Fourteen-year-old Roonie loves hip-hop almost as much as she loves her grandmother. She cannot wait to compete in her school’s dance competition. But as her grandmother’s health deteriorates, Roonie becomes more and more reluctant to visit her in the care home. These feelings of guilt and frustration cause Roonie to mess things up with her hip-hop dance partner and best friend, Kira. But while doing some volunteer hours in the hospital geriatric ward, Roonie meets an active senior recovering from a bad fall. Their shared love of dance and the woman’s zest for life help Roonie face her fears, make amends with Kira and reconnect with Gram before it’s too late.
Where did your inspiration for this book come from?
A friend of mine, who is a poet, ended up in the hospital two years ago after suffering a bad fall. She is an active senior who loves to dance and it was really tough seeing her stuck for months in the hospital and then a recovery care home. We laughed a lot about her various adventures in both places and I quickly began to see how this might look through the eyes of a young person. The story was born! Of course, the care of our seniors is also a theme that runs through the novel. My friend is truly an inspiration, both for the book, and for how she handled her difficult recovery.
What’s the best surprise you had in the process of writing this book?
As an author I have to do research on the things I don’t know much about and while I love watching dance shows, I am not very skilled in the art of dance. I found myself surprised that I was able to ‘bust a few moves’ as I learned about hip hop while watching countless YouTube videos. I won’t be winning any contests, like Roonie, but I mastered the most basic steps. Flipping up, and doing the splits, I will leave to my characters!
Who would want to play your protagonist in a movie?
I love the girl on the cover of Room 555 and if she is also an actress, she would be a great fit! My next best choice is Shai Pierre-Dixon who plays the young Aminata in the television miniseries, The Book of Negroes. She would be awesome!
What was your favorite book when you were your protagonist’s age?
I read Nancy Drew books through my early teens and then moved onto favorite authors like, Judy Blume and Robert Cormier. I was drawn to books that had a strong element of realism. I guess that is why I enjoy writing books like the Orca Currents!
What question would you pose to readers of your book?
I love that Living Rough continues to be a hit with classrooms and I hope that Room 555 follows suit. I would ask students what they would do to help seniors in their communities. They wouldn’t have to volunteer in a hospital or care home, but perhaps they could think of ways they could brighten the day for an elderly person in their home town.
Is there a question that a reader has asked you that surprised you or stood out to you?
For many of my books, including my titles with the Lorimer Sidestreets series, I am always surprised when readers ask if my characters are doing okay in the future, and if they got the help they needed. These types of questions make me realize how connected the readers become to my characters and how much empathy they have for them. This is truly an amazing part of being an author!
Which other authors would you recommend to readers or teachers?
Karen Spafford-Fitz is on the top of my list. I also love K.L. Denman’s books and of course, Eric Walters. James McCann is also a favorite of mine. Gosh, I think there are just too many fabulous authors to list!
What types of conversations do you hope will come out of your book?
I hope that readers will see the important role seniors play in our community and in our lives. There is so much to learn from our older generations, and I think they are often a part of our society that gets overlooked. They have much to offer in terms of wisdom and experience, but they are also a lot of fun! I feel like this is an important story because I have met young people who are paralyzed by their fear of things, like visiting senior care homes. I hope that Roonie’s journey inspires them to face those fears.
Room 555 is available now!
Cristy Watson teaches elementary and middle school. She loves hiking in the mountains and walking along the beach, two things she is able to do easily where she lives in Surrey, British Columbia. For more information, visit cristywatsonauthor.wordpress.com.