How I Come Up With Story Ideas by Sands Hetherington, author of Night Buddies Go Sky High

Title: Night Buddies Go Sky High
Author: Sands Hetherington
Publisher: Dune Buggy Press
Pages: 144
Genre: Children's Book
Format: Paperback

 Young John Degraffenreidt and his red crocodile buddy, Crosley, show up at the Pineapple Cheesecake Factory and find Big Foot Mae lying on the floor, staring up at her Great Star Puzzle on the ceiling. Crosley only wants a new supply of pineapple cheesecakes, but what Mae points to on her ceiling will start the Night Buddies on a totally new fantasy adventure. A suspicious white dot has passed through the Corkscrew Constellation and is now moving underneath the Hound Dog Stars. Across the Borough, Crosley s brother Crenwinkle sees the same curious speck in the sky. It looks to be a long night for sleepyhead John, but thanks to the time spreader dingus with its sleep retardant setting, he gets right into their next escapade. Join the Night Buddies as they embark on another Program, this time taking them all the way into the stratosphere in their racing blimp.

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How I Come Up with Story Ideas

I write adventures for kids, and I have to confess that the main idea for my Night Buddies series came directly and unbidden from a real kid, my six-year-old son John.
I read to him every night for many years—it was a regular thing with us. One night when I was done reading and John wanted more, I suggested he invent a lights-out companion to go off to sleep with. Within a day or two, there was Crosley the crocodile, complete with goofy name and bright-red color. I was hooked.
John and I started throwing Crosley ideas around and making up episodes. This went on for a year or more, until it got to the point where Crosley became an important member of our family. Then it dawned on me that there might be a sure-enough book in there somewhere. I hadn’t really invented anything; it was already sitting right there in my lap.
So I took John’s idea and ran with it. It was like a magic bean I kept sticking in the ground, and it kept sprouting things. Maybe this is how the business works . . . at least how it works for me. Keep your story antennae out for something promising, and when you think you’ve found it, turn it over and over and poke it and peek inside it, and hopefully it will sprout something.
Go find something interesting to start on and work with that. It may be out there in the world, or it may be already inside your head, but use it as a springboard. Don’t try to turn on some “idea switch” and conjure something out of nothing. I doubt you’ll conjure much that way. And if you get stuck, shove a notepad in your pocket and take a long walk like Dickens would late at night. As long as you’re keeping yourself open to new ideas, I guarantee one will come to you!

Sands Hetherington, the creator of Night Buddies series of chapter books, credits his son John for being his principal motivator. Sands and young John developed the Crosley crocodile character in the series during months of bedtime story give-and-take. They collaborated many nights on escapades starring John and Crosley, until eventually it occurred to Sands why it was that Crosley was bright red. That was when the first book came together.

 Sands raised his son as a single parent from the time John was six. He read to him every night during those formative years: all of the classic children’s stories from Aesop through the Grimms, Lewis Carroll, Frank Baum, Tolkien and Dahl, with a lot of Dickens and Hugo thrown in. When school was out they got in the car and toured Alaska, Canada and most of the contiguous states. John still gets around. So far he has lived in Germany, Scotland, Russia, England and Spain.

 Dogs have always been a part of the author’s life, beginning with Whiskers, a cocker spaniel. When his wonderful boxer Hube died, he despaired of finding a boxer who could match him, and instead got a Saint Bernard. He ended up breeding Saints for a number of years and at this point has had twelve as house pets. Sands says dogs can do you a power of good, and if you lose one, go out and get another the next day and you will be surprised at how fast your grief goes away.

 Sands is also a Civil War buff. He would like to spend a month of evenings with common soldiers from both sides to see how they felt about the business. And eccentric generals like Jackson, Sherman and Forrest, and most of all Lincoln. Because Lincoln never gets to smile in his pictures.

 The author was born in New York City but was transplanted a year later to Greensboro, North Carolina, where his maternal grandmother lived. He never really left the area and has a lot of the South in him. His grandmother was a prominent educator and became a great friend and mentor.

 Sands majored in history at the University of North Carolina (Chapel Hill) and has an M.F.A. in creative writing and an M.A. in English from UNC-Greensboro. He lives in Greensboro now, and hangs out with his longtime friend Ann and their Saint Bernards Dudley and Maggie. He likes visiting ancient Mediterranean sites in Turkey and Italy, and most of all Greece.

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