Blogs by L.T. Suzuki
Henry Herz Interview
8/18/2012 8:43:17 PM
Children's author Henry Herz discusses the fantasy world of 'Nimpentoad' and the writing life!
LTS: For today’s All Kinds of Writing feature I’d like to introduce you to children’s author extraordinaire, Henry Herz! I’d like to begin by having you share a little information about yourself with our readers, Henry. What do you enjoy doing when you are not writing?
HH: Being a management consultant, parent, and part-time author does not leave me with a surfeit of time, but I enjoy reading, painting, and going on dates with my wife.
LTS: Has writing stories always been a part of your life and becoming a published author a life long dream?
HH: Actually, writing children's books is a relatively recent aspiration for me. But it has become a passion now, encouraged no doubt by the positive reception that Nimpentoad is getting.
LTS: I must admit, your book Nimpentoad is beautifully illustrated! Not only is it rich in colour, it is rich in depth of imagination, creating a whole new fantasy realm. Can you tell us who your illustrators are? It’s obvious to me why you selected them, but how did you find them?
HH: The main illustrator is Sean Eddingfield. I found him by searching the internet, looking for someone with a suitable artistic style for my vision of Nimpentoad. Sean's style was dead-on perfect. I met our other illustrator, Bill Maus, at the San Diego Comic-Con, where there are always a ton of stunningly talented artists. I could spend an entire day wandering around Artist Alley.
LTS: What was the inspiration behind this story and can you tell us a little bit about your protagonist, Nimpentoad and exactly what is a Nibling?
HH: A few years ago, I wanted to share my love of fantasy with my sons. They were too young for watching most of the fantasy movie classics, and there are only so many good fantasy books available for that young age. Struck by inspiration one day, I came up with a way to share the joy of entering the magical realms of fantasy. I would write a fantasy book for them.
Niblings are small (about knee-high to a human), fuzzy, friendly inhabitants of the shadowy Grunwald Forest. They are the smallest folk in the forest. One Nibling is named Nimpentoad. He is braver than most Niblings (which isn't saying much), and he is very smart.
LTS: Without giving away too much, can you reveal what’s in store for the readers when they crack open Nimpentoad?
HH: The bright-eyed little Nimpentoad is tired of being picked on by the bigger creatures of the ancient forest. He convinces his fellow Niblings to make the perilous journey to a castle where they hope to find refuge. Along the way, they are confronted by ravenous goblins, trolls, rhinotaurs, and other perils. But with teamwork, perseverance and Nimpentoad's leadership, the Niblings outwit these menaces and learn some important lessons.
LTS: I understand you have couple of young collaborators! How did your children help to shape this story?
HH: Yes, my 10- and 12-year old sons helped to write Nimpentoad. What I did not anticipate was that my boys would give me feedback on the story. They devised some of the character (Nimpentoad) and creature (Neebel) names, and made plot line suggestions. Who better to help make the story appealing to kids than other kids? So, my goal of interesting my sons in fantasy transformed into also encouraging them to write.
Once the manuscript was completed, my sons were also involved in providing art direction. We would explain in words what each illustration should contain. Collaborating remotely via email and DropBox, our artist would give us a rough sketch, and we would provide feedback on details and color palette. Nimpentoad came to life, while my boys added another dimension to their experience.
LTS: It’s apparent this collaboration with your sons is working wonderfully! Now, the road to publication is difficult at the best of times. What made you decide to self-publish this beautiful book and would you recommend this mode of publication to others?
HH: Given the amount of time that had passed between initial concept and finalized artwork, as well as the anticipated challenges of finding an agent or publisher willing to take a chance on an unproven writer, we decided to self-publish. CreateSpace has a fabulous web-based print-on-demand service, backed up by superb customer service support.
There are pros and cons to self-publishing that depend on the specifics of your circumstances. I strongly recommend doing some research about self-publishing to determine if it is the right avenue for you. For us, it guaranteed that my boys and I would have the tangible result of a book in print.
LTS: What is the best and worst part of going indie?
HH: The best part of going indie is having complete control over the project, which in turn, greatly accelerates the timeline. That was a big plus for me, as I am always eager to see results. The most challenging part of going indie is that it requires a variety of diverse skills AND you have to do EVERYTHING. It is a lot of work, so be prepared for that.
LTS: What is the most important lesson you’ve learned on the road to publication?
HH: If you are self-publishing, I think it is important to understand how much work and how challenging it is to effectively promote your book. If you are publishing traditionally, it is critical to appreciate that a collaborative approach with your editor and agent is the one that will produce the best book.
LTS: Still on the subject of writing styles, are you a plotter or pantser? The readers would like to know if you tend to plot out your story line in great detail or if your writing is more organic with the characters and events unfolding as you write.
HH: I am analytical and a planner by nature, but when writing children's books, I prefer to let things flow. Since Nimpentoad is an early chapter book, it is short enough that having a general plot line and letting the narrative unfold worked. I found taking that approach maximized my creativity. If I was going to write MG or YA, I would probably plot things out in detail.
LTS: Some authors meditate, others need to fuel up on coffee or listen to music. Do you have any rituals, ones that can be shared with the readers, that you must do before you hunker down for a writing session?
HH: I don't have any specific rituals. I just wrote when I felt like it. I think being in the mood to write fosters creativity. If you are on a rigid schedule, there may be times you're sitting at the computer, but rather be elsewhere. That just isn't conducive to good writing for me.
LTS: At one time or another, most writers hit the wall and their work stalls because of the dreaded writer’s block. What do you do to get around or over this mental wall to resume writing?
HH: Because there was no time pressure or externally-imposed constraints when I wrote Nimpentoad, I never had writer's block. If I work on a longer book, I'll probably have to deal with that. What are some of your tricks, Lorna?
LTS: Tricks!?! No tricks, I’ve been fortunate with my 12 novels that I was not abandoned by my muse! Now, back to you! Who is your favourite author and how has he/she inspired you to write or influenced your writing style or choice of genre?
HH: I got started on fantasy as a kid with Maurice Sendak's “Where the Wild Things Are”, and then J.R.R. Tolkien sealed the deal with “The Lord of the Rings.” While I enjoy a number of different genres, high fantasy will always be special to me. Let the wild rumpus begin!
LTS: I remember reading 'Where the Wild Things Are' over 40 years ago, but I’ve yet to read 'The Lord of the Rings'. Maybe one day I’ll find time to do that. So, what do you foresee in your future over the next five years and do you hope to branch out from children’s fantasy into other genres? Can your fans expect a sequel to Nimpentoad in the near future?
HH: In the short-term, we want to take the success of Nimpentoad (55 Amazon 5-star ratings so far) to the next level by having it published traditionally. Can you recommend some good literary agents? :) At that point, we would definitely be interested in doing a Nimpentoad sequel. We are also working on two other fictional children's book projects: an easy reader with animals trying to protect the environment, and a picture book featuring terrific bird artwork.
LTS: Thank you so much for taking the time to share in this work of art and in your writing experiences, Henry! Catch you on Twitter!
For more information about Henry and his works, check out:
Follow on Twitter: .Nimpentoad
Like on Facebook: www.facebook.com/Nimpentoad
Where to buy the book: www.nimpentoad.com or www.amazon.com (use the former if you'd like your copies signed)
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