Monday, 1 December 2014

In the Limelight with MG Author: S. J. Henderson...

I want to thank and welcome magnificent middle grade author, S.J. Henderson for sharing her personal writing journey with us on my blog today. S.J.’s book DANIEL THE DRAW-ER can be purchased from Amazon, and other on-line bookstores. Bonus: Stay tuned for a chance to win an ecopy or audiobook of DANIEL THE DRAW-ER at the end of this post. So let’s get this interview started…

How long have you been writing, Jen?

I think I learned to write just about when everyone else did… kindergarten. Which is funny, because I remember sitting down at my desk the first day and being told to do something—I didn’t hear the teacher because I was probably talking. So I peeked over at my neighbor and copied his work (I know, I know!).When I was done, I looked down and discovered I’d written “Nathan” on top of my paper. We were practicing writing our names! I still struggle with putting the proper name on my papers. Just kidding.

But, seriously, I’ve been writing stories since elementary school. I used to fill hundreds of wide-ruled notebook pages with my nonsense, then the nonsense would make its rounds in my classroom when all of us were supposed to be listening to lectures. I let writing go for a while in favor of family obligations, but one day the absence of words really got to me. That was about 3-1/2 years ago, to make a short answer very long…

I see. So, Nathan, er S.J., where did you get your idea and inspiration to write DANIEL THE DRAW-ER?

I got the idea for DANIEL from my kids. Last fall I participated in an online writing course called The Story Cartel Course (, and one of our assignments was to write something for our audience. At the time, I didn’t really have an audience besides myself, so I decided to write a story for my three youngest boys. In fact, my seven-year-old son sat next to me while I wrote the very first draft of what would eventually become chapter one of DANIEL THE DRAW-ER. He picked out the name “Daniel” and laughed at all of the funny parts. He was the best beta-reader. Haha.

Kids are the best critics! What sets DANIEL THE DRAW-ER apart from other books in the same genre?

Wow, tough question, Sharon! There are so many fantastic books in my genre. But, if I had to try to pinpoint it, I think my book is unique because it awakens the imagination of the reader. I’ve had so many people tell me their child picked up a pencil after reading my book just to see if their drawings would come to life. Another person sent me a photo of two pages of ideas her son had written down for my next book. That’s not exclusive to my book, but, as someone who reads a lot with my own kids, it’s few and far between.

It would be awesome if you helped shaped the minds of a few future artists, S.J.! As a children’s author, what is your writing process?

Writing process? What writing process?

Basically, I just sit down and write. Some people know how to outline and take neat and orderly notes, but not me! I write down messy notes including any ideas I might have before I start writing, but my creative process doesn’t work quite as well when I plan each step of the story out in advance. It’s hard to outline allllll this weirdness, ya know?

Once I have a good first draft I like to have a couple of friends read it and offer suggestions, which I may or may not follow depending on how much coffee I’ve had that day. I repeat the revision/critique process about a gajillion times until someone begs for mercy (and it’s usually me).Then I release the monstrosity to the world, ready or not.

If, by “process”, you really mean what gets me into the writing mood… then the simple answer for that is coffee and super mellow music. And being by myself. Do you know how hard that is to achieve with four kids and a husband? Ugh.

Four kids and a hubby? Kudos for getting the book written! How long did it take for you to start and finish DANIEL THE DRAW-ER?

The original concept for DANIEL (what is now the first chapter) took shape within a couple of weeks last October, but I didn’t really add to it until March of this year. I spent two weeks eating, sleeping, and breathing this book until it was ready for publication. Just so you know, I wouldn’t recommend that particular strategy to most people.

Amen. Do you have any advice for other writers striving to write in your genre, S.J.?

Kids are the ultimate litmus test for authors. They won’t beat around the bush or lie to save your feelings because they’re still developing those filters. So have fun with your story. If you don’t enjoy it, it’ll show, and your young readers will call you out faster than Gordon Ramsay in a McDonald’s drive-through. (Gosh, I hope everyone gets that joke!)

LOL! Got it! What’s next for S. J. Henderson the author?

I hope to have the sequel to DANIEL THE DRAW-ER published by the end of the year. Then I’ll dive into editing and releasing my many Young Adult novels. Ridiculously excited about my YA paranormal, which is next in line.

Okay, here’s one for me, since I’m writing a time travel series—If you could time travel anywhere into Earth’s past, where would you go and why?

Probably back to the Garden of Eden so I could make a pair of cowboy boots out of that darn serpent.

One last thing!  I’m so excited to share with you that DANIEL THE DRAW-ER is now an audiobook, available at Amazon, Audible, and iTunes. My narrator for the book, Jay Prichard, did a great job bringing the characters to life. I think kids will really enjoy listening to Daniel’s adventures on long car rides or at bedtime.

As a thank you to your readers, I’d love to offer a chance for one of them to win a copy of either the Kindle ebook version or the audiobook of DANIEL THE DRAW-ER.


"This is no ordinary pencil,” says the cat sitting on the end of nine-year-old Daniel’s bed. "It's magic." 

Everything Daniel draws with his pencil--flying dragons, Octobears, and pizza-loving aliens from the planet Beezo--comes to life. It’s pretty awesome until the pencil draws a line between Daniel and his best (and only) friend Annie. 

Come along with Daniel and his fantastic creatures on this fun-for-the-whole-family journey as he discovers that friendship is the greatest magic of all.


S. J. Henderson is the author of the children’s book DANIEL THE DRAW-ER, as well as several
not-yet-published Young Adult novels.
S. J. lives in Michigan with her husband and four wild boys. When she is not writing about talking cats and magic pencils, S. J. can usually be found riding one of her family’s horses or drinking a little bit of coffee with her creamer.

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