Author Henry Herz writes fantasy and science fiction for children, so they will grow up to be interesting adults. Please welcome him to No Wasted Ink.
I write fantasy and science fiction for children, sometimes aided by my young sons. I am a member of the Society for Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI), and of Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America (SFWA). In addition to writing books, I review children’s books for the San Francisco Book Review and the San Diego Book Review. I also enjoy moderating KidLit or speculative fiction literature panels at conventions like WonderCon and San Diego Comic-Con. I created KidLit Creature Week, an annual online gallery of monsters, creatures, and other imaginary beasts from children’s books and I was the co-developer of Six Degrees of Sauron, a web-based version of Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon, but applied to The Lord of the Rings.
When and why did you begin writing?
About five years ago, I drafted a fantasy early chapter book, NIMPENTOAD, to interest my sons in reading fantasy. My initial intention was simply to share it within the family. Little did I know that this would lead to a collaboration and co-authorship of a book. So while I’ve enjoyed reading fantasy and science fiction my entire life (beginning with WHERE THE WILD THINGS ARE), my interest in writing for kids began relatively recently.
When did you first consider yourself a writer?
I considered myself a writer with the traditional publication of my picture book, MONSTER GOOSE NURSERY RHYMES. But really, the moment you start to write a story, whether it ends up being published or not, you are a writer.
Can you share a little about your current book with us?
My second traditionally published picture book is WHEN YOU GIVE AN IMP A PENNY. As the name suggests, it is a medieval fantasy rendering of the cyclical tale popularized by Laura Numeroff’s WHEN YOU GIVE A MOUSE A COOKIE. IMP will be published by Pelican in the spring of 2016.
What inspired you to write this book?
While I do write original fiction, I also enjoy taking fun stories and transporting them into the world of fantasy. My mission is to get kids loving to read fantasy and science fiction, so that when they’re older, they’ll graduate to reading Tolkien, Rowling, and others.
Do you have a specific writing style?
I’m a firm believer in nouns, verbs, and punctuation. Seriously though, I don’t believe I do. Tense, point of view, and voice vary with how I want the reader experience the story. Certainly humor is present in all my writing, with a dose of (shhh) learning.
How did you come up with the title of this book?
Well, given I wanted to clue readers in that this was a fantasy cyclical tale, I substituted a mythological creature for a mundane one. Voila!
Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?
When you give an imp a penny, hilarity ensues. I also like to share a bit of mythology with young readers. In this case, that imps are small, relatively harmless creatures that cause mischief.
Are experiences in this book based on someone you know, or events in your own life?
Ha! One could easily substitute “kid” for “imp”.
What authors have most influenced your life? What about them do you find inspiring?
That’s an interesting question. Usually it is phrased, “which author’s writing do you like best?” For most influence, I’d say Maurice Sendak and J.R.R. Tolkien for hooking me on the idea of creating alternate worlds that would be fun to visit. When readers want to climb into my books’ illustrations and go exploring, I’ve done my job.
If you had to choose, is there a writer would you consider a mentor? Why?
I think of mentor as someone who helps you one-on-one. So, in that sense I have not had a mentor. But, I love the humor in Jon Klassen’s books, the voice in the books by Kevin Hearne and Naomi Novik, the poetry of Jane Yolen, the worldbuilding of J.R.R. Tolkien, and the sweetness of Arnold Lobel’s FROG AND TOAD.
Who designed the cover of your book? Why did you select this illustrator?
The amazing Abigail Larson did the artwork for MONSTER GOOSE NURSERY RHYMES, WHEN YOU GIVE AND IMP A PENNY, and a dark fantasy anthology I edited, BEYOND THE PALE, featuring award-winning and bestselling authors Peter S. Beagle, Heather Brewer, Jim Butcher, Rachel Caine, Kami Garcia, Nancy Holder, and Jane Yolen!
I “discovered” Abigail’s artwork on the DeviantArt website, and convinced her to illustrate MONSTER GOOSE NURSERY RHYMES. Almost always the publisher selects the artist, but in the case of my two picture books, I pitched Abigail’s art with my manuscript. That is not normal, but neither am I.
Do you have any advice for other writers?
My advice to aspiring writers is to: 1. read (because an author is the product of all the books he or she reads), 2. write and get critiqued (because it is only through writing, getting feedback, and revising that one can hone their craft), 3. persevere (because publishing is a slow business, and it takes a long time to get an agent or editor to say “yes”), and 4. develop a thick skin (because you will get a lot of rejection, but you shouldn’t take it personally).
Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers?
As writers, we appreciate your support in the form of buying, reading, and reviewing our books on Amazon and Goodreads. A ton of work goes into creating a good story, so it is very gratifying when we know we’ve brought a little joy into others’ lives.
San Diego, CA
WHEN YOU GIVE AN IMP A PENNY