KIDLIT, FANTASY & SCI-FI –> Feed Your Head!

By Henry, Josh & Harrison Herz


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Interview with ‘Tin Star’ YA & picture book author Cecil Castellucci

Cecil Castellucci is the author of books and graphic novels for young adults including ‘Boy Proof’, ‘The Plain Janes’, ‘First Day on Earth’, ‘Odd Duck’ and ‘Tin Star’.  Her picture book, ‘Grandma’s Gloves’, won the California Book Award Gold Medal and ‘The Year of the Beasts’ was a PEN USA finalist.. Her short stories have been widely published in literary magazines and anthologies. She is the YA editor of the Los Angeles Review of Books, Children’s Correspondence Coordinator for The Rumpus and a two-time MacDowell Fellow. She lives in Los Angeles.

CastellucciCecil

For what age audience do you write?

I write for ages 6 – 106.

Henry: Way to focus on a niche audience. ☺

Tell us about your latest book.

My latest book is a young adult novel called ‘Tin Star’.  It’s about a girl named Tula Bane who is abandoned on an alien space station at the brink of a galactic war.  She’s the only human on the station and the aliens don’t like humans.

Henry: Sounds like her romantic prospects are somewhat limited…

What do you hope readers will get from reading that book?

It’s about a girl who has to shed her humanness to survive, but then has to find it again when three humans crash land on the space station.  It’s about survival and finding yourself again after a long absence from your heart.

What aspect of writing do you find most challenging?

I don’t like the blank page.  That’s challenging. I’d rather write a million wrong words and revise then face the blank page. So, I find writing the first draft very hard.  It’s easy to write the first few pages of a story because that’s when you are in love with it. It’s a honeymoon between you and the words.  It’s all potential. But once you are really in the thick of it, it can be daunting.  I just try to get a skinny skeleton down so that I have something to play around with.

Henry: I agree. The first draft is always the hardest.

What is a powerful lesson you’ve learned from being a writer?

You have to put on your best ears so that you can listen to the heart of the story and help it beat the strongest.  You have to also be able to listen to critique and get rid of anything that is taking away from the real story.  I always try to remember that anything I throw out I can put into another story another time.

Henry: That is a great tip for writing. Not such a great tip for cooking…

What has been a memorable experience that you never would have had if you had not been a writer?

I went to a workshop for sci-fi writers that was a seven-day crash course in space science.  That was super fun.

Henry: And because you were travelling near the speed of light, time dilation meant that what was seven days for you was actually 38 years for the rest of us.

What advice would you give to aspiring authors?

See above. Get good ears. Also, thick skin.

Henry: Good ears, check. Thick skin, check. And a comfortable chair.

Do you have any favorite quotes?

“The person, be it gentleman or lady, who has not pleasure in a good novel, must be intolerably stupid.” — Jane Austen

“non est ad astra mollis e terris via” (There is no easy way from the earth to the stars) – Seneca

Henry: I wonder if Seneca overlooked sci-fi writing as a path to the stars…

Do you have any strange rituals that you observe when you write

I like to sit in the sun

Henry: So you are both photogenic and phototropic. What about computer screen glare? Do you write by hand?

If you could have one superpower, what would it be?

I’d like to move my molecules so I can either pass through things or nothing can pass through me. So no mass or much mass.

Henry: A unique request.

If you could have three authors over for dinner, who would it be?

I’ll go with dead people. Jane Austen, Walter Tevis and Mary Shelly

Henry: Excellent choices. Plus they aren’t picky eaters. Wikipedia helpfully offers

“Walter Stone Tevis was an American novelist and short story writer. Three of his six novels were adapted into major films: The Hustler, The Color of Money and The Man Who Fell to Earth.”

What is your favorite creature that exists only in literature?

I’ll say Medusa because I wrote one in ‘Year of the Beasts’ and I think that Medusa is very misunderstood. She kind of personifies female rage and the result of being horribly betrayed. We don’t like to see someone who has been driven mad by that.

Henry: I always figured Medusa’s rage stemmed from having a bad hair day…

What do you like to do when you’re not writing?

Read, See, Do, Enjoy other people’s art, music, dance, books, plays, etc

What would you like it to say on your tombstone?

