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Children's & Fantasy/Sci-Fi Books


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BEYOND THE PALE fantasy anthology now available in audiobook!

I am SUPER excited to announce that the audiobook version of the dark fantasy anthology, BEYOND THE PALE, is now available. The voice actor did a phenomenal job bringing to life short stories from NY Times bestsellers.

>>> Best of all, I have some FREE promo codes for fantasy readers willing to give an honest review. Contact me if interested. Must live in the US or UK. Please indicate which applies.<<<

  • “Hooves and the Hovel of Abdel Jameela” by Saladin Ahmed
  • “The Children of the Shark God” by Peter S. Beagle
  • “Misery” and “Shadow Children” by Heather (Zac) Brewer
  • “Even Hand” by Jim Butcher
  • “Death Warmed Over” by Rachel Caine
  • “Red Run” by Kami Garcia
  • “Pale Rider” and “The Adventures of Lightning Merriemouse-Jones” by Nancy Holder
  • “Frost Child” and “South” by Gillian Philip
  • “A Knot of Toads” by Jane Yolen

https://tinyurl.com/BeyondThePaleAntho

But don’t just take my word for it!

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

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

“Magic truly exists in Beyond the Pale. These tales are at times elegant, witty, romantic, frightening, exciting and always entertaining. Highly recommended.”
-NY Times bestseller Jonathan Maberry, author of Joe Ledger series and V-Wars

“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.”
-NY Times bestseller Frank Beddor, author of The Looking Glass Wars


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Good Times at San Diego Comic-Con 2019

Had a fantastic time at San Diego Comic-Con. I participated in three panels and got to hang out with some amazing authors. Took a ton of pictures for my friends who couldn’t be there. Enjoy!

My little Predator? One of my favorite pictures from the convention.

My sons and I outside the San Diego Convention Center

In the San Diego Convention Center, no one can hear you scream!

The Dark Crystal, Planet of the Apes, and Lord of the Rings sculptures

A giant Mr. Krabs from Spongebob Squarepants!

“Not with 10,000 men could you do this.”

Ah, Dungeons & Dragons humor…

Samurai Batman!

Puppets from the upcoming TV show Crank Yankers

Tiki Yoda and Moana !?

Godzilla doesn’t like waiting in lines either.

Gundam figures

Batman: Family

A sketch of me by the creator of Mr. Toast

The importance of good dental hygiene…

I’ve got my eye on you!

 

He-Man!

 

Domino from X-Men

Stephen King’s IT

Final Fantasy characters

3A figures from Ashley Woods

Magic Wheelchairs ❤

Met the kind and talented author of THE NIGHT CIRCUS, Erin Morgenstern

The wonderful author of SHADOW AND BONE, Leigh Bardugo, wins the Inkpot award

Leigh Bardugo and Erin Morgenstern: talented and funny

Are You There, Gods? It’s Us, the Protagonists panel with authors Rebecca Roanhorse, Scott Westerfeld, Margaret Rogerson, Ann Leckie, and Joan He

Ruby Rod cosplay from The Fifth Element. Supergreen!

Joffrey cosplay from Game of Thrones

The Future as I See It panel with authors Gini Koch, Tim Zahn, Steven Sears, Jonathan Maberry, Javier Grillo-Marxuach, and Seanan McGuire

The Fantastic Flavors of Fantasy panel with authors Renee Ahdieh, Lauren Shippen, Katy Pool, Nicole Conway, Sherrilyn Kenyon, and Marissa Meyer

Those Toy Story green army “men” are real people!

Jonathan Maberry gives Nancy Holder the Scribe Award

Star Wars samurai cosplay!

Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild cosplay

Wherefore Dystopia and Darkness panel with bestselling authors Jess Rothenberg, Richard Kadrey, S.L. Huang, Ally Condie, Rachel Caine, and Marie Lu

Admiral Ackbar cosplay from Star Wars. “It’s a trap!”

Fembot cosplay from Austin Powers

Shego and Kim Possible cosplay

Tank Girl cosplay

The Writers Coffeehouse author panel with (l to r) me, Jonathan Maberry, Delilah Dawson, Peter Clines and Scott Sigler.

I can’t wait to see this urban fantasy series!

Carnival Row stars Orlando Bloom and Cara Delevingne. Is it hot in here, or is it just me?

