Today’s guest: Jeffrey Schoenherr
With so many cancellations of in-person author events due to World War C, I’m devoting my blog to Indie Monday interviews for the coming months to help my fellow authors with promotion. I’ll be featuring indie and small-press authors who produce quality work outside the boundaries and strictures of the traditional mass-produced, mass-marketed commercial publishing world and traditional bookstore shelves.
Today I’m happy to host prolific children’s book author Jeffrey Schoenherr. A native of Michigan, Jeffrey is the author of five well-received illustrated books: Lillie Saves the Day (2013), Lillie and Hamlet Meet Their Special Friends (2016), Hamlet Goes to School (2019), Lillie and Hamlet and the Baby in the Tree (2019), and his newest, Lillie’s Big Parade (2020).
Recently I posed some questions to Jeffrey. Here’s what he told me.
DL: Could you tell us a little about yourself?
JS: I was raised on a farm in White Cloud, Michigan. I came from a family of eight, so you know the fun never stops. We are close and I always use them to throw around my ideas for books. It helps to keep me on track. I now live in Mt Clemens, Michigan. I have two children. My daughter is in college, and my son just finished his degree. I have five Lillie book’s out now: Lillie Saves the Day, Lillie’s Big Parade, Lillie and Hamlet Meet Their Special Friends, Lillie and Hamlet and the Baby in the Tree, and Hamlet Goes to School. There is also a new series on the way.
DL: Tell us about your latest book and works in progress.
JS: My latest children’s book should be out by early August. It’s called Smitty’s Great Escape.
It’s a true story about my grandfather and his dog. This was something that happened when I was a young kid. I almost always use real-life events for my books. The story is about a boxer dog who knows how to escape from his dog pen.
I am working on a story about a Scottish lad as well. I hope to have it out this year as well. I have several more Lillie books in the works and I am working on a story of a Gulf War veteran. This book is a little more challenging.
DL: Why do you write? What do you hope to accomplish with your writing?
JS: I had these memories in my mind about things that happened when I was growing up, and I always thought they would make great stories. When something stands out so much in your mind, I knew I had to get the stories out there. My mother won the Detroit News spelling bee long ago and was an avid reader. She really was and is the inspiration for all of my Lillie books. Her name was Lillian, a very kind woman who shared the value of treating people and animals with love and care.
One time we had a baby piglet that wasn’t going to make it. My mom brought the piglet in the house and started feeding it with an eyedropper. Pretty soon we had an eight-pound piglet in the kitchen! The piglet thought that my mom was his mom as well.
My hope is that these books will help children learn to read and be better people. When you hear numbers like 50% of children can’t read, it’s time to help change the trend.
DL: Please talk about your writing process. Where do your ideas come from? What is your favorite part of the process? Least favorite?
JS: My writing process is more or less using memories I have and composing the thoughts to paper. It’s usually writing the outline of the story, then rereading it. I usually write the stories out freehand and then I can move the pieces around until I’m happy with the results. Then I type it out. With children’s books, the slow process is the illustrations. So it’s a bit of hurry up and wait. I also have stories that have just popped into my mind and I again put the ideas on paper. The average children’s book takes about a year to complete, start to finish.
My favorite part of the process is seeing the story come to life and my least favorite is waiting to complete it.
DL: Could you reflect a bit on what writing or being a writer has meant for you and your life?
JS: As I reflect on writing, I never really thought that I would be a writer. I sort of think that the stories chose me. I was compelled to write the first book, Lillie Saves the Day. To be honest, when I saw the book finally completed, I cried. I never felt so accomplished. That lead me to write the next book, and then it made me push to get more books out.
What helped was when I had a Name the Pig Contest. I asked the kids from my old elementary school, White Cloud Elementary, to come up with several names. The teachers loved the idea. The kids came up with fifteen names. I chose the name that I thought fit the story. (I actually asked my oldest sister what name she liked out of the fifteen names the kids gave me. She chose the same one that I did.) The kids had all voted on the names.
I went to the school and announced the winning name. There was a whole gym filled with kids and teachers. When I announced “Hamlet” was the name, they all cheered. It was amazing. I never felt that way. It was overwhelming. As all the kids left the gym, the kids hugged me, they thanked me, they high-fived me. I knew then that I would continue to put out good feel-good stories for these little people. I’m proud to be a writer.
DL: What are links to your books, website, and blog so readers can learn more about you and your work?
JS: As of now I have my books on Amazon and am working on a new website. My Amazon Author’s Page is: