Book Nerd Interview
Christopher Healy was born in the quaint Northeastern town of New York City. It was there, while still an infant, that Christopher chewed the pages of his very first book. Later, he learned that the squiggles on those bound-together pieces of paper actually had meaning. And thus, a lifelong reader was born.
Even in his youth, Christopher knew he would someday be a writer. And he wrote numerous Tables of Contents to prove it, a few of which sounded like they might have been pretty great books had he actually written the stories to go along with them. It would be quite some time before Christopher actually got the chance to write for a living. And his career took many detours in between: cashier, actor, toy store shelf-stocker, person who types things from one place into another place, haunted house zombie, person who checks the spelling of celebrities’ names, etc. Eventually, he cobbled together a tiny little video game review — and it actually got published. Thus, a writer was born.
From there, Christopher penned articles for numerous magazines, newspapers, and websites — stories about everything from new video gaming gadgets to the costumes worn by characters in video games (okay, there wasn’t that much breadth back in the early days). Then his own children were born — and Christopher began writing about them. He wrote about their behavior, their taste in room décor, the books they read, the movies they watched, and more. He did so in the pages of Cookie magazine for years, as well as online at ParentDish.com. He even wrote a whole book about being a new dad (titled Pop Culture — get it, PopCulture). But finally, he decided he wanted to write a something for his children. And The Hero’s Guide to Saving Your Kingdom was born.
And with two more Hero’s Guide books due to be released within the next two years, that’s pretty much what he does now. He still likes to write about kid stuff, too, though — and does so regularly, which is why his entertainment reviews blog, KidPop… and Beyond was born. And, to be honest, he writes about all sorts of other things, as well. Including himself. And thus, this About Me page was born.
How would you describe yourself in three words?
I am indescribable.
What’s one thing that readers would be surprised to find out about you?
I’m only six inches tall. That thumbnail headshot of me is life-sized.
Tell us your latest news.
I just finished my first draft of The Hero’s Guide to Storming the Castle, which is Book II in the Hero’s Guide series. It was a blast to write, and now I’m digging into the revision process. It’s been a lot of fun to get back into the minds of these characters.
As a child, what did you want to do when you grew up?
Back in elementary school, I was dead-set on being a writer when I grew up. I got sidetracked by a few other varied jobs over the years (actor, data entry processor, haunted house zombie, etc.), but somehow I ended up actually doing what I wanted to when I was a kid — which makes me feel incredibly fortunate.
What was the greatest thing you learned at school?
I was a theater major in college and acted for several years after graduation. I owe a debt of gratitude to one particular college professor who told us: “If anything can stop you from being an actor, let it.” I got a ton of great experiences out of acting, but in the end, I’m very happy I didn’t try to stick with it longer than I did.
What fiction most influenced your childhood, and what effect did those stories have on your writing?
Even though it’s a total cliché, I’d have to say The Lord of the Rings, which I first read when I was nine. It not only defined fantasy adventure for me, but it also honed my ability to keep large casts of characters organized in my head (something I hope Hero’s Guide’s readers can do as well).
What were your feelings when your first novel was accepted/when you first saw the cover of the finished product?
I got the call from my agent while I was at Universal Studios theme park in Florida with my family. I was in the Wizarding World of Harry Potter, standing in front of Hogwarts castle, with cinematic music blaring behind me as I heard the news that my book had sold. It was surreal. But pretty awesome. After that, we went back to our hotel room and jumped on the beds.
I was pretty blown away when I first saw Todd Harris’s cover illustration for Hero’s Guide, too. Todd is amazing. He nailed the princes in exactly the way I’d imagined them. I’m thrilled to have him on this project with me.
Why middle grade? What are some of the challenges of writing for this age group? How does middle grade differ from young adult? And have you always written middle grade?
I didn’t sit down to write with “middle grade” in mind; I mostly just wrote with my daughter in mind — and she happens to be comfortably within that middle-grade age range. Writing middle-grade, as opposed to YA, basically means you watch your language (easy for me, because I tend to say things like “Oh, crud” and “Criminy Pete!” in real life) and limit the romance to smooching.
This is your first book of the Hero's Guide. Where’d you get the idea to do a collection of Princes?
I’d wanted to write about Prince Charming for a long time. In all those classic fairy tales, you learn so little about the princes. I felt like those characters were ripe for the plucking.
Why do you feel you had to tell this story?
I have a son and a daughter, and I felt that boys and girls could both use some fleshed-out Prince Charmings in their fairy tales. In those old classic stories, boys are supposed to want to be the prince and the girls are supposed to want to marry him. When those prince characters are generic, nameless, personality-free hero types, no one benefits.