Cara Delevingne’s fairy character takes flight off the edge of a cliff.

Six-foot tall LEGO Batman minifigure

Monty Python and the Holy Grail cosplay. “There are some who call me… Tim.”

Wakanda (Black Panther) / Spiderman basketball team cosplay. SDCC is known for such creative mashups.

Chun-Li cosplay from Street Fighter video game

Green Arrow cosplay

Peter Pan Lost Boy Rufio cosplay from the movie Hook

Beetlejuice cosplay. Don’t say his name three times

ALF cosplay

Stellar Stories and Awesome Adventures panel with authors Maura Milan, Mark Siegel, Tochi Onyebuchi, Ashley Poston, and Maryelizabeth Yturralde

Disney Hyperion Publishing panel with authors/editors Emily Meehan, Brittany Rubiana, Serena Valentino, and Jocelyn Davies

 

Theseus and the Minotaur cosplay

Three interpretations of Judge Dredd cosplay

Lord Voldemort: He Who Shall Not Be Named. Oops.

Skeleton warrior cosplay

Wonder Woman cosplay

Game of Thrones cosplay: Cersei, The Mountain, The Night King, Arya wondering why SHE isn’t killing the Night King

Rick and Morty cosplay

Global debut of the cover of my upcoming picture book, 2 Pirates + 1 Robot, from Kane Miller Books.

My fantasy/sci-fi author panel with (l to r) Tomi Adeyemi, Lev Grossman, A.G. Howard, Aditi Khorana, and Jonathan Maberry.

They packed the room!

Fans of The Magicians may recall Umber asking for little cakes. I brought Lev Grossman some little cakes.

After the panel, the authors signed their books. Many added graffiti to the tablecloth. Someone drew salmon. Author Chuck Wendig apparently has no respect for sustainable salmon farming. And the feeling is mutual.

Lev Grossman (The Magicians) left his own graffiti.

Mostly, we signed books. Here author Lev Grossman signs a fan’s chest.

My favorite cosplay of the convention: Warhammer 40K Sisters of Battle! Adepta Sororitas

My KidLit literary agent panel with (l to r) Hannah Mann, Thao Le, Kelly Sonnack and Stefanie Von Borstel.

Writing Craft panel with authors Sarah Gailey, Annalee Newitz, Charlie Jane Anders, Seanan McGuire, and Cory Doctorow

Godzilla, Ghidorah, and Rodan resin miniatures

Sci-fi author greats Larry Niven, Greg Bear, and David Brin

Fandom Meets YA panel with authors Livia Blackburne, Mary Pearson, Tricia Levenseller, A.G. Howard, and C.B. Lee

Lord of the Rings cosplay. A Minas Tirith dress! “For Gondor!!”

Reinventing the Modern Girl panel with authors Seanan McGuire, Danielle Paige, Sarah Kuhn, Nila Macgruder, Cecil Castellucci, and Jenn Fujikawa.


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Classical Paintings Given a Fantasy Flair

Thanks to Lothlenan and the mad geniuses at Bored Panda. “Classical art is beautiful to look at, but some of us have a hard time relating to it. A digital artist on Tumblr named Lothlenan is changing that by turning some of fine art’s most timeless pieces into geeky fantasy settings. So far, they’ve revamped 7 tableaux, inspired by fandoms like Sailor Moon, Adventure Time, and The Legend of Zelda. It’s amazing how century-old paintings take on such a modern feel when combined with elements of Anime!

If you’re a geek extraordinaire and can’t even deal with how flipping cool these paintings are, you’re in luck – Lothlenon currently operates a Redbubble store where they sell stunning prints of each design. Who wouldn’t want an impressionist Totoro-à-la-Monet on their wall?”

#1 “Woman With A Parasol” By Claude Monet

"Woman With A Parasol" By Claude Monet

#2 “The Accolade” By Edmund Leighton

"The Accolade" By Edmund Leighton

#3 The Scream (of Nature) By Edvard Munch

The Scream (of Nature) By Edvard Munch

#4 “A Portrait Of Louis Xiv” By Hyacinthe Rigaud

"A Portrait Of Louis Xiv" By Hyacinthe Rigaud

#5 “The Swing” By Jean-Honore Fragonard

"The Swing" By Jean-Honore Fragonard

#6 “Lovers On A Swing” By Pierre Auguste

"Lovers On A Swing" By Pierre Auguste

#7 “Self Portrait With Her Daughter” By Madame Le Brun

"Self Portrait With Her Daughter" By Madame Le Brun


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Photos from San Diego Comic-Con 2017

Here, in no particular order, are photos from San Diego Comic-Con 2017

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Only D&D fans will get that pun.

