Today’s spotlight is on childrens writer John Lance. John’s newest book is Priscilla Holmes and the Case of the Glass Slipper. This is the second book in John’s Priscilla Holmes mystery stories. The First one is called Priscilla Holmes, Ace Detective. He is also the author of the short story collection Bobby’s Troll and the book Charlotte Cauldron and the Prince of Nevermore.
Where did you get the idea for Priscilla Holmes and her stories?
Priscilla Holmes is one of those rare cases (for me at least) where the character came first. I was sitting in my study one day and looked out the window to see my daughters playing in the backyard and that was when a girl detective popped into my head. Priscilla is smart and determined (like my daughters) and has a distinct dislike for cleaning her room (also like my daughters . But it did take me some time to figure out what crime she would solve. That was when I placed her in a fairy tale world and had her figure out who stole the three bears porridge (a golden lock of hair is the key here and that became Priscilla’s first adventure, Priscilla Holmes, Ace Detective.
For her second adventure, Priscilla Holmes and the Case of the Glass Slipper, I wanted to do something a little different. Where Ace Detective follows the three bears story pretty closely, Glass Slipper has a few surprises while still keeping the main characters of the Cinderella story. I’ve found that kids really enjoy having those touch points as part of the story.
Did writing Priscilla Holmes and the Case of the Glass slipper differ from writing Bobby’s Troll or Charlotte Cauldron and the Prince of Nevermore?
Since Bobby’s Troll is a collection of wacky short stories that are roughly the same length as Priscilla Holmes, there wasn’t all that much difference in the actual process or approach I took.
Charlotte Cauldron and the Prince of Nevermore is aimed at middle readers and has chapters, so there is an overall story arc. But I also try to break down the chapters into min-short stories, where there is a definitive beginning, middle, and cliff-hanger end that propels each chapter, and therefore the book, along. One of the things I hear from Charlotte’s readers is that they went through it so fast because at the end of each chapter the kids needed to know what was going to happen next. I’ve always been proud of that.
How does writing stories for middle readers differ from writing YA and work meant for adults?
The themes you tackle vary, of course. Sex, drugs, and Rock & Roll just don’t translate to picture books or middle readers (well, perhaps as snips, and snails, and puppy dog tails
But, as with most stories, it’s a case of being aware of your audience and medium. Priscilla Holmes and the Case of the Glass Slipper, for example, is a picture book, so I tend to hold back in the description department. I want to make certain that my wonderful illustrator, Diana Navarro has plenty of freedom.
How do you challenge yourself as a writer?
To me, the ultimate challenge for a writer is to step outside of your preferred genre or tackle themes that aren’t typical to your work. I have tried my hand at the occasionally romantic story, though it invariably winds up including a zombie, or werewolf, or something else that probably shouldn’t belong there, so you could say I have had very mixed results when taking on a “challenge.”
Do you have a lot of your younger readers come to you for advice on how to become writers? What do you tell them?
When young readers ask for advice on how to become writers, I tell them to read as much as possible, and write as many stories as they can. I also tell them that they have to learn to edit and revise their stories and that the first draft is only the beginning. That usually comes as a surprise, the thought that after you write a story you need to go back and refine and reshape doesn’t occur to young writers.
What sort of books have influenced your work as a children’s writer?
There is a heavy element of fantasy in my children’s stories, whether it be the fairy tale characters Priscilla Holmes encounters or the troll that takes up residence under Bobby’s bed or the dragons and wizards in Charlotte Cauldron. So from that perspective my influences include the usual suspects, Tolkien, C.S. Lewis, as well as Terry Pratchett.
Where can readers find you on the internet? Where can they find your books?
Priscilla Holmes has her own Facebook page. Priscilla Holmes, Ace Detective and Priscilla Holmes and the Case of the Glass Slipper, are available from Amazon.com and Barnesandnoble.com.
Bobby’s Troll is available from Amazon.com or Yard Dog Press (http://www.yarddogpress.com/Bobby%27s%20Troll.htm).
Charlotte Cauldron and the Prince of Nevermore is available from Sam’s Dot Publishing (http://sdpbookstore.com/storybooks.htm).
Is there anything I missed? Anything you would like to add?
Yard Dog Press is planning to make Bobby’s Troll and Other Stories available on Kindle. That’s a very exciting development and I’m so happy they are providing me with that opportunity. It’s a revolutionary time for publishing and a great time to be an author.