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By Henry, Josh & Harrison Herz

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Interview with picture book author, Rebecca Gomez

Rebecca J. Gomez is an author and poet who writes for children of all ages. She lives in Nebraska with her hubby, three kids, and a few pets.


For what age audience do you write?

Very soon, my second picture book, HENSEL & GRETEL: NINJA CHICKS, comes out. My first book is a picture book for kids roughly 4-8, but I truly love to write for kids of all ages. When I’m not working on a picture book, I’m usually working on a verse novel for middle graders or young adults.

Tell us about MOOSE.

WHAT ABOUT MOOSE? is a labor of love that began in 2006, when Corey Rosen Schwartz and I had recently started writing together. It’s a rhyming story about a group of friends building a treehouse together. Here is the blurb from Simon and Schuster:

It takes a team to build a tree house—but what if that team includes one very bossy moose?

When Fox, Toad, Bear, Porcupine, and Skunk set out to build a tree house, they know just what to do: they’ll follow a plan and they’ll work as a team. But when bossy Moose barges in and upends their plans with some of his own, his friends become more and more frustrated…until things go hilariously awry!

This lively rhyming picture book is pure, bouncy fun even as it imparts a subtle lesson about teamwork. Young readers will love to chant along: “But what about you, Moose!”

Henry: How cool that you got to collaborate with Corey! Moose are well-known in the animal kingdom for their poor manners. No ninja porcupines?

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

Mostly just fun! It’s great to read aloud, it’s silly, and it has great illustrations with lots of fun little details. It wouldn’t hurt if readers learned a little bit from Moose on not being bossy either.

What aspect of writing do you find most challenging?

Probably the waiting. There’s a lot of waiting in this business, but the hardest time to wait is when I’ve just finished a draft of a new manuscript and I have to ignore it for a while. It helps to have something else to work on in the mean time!

Henry: I feel the same way. We picture book writers must work on several manuscripts at once to stay sane.

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

Being an author has made me really pay attention to how people respond to books. This has shown me that no matter how brilliant I may think my work is, no matter how many awards it may win or what place it reaches on the bestseller lists, there will always be someone who isn’t impressed. Readers are different. A bad review (even lots of them) doesn’t automatically negate the value of my work.

Henry: We writers are advised to never read reviews of our books. You know the saying about it being pointless to wrestle with a pig?

What advice would you give to aspiring authors?

Don’t get so caught up in wanting to be published that you forget to enjoy your art. Keep writing and improving your craft, and be patient. It will pay off.

Henry: It is true that beyond talent, published authors learn to be tenacious and thick-skinned. Sort of a pit bull-armadillo.

Do you have any favorite quotes?

One of my favorite writing-related quotes is from the movie Stranger Than Fiction. It is from the scene in the movie in which Karen Eiffel, an author, is telling her assistant how it is she finally figured out the ending to her book. She said, “Well, Penny, like everything worth writing, it came inexplicably and without method.”

Henry: Some other fun writing quotes include:

“I love deadlines. I love the whooshing noise they make as they go by.” ― Douglas Adams

“There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed.” ― Ernest Hemingway

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

I prefer to write with a cup of tea in complete silence. Well, as silent as it can be with two poodles and a parrotlet in the same room.

Henry: So, not silent at all.

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

Flying, of course. I always suspect that anyone who answers differently is just trying to avoid being cliché.

Henry: While the virtues of flying are obvious, there ARE many other fun superpowers. Halting time is a popular one for authors on a deadline. Invisibility. The ability to ignore bad book reviews.

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

Dr. Seuss, C.S. Lewis, and Sharon Creech because their books represent, in my opinion, the best qualities in children’s literature.

Henry: C.S. Lewis is best known for his NARNIA series, but he also wrote with remarkable clarity about religion. Here’s one such passage from MERE CHRISTIANITY:

“’Temperance’ referred not specially to (alcoholic) drink, but to all pleasures; and it meant not abstaining, but going the right length and no further… A man may see fit to give up all sorts of things for special reasons; but the moment he starts saying the things are bad in themselves, or looking down his nose at other people who do use them, he has taken the wrong turning.