A classic Comic-Con mashup. Elvis Boba Fett!

Cabbage merchant: An obscure, but lovable character from Avatar: The Last Airbender

A huge dragon you could ride. Stuffed animal sold separately.

D.VA’s mech video game character from Overwatch

A flying (thanks to magnetic repulsion) Iron Man and friends.

NY Times bestselling fantasy author Gail Carriger

Harley Quinn and Poison Ivy from Batman

NY Times bestselling fantasy author Ilona Andrews

Life-sized Iron Man model

Pint-sized General Grievous and Boba Fett

The eloquent First Second editorial director Mark Seigel

NY Times bestselling fantasy author Mary Pearson

Megaman video game character

My fantasy novel panel with Seanan McGuire, Robin Hobb, Gail Carriger & Mary Pearson

The authors of my panel packed the room!

Authors Todd McCaffrey, the Winner twins, and Seanan McGuire

The world’s largest Pikachu (from Pokemon)

Two fun posters. “Gandalf Airlines. Fly you fools! Our planes are never late. Nor are they early.
They arrive precisely when they mean to. You shall not need a boarding pass!” and
BatPug: “I am the night… but mostly I just piddle on stuff”)

Three princesses, or perhaps two princes and a Mother of Dragons

NY Times bestselling fantasy author Robin Hobb

Even the animals get in on the cosplay action. Ye scurvy dog!

Does this Skyrim helmet make me look fat?

Super Saiyan Blue from Dragon Ball Z

Some fun toothy artwork I bought.

Fantasy/sci-fi authors Bryan Thomas Schmidt, Jonathan Maberry, Seanan McGuire and Scott Sigler.

And, of course, Wonder Woman.


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Sculpted fantasy yard creatures

Fantasy sculptures that inspire me to write more picture books, from Scott Radke and the mad geniuses at Bored Panda.

“My name is Scott Radke and I’m an artist from Cleveland Ohio. I create dream-like characters from out of my imagination and photograph them in natural environments. I keep the meanings behind my work simple and just create and let my work speak for itself. It’s very meditative for me to create and I’m fortunate to have this as my purpose and livelihood.”

Scott Radke

Scott Radke

Scott Radke

Scott Radke

Scott Radke

Scott Radke

Scott Radke

Scott Radke

Scott Radke

Scott Radke


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Pre-World War II Giant Robot Landscape Paintings

I never thought I’d ever say “Pre-World War II Giant Robot Landscape Paintings”. Hats off to the skill and imagination of artist Jakub Rozalski in mashing up these two on Design You Trust.

01

“The Polish artist Jakub Rozalski, who goes by the sobriquet “Mr. Werewolf,” has produced an amusing series of steampunk-ish canvases in which serene and idyllic rustic landscapes of what seem to be Eastern Europe (Rozalski’s very back yard, you might say) in the early decades of the 20th century feature the prominent and inexplicable existence of completely fictitious giant mecha robots.”

02

Various iconographies are jammed together, the imagery of peasant life in the early years of collectivization, the imagery of science fiction, the imagery of modern warfare…. add it all up and you might find yourself calling to mind, ohhh, the first few scenes of The Empire Strikes Back, set on the icy terrain of Hoth, perhaps?

03

Rozalski’s intent is “to commemorate this sad and tragic period in history, in my own way, to light on this parts of history that usually remain in the shadows of other events… remember and honor the history, but live in the present.” He adds, “I like to mix historical facts and situations with my own motives, ideas and visions. … I attach great importance to the details, the equipment, the costumes, because it allows you to embed painting within a specified period of time.”

04

The World of Scythe is a beautiful 105-page art book showcasing the work of Jakub Rozalski for the board game Scythe, one of the most successful games ever funded on Kickstarter. The book was only made available to backers during the Kickstarter campaign, and is now only available on ArtStation Shop.

