I have an honor to interview Henry Hertz the author of the Little Red Cuttlefish and Cap’n Rex and His Clever Crew.
Where do you get your inspiration?
Inspiration is a fickle muse; she arrives unpredictably. Sometimes an idea will pop into my head unbidden. For example, can you apply “Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon” to book characters? Yes. Yes, you can. I did it for THE LORD OF THE RINGS at http://lotrproject.com/sixdegrees/.Other times, I leave myself open to serendipity. For example, I met an artist looking to collaborate. That led me down the path to doing Little Red Cuttlefish. Sometimes the world drops a book idea in your lap. For example, I found this funny refrigerator magnet showing a group of really mad looking anthropomorphic vegetables. The caption said “Steamed Vegetables”
I love word play, and that little magnet sent me down a path that yielded a picture book coming out next year, GOOD EGG & BAD APPLE. Sometimes I’ll riff off of something I read. For example, I read a Mental Floss (great magazine) article about animal defense mechanisms. That led me to come up with a sci-fi chapter book about an alien boy who gets lost while hiking, and meets all sorts of interesting creatures.
I’ve read your previous books, and each has message. What kind of message does CAP’N REX & HIS CLEVER CREW offer?
Thanks for the support! My books all have themes except MONSTER GOOSE NURSERY RHYMES, because it’s simply a collection of fractured nursery rhymes. WHEN YOU GIVE AN IMP A PENNY conveys that it’s the thought that counts. LITTLE RED CUTTLEFISH teaches young readers to be brave. And CAP’N REX & HIS CLEVER CREW has a theme of thinking outside the box and persistence.
What is the most interesting part of this story?
The surprise ending, of course! No spoilers here. I will say that my favorite illustration shows the crew trudging across an island toward the buried treasure. The illustrator, Ben Schipper, did a great job conveying the personality of Cap’n Rex. He’s out in front, of course, as the leader. But he’s got this jaunty walk that just screams self-confidence or perhaps hubris. And we all know what happens to characters that get too full of themselves…
Which of your books is your favorite?
So, you are presenting me with a Sophie’s Choice? How can I choose from among my babies? Each has something that endears it to me. MONSTER GOOSE NURSERY RHYMES was my first book. WHEN YOU GIVE AN IMP A PENNY has slapstick humor. LITTLE RED CUTTLEFISH inspires kids to be brave. MABEL & THE QUEEN OF DREAMS is a bedtime picture book based on Mercutio’s soliloquy in Romeo and Juliet. And CAP’N REX & HIS CLEVER CREW has a great theme of thinking outside the box.
What does your writing day looks like?
With a job and a family, I don’t really have entire writing days. I squeeze in my writing and revising where I can. I’m also a member of several critique groups, and those offer great emotional support and are a fantastic way to hone your craft. I mostly write sitting at my computer in my home office. But you never know when an idea will hit, so I have an Evernote list of manuscript ideas that I’m constantly expanding.
Is there a Cap’n Rex in your life, or you are the Cap’n Rex?
Well, a little bit of both. On the one hand, like Cap’n Rex, I’m very good at thinking outside the box. That’s a pretty handy attribute to have if you’re a children’s author. And I lead a crew of three (my wife and sons). But on the other hand, my wife and sons are also like Cap’n Rex in that they challenge and inspire me to up my game.
As a writer, which of your characters would you choose as your avatar?
That’s a great question that no one has ever asked me before! I’d have to say the imp in WHEN YOU GIVE AN IMP A PENNY. He’s kind-hearted and carefree. He just lives in the moment without giving much thought to consequences. All id and no superego.
How many unpublished books do you have?
Well, I have a bunch of works in progress, plus three picture books my agent is shopping around right now:
TOP OF THE HEAP – Barnyard animals debate who is the best animal on the farm. Each makes their claim, even Dung Beetle. In response to the others’ laughter, Dung Beetle takes a vacation. Eventually, they all recognize even tiny Dung Beetle’s important contribution. That’s how he rolls.
NEVER FEED A YETI SPAGHETTI – Two young goblin siblings throw their mom a monstrous birthday party. Despite their best efforts, things go further and further awry, thanks to the yetis. One should never feed them spaghetti.
ALLEN & ALIEN – Like many boys, Allen doesn’t like to eat his veggies, pick up his toys, or take baths. But he loves playing with his alien toys. When an indefatigably inquisitive alien drops in to study humans, the alien’s enthusiasm (even for the mundane) is infectious. Allen learns an important lesson about appreciating one’s blessings, while his parents are pleasantly surprised at their son’s new alien behavior.
And I have three books scheduled for publication next year:
HOW THE SQUID GOT TWO LONG ARMS (Pelican Publishing) – Ever wonder why two of a squid’s ten arms are longer than the others? A selfish squid is cold, so he swipes other animals’ clothing. Will he learn it’s wrong to steal in the end? This modern fable demonstrates you reap what you sow. It’s Kipling’s HOW THE RHINOCEROS GOT HIS SKIN meets Klassen’s THIS IS NOT MY HAT.
GOOD EGG & BAD APPLE (Schiffer Publishing) – Not all the foods in the refrigerator get along like peas in a pod. Bad Apple and Second Banana are at the root of the problem. The vegetables are steamed. Good Egg suggests his friends try different responses to the bullies, but his tactics don’t bear fruit, at first. Only by using his noodle does Good Egg save their bacon.
ALICE’S MAGIC GARDEN (Familius) – Alice lives in the dreariest boarding school in England. She pours her love and attention into caring for her little garden and its denizens. Unknown to her, these include a large caterpillar, gryphon, and a talking white rabbit. When Alice is in trouble, the magical creatures come to her aid. Love, it turns out, is magical. GARDEN FAE is A SICK DAY FOR AMOS MCGEE meets ALICE IN WONDERLAND.
Where can we learn more about your books?
At my website at www.henryherz.com and on Facebook at
Thank you Henry it was great to have you here.
Henry Herz writes fantasy and science fiction for children. He is represented by Deborah Warren of East/West Literary Agency. He and his sons wrote MONSTER GOOSE NURSERY RHYMES (Pelican, 2015), WHEN YOU GIVE AN IMP A PENNY (Pelican, 2016), MABEL AND THE QUEEN OF DREAMS (Schiffer, 2016), LITTLE RED CUTTLEFISH (Pelican, 2016), CAP’N REX & HIS CLEVER CREW (Sterling, 2017), GOOD EGG & BAD APPLE (Schiffer, 2018), HOW THE SQUID GOT TWO LONG ARMS (Pelican, 2018), and ALICE’S MAGIC GARDEN (Familius, 2018).
Henry and his sons have also indie-published four children’s books. NIMPENTOAD reached #1 in Kindle Best Sellers large print sci-fi & fantasy, and was featured in Young Entrepreneur, Wired GeekDad, and CNN. BEYOND THE PALE featured short stories by award-winning and New York Times bestselling authors Saladin Ahmed, Peter S. Beagle, Heather Brewer, Jim Butcher, Rachel Caine, Kami Garcia, Nancy Holder, Gillian Philip & Jane Yolen, and reached #2 in Amazon Science Fiction & Fantasy > Fantasy > Anthologies.
Henry is a member of the Society of Children’s Book Writers & Illustrators (SCBWI). He participates in literature panels at a variety of conventions, including San Diego Comic-Con and WonderCon. Henry reviews children’s books for the San Francisco Book Review and the San Diego Book Review.