All Art All the Time

Henry: Readers may be interested to learn that Cecil is also a musician.

Where can readers find your work?

Bookstores and online.

This interview is also posted at the San Diego Children’s Books Examiner.

Click to Tweet: Interview with TIN STAR author @MissCecil at http://wp.me/p31Xf4-GL by @Nimpentoad


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Interview with THE STORY OF FISH & SNAIL author/illustrator Deborah Freedman

Deborah Freedman was an architect once, but now prefers building worlds in picture books. She is the author and illustrator of THE STORY OF FISH & SNAIL, BLUE CHICKEN, SCRIBBLE, and to-be-published (Viking, April 2015) BY MOUSE & FROG. Deborah lives in a colorful house in southern Connecticut, where she is busy at work on her next books. You can learn more about her at http://www.deborahfreedman.net.

FreedmanDeborah

For what age audience do you write?

I write and illustrate picture books, and honestly believe that no one is too old to read picture books!

Henry: So true! A well-written picture book like Where the Wild Things Are or Journey appeals to kids of all ages.

Tell us about your latest book.

My latest book is The Story of Fish & Snail, published by Viking last year. It’s about a Fish and Snail who live in a book together, and how their friendship is tested when Fish encourages Snail to explore another book.

Henry: It’s always a delicate situation when you ask your roommate to move out… :)

What do you hope readers will get from reading that book?

I hope The Story of Fish & Snail will encourage children to jump into new books, or even to write their own — perhaps new adventures for Fish and Snail!

Henry: Well, you’re preaching to the choir. My young sons helped coauthor my books Nimpentoad and Monster Goose Nursery Rhymes (Pelican, 2015).

What aspect of writing do you find most challenging?

Sometimes, when I’ve been working on a project for a long time, it can stop feeling fresh after a while — which can make it challenging to revise effectively.

Henry: Agreed. I like to work on multiple manuscripts, so when I’m struggling with one, I can switch to another.

What is a powerful lesson you’ve learned from being a writer?

Keep going anyway!

Henry: The power of BIC!

What has been a memorable experience that you never would have had if you had not been a writer?

Connecting with readers through my books never stops being wonderful, even profoundly moving at times.

Henry: Plus, being hounded by paparazzi never loses its thrill… :)

What advice would you give to aspiring authors?

Oh, I don’t know… I certainly don’t have this writing life all figured out! So how about this: never assume you have it all figured out.

Henry: After multiple traditionally published books, it’s not figured out!? Yikes!

Where can readers find your work?

Hopefully at all the usual places, but I especially encourage readers to shop at independent bookstores, and I try to keep my website updated with a list of stores that have signed copies.

Henry: Go indies!

This article can also be read at Henry’s blog on KidLit, fantasy & science fiction.

This interview is also posted at the San Diego Children’s Books Examiner.

Click to Tweet: Interview with THE STORY OF FISH & SNAIL author/illustrator @DeborahFreedman at http://wp.me/p31Xf4-GE via @Nimpentoad


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BEYOND THE PALE giveaway on Goodreads

Beyond the Pale  is a dark fantasy anthology featuring eleven short stories by award-winning and New York Times bestselling authors Saladin Ahmed, Peter S. Beagle, Heather Brewer, Jim Butcher, Kami Garcia, Nancy Holder, Gillian Philip & Jane Yolen!
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The book will be available on Amazon and Kindle on August 1, but there is currently a free Goodreads Giveaway you can enter.

Praise for Beyond the Pale:

“Beyond the Pale features a stellar, diverse line-up, brimming with talent and imagination.”
-   New York Times bestseller Jason Hough, author of The Darwin Elevator

“From the hovel of a Middle Eastern hermit, to remote islands of Scotland, to a moss-dripping bayou road of the American South, and into lands uncharted, there is a singular truth: no matter where you go, you’re never far from the darkness, the unknown … the Pale. Beyond the Pale is a rich, diverse collection of tales that will haunt and inspire in equal measure.”
-   New York Times bestseller Rachel Caine, author of The Weather Watchers

“Beyond the edge of fear and dread, shadows tell each other beautiful and frightening stories. Crack open this book and listen to the voices.”
-   New York Times bestseller Richard Kadrey, author of Sandman Slim