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Interview with middle grade novelist Henry Neff

Henry H. Neff is the author and illustrator of the five-book fantasy epic THE TAPESTRY, along with his newest creation, IMPYRIUM, which Entertainment Weekly named the #1 Middle Grade Book of 2016. Henry lives with his wife and two sons in Montclair, NJ.

neffhenry

For what age audience do you write?

My books are usually classified as middle grade fantasy, but I don’t really write for a specific audience or age group. I simply try to tell a story I find entertaining and figure the audience will sort itself out. While that certainly includes 8-12 years olds, I’d say almost half my readers are teenagers and adults. My stories are categorized as fantasy because they contain magic but you’ll also find lots of history, mythology, and even science fiction. They’re a genre stew.

Henry H.: Speculative fiction goulash. A potpourri of preposterous plot particles.

Tell us about your latest book.

My most recent work is IMPYRIUM (HarperCollins, October 2016). It’s the first in a trilogy that takes place in a distant future when our world is dominated by magical humans, most notably the godlike Faeregines, whose family has ruled the empire over 3,000 years. Unfortunately for the Faeregines, the family’s magic has been fading, and their many enemies have noticed. The story has two main characters: Hazel Faeregine, who is an outcast within the royal family, and Hob Smythe, a non-magical commoner and undercover revolutionary that serves (and spies) within the palace. Some have joked that it’s Game of Thrones—for kids! In addition to writing the story, I create all the interior art and maps. It’s been a lot of fun.

Henry H.: I enjoyed reading IMPYRIUM. My brain unconsciously kept translating Faeregines as Fae peregrines. Elvish falcons!

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

First and foremost, I want them to be entertained. But I also want readers to be challenged, and to make deep and lasting connections with the characters. I rarely work in black and white, and strive to give my heroes flaws and the villains motivation beyond simply being bad guys. There are some tricky topics broached in IMPYRIUM having to do with class, opportunity, the use of power, and institutional decay. As in real life, there are no easy answers to complex questions. Everything involves a tradeoff and there is usually another side to the story.

Henry H.: If we could peek inside villains’ heads, I suspect most of them wouldn’t consider themselves villainous. I agree with you that complex villains are so much more interesting. Gollum is much more intriguing than the uniformly evil Nazgul.

What aspect of writing do you find most challenging?

My rough drafts are painfully slow, as I suffer from a tendency to over-plan and edit while writing them. Having a roadmap is helpful, but excessive planning can smother creative spontaneity. Revising while writing kills momentum and can lead to losing sight of the forest, and instead obsessing over individual trees. If I could wave a magic wand, I’d write rougher drafts and take far less time doing so. If anyone is in possession of such a wand, please get in touch.

Henry H.: Unplug your computer mouse. You can only type. You cannot go back and edit (until the first draft is done). You’re welcome.

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

When in doubt, trust your gut — even if it’s telling you to do something that seems weird or risky. There’s no guarantee of success, but I believe this leads to better stories, a more interesting life, and fewer regrets. No one spends their final moments wishing they’d been more conventional.

Henry H.: However, one should take care not to extend this advice too far. Just because your gut says that a 300-page dystopian picture book sounds like a fun project, you should probably skip it.

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

Does having a family qualify? I reconnected with a former classmate (we attended the same elementary school) after my first book, The Hound of Rowan, was published. Danielle read it, sent a nice note, and we caught up the next time I was in New York (I was living in San Francisco at the time). A decade later we’re living happily in Montclair, NJ with our two beautiful boys. If I hadn’t left the corporate world to teach and write, I’d probably be alone with a bigger bank account and a lot less happiness.

Henry H.: Best. Answer. Ever.

What advice would you give to aspiring authors?

Get your drafts down quickly, grow a thick skin, and truly embrace revision. Also, don’t over-romanticize the profession. This last one is important. Having talked with many aspiring authors, I’ve noticed that some believe publication is the ticket to fame and riches. I can tell you firsthand that it is not, and there are very few children’s authors that can live solely on their writing income, much less amass anything resembling wealth. If being rich and famous is your goal, there are more reliable paths than making children’s books. Write because you have stories to tell and enjoy telling them. If your book becomes a bestseller, GREAT! But don’t allow that to be your goal, much less your reason for writing.