There is one further point about the virtues that ought to be noticed. There is a difference between doing some particular just or temperate action and being a just or temperate man. Someone who is not a good tennis player may now and then make a good shot. What you mean by a good player is a man whose eyes and muscles and nerves have been so trained by making innumerable good shots that they can now be relied on. They have a certain tone or quality which is there even when he is not playing, just as a mathematician’s mind has a certain habit and outlook which is there even when he is not doing mathematics. In the same way, a man who perseveres in doing just actions gets in the end a certain quality of character. Now it is that quality rather than the particular actions which we mean when we talk of a ‘virtue’.”

What is your favorite creature that exists only in literature?

Dragon, definitely. They are strong, they fly, they breathe fire!

Henry: Dragons are a solid choice. For some reason, I like minotaurs and centaurs too.


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

I like to read, to draw and paint, go hiking, bake, watch movies, and coercing my family into playing board games.

Henry: Nothing brings a family closer than a mandatory game of Monopoly.

What would you like it to say on your tombstone?

I am not sure, but I think it would be cool if it were in rhyme.

Henry: Here lies Rebecca, she had a full life. A beloved mother and smoking hot wife.
You’re welcome.

Where can readers find your work?

WHAT ABOUT MOOSE? is available in bookstores and pretty much any place that sells books. Visit Rebecca online at rebeccajgomez.com.

Henry: Thanks for visiting with us, Rebecca. This interview is also posted on the San Diego Children’s Books Examiner.

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Interview with fantasy novelist Laura Bickle

Laura Bickle grew up in rural Ohio, reading entirely too many comic books out loud to her favorite Wonder Woman doll. After graduating with an MA in Sociology – Criminology from Ohio State University and an MLIS in Library Science from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, she patrolled the stacks at the public library and worked with data systems in criminal justice. She now dreams up stories about the monsters under the stairs, also writing contemporary fantasy novels under the name Alayna Williams.

I had the pleasure of meeting her at the 2015 San Diego Comic-Con, and we have been amusing each other on Facebook ever since.


For what age audience do you write?

I write contemporary fantasy for adults and young adults, with a healthy dollop of horror. Because I can’t resist adding things that scare me.

Henry: dol·lop (ˈdäləp) noun (not to be confused with dalek) – a shapeless mass or blob of something, especially soft food. Or HORROR!! Healthy dollop: a larger shapeless mass or blob, when a normal-sized blob just won’t do.

Tell us about your latest book.

The tagline on the back cover – which I love! – is “Stephen King’s The Gunslinger meets Breaking Bad.”
Many Westerns begin with the story of a stranger coming to town, and this story is no exception. Geologist Petra Dee arrives in the tiny town of Temperance, Wyoming, to find clues about her father’s disappearance decades before. In the course of her investigation, Petra stumbles across a string of weirdly desiccated bodies that she can’t explain with science. She finds herself in a war among the local cattle baron, his undead minions, and a drug-dealing alchemist. It’s very weird west meets contemporary fantasy.

Henry: A geologist named Petra!? As in Petra-fied? Better call Saul!

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

I’ve been accumulating books on alchemy for many years, and I was thrilled to finally be able to put them to good use. The whole history of alchemy is fascinating to me: the intricate symbolism, the obsession with immortality, the idea that rocks could be changed to gold. The theme of this book deals with the first of seven processes in classical alchemy, the calcination process, in which all that is known is reduced to ash in the crucible of the alchemist’s lab.

Henry: As writers, we go through a similar process wherein all of our first draft is reduced to ash in the crucible of our word processing software and self-doubt.

What aspect of writing do you find most challenging?

The most challenging part for me is always getting started. Staring at the blank page scares the daylights out of me. It’s a vast void that could become something awesome, or something really terrible.

Henry: Writers vary wildly on this score. For me, the most challenging aspect is knowing when to STOP revising. Was that a valid piece of feedback, or should I stick with my original vision? Vacillation, recrimination, excessive Twinkie consumption. You know the drill.

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

One of the most important things I’ve learned is that it requires the same disciplined work habits that other jobs do. There are deadlines, accountability, and needing to work well with people. I feel like my previous work really helped me to be able to take writing as a serious endeavor and treat it accordingly. It’s not so much magic as sweat.