If you gave some of your characters an opportunity to speak for themselves, what would they say?
Duncan: I speak for myself all the time.
Gustav: Ha! That’s an understatement — you never shut up.
Liam: Guys, I’m not quite sure you understand the question.
Duncan: Sometimes I even speak to myself.
Frederic: Quite true. I can vouch for that. But I believe the good lady would like to know what you would say.
Duncan: I would say what I’m saying.
Frederic: No, Duncan, let me explain —
Gustav: Sure, go ahead and explain. Explaining works so well with this group.
Frederic: There’s no need for sarcasm.
Liam: I think we should just go.
Which character have you enjoyed writing the most?
I enjoy them all, but Duncan gives me the chance to be completely insane. I can let the non-sequiters flow.
How did you come up with the title and cover design?
This book had so many different titles along the way; I can’t even remember most of them. A lot of them were variations on The Hero’s Guide to Saving Your Kingdom, but plenty were completely different (and often terrible). After what felt like months of brainstorming Jordan Brown (my editor at Walden Pond Press) and I finally settled upon the one we felt was just right. Outside of giving it my thumbs-up, though, I had nothing to do with the cover; the credit for that awesome piece of work goes entirely to illustrator Todd Harris and art director Amy Ryan.
If you could have written one book in history, what book would that be?
The Wizard of Oz. But it would have ended up very different.
Is there anything additional you would like to share with your readers?
I have a tray of cookies here that I would absolutely love to share with all of my readers. Unfortunately, none of them are here, so I’ll have to eat the cookies myself.
What do you normally eat for breakfast?
Oatmeal when it’s cold out. Oatmeal Squares when it’s warmer. What can I say? I’m a rebel.
What is a movie or TV show that you watched recently and really enjoyed?
I’m a huge 30 Rock fan. The show has a brilliant mix of high and low humor that I can really appreciate. Their recent Leap Day episode was one of my all-time favorites.
Where is your favorite place to read/write?
When I was a kid, I used to think it would be awesome to read under a tree. In reality, though, the flickering shadows of leaves on the page are kind of annoying. My favorite place to read is in a big fat armchair in my living room. And pretty much the only place I write is in my home office, which I would really like to redecorate.
I feel like historically speaking I have to say The Simpsons, which has probably had more influence on my sense of humor than anything else. But I also want to give a shout-out to Avatar: The Last Airbender, which was possibly the coolest animated series to ever be on television. The mix of action, drama, humor, and all-around great storytelling was a stunning achievement.
Where can readers stalk you?
They can check out my site, ChristopherHealy.com, and/or my Facebook page: Christopher Healy, Author. They can follow me on Twitter: @ChristophrHealy (that’s with no “e” in my first name). I can also often be found lurking under bridges, forcing people to answer riddles before they pass.
Prince Liam. Prince Frederic. Prince Duncan. Prince Gustav. You've never heard of them, have you? These are the princes who saved Sleeping Beauty, Cinderella, Snow White, and Rapunzel, respectively, and yet, thanks to those lousy bards who wrote the tales, you likely know them only as Prince Charming. But all of this is about to change. Rejected by their princesses and cast out of their castles, Liam, Frederic, Duncan, and Gustav stumble upon an evil plot that could endanger each of their kingdoms. Now it's up to them to triumph over their various shortcomings, take on trolls, bandits, dragons, witches, and other assorted terrors, and become the heroes no one ever thought they could be.
Debut author Christopher Healy takes us on a journey with four imperfect princes and their four improbable princesses, all of whom are trying to become perfect heroes—a fast-paced, funny, and fresh introduction to a world where everything, even our classic fairy tales, is not at all what it seems.
Christopher Healy’s approach in The Hero’s Guide to Saving Your Kingdom is very unique, interesting, and a fun twist in the retelling of classic fairy tales. He takes characters from a variety of fairy tales and mix them all up to make this remarkable story of princes and princesses.
When Prince Frederic follows Cinderella, who left the palace in search of adventure, he bumps into other princes. Together they discover a horrible plot that will devastate their kingdoms. From one adventure to the next, the princes experience self-discovery, fake friendships, and learn to be cohesive with each other.
The book is full of humor and adventure that will keep you glued to the pages. The characters are the centerpiece of the story, as they are so unique with distinct features. Together, the princes learn that friendships are very important, and by learning each other’s strengths and weaknesses, they are able to make the most of what each offers
The Hero’s Guide to Saving Your Kingdom is a delight not just for kids, but adult as well. Healy’s writing style is fluid-like throughout and delivers explosive details that bursts out of the pages. This is one of those books that is worth owning.
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