Henry H.: All excellent advice. If I may elaborate, Henry’s thick skin comment refers to both dealing with agent/editor rejections, and unfavorable book reviews. Take solace that ALL authors get rejected. And don’t read reviews of your books. The positive ones don’t tell you anything you didn’t already know, and the negative ones are depressing.

Do you have any favorite quotes?

“Just because you’re paranoid doesn’t mean they aren’t after you” from Catch-22, and “Just keep swimming” by the ever-buoyant Dory. The former appeals to the wry cynic in me; the latter to my chipper optimist. It’s the Frosted Mini-Wheats of quotation pairings.

Henry H.: “There is no such thing as paranoia. Your worst fears can come true at any moment.” – Hunter S. Thompson
“Fish are friends, not food.” – Bruce the Great White Shark

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

When I settle in to write, it’s usually with a pot of coffee, noise-cancelling headphones, and Tchaikovsky’s “Arabian Dance” on repeat. There’s something about that piece I find conducive to writing. It has a soothing, almost hypnotic quality that helps put my brain in work mode. According to iTunes it’s been played over 23,000 times, so I’d say that qualifies as a ritual. I also pay tribute to Cthulhu.

Henry H.: “Ph’nglui mglw’nafh Cthulhu R’lyeh wgah’nagl fhtagn.”
“In his house at R’lyeh, dead Cthulhu waits dreaming.”
Yeah, that’s soothing…

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

Forget flying. My super power would be the ability to write a rough draft in four months or less. I would weep with joy. So would my editor.

Henry H.: A modest, but practical superpower. Well played.

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

J.R.R. Tolkien, Ursula LeGuin, and Philip Pullman. Tolkien because he’s the granddaddy of modern fantasy, LeGuin because she’s a marvelous writer whose penned iconic works in both fantasy and science fiction, and Pullman because I think “His Dark Materials” is not only brilliant but fearless. The dynamic would be an interesting one. I’d love to hear Tolkien spar with Pullman about whether The Lord of the Rings has merit beyond a basic children’s story (Pullman’s been highly dismissive of Tolkien’s work as anything resembling literature or even a children’s story of moderate depth). It would be fun to witness two opinionated, scholarly writers have at it. Meanwhile, I could ask Ursula how she manages to craft stories that portray both magic and daily life with such lyrical beauty and realism. I was tempted to resurrect Patrick O’Brien whose Aubrey-Maturin are my favorite books, but I’ve heard he was a superior, standoffish fellow. Sorry Patrick, you can’t come. If I could add a fourth, it would probably be Neil Gaiman. I admire his work and he seems the type to bring a good bottle or two.

Henry H.: That is one high-powered dinner soiree. But the pressure! You know they’re silently correcting your grammar.

What is your favorite creature that exists only in literature?

There’s a quotation in Impyrium attributed to a long-dead playwright that reads Keep your basilisks and harpies, your trolls and goblins. There is only one true monster and its name is Dragon. I should note, however, that the dragons I’m talking about aren’t overgrown lizards that are fodder for enterprising heroes. The dragons I’m talking about are mythological entities whose being is tied to some aspect of Nature or the cosmos. In my books, there are only a handful of dragons and they are ancient, godlike creatures whose mere presence is utterly overwhelming to mortals.

Henry H.: Dragon Is correct. Would you like to try Mythological Creatures for $400?

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

Mostly, I chase my kids around. We have two young boys, ages five and three. They keep me pretty busy. Fortunately, I enjoy Legos, frozen waffles, and toilet humor.

Henry H.: The only thing scarier than a dragon is stepping barefoot on a Lego.

What would you like it to say on your tombstone?

“No vacancy.”

Henry H.: Wouldn’t it be preferable if your tomb remained vacant? Just sayin’.

Where can readers find your work?

You can probably find IMPYRIUM in your local bookstore or library, along with any of the major chains or online retailers. My first series, The Tapestry, can be purchased online and found in the odd bookstore with exceptional taste. My books also have digital and audio versions and some have been translated into a variety of foreign languages. For more information, you can visit my website at http://www.henryhneff.com

Thanks for spending time with us, Henry.


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Artists Recreate Kid Monster Drawings

Kids have amazing creativity, which is further fleshed out by professional artists as part of The Monster Project. From Greta J. and the mad geniuses at Bored Panda.