Henry: I tell my sons that self-discipline IS magic. It powers the practice to make you proficient at school or sports. It enables you to master your less gracious inclinations. There’s a quote from Randy Pausch about self-discipline that I love: “The brick walls are not there to keep us out. The brick walls are there to give us a chance to show how badly we want something.”

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

I recently had the opportunity to attend San Diego Comic-Con as a panelist. Attending SDCC has always been on my bucket list, but the chance to go in a professional capacity was a dream come true. I loved all of it – the toy reveals, the cosplay, the comics.

Henry: I’ve moderated author panels at SDCC for the past few years. It is a blast.

What advice would you give to aspiring authors?

Try NaNoWriMo – National Novel Writing Month – at least once. It’s a challenge each November to chuck your excuses and write 50,000 words in a month. It gets me out of my head and shuts up my inner editor, and forces me to get accustomed to working with a deadline. I use what I’ve learned in NaNoWriMo on every book I’ve written.

Henry: We picture book writers have our annual PiBoIdMo – a challenge to come up with 30 picture book concepts in one month. I’ve been pushing my own EatMoPiMo (eat more pie month) without much traction to date.

Do you have any favorite quotes?

My favorite is from THE ADVENTURES OF BUCKAROO BANZAI: “No matter where you go, there you are.” It seems to be the answer to just about everything.

Henry: Warning: fanboy rant. For those poor unfortunates who haven’t seen this cult sci-fi movie, it features an all-star cast of Peter Weller, John Lithgow, Ellen Barkin, Jeff Goldblum, Christopher Lloyd, Jonathan Banks, Clancy Brown, and Jamie Lee Curtis (in a deleted scene). The movie is creative as hell. I love how the aliens use “monkey boys” as an ethnic slur for humans. And how the aliens all have the given name John. And that one is very particular about how his surname is pronounced. The movie has many great quotes – in fact I did a blog post on that subject.

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

This isn’t really very arcane, but when I begin a project, I start with an idea notebook. I scribble notes and ideas in it. Outlines. Thoughts for what should happen in the next scene. Pictures and meanderings. I have several pages in this notebook before I even dare open a word processing document.

If I get stuck, I pick up a Tarot card deck and draw some cards. The deck is my random idea generator, and is my surefire trick to get beyond writer’s block.

Henry: Sure, sure. Nothing strange about a Tarot deck at all. Nothing to see here folks. Move along.

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

Invisibility. I could be a fly on a wall, go wherever I liked…and collect some amazing story ideas!

Henry: I have two words for you: restraining order.

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

My all-time favorite book is Robin McKinley’s HERO AND THE CROWN. I read it when I was a pre-teen, and fell in love with fantasy ever after. It was the first book I’d read that had a female protagonist who slew her own dragons. I was hooked.

Lauren DeStefano is another favorite. The Chemical Garden Trilogy is a must-read. I love her characters and the dilemmas she places them in – just extraordinary work that really makes me feel.

I read Yangsze Choo’s THE GHOST BRIDE last year, and it was positively luminous. I’d love to have her over for dinner with Robin and Lauren to discuss modern fairy tales.

Henry: Note to self – add these to my to-be-read pile.

What is your favorite creature that exists only in literature?

I’ve lately been obsessed with serpents of all kinds: dragons, basilisks, Medusa and her sisters. I have a garden in which snakes like to gather, and I’m curious about them. The snakes I have in the garden are small DeKay’s snakes, and they’re quite shy. There’s something very mysterious and elusive about them, and I can see why they’re such wonderful fodder for literature.

Henry: Just a tip. If one encourages you to eat an apple, don’t. Just don’t.

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

When I’m not writing, I’m playing with my cats. We have five (six, if I can convince the feral cat in the backyard to quit waffling and come inside), so there are a lot of bellies that demand rubbing!

I also collect comic books, Tarot cards, and action figures. I have a garden in the backyard that is slowly taking over the lawn, and it’s currently Tomatopocalypse here. I’m also trying to get back into drawing. I haven’t done much of that since high school, so I feel pretty tentative about it.

Henry: Feral cats are known wafflers.

