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 experience 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.
→Can you give us a go-for-the-gut answer as to why you wanted to be an author?
A. For me it all starts with making someone laugh. When I write something that creates laughter, well, that’s just great. Plus, as an author, I get to put my personal spin on whatever I’m writing. For example, in my book, Mary Elizabeth The Spotless Cow, I send a positive message to kids. It shows how to deal with difficult personal and social situations using humor, diplomacy and intelligence.
Oh. And it’s a lot of fun too.
→Tell us (we won’t tell promise!) is it all it’s cracked up to be?
A. YES! It really is. Writing is fun. And writing a children’s book is funner. (That’s a word,right?) In my book series, A Sweetles Dream®, I’m writing stories that are the socially perplexed dreams of a little dog named Sweetles™. He dreams about animals and their social and personal situations.
What could be better than that? It’s a silly, goofy concept. But it’s also a way for me to write about tough situations in a lighthearted way.
→I mean what are the perks and what are the demands?
A. I was just a featured author at the Orange County Children’s Book Festival. I watched a little girl, her sister and her mom read Mary Elizabeth The Spotless Cow from cover to cover. As the little girl turned the pages her smile got bigger and bigger. That’s a huge perk. It actually made my eyes tear a little. It’s very rewarding to write something and then have a complete stranger enjoy reading it. And want to own it so that they can re-read it again and again.
As for demands, well coming up with a complete ‘A’ story from start to finish can be tough sometimes. I think of a lot of good stories. But if my publisher, who happens to be my wife, says they’re a ‘B’ or a ‘C’ I have to keep at it until it’s an ‘A’ story. So there are demands I put on myself, and then there are the publisher demands.
→Which route did you take – traditional or self-published?
A. Well, it’s a little bit of both. In the traditional sense, I am an author who works with a publisher and editor. But my wife is the publisher so I would also say I’m self-published. We chose this route to have control over the content, illustrations and time frame as I both write and illustrate my stories. We have a good publishing team. Which gets us good results. And we have a lot of fun in the process.
→Can you give us the nitty gritty low down on what that’s like?
A. When you self publish, it’s up to you to get everything done. I write and illustrate the stories and then the text goes to the editor for grammar and spell checking. In the meantime, the drawings get scanned into the computer and then the entire story is laid out with text and illustrations. At that point, the background illustrations are added. When it’s complete, a file is created and sent to the printing house. Thousands of books are then printed, packed and ready to be shipped to buyers. Before that point we start advertising. It’s a non-stop process.
→Tell us for real what your family feels about you spending so much time getting your book written, polished, edited, formatted, published, what have you?
A. Since it’s all in the family, and my wife is my number one fan, I know my family is all for it.
→Do your pets actually get their food on time or do they have to wait until you type just one more word?
I wrote my first book when my dog, Max, was still alive. He is the character Sweetles™ who is having all of these perplexing animal dreams. As the muse for the books, he didn’t complain about anything as long as I kept up a steady supply of dog treats.
→Out of all the people involved in getting your book published, which one would you say did the most for you?
A. My wife. She was hugely instrumental, actually crucial in getting it published. And greatly appreciated for all she does. And that’s a lot.
→In writing your book, how did you deal with the phone ringing, your family needing dinner or your boss calling you saying you’re late?
A.Since I’m my own boss, If I’m late to work and yell at myself I ignore me and keep writing. I don’t get hungry when I’m writing so no worries there. If my wife gets hungry she has peanut butter and jelly, her favorite. We would put food out for Max, aka Sweetles, so he was taken care of too. But, I love to cook so making dinner would be a welcome break if I needed one. But I usually write a story from start to finish before stopping. That’s about four to six hours.
→How about the social networks? Which ones do you believe help and which ones do you wish you could avoid?
A. All social networks help. How can you be too sociable? I think visuals with word of mouth are the best advertising and all social networks allow pictures or video now. It’s amazing. It’s just finding the time to do it all. That’s the hard part.
→Book sales. Don’t you just love them (or lack of)?
I love book sales. Especially when I know that a percentage of each book sold is going to a great cause. We’re raising funds for the Phoenix Children’s Hospital Child Life Program with every Mary Elizabeth The Spotless Cow book sold. We chose PCH because it’s an amazing hospital that has consistently improved its facilities and programs for kids every year. We just want to help by lending a hand in funding those improvements. So every book sold is also a book that gives to a great cause.
→How are you making the sales happen for you?
A. Our books are on Amazon and the Sweetles.com website. We’re exhibiting at book fairs, doing library readings, school events and contacting shop owners. Next year we plan to exhibit at gift shows. Right now I’m doing a book tour where Mary Elizabeth will find new readers through book bloggers. That’s very exciting. And we’re working on a web series for kids called, Sweetles, that will bring the book characters to life. Think Sesame Street meets Monty Python; educational and wacky at the same time. That’s what the web series will be.
→What is one thing you’d like to jump on the rooftop and scream about?
A. Great question…but I’m afraid of heights.
If I weren’t afraid of heights I’d get up there and scream “I LOVE MY WIFE!”
→Now…can you tell us what you love about being a published author and how all those things above don’t matter because it’s all part of the whole scheme of things and you wouldn’t have it any other way?
A. There’s nothing like someone telling you that they read your book to their child the night before and the child loved it. I’ll never get tired of hearing that.