“Last year we introduced you to The Monster Project, an awesome initiative that sees professional artists adding their own unique touches to monster doodles created by kids in elementary. Well now we’re bringing you more of their amazing collaborations, and as you can see below, the results are quite spectacular.

Based out of Texas, the purpose of the project is to encourage creativity and provide inspiration for artistic children everywhere. “With a decreasing emphasis on arts in schools, many children don’t have the opportunity for creative exploration they deserve,” reads their website. “That’s a monstrous trend we would like to destroy. As artists ourselves, we understand how important that initial creative exposure is and how it can truly alter the shape of a child’s future. Creativity comes in many forms, and we hope to encourage their exploration of their own unique perceptions of the world we share.”

The Monster Project

The Monster Project

The Monster Project

The Monster Project

The Monster Project

The Monster Project

The Monster Project

The Monster Project

The Monster Project

The Monster Project


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Interview with graphic novel/picture book author/illustrator Ben Hatke

Ben Hatke is an author and artist of graphic novels and picture books. His notable works include the ZITA THE SPACEGIRL TRILOGY, the Eisner award-winning LITTLE ROBOT, and the picture book JULIA’S HOUSE FOR LOST CREATURES.

hatkeben

For what age audience do you write, and in what genre?

My comics are mostly classed as “middle grade” but I really try to write for everybody. I also make picture books which are even more for everybody. As to genre, I tend toward fantasy and science fiction. I tend to add swords and robots and goblins to just about everything I touch.

Henry: You complete me. Fantasy makes everything better. And cowbells.

Tell us about your latest book.

MIGHTY JACK is a two-book, modern-day, graphic novel retelling of the Jack and the Beanstalk story.

Henry: Fun! I’m a big fan (and writer) of fractured fairy tales.

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

A sense of wonder.

Henry: Wonder at the world you created, or wonder at what goes in inside your head?

What aspect of writing or illustrating do you find most challenging?

It’s all challenging, and really, the challenges are the best part. Except for drawing cars. That’s just terrible no matter how you look at it.

Henry: Conversely, I can only draw cars. Ha! Let’s collaborate on a fantasy picture book: DON’T LET THE DRAGON DRIVE THE BUS.

What is a powerful lesson you’ve learned from being an author/illustrator?

You never know who will be touched by your books, or how. It’s incredibly humbling to see both kids and adults connecting to some crazy story you made up.

Henry: Right! Which is why it is so important to weave a positive theme in one’s story.

What has been a memorable experience that you never would have had if you had not been an author/illustrator?

There have been many. In 2014, I was invited by my French publisher to the big comic festival in Angoulême. It was such an amazing week that I cried at the end.

Henry: Oo la la! Not only do they host the Angoulême International Comics Festival, but “the commune has been awarded four flowers by the National Council of Towns and Villages in Bloom in the Competition of cities and villages in Bloom.”

hatke-angouleme

What advice would you give to aspiring authors/illustrators?

Make things and share things all the time. Creativity is a habit, and the more you do it the better your work will become.

Henry: For example, Ben posts sketches on Facebook.

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

You know, I honestly can’t think of anything…

Henry: Uh huh. Really? A guy who teaches his daughter to shoot flaming arrows has no strange work rituals?

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

The ability to know with certainty, once a day, when and where something terrible was going to happen. Everything else can be planned for.

Henry: Coupled with the power to NOT BE THERE.

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

C.S. Lewis: because I feel like he’s my fairy godfather, my Serious Black.
Neil Gaiman: because very early on I modeled many of my career goals after his career, and boy do I have questions for him.
Jane Austin: because she has hilarious insight into human nature that make me think she’d be lots of fun at dinner, and because my street cred would be through the roof.
Honorable Mention: Patrick Rothfuss, because we got to be friends while arguing in front of a full room at Comic-Con last year.
Extra Honorable Mention: Cory Doctorow, because he’s fun and I think my wife would get a huge kick out of arguing with him.

Henry: By the way, I was in that room at Comic-Con (as was Laini Taylor) when you and Patrick spoke. I watched the bromance bloom in person. You guys were great.

What is your favorite creature that exists only in literature?

That …whew, that can change from day to day. Goblins, though. I think Goblins are my steady. I love those filthy little guys.

Henry: Didn’t see that coming AT ALL from the author/illustrator of NOBODY LIKES A GOBLIN… I loved the wink at Dungeons & Dragons.

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

It’s really hard for me to distinguish my hobbies from my work. Even when I’m hiking, I tend to bring a sketchbook. The closest thing I had to a pure hobby was skipping rocks. I also really have a deep love of archery. Gosh I love arrows.

Henry: Especially exploding arrows! How do you feel about trebuchets?

What would you like it to say on your tombstone?

I guess if I live a life of legend, my tombstone could say “Yes, THAT Ben Hatke.”
Oh! Or how about “Here lies Ben Hatke: shit got real there at the end, didn’t it?”

Henry: Also consider, Ben Hatke: Teller of Tall Tales and Drawer of Dark Domains. You’re welcome.

Where can readers find your work?

At the library! (and online at BenHatke.com, Instagram @heybenhatke, Twitter @benhatke)

Henry: Thanks for spending time with us, Ben!


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Interview with NY Times bestselling KidLit author David Elliott

David Elliott is a New York Times bestselling writer of books for young readers. He lives in New Hampshire with his wife of 33 years and a rescued Dandie Dinmont terrier mix.

elliottdavid

For what age audience do you write?

I write for the very young, the middle grades, and with the release of BULL in March, teen readers. I’m currently working on one of each kind of book. I like to have a few things going at once. It’s the ADD.

Henry: Given the slow speed of the publishing industry, working on multiple projects simultaneously isn’t just ADD, it’s a good idea! Speaking of which, I recently wrote a picture book featuring an OCD owl and an ADD hummingbird.

Tell us about your latest book.

BULL (HMH, March 2017) is an expansion of the myth of Theseus and the Minotaur. I know that sounds kind of highfalutin – expansion. But I use it because the book doesn’t at all change the outline of the myth; rather, it fills in areas about which the myth remains silent – the Minotaur’s childhood and adolescence, for example. At least that was my intention. The story is told in the various voices of the main players, each character speaking in a distinct poetic form. It practically killed me, but I loved writing it.

Henry: BULL is terrific. Sort of a YA mashup of Homer and Eminem.

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

O dear. I think I’d better leave that to the readers. But it would be terrific if one or two saw that each of us has the potential to become either Asterion — the Minotaur’s’ actual name, by the way, meaning Ruler of the Stars — or the Minotaur. Or maybe even more important, the ability to encourage one or the other in the folks around us. We are now seeing at the national level what happens when the monstrous is excited — the uptick in hate crimes, the increased cruelty in our schools, all of that. Our leaders on both sides of the aisle seem lost in the labyrinth.

Aside from that, I hope readers will enjoy the humor in the book and the language used to tell the story, their language (for speakers of English.) It’s resilience. Its playfulness. It’s beauty.

Henry: We should mail balls of string to Congress so they can navigate the labyrinth!

What aspect of writing do you find most challenging?

Oh, writing comes easily to me. But writing well comes very, very hard.

Henry: That pesky adverb well again! When I first began writing for children, I was surprised at how many revisions are necessary. Not like writing when in school, where the first draft was the final draft!

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

I think sometimes people feel that publishing a book changes your life. And I guess it can if you’re someone like J.K. Rowling or Stephen King, at least in terms of material security. (Uh . . .that has not been my experience.) But here’s the thing: Even after that book is on the shelves, you are still who you are. There’s no escaping that.

For me, and especially since every book is different, being a writer is a process, not a result. I now try to think of myself as a scribe rather than the more elevated “writer”.

Henry: I’ve been pleasantly surprised at how collegial the KidLit author/illustrator community is. Not at all like the hyper-competitive Hollywood scene.

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

Well, the most memorable is very difficult to describe, and if I did, people would think I was crazy, so let me just say that a few years ago, I was invited to Germany to visit schools there. My wife and I became very good friends with the person assigned to interpret for me. She is still an important of our lives. How lucky is that?

Henry: So, you think describing a memorable experience will push people over the edge on assessing the sanity of a man who fractured a Minotaur myth with rap?

What advice would you give to aspiring authors?

Accept all criticism as one hundred percent accurate.
For twenty-four hours.

Henry: Interesting approach. Another good piece of advice I’ve read, is never read reviews of your own work. The positive reviews don’t tell you anything you don’t already know, and the negative ones are so rarely constructive, that you’ll just end up depressed.

Do you have any favorite quotes?

