying Dragon.
When a young boy named Alexander, his cousin Hallie, and some stuffed animals, board his bed their world is transformed into a magical vessel, sailing the seven seas on dangerous and exciting adventures! Captain No Beard: An Imaginary Tale of a Pirate's Life was named to Kirkus Reviews' BEST OF 2012 for Children's Indie Books, and garnered the Kirkus Star of Exceptional Merit, as was Captain No Beard and the Aurora Borealis. In addition to many other merits awarded to the series, The Foreword review gave "Five Star" reviews to Pepper Parrot's Problem with Patience: A Captain No Beard Story and A Flag for the Flying Dragon: A Captain No Beard Story.