“Beyond the Pale is the kind of thing to keep loaded on your reader in case you need a quick fix of fine fantasy by one of the field’s finest fantasy writers.”
-   Nebula Award-nominated Greg van Eekhout, author of California Bones

“Light a black candle and crack open this collection of short stories from writers who are more than mere wordsmiths. A thrill runs up my spine as I wonder, could these scribes be messengers from in-between worlds sent here to prepare us for our own crossings? The veil thins and the candle flickers. Fiction? I’m not so sure.”
-   New York Times bestseller Frank Beddor, author of The Looking Glass Wars


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Interview with Timothy Power, author of THE BOY WHO HOWLED

Timothy Power has written THE BOY WHO HOWLED, a middle-grade novel recommended for ages 8 and above. It is a humorous, contemporary story dealing with family and fitting in.

PowerTimothy

Tell us about your latest book.

In THE BOY WHO HOWLED, a little boy named Callum is accidentally left in the woods after a family camping trip. (His parents are extremely upset by it.) He is adopted by a pack of Timber wolves and raised by the rules of the Wild, but when he grows large enough to threaten the Alpha male, the pack kicks him out and he must travel to the city in search of his true family. It is a fantastical, funny, and occasionally touching tale. Not for the serious-minded! The book was published by Bloomsbury USA in hardback in 2010 and came out in paperback in 2013.

Henry: Not for the serious-minded? I’m your man! Kind of like a mash-up of Home Alone and The Grey?

What do you hope readers will get from reading that book?

I hope readers enjoy many laughs and experience some excitement and suspense as Callum, the “wolf boy,” faces unexpected challenges along the way to rediscovering his human pack in THE BOY WHO HOWLED.

Henry: It is also to be hoped that parents will learn to be more careful when taking their kids camping. Always do a head count before leaving. Always.

What aspect of writing do you find most challenging?

For me, writing is mainly problem solving, trying to make sense of a jumble of words by setting them in the proper order without using too many or too few. It is most challenging when the proper order is not readily apparent, which happens all too often!

Henry: I’m reminded of the scene in Amadeus when the Emperor critizes Mozart’s piece as having “too many notes”.

What is a powerful lesson you’ve learned from being a writer?

The most powerful lesson I’ve learned from being a writer is patience. For me, nothing good comes from rushing to make sentences, paragraphs, and chapters. Perhaps I am a little dense, for I have to sit with them awhile, long enough for light to dawn and the meaning to come through.

What has been a memorable experience that you never would have had if you had not been a writer?

Receiving fan letters from young (and old!) readers who have come across THE BOY WHO HOWLED in libraries around the world has been my most memorable experience as a published author.

Henry: What about the paparazzi crashing your nights on the town?

What advice would you give to aspiring authors?

My advice to aspiring authors would be to remember that the writing process—and the publishing one—is more akin to a marathon than a sprint. You mustn’t expend too much energy at the start, because the course is long.

Henry: So true. For more on this, read Einstein’s theory on time dilation.

Do you have any favorite quotes?

I can’t remember the actual quotes, but my favorite observation about writing comes from author Gertrude Stein, who said something about avoiding sentences that “leak.” She was an obscure writer at the best of times, but I think she meant a writer should strive to keep the energy in her writing by cutting out extraneous words. Verbosity tends to be leaky, and you really want the sense of the writing to stay afloat.

Henry: Ah, a nautical metaphor. This from a women who said, “Rose is a rose is a rose is a rose.” Leaky!

Do you have any strange rituals that you observe when you write?

I tend to seek out every distraction possible when writing. Surfing the Internet is not a strange ritual per se, but it brings surprises sometimes!

If you could have one superpower, what would it be?

If I could have one superpower, I would choose to fly, in order to soar above the troubles of the world.

Henry: Flying would also save you fighting airport congestion 

If you could have three authors over for dinner, who would it be?

If I could have three authors over for dinner, I would invite Mark Twain, E. M. Forster, and Louise Fitzhugh. If all went well, Mark Twain would make me laugh, E. M. Forster—author of A ROOM WITH A VIEW, whose motto was “only connect”—would offer me writerly advice, and Louise Fitzhugh would tell me about the inspiration behind Harriet the Spy, one of my all-time favorite kids’-book characters.

