Ask the Author: Jess Hernandez
Jess Hernandez is a writer, librarian, teacher and all-around word girl. When not being used as a human canvas for baby food art, she writes books for kids. Her debut book, FIRST DAY OF UNICORN SCHOOL, illustrated by Mariano Epelbaum, comes out in Spring 2021 from Capstone. Sometimes she writes essays, poems, and short stories for grown-ups, too. Jess lives in a very small, very LOUD house in Washington with her husband, their three children, a blind Labrador, and seven chickens.
What is your book about for those who haven’t read it?
FIRST DAY OF UNICORN SCHOOL is the story of Milly, a donkey with dreams of attending the prestigious unicorn school. With a few creative photos in her application, she’s accepted and must make it through the school without anyone realizing what she really is: a donkey in a party hat.
What has been your inspiration for writing it?
My kids were really the impetus for this story. My daughter asked me to tell her a unicorn story at bedtime and I told her a completely stupid story involving a school for unicorns. A month later, I was watching my kids fight over a cardboard tube. Each of them wanted to use it as a unicorn horn. My daughter grabbed the tube and told my son, “You’re not a unicorn! You’re just a horse!” The two ideas blended and here we are.
What was your favorite scene or part of your book to write?
I don’t want to give too much away because the story has a twist, but the bit involving the plunger was my absolute favorite part to write. It was inspired by my husband, who’s bald and has been known to walk around Walmart with a plunger stuck to his head just because he can.
What books or authors inspired you to become a writer?
Can I say all of them? I always wanted to write but I used to think that authors were VERY SPECIAL PEOPLE who made GREAT ART. And that wasn’t me. But then I worked in a library. Being there every day, seeing all those books written mostly by regular people – it took away some of the mental block for me. If thousands of people had books published, why couldn’t I write one too?
What advice would you give to aspiring authors who want to write a book?
Read. A lot. Then read some more. Watch TV. Watch movies. Fill up on stories. Then write down whatever stupid idea comes into your head – not a whole book, just some ideas. Eventually you’ll have enough dumb ideas to put together into a hopefully not-so-dumb story. And if it is dumb, read some craft books, find a critique group, and get some help to try to make it better. You don’t have to know how to do it all right away.
Failure isn’t the worst thing there is.