Complementing my interviews, today’s Author Spotlight, the three hundred and tenth, is of children’s fantasy author and interviewee Henry Herz. If you would like to take part in an author spotlight, take a look at author-spotlights.
Henry Herz writes fantasy and science fiction stories for children, aided in this noble endeavor by his two young sons, Josh and Harrison. Henry’s love of the fantasy genre began in elementary school with Where the Wild Things Are and The Lord of the Rings, and continued in high school, college, and beyond playing Dungeons & Dragons and Warhammer. Henry is a member of the Society of Children’s Book Writers & Illustrators, and writes for the San Diego Children’s Book Examiner.
Like their father, both boys are big fans of fantasy, science fiction, and the annual Comic-Con convention. They have an entrepreneurial bent too. They’ve started three web-based businesses selling LEGO party favors, custom cast bases for Warhammer, and painted concrete yard sculptures. Their efforts have been featured on Young Entrepreneur Magazine, Wired GeekDad, CNN iReport, TheOneRing.net, and the Warner Brothers’ website for The Hobbit movie.
The writing trio’s first book, Nimpentoad, is a stunningly illustrated high fantasy early chapter book. It has earned over 85 Amazon 5-star ratings to date. The unlikely hero is the bright-eyed Nimpentoad, a furry little creature who’s been victimized by the bigger creatures of the ancient forest one too many times. Nimpentoad convinces his fellow Niblings to make a perilous journey to a castle where they hope to find refuge–if they can just evade and outwit the ravenous goblins, trolls, rhinotaurs, and other perils that stand in their way.
Nimpentoad expands the ecosphere familiar to fantasy fans with adorable, fuzzy nibling protagonists. Their dark Grunwald Forest is also home to creatures like rhinotaurs (menacing, muscular minotaur/rhino hybrids) and neebels (two-legged beasts with gaping maws). Parents appreciate the implicit lessons on bullying, teamwork, perseverance, and leadership.
The writing trio’s second book, Twignibble, is a fantasy easy reader. Twignibble is a very smart and mechanically adept sloth, with animal friends all over the world. When he learns that his friends are in danger from pollution and poaching, he builds a helicopter to visit them. Twignibble helps each friend by making them a special gadget. Kids love the cute animals and funny inventions; parents appreciate a book that promotes friendship, empathy, and protecting the environment.
And now from the author himself:
I originally drafted our first story, Nimpentoad, as a way to interest my young sons in the fantasy genre. It did that, but my sons also gave me feedback on the plot and suggested character names. So, what began as a simple tale to instill a love of fantasy gradually morphed into a collaborative writing effort.
We had no plans to publish initially. We just shared the book with family. When my sister-in-law commented, “You know, this is really good. You should consider publishing it.” We thought about it, and decided to go the self-publishing route. Nimpentoad was born. And thus, my writing career offers a good example of the Butterfly Effect*.
The book has gotten a very positive response, and this has encouraged us to write other books. All of us are big animal fans and lovers of nature, so a book featuring pro-conservation animal characters was an easy choice. We were tickled when we came up with the idea of a sloth protagonist who must overcome his torpid nature to race around the globe to help his animal friends.
Other books we have in the works include re-writes of classic children’s tales and a science fiction picture book. Finstin, an inquisitive alien boy from the planet Nubnub, gets lost on a hike and hopes his encounters with strange creatures don’t prevent him from reaching home before nightfall and its perils.
I should caution aspiring writers about self-publishing. It is very much a two-edged sword. Self-publishing offers some distinct advantages over traditional publishing, such as complete control and speed. But, as Spiderman says, “With great power comes great responsibility.” A self-publishing author is responsible for (i.e., must personally perform or pay someone else to perform) a diverse and daunting range of tasks, including copy editing, book formatting, technical aspects of publication (e.g., getting an ISBN number and barcode for the book), promotion, printing, warehousing, and fulfillment (the last three just for printed books).
So, self-publishing is not for the faint of heart or for people who don’t enjoy learning new things. When we think of a writer’s career, we imagine them honing their literary craft over time. Self-publishing authors have a second path they must follow simultaneously, which is to hone their publishing craft. Because I’m self-employed, I have flexibility with my time. The process of writing and publishing children’s books would have been even more challenging were that not the case.
The other practical consideration for self-publishing is financial. Do NOT think you’ll write a great story, push it out on Kindle, and immediately be able to retire on a never-ending stream of royalty payments. Just as developing your craft takes time, developing a platform and an audience take time. So, by all means write, but do NOT quit your day job. At least not immediately.
We’ve all hear the term “midlife crisis”. I didn’t give it much heed up to this point in my life. But then I look at myself and see that I’ve transitioned from salaried employee to being my own boss, and from being a reader of books to a reader AND writer of books. But whether you are middle-aged or not, writing offers a wonderful way to express yourself and bring enjoyment to others. Just as the journey of a thousand miles begins with that first step, the journey to your book starts with that first keystroke.
*Per wikipedia: “The butterfly effect is a common trope in fiction, especially in scenarios involving time travel. Additionally, works of fiction that involve points at which the storyline diverges during a seemingly minor event, resulting in a significantly different outcome than would have occurred without the divergence, are an example of the butterfly effect.”