Henry: Wikipedia helpfully offers:

“Edward Morgan Forster was an English novelist, short story writer, essayist and librettist. He is known best for his ironic and well-plotted novels examining class difference and hypocrisy in early 20th-century British society. Forster’s humanistic impulse toward understanding and sympathy may be aptly summed up in the epigraph to his 1910 novel Howards End: “Only connect … “. His 1908 novel, A Room with a View, is his most optimistic work, while A Passage to India (1924) brought him his greatest success.

Louise Fitzhugh was an American author and illustrator of young adult and children’s literature. Her work includes Harriet the Spy, its sequels The Long Secret and Sport, and Nobody’s Family is Going to Change.” 

What is your favorite creature that exists only in literature?

My favorite mythological creature would have to be a centaur, because I’m a Sagittarius. I also think knowing Pegasus the flying horse would be a wonderful thing.

Henry: I’m sensing a flying theme going on here. 

What do you like to do when you’re not writing?

I am an aspiring hermit, so what I like to do when I’m not writing is simply hanging out at my apartment in a friendly neighborhood in Los Angeles.

Henry: Will you be attending the SCBWI conference in Los Angeles in August? If so, look for me in the hotel lobby with a drink in hand.

What would you like it to say on your tombstone?

I think I would choose as my epitaph to use the immortal words of Snagglepuss, the animated mountain lion: “Exit, stage left!”

Henry: Heavens to Murgatroyd!

Snagglepuss

Where can readers find your work?

THE BOY WHO HOWLED can be ordered from any brick-and-mortar bookstore, and is available online at all book-selling sites. It is usually discounted on Amazon.com. The paperback is easier to find than the hardback, but the amazing jacket illustration on the hardback, by Spanish artist Victor Rivas, is worth the hunt. Also see Tim’s blog at www.timothypower.me

This article is also posted on the San Diego Children’s Books Examiner.

Click to Tweet: Interview with Timothy Power, author of THE BOY WHO HOWLED at http://wp.me/p31Xf4-Gq via @Nimpentoad


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San Diego Comic-Con Panel: Science Fiction & Fantasy Literature

comic-con

I’m excited to announce that I’ll be moderating a panel “Science Fiction and Fantasy Literature” at San Diego Comic-Con. The panel will be held on Thursday, July 24 from 11-noon in room 5AB. This panel will comprise the award-winning and New York Times bestselling authors shown below. After the panel, from 12:30 – 1:30 pm, the authors will do a book signing in room AA09. Which authors, you ask? These award-winning and New York Times bestselling authors!

The panel will also feature a sneak preview of the upcoming fantasy anthology, Beyond the Pale, with stories from Saladin Ahmed, Peter S. Beagle, Heather Brewer, Jim Butcher, Kami Garcia, Nancy Holder, Gillian Philip, and Jane Yolen!

BrinDavid BrinExistence BrinPostman
Dr. David Brin

Dr. Brin has won the Hugo, Nebula, Campbell, and Locus awards. His book, The Postman, was made into a major motion picture.

ButcherJim ButcherPrincepsFury ButcherSkinGame

Jim Butcher

The Dresden Files series is required reading for urban fantasy aficionados. It is a perennial New York  Times bestseller. The latest in the series is Skin Game.

author Roxanne Carson at home CaineGlassHouses CaineIllWind

Rachel Caine

Rachel Caine is also a New York  Times bestselling author of the Weather Warden series and the Morganville Vampire series. She’s authored over 40 novels.

HoughJason HoughExodusTowers HoughDarwinElevator

Jason Hough

Jason Hough is the New York Times bestselling author of the Darwin Elevator series.

LuMarie LuYoungElites LuChampion

Marie Lu

Marie Lu is the New York Times bestselling author of the Legend series.

MaberryJonathan MaberryPZ MaberryFA

Jonathan Maberry

Jonathan Maberry is the Bram Stoker award winning and New York Times bestselling author of the Rot & Ruin series and the Joe Ledger series.

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Henry Herz

Henry Herz writes children’s books, and has edited a YA fantasy anthology, Beyond the Pale.

