This is our second post in a series spotlighting authors who participated in the Portsmouth Literary Festival last fall. We’d like to introduce you to Janis Hennessey who writes three series of books for children, some in French!
Kid Lit Universe: What type of writing do you do?
Janis Hennessey: I write books for children ages 2 – 9. The first series, “Max & Colby Adventures,” is about two dogs who are best friends, and how they help each other in their backyard adventures. The second series, “The Why Did” series, is narrative non-fiction with photographs of children doing real-life things. In Why did Emma Make Teddy Bear Bread, Emma talks right to the child to show them how to make her favorite Teddy Bear Bread. Why did Marcus go to the Restaurant shows Marcus helping chef-dad in the restaurant kitchen and sometimes just being a kid.
KLU: How did you get started writing children’s books?
JH: When I was ten, I enjoyed writing plays. My two friends and I would dress up and perform for the neighborhood kids. Later, I had an English teacher in high school who was a published writer and I would write stories just for her…no grades, no bonus points, just for the joy of writing. I was also an editor on the high school newspaper. When I became a French teacher, I’d give my students creative writing assignments en français. My French III’s would work on a novel in French throughout the entire school year. It was a wonderful project. Finally, I decided to write and publish my own stories and I so love doing it.
KLU: What role has the kid lit community played in your writing career?
JH: I belong to a dynamic writing group of very unique writers. I learn a great deal from their critique comments of my work, as well as the comments they make about others’ in the group’s work. They are honest and kind. I have also enjoyed various activities of the New Hampshire Writers’ Project. They are supportive to writers’ needs in many different ways.
KLU: How do you select the names of your characters?
JH: I use the real names of the two dogs and the real first names of children in the “Why Did” series.
KLU: Do you set a daily writing goal?
JH: Never. I write notes as they pop into my head. After a while I am curious as to what I had written. I delete, add, change, develop and then I’m hooked in writing the story. I write a loose outline of the story to see where it might go. I walk away and return to the outline several times. Then, I just can’t put it down!
KLU: What is your favorite children’s book?
JH: The Little Engine That Could by Watty Piper is my all-time favorite. When facing a new task that I think is beyond me or that I’ve never done before, I think of that little blue engine who said “I think I can. I think I can. I thought I could.” I’m inspired and move forward.
KLU: Are you traditionally or indie published (or both)?
JH: I tried the traditional route but with a full-time job and family, I didn’t have time to deal with the hoops and waiting. I read up on the various ways to publish and decided on self-publishing. This means that I have to do ALL the work, but it’s my work on my time. It works for me.
KLU: How do you market your books?
JH: Marketing my books is my least favorite thing to do. I know this is true of most writers. I’ve yet to find the best way. I really need to work on this. Time and interest are my enemies or my poor excuses for my not getting down & dirty on marketing my books.
KLU: We’re honored you chose to participate in this blog, then!
KLU: Do you Google yourself? If so, what is the most interesting thing you’ve found?
JH: Because you asked the question, I Googled myself. What a surprise! Links and pictures of the books were all there. It made my day.
KLU: What are you working on now?
JH: I’ve just begun working on a third series, “The 3D Detectives,” about three girls whose first names start with “D”: Darcy, DJ, Delilah. They solve mysteries at school or in the neighborhood.
Check out Janis’ books: