A Sweetles Dream® ~ Guest Author Feature with Salvatore Barbera ~ Helping The Phoenix Children’s Hospital Child Life Program ~ Part Two
Hi Sal and welcome back to my blog
I come from a big Italian family in New Jersey and am the youngest of five. I have four older sisters.
When I was a kid, our house was the central meeting place for family holidays. All of my cousins and aunts and uncles from south Jersey, Brooklyn and New York City would come to our house for dinner. It was great. A lot of stories were told over a lot of food. We were loud,
we laughed louder and mainly just enjoyed each other’s company. I think that gave me a solid foundation for my love of storytelling and making people laugh.
It’s a good challenge to tell a story and get people to laugh.
How long have you been writing?
About 2 minutes. Oh…you mean in my lifetime. Well, I’ve been making cartoon style stories for about 20 years.
It started with drawings of Max, my dog. The first day we got him I was inspired to pick up a marker and start sketching him.
The sketches expanded into little cartoons that I drew of him to make my wife or in-laws laugh. Those drawings morphed into the character called Sweetles™ that is the upcoming star of his own comic book series as well as the host of a new children’s web series I’m working on called Sweetles TV Show.
I wrote my first published book about 3 years ago.
What inspired you to start writing books for your chosen genre?
My mother in law was my inspiration. She had gone through chemo and radiation treatments for breast cancer and was down in the dumps. She really needed cheering up.
So, I thought about what would make her laugh. First, my drawings always make her laugh.
And then saying something ridiculous. So I started writing a story about talking cows on a farm. And I set it in Ohio where her other daughter lives.
And the funniest thing happened, it just clicked in my head. And I was able to write the entire story in a day and that story is Mary Elizabeth The Spotless Cow.
I didn’t write it as a children’s book. But it turned out to be a fun, comprehensible way to help kids learn about prejudice and discrimination and how to deal with it.
That’s how I got the writing bug. The very next day I wrote my second book Ernie The Dysfunctional Frog.
How do you come up with the Titles for your books?
Hmm. First I name the main character, next I come up with a theme for the story. After that, it’s who the story is about and something about them.
So for Mary Elizabeth The Spotless Cow her lack of spots and the fact that she’s a cow made the title an easy choice.
Do you decide on your book title first, or do you write the book and then the title is decided later?
I decide the title first. For me, the title defines the book, even when there is a hidden surprise in the title.
My second book in the series, Ernie The Dysfunctional Frog, is a perfect example of a surprise title.
Are there any little tips or tricks you use to get to know your characters better?
I try to get into my characters head. Figure out what makes them tick. And then make them as real and personable as possible.
They might be someone I’d like to hang out with because they’re fun and witty. Or maybe they do something I don’t particularly like.
But that makes a good basis for a character flaw. For me it’s important to make a well rounded character that’s likable and fallible. Just like real people.
If you don’t like a character you’re writing about, what do you do?
a. Kill them off instantly
b. Get over it and learn to like them
c. Give them a whole new personality
d. or something else – do tell?! Please!
I’ve never written a character I didn’t like. Even if they start out unlikeable, they have redeeming qualities that change them to make them into a somewhat likable character before the book ends.
If you were stranded on a faraway island:- which of your characters would you like to be marooned with and why?
That’s a toss up. Mary Elizabeth, the spotless cow, is a lot of fun and very resourceful. While Ernie, the dysfunctional frog, is a great friend and has swimming skills that might prove helpful.
Do you have any input in the Cover design of your book?
My wife, a trained artist and designer, does the layout and background illustrations for the books. Although we collaborate, her sense of design and artistic talents lead the way.
How many novels/books do you typically read in a month?
A few. I like to read a book in small increments. It makes it more like a favorite TV show or mini series. Right now I’m reading John Grisham’s The Appeal. The previous book I read was by Carl Hiaasen.
What’s your least favourite part of the writing process?
I don’t really have a least favorite part of writing. When I’m in writing mode I really enjoy it. Sometimes it’s tricky figuring out what to say to get the reader to laugh.