What would you like it to (accurately) say on your tombstone?

Hm. “Still exploring” would work.

Where can readers find your work?

The latest updates on my work are at my website, http://www.laurabickle.com. Thanks very much for interviewing me today!

Henry: It was my pleasure. This interview can also be read at the San Diego Children’s Books Examiner.

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Interview with fantasy novelist Sherwood Smith

Sherwood Smith studied in Europe before earning a masters in history. She worked as a governess, a bartender, an electrical supply verifier, and wore various hats in the film industry before turning to teaching for 20 years. Her first book was published in 1986. To date she’s published over forty books, nominated for several awards, including the Nebula, the Mythopoeic Fantasy Award, and an Anne Lindbergh Honor Book.


For what age audience do you write?

Anywhere from middle grade to adult. Mostly fantasy, with some science fiction, historical romance, and a couple of contemporary stories.

Tell us about your latest book.

My latest book is Lhind the Spy, sequel to Lhind the Thief.

Henry: Lhind sounds like a jack of all trades. Like her creator.

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

First and most important, entertainment! These are meant to be pleasant wish-fulfillment reads, though I can’t help slipping in explorations of family, moral awareness, and questions of personal agency.

What aspect of writing do you find most challenging?

Rewriting. I am a visual writer, which means I see the story in my head and write it down. That’s the easy fun part.

After that, the real struggle is to try to look past the images to determine if the words I’ve chosen actually get the images, sounds, tastes, and smells onto the page, or if they are just functioning as hypertext for rewinding the movie in my head, which does my reader no good, not having a functional tinfoil hat for me to beam my images directly to their brains!

Seeing what words I wrote down is difficult for me, and I can do upwards of twenty-five drafts for a tough scene, and still not be sure the words are the right ones.

Henry: I’m still trying to get the image out of you in a tinfoil hat out of my head.

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

That just because I might feel passionate, or deeply moved to the point of anguish, about something I wrote, the reader is not necessarily going to feel that passion. Though readers will often toss off a careless “That was a stupid book,” or “That sure was a piece of trash,” I think I can confidently say that no writer sets out to write a bad book. Behind every book is a writer who worked hard, and believes their book to be good, special, unique.

As for me, I have a tough time trying to find the words to get that passion across—and even if I manage successfully for one reader, I have learned from reading reviews that another reader will yawn and flit away to something they find more interesting.

Henry: I use the analogy of foods when I talk to my kids about writing. Some people may like pizza with anchovies, and others may not. Since it’s a matter of taste, they are both right.

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

Someone writing to me to say that my book saved their life.

Henry: I. Cannot. Beat. That. Achievement unlocked.

What advice would you give to aspiring authors?

Read, read, read. Read as widely as you can, about everything. Read outside your favorite area, so that you don’t end up rewriting the kind of story you love most. And if you do at first, that’s okay, because it’s good practice.

Observe real people doing real things. A writer needs to try to understand the world before she can reflect it—and maybe even change it. Learn how to rewrite earlier than I did, which means learning how to give and take critique in a constructive way. And most of all, have fun! If you don’t have fun, your reader won’t.

Henry: I can’t emphasize enough how helpful my critique groups are to improving my stories. If we have blind spots, we don’t know about them (by definition). So, outside pairs of eyes are invaluable.

Do you have any favorite quotes?

“It is certainly not then—not in dreams—but when one is wide awake, in moments of robust joy and achievement, on the highest terrace of consciousness, that mortality has a chance to peer beyond its own limits, from the mast, from the past and its castle tower. And although nothing much can be seen through the mist, there is somehow the blissful feeling that one is looking in the right direction.”
—Vladimir Nabokov, Speak, Memory


“But the effect of her being on those around her was incalculably diffusive: for the growing good of the world is partly dependent on unhistoric acts; and that things are not so ill with you and me as they might have been, is half owing to the number who lived faithfully a hidden life, and rest in unvisited tombs.”
― George Eliot, Middlemarch

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

Nope. I learned early to write anywhere, anytime, no matter how noisy or quiet. But when I was a young teen, I wrote everything by hand, and for a while I was so nearsighted (before I got glasses) that I bent closer and closer to the page, until my nose would sometimes get black ink on the end from touching the page. Especially when I wrote late at night by the light of the streetlamp across the street, while my sister was asleep in the other bed.

