Henry Herz interview with David Alan Binder

Post date: Sep 10, 2016 8:03:58 AM

1. How do you pronounce your name?

Hertz, as in the rental car company. But without the fabulous wealth.

2. Where are you currently living?

San Diego

3. What is the most important thing that you have learned in your writing experience, so far?

I didn’t go into writing KidLit to become rich, but it was interesting to learn that VERY few people make a decent living solely from writing children’s books. So, DON’T QUIT YOUR DAY JOBS, PEOPLE!

A second lesson I learned was DON’T DO RHYME! Not because it isn’t fun – it is. It’s just twice as hard to writing a rhyming picture book than a non-rhyming one, and it’s twice as hard to sell them.

4. What would you say is your most interesting writing, publishing, editing or illustrating quirk?

I’m not sure it constitutes a quirk, but I love moderating fantasy literature panels at the San Diego Comic-Con and KidLit panels at WonderCon. I’ve been fortunate to have some amazing panelists. My 2015 SDCC panel featured Jonathan Maberry, Maggie Stiefvater, Brandon Sanderson, Kami Garcia, and Zac (Heather) Brewer. My 2016 WonderCon panel featured Dan Santat, Jon Klassen, Antoinette Portis, Barney Saltzberg and Bruce Hale.

5. Tell us your insights on self-publish or use a publisher?

There is no simple answer to that question. An article explaining my analysis of that choice can be read at http://thewritelife.com/self-publish-or-traditional/ The short version is that the answer depends on the writer’s goals for publishing and whether they possess all the skills needed for publishing (not just writing) a book (or the funds to pay someone).

6. Do you have any secret tips for writers on getting a book published?

Well, they’re not secret, but some important tips I can offer are:

- Never stop honing your craft. Join SCBWI. Participate in critique groups.

- Writing is like cooking; it’s subjective. What works for one editor won’t work for another. Don’t take offense at rejections or criticism.

- Never give up, but know when to stop revising and submit.

A longer article I wrote on this subject was featured during the 2014 PiBoIdMo, and can be read at https://taralazar.com/2014/11/20/piboidmo-day-20-henry-herz/

7. How did you or would you suggest acquire an agent? Any tips for new writers on getting one?

The approach to finding an agent is very similar to the approach for getting traditionally published. You must first hone your craft. Then you must research which agents are most likely a good match for you. Then you must politely and persistently put your best work in front of them until they have no choice but to take you on as a client. That last sentence is much easier said than done.

8. What was one of the most surprising things you learned your creative process with your books, editing, publishing or illustrating?

I was surprised by how my perspective has changed with time on the topic of manuscript readiness. I used to want to submit my manuscripts right away. Now, the pendulum has swung the other way, and I have a tendency to make too many revisions. I believe knowing when to stop tweaking and send out a manuscript is wisdom acquired with experience.

9. How many books have you written?

I’ve written about twenty picture book, two early chapter book manuscripts, and edited one YA anthology. I self-published three picture books and the YA anthology (BEYOND THE PALE) before making the switch to traditional publishing.

I’ve sold five picture books, two of which are out (MONSTER GOOSE NURSERY RHYMES and WHEN YOU GIVE AN IMP A PENNY, both from Pelican). Two more come out this fall: a fractured fairy tale, LITTLE RED CUTTLEFISH (Pelican), and an urban fantasy bedtime picture book, MABEL AND THE QUEEN OF DREAMS (Schiffer). DINOSAUR PIRATES comes out from Sterling next year.

Little Red is off to deliver a fresh basket of crab cakes to Grandma Cuttlefish. Everything goes swimmingly… at first. While Little Red might be safe from any big, bad wolves, she has to look out for something even more dangerous: the hungry tiger shark! Luckily, this cuttlefish is anything but cuddly, and Little Red has a few tricks hidden up her tentacles. She’ll camouflage, squirt ink clouds, and use her quick reflexes to outwit that pesky shark and deliver her crab cakes unharmed.

Little Mabel was an expert at not going to sleep. She knew all the best bed-avoiding excuses. “I’m thirsty. I need to use the bathroom. Will you tell me a story?” Mom ALWAYS fell for that one. But Mom had the Queen of Dreams in her quiver of bedtime tales. The fae queen paints children’s dreams, so she can only visit when their eyes are closed. As Mom’s tale unfolds, her voice becomes that of the Queen of Dreams. Mabel gradually transitions from sitting on her bed, to slipping her feet under the covers, to laying her head on her pillow, to finally closing her eyes. The story is inspired by Mercutio’s soliloquy in Romeo & Juliet

10. Do you have any tricks or tips to help others become a better writer (please be as specific and information as you possibly can)?

The number one trick for honing your writing craft is reading in your chosen age category and genre. The number two trick is reading some more. The number three trick is joining a helpful critique group. We all have blind spots; what’s obvious to the author is not always obvious to the reader. So, constructive feedback is enormously helpful in improving a manuscript.

11. What are some ways in which you promote your work?

I’m a big fan of using social media (blogging, Facebook, Twitter, and Goodreads in my case) for networking with fellow authors and readers. The trick is having the self-discipline to (a) produce interesting content (rather than just shouting “Buy my book!”) and (b) limit my time on social media, so I am writing much more often than Tweeting.

12. What saying or mantra do you live by?

“Whether you think you can or think you can’t, you’re right.”