Here are three:
“If you haven’t surprised yourself, you haven’t written.” Eudora Welty.
“Habit is more important than inspiration.” Octavia Butler.
“Writing is like driving at night in the fog. You can only see as far as your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way.” E.L. Doctorow

Henry: So, Doctorow was a pantser, not a plotter? Isaac Asimov said “Writing, to me, is simply thinking through my fingers.” Then there’s Ray Bradbury: “You must stay drunk on writing so reality cannot destroy you.”

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

My entire life has been, and continues to be, One Strange Ritual. I think everybody’s is.

Henry: Capitalizing the phrase makes it sound like a great book title. Well played, sir.

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

I know from the one I already possess – the ability to eat non-stop –that superpowers are very difficult to control. I think it might be wiser to bestow them on those better equipped to manage them.

Henry: Isn’t it only a superpower if you can eat all you want and NOT gain weight?

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

Not many people know this, but Charles Dickens and the Polish poet Wyslawa Symborska are conjoined twins, so if invite Charlie, he’ll have to drag Wyslawa along. (The original meaning of Plus 1, by the way.) That’s also true of Teju Cole and Richard Wilbur. Then there are those famous triplets, George Eliot, Shakespeare and Moliere. Journalist Masha Gessen and the Australian novelist David Malouf are my alternates.

Henry: Boy, give you and inch, and you take a mile! Wikipedia helpfully offers:
Maria Wisława Anna Szymborska was a Polish poet, essayist, translator and recipient of the 1996 Nobel Prize in Literature “for poetry that with ironic precision allows the historical and biological context to come to light in fragments of human reality”.

Teju Cole is a Nigerian-American writer, photographer, and art historian. Cole is the author of three books: a novella, Every Day is for the Thief (Nigeria: Cassava Republic, 2007; New York: Random House, 2014; London: Faber, 2014), a novel, Open City (New York: Random House, 2012; London: Faber, 2012), and a collection of more than 40 essays, Known and Strange Things, published in 2016. He is currently working on Radio Lagos, a non-fictional narrative of contemporary Lagos. Salman Rushdie has described Cole as “among the most gifted writers of his generation”.

Richard Purdy Wilbur is an American poet and literary translator. He was appointed the second Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress in 1987, and twice received the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry, in 1957 and again in 1989.

What is your favorite creature that exists only in literature?

As you know, I’ve spent quite a lot of time with The Minotaur recently. I think I might choose someone a little cheerier next time around, The Mad Hatter, maybe. Or someone really solid like the armored bear, Iorek Byrnison, in Philip Pullman’s wonderful book, The Golden Compass. I do wish the Oracle of Delphi had a better sense of humor.

Henry: Please note the minotaur on the cover of MONSTER GOOSE NURSERY RHYMES in the header image above. But, I’m with you on the panserbjørne!
panserbjorne

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

These days, I feel like I’m always working. I’ve got three separate and very different (from each other) projects going right now, and the administrative part of the writing life – interviews like this one, for example, are taking more of my time. (Don’t get me wrong. I’m not complaining. Who doesn’t relish the opportunity to talk about himself?) To complicate matters, for the first time ever I’ve become actively political. Nobody is more surprised about that than I am.

Staring out the living room window into the fields behind our old house is a wonderful thing.

Henry: Can we say your passion for democracy has trumped your desire to focus on writing?

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

He wasn’t afraid.

Henry: You gave me a Monty Python opening, and I’m taking it.

Bravely bold Sir Robin
Rode forth from Camelot
He was not afraid to die
Oh, brave Sir Robin
He was not at all afraid
To be killed in nasty ways
Brave, brave, brave, brave Sir Robin

He was not in the least bit scared
To be mashed into a pulp
Or to have his eyes gouged out
And his elbows broken
To have his kneecaps split
And his body burned away
And his limbs all hacked and mangled
Brave Sir Robin

His head smashed in
And his heart cut out
And his liver removed
And his bowels unplugged
And his nostrils raped
And his bottom burnt off
And his penis split and his…

“That’s… that’s enough music for now, lads.”

Where can readers find your work?

Wherever weird books are sold, but especially at your local independent bookstore.

Henry: Thanks for spending time with us, David. For something completely, different, check out David’s THIS ORQ (HE CAVE BOY)
orq