Henry: I hereby proclaim that “She’s got ink on her nose” to be an idiom denoting intensely hardworking.

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

Immortality (with good health) because there is not nearly enough time to travel where I wish to, to learn the languages I would love to speak, to read all the books and hear all the music and see all the plays and talk to all the people.

Henry: No one’s asked for that in any of my other interviews, which is surprising given how useful that power would be.

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

Jane Austen, Andrzej Tadeusz Bonawentura Kościuszko, and Christine de Pisan. I don’t know how much they would have to say to one another, assuming they could make themselves understood, but they all sound like they were endlessly witty and fascinating, the women would have a great deal to say about writing, culture, and the agency of women, and Kościuszko would have much to say about his sympathies and ardent beliefs in the rights and the freedoms of ordinary human beings, though he consorted with rulers of a number of countries.

Henry: My guests always forget to invite an interpreter. Wikipedia helpfully offers:

Andrzej Tadeusz Bonawentura Kościuszko – February 4 or 12, 1746 – October 15, 1817) was a Polish-Lithuanian military engineer and a military leader who became a national hero in Poland, Lithuania, Belarus, and the United States. He fought in the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth’s struggles against Russia and Prussia, and on the American side in the American Revolutionary War. As Supreme Commander of the Polish National Armed Forces, he led the 1794 Kościuszko Uprising.

In 1796, Kościuszko emigrated to the United States. A close friend of Thomas Jefferson, with whom he shared ideals of human rights, Kościuszko wrote a will in 1798 dedicating his American assets to the education and freedom of U.S. slaves.

Christine de Pisan – 1364 – c. 1430 – was an Italian French late medieval author. She served as a court writer for several dukes (Louis of Orleans, Philip the Bold of Burgundy, and John the Fearless of Burgundy) and the French royal court during the reign of Charles VI. She wrote both poetry and prose works such as biographies and books containing practical advice for women. She completed forty-one works during her 30-year career from 1399–1429. She married in 1380 at the age of 15, and was widowed 10 years later. Much of the impetus for her writing came from her need to earn a living to support her mother, a niece and her two surviving children. She spent most of her childhood and all of her adult life in Paris and then the abbey at Poissy, and wrote entirely in her adopted language, Middle French.

What is your favorite creature that exists only in literature?

The phoenix, the bird of fire, light, and renewal.

Henry: Ironically, Phoenix, AZ is home to many snowbirds.

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

Travel, talk to people, listen to music, eat good food, play with the dogs, and of course read.

What would you like it to (accurately) say on your tombstone?

Sherwood Smith loved life.

Where can readers find your work?

All the usual on-line booksellers, plus sometimes brick and board stores might carry a few of my books. If one is to order on-line, I encourage people to try Book View Café, a consortium of writers whose volunteer labor means we get most of the royalties. My books with them are here: http://bookviewcafe.com/bookstore/bvc-author/sherwood-smith/

Henry: Thank you for joining us, Sherwood. This interview is also posted on the San Diego Children’s Books Examiner.

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Fun at the 2016 LA Times Festival of Books

Pelican Publishing asked me to sign my books at their booth at this year’s Los Angeles Times Festival of Books. Below are some fun photos of my day.


I did not expect to encounter an inappropriately named food truck…


What this truck lacked in rhyme, it made up for in better nutrition.


The USC Trojan marching band was in attendance.


The charming picture book author/illustrator Eliza Wheeler


She was on a panel with Caldecott-winning author/illustrator Dan Santat, among others.


I was in the audience with the Dan Santat cheering section. His and Leah’s boys aren’t cute at all…


Jonathan and Drew Scott – The Property Brothers from HGTV.


With children’s musician, Emily Arrow. I carried her ukulele as she helpfully introduced me to…


Caldecott Honor-winning author/illustrator, Lauren Castillo. Not pictured here, I also got to briefly say hi to the talented Jon Klassen and Jenni Holm earlier in the day.


Signing at the Mysterious Galaxy Books booth with fellow San Diegan, middle-grade author Margaret Dilloway.