Ideally, I’d like you to laugh out loud at some point. That’s a goal. Injecting humor that makes sense and reaches not just kids, but adults too. I think Dr. Seuss is a great example in that respect. His stories seem to be as much fun for adults to read as they are for kids.
If you didn’t write or you went through a dry spell (aka a bit of writers block), what would you do to fill the creative void instead?
I love to draw. People, animals, landscapes. I’m pretty good at drawing cactus now. I enjoy taking a blank piece of paper and creating something from nothing.
I know it’s what I do when I write, but with drawing I can just look at something and re-create it. With writing, I need to be inspired to create a new story.
Drawing helps to inspire me.
Finally, what 7 words best sum up your book?
Fun, educational, witty, endearing, inspiring, topical and surprising.
Thank you Bella, for inviting me to share my thoughts with you and your readers. I very much appreciate it.
I hope your readers will get Mary Elizabeth The Spotless Cow for the holidays. It’s definitely a feel good story for everyone.
All my best,
Many thanks to Sal for joining us again today, and if you have children, get them this fabulous book for younger readers. And if you don’t have children, get it for yourself and help a fantastic cause.
Welcome to the second installment to help the Phoenix Children’s Hospital Child Life Program
Book Genre: Children’s Picture Book
Publish date: July 2012
Publisher: Sweetles Press
The story of Mary Elizabeth The Spotless Cow follows her adventures to figure out how to get the cows at a new farm to like and accept her. While she hopes to find friendship at her new home, instead she learns what it means to be different from everyone else. (Spotless!) Mary Elizabeth uses clever ideas, diplomacy and a keen sense of humor to gain acceptance and friendship at the farm.
This inspiring tale shows how perseverance in spite of obstacles, using a sound thought process to arrive at solutions and the importance of having fun, using humor and enjoying playtime can build friendships.
Watch the trailer: http://youtu.be/72fOn1tEbDM
From now through December 31, 2013, you can purchase Mary Elizabeth The Spotless Cow from the Sweetles website for only $12.00 (List price: $17.99) and on Amazon for $14.66.
When you buy this book, 50% of net proceeds go to Phoenix Children’s Hospital Child Life Program. to make a difference in the lives of children with critical and life threatening illnesses.
Visit http://www.sweetles.com/product/books/mary-elizabeth-the-spotless-cow-book/ for more information.
Sal is the author and illustrator of A Sweetles Dream® book series. As the Creative Director for Hartman-Barbera llc, a family media & entertainment company, he is also an animator, sculptor, painter and all around fun guy.
Sal lives the phrase: “A day without laughter is a wasted day.” To that end, he uses his writing, illustrating and animation skills to create endearing characters and comedic stories. Sal’s sense of humor and empathy for his characters explore personal and social situations in ways that makes it enjoyable for both adults and children to read his books and experience them together.
Born in New York City, Sal moved to North Bergen, NJ where he grew up on a steep hillside neighborhood with his four older sisters. He currently lives in sunny Arizona with his wife and artistic partner, Sheri, who he defines as his inspiration.
On any given day Sal might be painting, sculpting, drawing, animating, writing or enjoying one of his favorite pastimes: cooking, television, movies and golf.
Visit Sal Barbera’s website at https://www.salvatorebarbera.com
Book Buy links:
Amazon UK Kindle: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Mary-Elizabeth-Spotless-Sweetles-Dream-ebook
Sweetles Press http://www.sweetles.com/product/books/mary-elizabeth-the-spotless-cow-book/
Mary Elizabeth Puppet Short Video
Once upon a time…there was a farm in Ohio with lots of Cows. They all had many spots to be proud of.
One day a truck pulled into the farm. The back door opened and out came a new Cow.
The other Cows were so excited to have a new friend!
But as the new Cow came out of the truck, the other Cows looked on in shock!
“What on Earth?!”
It seems the new Cow, whose name was Mary Elizabeth, had no spots!
“Where are your spots?!’’ Demanded the Cow called Anna Belle.
“I don’t have any spots. I was born spotless, you see.’’
Well, Anna Belle and the other Cows were horrified.
(Not mad, you have to be very careful about mad).