Guest Post: ‘Rock Star Teacher" – Crimson Rising by Nick James (plus giveaway)

Welcome to Author Nick James

When he was a young boy, Nick James’ collection of battle-scarred action figures became the characters in epic storylines with cliffhangers, double crosses and an unending supply of imaginary explosions. Not much has changed. The toys are gone (most of them), but the love of fast-paced storytelling remains. Working in schools from Washington State to England, Nick has met thousands of diverse students since graduating from Western Washington University and braving the most dangerous job in the world: substitute teaching. Luckily, being dubbed the “rock star teacher” has granted him some immunity. He currently lives and teaches in Bellingham, Washington.


Guest Post:
The “Rock Star Teacher”: An Author’s Day Job

In addition to writing books for young adults, I work as a substitute teacher at my local school district. In so many ways, it’s the perfect compliment to my writing at this time. I can take days off if I have a deadline looming or I feel particularly inspired, and once I’m done with my day job, I have my mind clear to write (or at least, that’s the plan…).

In my “official author bio,” I describe substituting as the most dangerous job in the world. We all know why. We’ve seen the stereotypes and the storylines in movies and television: hapless sub–usually an old woman–enters the classroom and they’re tortured by the students. Now, I can’t say that a version of this has never happened to me before, but these instances are usually few and far between. I have a certain immunity since I’m young and male and don’t dress like I’m going to an accountant’s meeting, but the threat level is still high.

Now, this whole “rock star teacher” deal, which also appears in the official author bio, has prompted a lot of questions. The nickname started when I taught in a small town in Central Washington. There was a particular middle school that I visited at least once or twice a week, and there were days where I felt like I was walking off the stage of a rock concert when I entered the building. The kids literally went nuts. It was like One Direction before One Direction existed (well, maybe not to that extent, but you get the picture). I feel like there just weren’t that many fish in the sea in this town, so new blood was beguiling to them. Whatever the case, I got a little spoiled (and puzzled) by the strange adoration.

Since then, it’s really been the same story when I’m working in schools. I’ve been likened to Billie Joe Armstrong (lead singer of rock/punk band Green Day) more times than I can count. If it’s not that, it’s the guy from My Chemical Romance (back when I had black hair) or, in more unimaginative cases, Justin Bieber. Putting aside the fact that I’m always impressed when an eight-year-old knows who Green Day is, I’ve gotten used to, and sometimes even resigned to, this “rock star” teacher guise. It’s always funny to walk into a new classroom and see the visible reactions I get from students. Sometimes I wonder if they’re just so starved for some sense of “cool”  in a school setting that the slightest air of fashion sets them on high alert. I mean, it’s not like I have a mohawk or pierced lip. I’d consider myself pretty normal. Well, from the outside, at least!

Then comes the second revelation: the author bit. This is where I really hook them. In some ways, it’s my secret weapon if I see that the class is meaning to turn against me. It’s so cool that, in schools, being an author can be kind of akin to being a pop star. Kids are uniformly enthusiastic about it, especially when they see my book and realize that it’s not part of some “boring” curriculum, but something with action and explosions and humor. I have a brief presentation I like to give in classrooms if there’s a lull in my teaching day, which focuses primarily on where I was as a writer when I was their age. I really like to relate my published work back to them and hopefully show them that anyone can be an author if you persist at it.

Now, the “most dangerous job in the world,” is not without its complications. I have learned to be the most flexible human being on the planet, or at least that’s how it sometimes feels. In my substituting “career,” I’ve taught Spanish and Japanese (don’t speak either), assembled and cooked apple muffins in a kitchen “studio” while being watched by thirty 8th graders, walked a group of middle schoolers around town by myself (that couldn’t have been legal), ran a jog-a-thon, sang holiday songs with kindergartners, conducted band and orchestra (badly), accompanied tweens on college visits, taught PE, music, art, choir, math, english, history, life skills, science, library, special education, and everything in between.

All of this has given me experience with young people in what seems like every single position. In many ways, that experience forms the backbone of my writing. The humor, the awkward situations, the way that kids and teens talk and relate to each other. I’m right in the middle of it, and most importantly, I’m still surviving this most dangerous job!

Skyship Acadmey: Crimson Rising by Nick James

Our best-selling sci-fi series continues…

Following their dramatic showdown in Seattle, Jesse Fisher and Cassius Stevenson find their world’s been turned inside out. The faculty at Skyship Academy is keeping Jesse a prisoner in his own home, fearful of his influence over Pearls. And Cassius, once a loyal Pearlhound for the Unified Party, has been pushed into hiding, fearful of his government’s retaliation.

When Jesse smuggles a mysterious red Pearl onboard the Academy, he sets loose a destructive chain of events, which lead him to a reunion with Cassius and a confrontation with Theo — a bloodthirsty Pearlhound with a dangerous secret.

But a larger threat looms in the stars. An enemy is gathering, with plans to exterminate the entire human race. And Jesse and Cassius might just be the lynch pins that trigger mankind’s destruction.

Blog Tour:
I’m the final stop on this tour but be sure to check out all the great stops that came before mine:

1 copy of Crimson Rising
Open to US only
Ends 10/18/12

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