Authors should walk softly, but carry a big pencil…


Now, here is a food truck with nutrition for the mind!


Fun at WonderCon 2016

My sons and I made our annual pilgrimage to WonderCon to enjoy great art, revel in geekiness, and meet lots of interesting people. Here’s a samplingWC2016-05

Josh & Harrison outside the LA Convention Center


The BACONNATION food truck. It’s porktastic!


Not to be outdone is the Godzilla-themed MeSoHungry food truck.


Why, yes, I WAS wondering what a Star Trek-cat mashup would look like. Scotty is a Scottish Fold! Chekhov should’ve been a Siberian.


Captain Mexico and Mexican Punisher and a Trump pinata saying “Por ser un pendejo”. Well played, guys.


Harrison as a dwarf barrel-rider from The Hobbit at The OneRing.net booth. He’s got the long hair – just needs a beard and some scale mail.


My sons in front of our books at the Mysterious Galaxy booth.


Josh with a Type-2 Energy Weapon, more commonly known as the Gravity Hammer – a powerful, two-handed melee weapon used by the Jiralhanae in the Covenant Empire. Or so I’m told.


A quick photo prior to our panel. From right to left, authors: Barney Saltzberg, Josh Herz, Harrison Herz, Dan Santat, Bruce Hale, and Lisa Yee. Lisa was not part of our panel, but she is legally required to be present when Dan is in public.:)


I secretly brought a furry trapper hat to make a THIS IS NOT MY HAT joke. Little did I suspect that all other four male panelists would be sporting hats. From right to left: Jon Klassen (including priceless expression), Antoinette Portis, Bruce Hale, Dan Santat, Barney Saltzberg, and Henry Herz.


Me looking all moderatory while Bruce Hale answers a question from the audience.


Me looking like the cat that ate the canary because I’m signing books with Jon Klassen, Antoinette Portis, Barney Saltzberg, Dan Santat, and Bruce Hale.


This is Jon Klassen, but THIS IS NOT MY HAT. I’m wearing Bruce Hale’s famous fedora!


Interview with bestselling picture book author/illustrator Janell Cannon

Janell Cannon was born and raised in Minnesota. At age 18 she moved to Southern California where she currently lives. Her love of nature, science, reading and art led her on a long circuitous path from doing whatever job she could get in order to pay the rent, to a picture book writing and illustration career.


For what age audience do you write?

I write/illustrate picture books for all ages, but create text that early grade schoolers can grasp—with a few fun new words that they can pick up in the process.

Tell us about your latest book.

It has no text, is entirely visual and was recently returned to me from the publisher—one reason I think is because it lacks clear category in many respects.

Henry: However, it had no spelling or punctuation mistakes.

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

A deep compassion for how vulnerable our pets are to human whim, and to be very considerate of their long term needs if deciding to adopt an animal companion.

Henry: Right! You don’t just adopt a cute puppy – you adopt a dog for ten or more years. Thoughtful turtle and parrot owners have been known to put provisions in their will in case the animal outlives them!

What aspect of writing do you find most challenging?

Facing how mediocre my writing is, and staying focused throughout the tedious process of cleaning up a manuscript and paring it down to the essentials while fending off amusing but distracting digressions.

Henry: I hesitate to correct you, but mediocre is not a word that comes to mind when I consider your writing. 

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

Appreciating the creative efforts of others in any endeavor.

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

Many travel adventures around the world with fellow writers I have met along the way. One memory in particular is being a passenger in an old Russian van, flying across the roadless Mongolian steppes, holding a huge live golden eagle in my lap.

Henry: Flying over Mongolia in a van with an eagle in your lap sounds more like an episode of Magic School Bus! Is your maiden name Frizzle, by any chance?

What advice would you give to aspiring authors?

Illegitimi non carborundum!

Henry: Paraphrasing, accept that rejection is part of the process. Just keep going with your writing!

Do you have any favorite quotes?

“Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.” —Arthur C. Clarke

Henry: We are surrounded by so much technological magic that we forget it’s there.

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

First drafts are almost always written while in the tub.

Henry: Waterproof laptop computer?

