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Saturday, June 29, 2024

Creating a Niche in Chapter Books: Author Interview with David Horn

What made you choose writing books for middle-grade readers? How do you determine the length and vocabulary for this age group?
I started writing at the chapter book level when my kids were at that reading level. At that age, once you got through the big series, I felt like there wasn’t a lot of variety for a voracious reader. And at the same time I was telling them stories at dinner, just to make them laugh, so I decided to try writing a chapter book. 

My first draft was terrible, but I learned through doing about the right word count and chapter lengths that worked better for young readers. For example, when I got the first paperback author pre-release version of my first Eudora Space Kid book, I realized some of my paragraphs were way too long and took up the entire page – very bad. So I quickly made everything shorter. But I didn’t’ realize it until I went to print. So there was a lot of learning by doing.

When you wrote your first Eudora Space Kid book, did you plan on making it a series? You have 5 books in that series. Will there be more?

At the time, I definitely thought it could be a series, since I had a word document with all the stories I ever told my kids jotted down (brief paragraph synopsis really). So when Eudora Space Kid Book 1 did okay, I decided to keep going. There are still stories on my document I haven’t written or released yet, even if my kids are well out of chapter book age now. In fact, I plan on starting art on Eudora Book 6 (a super-special type book) in the fall.

How did you go about finding an illustrator? 

I think you can find an illustrator in a lot of ways – SCBWI, any gigging sites, general search. My advice is that the cover is most important – they’ll never even see the insides if they don’t like the cover. Like picture books, chapter books have an assortment of images inside the book, but mostly are black and white sketches (that saves a lot in printing costs). However, the illustrator will also need to be able to do a full color cover. 

What advice would you give for finding an illustrator?

One thing I learned, which I didn’t know at first, is to go through your manuscript and mark where you think interior pictures would be good and then describe them as much as possible (I use comment bubbles for this). Then you can count them up and know you need a certain number of illustrations. You may have an idea what size you want them too. It’s easier to price out illustrators if you know how many pictures you need.

 You’ve now written two re-imagined fairy tale books from a contemporary viewpoint. What inspired you to make Sylvia Locke as a new vision of Cinderella?

Sylvia Locke also started out as stories I told my kids when they were at the chapter book age. They asked for a fairy tale for some reason, and I couldn’t just use Eudora, so I told a story about what happened after Goldilocks and the Bears had set all these traps for the next intruder – and it ended up like a Home Alone type story. Sylvia Locke started out as Goldilocks cousin, who was even worse than Goldilocks. When I started actually writing it out, I somehow lost the cousin thing and it just ended up with the bears moving.

And then my kids wanted to hear more about Sylvia Locke. So in the next story I told them, it just factually made sense that after breaking into a neighbor’s house her grandparents would send her away to live with other family who could actually watch over her, and it just became Cinderella.

I still tell my kids stories sometimes, and they’ve even heard ridiculous crossovers of Eudora and Sylvia.  

Are there other fairy tale characters ready to make their debut in other books?

Because I have this neighbor of Sylvia’s do a prologue and epilogue, I think he always gives a hint as to what the next story will be. I imagine Tairy Fails to be a serialized walk-through of all these fairy tales that Sylvia just happens to live through. Book 3 is supposed to be Rapunzel and I’m working on the manuscript now. I’m hoping to get Sylvia under water for the Little Mermaid at some point too. Haha.

How do you market your books? 

Because I’m only self-published, the marketing is hard. I try anything and everything to see what sticks, but I’m finding it’s all hit or miss anyway. 

 What is the best marketing/publishing advice you’ve received or could give?

Unfortunately, the best thing is just Amazon reviews. The more you can get, the more readers think your book is legit. But how do you get them consistently? I’ve been trying ARC sites more geared for self-publishing which have been okay.

Are there any other points about writing you would like to add?

Chapter books are hard! A lot of work for a small segment of the population and a lower price. You have to really love it. 

Give me a short synopsis of your latest book release or upcoming one.

I’ve actually been trying my hand at a few YA manuscripts and I hope to have some out later this year. And, like I said, Eudora Space Kid #6 will be out next year hopefully, and the working title is Admiral Eudora – so she gets a promotion in that one. Haha.

Tairy Fails #2 is out September 3 and the synopsis is: Fairytale Land's baddest girl is about to head to a prince's ball. A modern, twisted retelling of Cinderella. Perfect for elementary school kids and early chapter book readers.

That's all for today's interview. I encourage you to get some of David's books. I'm already a fan and a reader of his works. Here are a couple of links to connect you to his writing. 

And here's a bonus for my readers, leave a comment on this post and we'll pick one reader who'll receive an eBook copy of Tairy Fails Book #1. So do that now. It can be as simple as I want to be in the giveaway. We'll chose a winner next week! 

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