The following is an interview with J.J. Hebert, an Amazon bestselling inspirational author who has recently released a children’s picture book.
RH: In the past you have written mainly for adult audiences. What made you decide to write a children’s picture book?
JJ: I had written a version of Weepy the Dragon for fun about ten years ago, but my primary desire was to publish a novel for adults. So I set Weepy aside for a long time and wrote a couple novels for adults. The first novel was never published and my second novel, Unconventional, went on to become a bestseller, selling tens of thousands of units worldwide as a self-published book. I’ve been working on another novel, chipping away at it, but my time is limited these days (I own and manage MindStir Media, self-publishing company)… I figured now was the time to finally revise and publish the children’s book — Weepy the Dragon — I wrote all those years ago.
RH: As an Amazon.com best-selling Inspirational author, how does your approach to writing–whether for children or adults–differ from authors of other genres?
JJ: My goal with each book I write is to inspire and entertain. Notice “inspire” comes first in that list. I want my books to stir the minds and hearts of readers, not simply entertain…
RH: Weepy the Dragon undoubtedly includes an inspirational message for children. Why do you think this message is so important?
JJ: Kids try so hard nowadays to be like their peers, to be like celebrities… I want them to be themselves. I hope Weepy can show youngsters that it’s okay to be true to themselves.
RH: In addition to providing an inspirational message, Weepy the Dragon also provides a darker glimpse into human nature with the cruelty of the other dragons, as well as Weepy’s father. How will children relate to Weepy’s obstacles?
JJ: I believe children discover early in their lives that not everyone is nice and kind. The world can be a dark place. Disney teaches that in most of their films, as do most fairy tales… Children can relate to the underdog. Weepy is the ultimate underdog, the “good guy,” and kids can safely root for him.
RH: Why did you choose a dragon rather than another type of animal or creature?
JJ: No particular reason. The story popped into my mind and I knew I had to write it down. Those are my best stories: the ones that I feel I need to write.
RH: The illustrations and paper quality in Weepy the Dragon are beautiful. Oftentimes, authors have little say-so in this matter. As President of Mindstir Media, did you get to pick your own illustrator?
JJ: This is where self-publishing can be a lot of fun. Authors just like me are able to control the entire publishing process… the layout, illustrations, everything. Traditional publishing is obviously still a viable option but traditionally published authors almost always give up some control.
RH: Many authors are terrified of writing for small children. What were the challenges of writing a children’s story? How did you prepare?
JJ: I studied the market – other children’s picture books. Most of them had a clear protagonist and antagonist and focused on one theme as well as a very simple conflict. I found it difficult to switch from writing for adults to writing for children – from writing detailed prose to simplified prose. I didn’t want to oversimplify everything for the kids but I also didn’t want to confuse young readers. That’s not an easy balance to find!
RH: Are there more children’s books in your future?
JJ: Yes, I think so. I have some fresh ideas floating around in mind…
RH: As President of Mindstir Media and author of the amazon.com bestselling novel Unconventional, you have a unique view of the publishing industry. Can you speak to the benefits of self-publishing and why you chose to do so?
JJ: I had a literary agent for about six months. This was after I had searched for a lit agent for a couple years… My agent wasn’t able to sell Unconventional, so eventually we split. I had already queried virtually every Christian lit agent in the nation but with little success, so I wasn’t about to go down the lit agent/traditional pub route again with Unconventional. So I chose to dive into self-publishing. Yes, it was a plan B but I felt it was a solid plan B. I turned out to be right. Unconventional has done better than I ever could’ve predicted. Plus, I was able to control the entire publishing process – cover design, layout, editing, marketing, advertising. All of this was a bit daunting at first but looking back I’m happy that the control wasn’t taken from me.
J.J. Hebert’s debut novel, Unconventional, frequently appears on the Amazon.com Best Sellers lists. The Kindle version has been the #1 Inspirational Book in the Kindle Store numerous times. Unconventional has sold tens of thousands of units worldwide. J.J.’s highly anticipated children’s book, Weepy the Dragon, is now available at Amazon.com as well.
J.J. is also the founder of MindStir Media (www.mindstirmedia.com), a self-publishing and book marketing company. Currently, he lives in New England, where he’s at work on his latest novel. http://amazon.com/author/