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

Have always wished to have the power to shape shift and transport anywhere on the planet at will, with the ability to move forward and backward in time, while being fluent in every language and a virtuoso of all musical instruments. These abilities would break down many barriers of being able to deeply study the workings and history of this magnificent planet and human society.

Henry: Hey, that’s more than one superpower. Don’t be greedy! Remember the moral of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. 

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

Take long and wandering walks while paying close attention to as much as possible.

Henry: With an eagle in your lap?

Where can readers find your work?

Libraries, book stores, and most recently in Iraqi Kurdistan!

Henry: Some of these locations are easier to reach than others… Thanks for joining us, Janell. This interview is also posted on the San Diego Children’s Books Examiner.

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Interview with Hugo Award-winning sci-fi & fantasy author Tim Pratt

Tim Pratt’s fiction has won a Hugo Award, and he’s been a finalist for Sturgeon, Stoker, World Fantasy, Mythopoeic, and Nebula Awards, among others. His books include three short story collections, most recently ANTIQUITIES AND TANGIBLES AND OTHER STORIES; a volume of poems; contemporary fantasy novels THE STRANGE ADVENTURES OF RANGERGIRL, BRIARPATCH, HEIRS OF GRACE, and THE DEEP WOODS; science fantasy THE NEX; steampunk novel THE CONSTANTINE AFFLICTION (as T. Aaron Payton); various roleplaying game tie-in fantasy novels; and, as T.A. Pratt, eight books (and counting) in an urban fantasy series about sorcerer Marla Mason. He edited anthology SYMPATHY FOR THE DEVIL and co-edited RAGS AND BONES: NEW TWISTS ON TIMELESS TALES with Melissa Marr. He works as a senior editor for Locus magazine, and lives in Berkeley, CA with his wife Heather Shaw and their son River. Find him online at timpratt.org.


For what age audience do you write?

I have published lots of adult novels and a couple of books aimed at middle-grade readers (age 8-12, more or less).

Tell us about your latest book.

It’s called THE DEEP WOODS, a novella (or short novel, depending on how you count) out from PS Publishing, a marvelous British small press. (The cover art by Galen Dara is fantastic. She’s so good.) It’s essentially a coming-of-age tale about a boy who gets lost in a mysterious wood full of supernatural weirdness, makes friends with another boy who’s trapped there, and tries to help him escape. With lots of fairy lore, video games, hairsbreadth escapes, jokes, banter, villainy, surprises, and sweetness. Suitable for readers from age ten on up, I would think. (My hope is that kids and adults will both find lots to like in it.)

Henry: I’m a huge fan of urban fantasy. This fall, my bedtime picture book, MABEL AND THE QUEEN OF DREAMS, will be published by Schiffer. It features the Fae Queen from Mercutio’s soliloquy in ROMEO AND JULIET. It’s like urban fantasy with training wheels. I’m getting young readers hooked so they’ll read your books as they get older. You’re welcome.

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

Pleasure, combined with an uncontrollable need to convince all their friends and family to buy copies.

Henry: Nice – working both the creative and business side of things with your answer.

What aspect of writing do you find most challenging?

I love drafting like I love eating ice cream or having sex; I love revising like I love doing logic puzzles; I love line-editing like I love perfectly organizing a bookshelf; I hate reviewing copyedits and the second round of proofreading because by then I’m getting pretty tired of my own words. They all have their own challenges, though.

Henry: I hear you. At less than 500 words, my picture books can sometimes have 20 revisions. I find the biggest challenge knowing when to stop revising.

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

The personal lesson is “I don’t know what I think about anything until I write it down.” A more universal lesson is discovering that stories are *really* important to people, and can really change the way they understand, and even live, their lives. As such, I don’t agree much with people who say “Calm down, it’s just a story.”

Henry: So true, particularly for young readers. I hear stories all the time about how books influence the path of people’s lives.

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

I guess “nice meals with lots of writers” isn’t quite what you mean. I almost drowned in a hot tub at a writing workshop once after I had some drinks without accounting for how the high elevation would impact my tolerance.

Henry: Meeting other writers is a valid answer. Sure, blame the elevation on your lightweightedness. 