Click to Tweet: San Diego Comic-Con Panel: Sci-Fi & Fantasy Literature at http://wp.me/p31Xf4-FM via @Nimpentoad


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A Visit to Walden Pond

Walden Pond is a lake in Concord, MA. The writer, transcendentalist, and philosopher Henry David Thoreau lived on the northern shore of the pond for two years starting in the summer of 1845. His account of the experience was recorded in Walden; or, Life in the Woods, and made the pond famous. The birch trees along the path were the inspiration for the name of Birch Tree Publishing, publishers of the fantasy anthology Beyond the Pale. Thoreau’s book is hauntingly beautiful, and so are the woods. Below are some images from our visit.

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A birch tree along the path circling Thoreau’s famous Walden Pond.

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The beach along Thoreau’s famous Walden Pond.

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The gorgeous path circling Thoreau’s famous Walden Pond.

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Another birch tree along the path circling Thoreau’s famous Walden Pond.

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The gorgeous path circling Thoreau’s famous Walden Pond.

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My co-author sons posing in front of a statue of Thoreau and a replica of the house he built in the woods near Walden Pond.


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Interview with picture book author/illustrator Lindsay Ward

Lindsay Ward has a BFA in Illustration from Syracuse University.  She has illustrated a handful of children’s picture books including ‘The Yellow Butterfly’ (Bright Sky Press) by Mehrnaz S. Gill, ‘A Garden for Pig’ (Kane Miller Books) by Kathryn Thurman, and the covers of both ‘STAR Academy’ books by Edward Kay (Random House Canada).  Lindsay’s most recent books were both written and illustrated by her, including ‘Pelly and Mr. Harrison Visit the Moon’ (Kane Miller Books, 2011), ‘When Blue Met Egg’ (Dial Books for Young Readers, 2012), and ‘Please Bring Balloons’ (Dial Books for Young Readers, 2013).  She is currently finishing up a new book with Dial Books for Young Readers, titled ‘Henry Finds His Word’, which will be published 2015.  You can visit her on the web at lindsaymward.com or check out her blog at respectthecupcake.blogspot.com.

WardLindsay

Henry: I have a son named Harrison, but the fact that Lindsay’s book titles feature my name and my son’s in no way influenced me to interview her. BTW, my other son’s name is Josh. Just saying…

For what age audience do you write?

I write and illustrate picture books for children, specifically ages 3-5.

Henry: Me too! Except that I just write. That said, the only thing keeping me from becoming an author-illustrator is a total lack of artistic ability.

Tell us about your latest book.

My most recent book, ‘Please Bring Balloons’, was released in October 2013.  One day Emma finds a note tucked in the saddle of a polar bear carousel.  It reads “Please Bring” with a picture of balloons drawn below.  Emma decides to take the note seriously, just in case.  Soon Emma finds herself on a magical adventure to the North Pole full of balloons, polar bears, and lots and lots of dancing.

Henry: I love this. Because polar bear carousel. It reminds me somehow of the mighty panserbjørn Iorek Byrnison from ‘His Dark Materials’. Plus balloons.

What do you hope readers will get from reading that book?

I always want my readers to feel like the story is still going, even after they have read the last page.  Hopefully they can picture Emma and her polar bear on their next adventure.  Please Bring Balloons is about adventure, magic, and believing that anything is possible…as long as you have enough balloons.

Henry: “Anything is possible as long as you have enough balloons.” And imagination. Well said!

What aspect of writing do you find most challenging?

To be honest, I find all aspects of writing to be difficult. I started as an illustrator, which is what I trained as in college. Illustration comes a lot more naturally to me than writing. The desire to write came a few years after I graduated and began trying to get published. I love writing stories that allow me to bring the characters in my head to life, but I still find it incredibly difficult. Each book I do is like learning how to ride a bike again. I don’t have the same writing process with each book, whereas with illustration I’m pretty methodical. However, there are those really amazing moments when the words just seem to fall out of my head and onto the page, effortlessly. It’s rare, but completely incredible.

Henry: Interesting. My experience has been different so far. It’s the “getting published” aspect that is most challenging for me. ☺

What is a powerful lesson you’ve learned from being a writer?

I never expected to be a writer, so in a way the most powerful lesson I’ve learned as a writer is that life can take you down unexpected paths. I’m so grateful to be working as an author/illustrator, doing a job I absolutely love.