What advice would you give to aspiring authors?

Write a lot, and read more than you write.

Do you have any favorite quotes?

There are certainly things I say when the situation warrants:

“The best way out is always through” (from Frost, though I usually misquote it as “the only way out is through.”)
“De gustibus non est disputandum.” (Latin for “there’s no arguing about taste,” basically.)
“Not my circus, not my monkeys.”

Henry: I think Churchill said, “If you’re going through hell, keep going.” Your last one reminds me of John Bigboote from the movie Buckaroo Bonzai – “I’m not from this planet, monkey boy.” I always loved the idea that an alien would use an evolutionary slur to insult a human. And that he’d be particular about how his human alias was pronounced.

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

I am opposed to rituals. I fear they would burn cognitive paths I would have trouble escaping. I like being able to write on buses or waiting rooms or bars.

Henry: Or drunk in Jacuzzis? The cognitive path less taken.

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

The ability to stop time, because then I might finally have enough time to do everything.

Henry: That is the most popular answer to that question. Usually writers mention it as a way to help meet manuscript deadlines.

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

I get to dine with living authors fairly often, so I’ll go with the dead: Joanna Russ, Theodore Sturgeon, and William Faulkner, who all hugely influenced me in different ways.

Henry: Hello and welcome to Dining with the Dead. I’m your host, Tim Pratt. That reminds me of the old Steve Allen TV show, Meeting of the Minds. Wikipedia helpfully offers:

“Joanna Russ was an American writer, academic and feminist. She is the author of a number of works of science fiction, fantasy and feminist literary criticism such as How to Suppress Women’s Writing, as well as a contemporary novel, On Strike Against God, and one children’s book, Kittatinny. She is best known for The Female Man, a novel combining utopian fiction and satire.”

“Theodore Sturgeon, born Edward Hamilton Waldo, was an American science fiction and horror writer and critic. The Internet Speculative Fiction Database credits him with about 400 reviews and more than 200 stories. Sturgeon’s most famous work may be the science fiction novel MORE THAN HUMAN (1953). MORE THAN HUMAN won the 1954 International Fantasy Award (for SF and fantasy) as the year’s best novel and the Science Fiction Writers of America ranked “BABY IS THREE” number five among the “Greatest Science Fiction Novellas of All Time” to 1964. The Science Fiction and Fantasy Hall of Fame inducted Sturgeon in 2000.”

William Faulkner – Shame on you, if you haven’t heard of him.

What is your favorite creature that exists only in literature?

The fauna of mirrors, which are rooted in Chinese mythology but were made more widely known in Borges’s BOOK OF IMAGINARY BEINGS (which inspired China Mieville’s fine short novel THE TAIN).

Henry: Great answer. The mirrors remind me of the “veil” often used in urban fantasy to separate our world from the world of the Fae. Once again, Wikipedia to the rescue:

“The Chinese myth suggest that an alternate universe exists beyond mirrors. Upon entering the fauna of mirrors nothing is like the world has ever seen. No color, shape, nor size is the same. The creatures that dwell within the fauna are not like any creatures that inhabit the earth. Once the fauna was open, and creatures from both dimensions could pass through freely. There was always harmony between the both worlds, but one day that harmony was disturbed and the worlds came to be at war with one another. In turn, the portal had to be closed to avoid controversy.”

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

Work at my day job, play with my kid, hang out with my wife, drink whiskey, read books, watch horror movies, drink beer, eat cheese, wander around the Bay Area.

Henry: I’m looking you up the next time I’m in the Bay Area for an evening of whiskey, cheese and horror movies. We will stay well away from Jacuzzis.

What would you like it to say on your tombstone?

He Was Not Particularly Frightened By Goats

Henry: Nor Did Sheep Perturb Him… Though Pigs Vexed Him. I admire a man with realistic goals.

Where can readers find your work?

Bookstores, with luck, and all the usual places online. There are details at http://www.timpratt.org. Oh, and I have a Patreon, where I send a new story each month to supporters, so $1 a month gets you 12 stories a year: https://www.patreon.com/timpratt

Henry: Thanks for joining us, Tim! This interview is also posted on the San Diego Children’s Books Examiner.


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