What has been a memorable experience that you never would have had if you had not been a writer?

I don’t know if this really qualifies as a memorable experience so much as a memorable realization, but the first time I understood that I’m a part of children’s reading experiences was truly eye-opening. It made me realize that in a small way I get to be a part of so many childhoods, and as a child who loved to read, I know how important that can be. If my book has opened new possibilities to a child that didn’t exist before then I have done my job well. My stories get to be apart of bedtime, a rainy afternoon, a visit to the library, and so many other small moments that make up childhood. To me, that’s pretty amazing and why I love my job so much.

Henry: A parent told me that after reading my book ‘Nimpentoad’, her child was willing to eat mushrooms. One small step…

What advice would you give to aspiring authors?

This is going to sound completely cliche, but the first piece of advice I would give is write what you know. Every story I have ever written has always related in some way to something I have experienced. I’ve found that when I write what I know, I write a much better story. The second piece of advice would be to believe in your work. You will probably hear a lot of “no” before you hear “yes,” don’t let that detract you from being a writer. We all hear “no.” That being said if you keep receiving the same criticism consider revising to make your story stronger. Sometimes hearing a “no” can be the best thing and helps you get your work to a “yes.” I belong to a critique group with a few other picture book authors and author/illustrators. They are my sounding board. I’m able to work through my ideas, good or bad, to get to the best material to work with. I highly suggest seeking out a critique group or starting one yourself.

Henry: Completely agree. I got a lot of “no’s” before I got my first “yes”. And belonging to a critique group has been tremendously helpful as well.

Do you have any favorite quotes?

“If someone is asleep in bed dreaming, you don’t necessarily want to see [the] bed, but you might want to look at the dreams.” – Quentin Blake I keep this quote in mind whenever I’m working on an illustration. Capture the essence, not the obvious.

Henry: I’m working on a bedtime picture book right now, so I’m all about dreams.

Do you have any strange rituals that you observe when you write?

I don’t know how strange these are, but there are always two things I prefer and do: 1. Total silence (no music or anything else like that) 2. I edit by reading my work aloud. It gives me a feel for the pacing and flow of the text.

Henry: That is a great tip for new writers. Read your work aloud. Especially if it’s rhyme.

If you could have one superpower, what would it be?

The ability to fly. Hands down. I don’t think anything beats that. Seeing the world from above with the wind on my face would be truly amazing.

Henry: Hands down, but arms extended. ☺ I will see you and raise you with X-man Mystique’s shape-changing ability. Because she could become a bird to fly, but many other creatures as well!

If you could have three authors or illustrators over for dinner, who would it be?

This is tough, I definitely have more than three, but if I had to choose… 1. Mary Blair – she is my favorite illustrator. Her sense of color and shape are truly spectacular. Just to have met her would have been an honor let alone spend an evening conversing with her. 2. John Burningham – He is just amazing. I love all of his work and can only imagine the stories he would tell. 3. Ursula Nordstrom – Technically she is an editor, but I would love to have met her. She was so innovative and worked with some of the most amazing authors and illustrators of the 20th century. There are classic children’s books that would not have existed without her.

What is your favorite creature that exists only in literature?

The monster from ‘No More Monsters’ by Peggy Parish. He seemed like such a nice monster and that was my favorite book growing up. I always wanted to hang out with him and the main character Minneapolis Simpkin.

NoMoreMonsters

Henry: Who wouldn’t love a giant hairy pickle? No one, that’s who. I think mine are the Wild Things from, well, you know.

What do you like to do when you’re not writing?

I love to read, bake, play board games (my husband and our friends are very competitive when it comes to board games), and travel.

Henry: Of course, reading is critical for writers. I used to be a board game fanatic. Played lots of historical conflict board games, then transitioned to Dungeons & Dragons, and finally to Warhammer.

What would you like it to say on your tombstone?

Can’t say I have ever been asked this question. I guess… Lindsay Ward She lived and loved fully.

Henry: I try to ask some unusual questions. You’re welcome.

Where can readers find your work?

Any chain or independent bookstores and online.

This interview is also posted at the San Diego Children’s Books Examiner.

Click to Tweet: Interview with picture book author/illustrator @LindsayMWard at http://wp.me/p31Xf4-ET via @Nimpentoad

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