Mr. Barbera was kind enough to answer some questions for me:
I’ve had the drawing bug since I was a little kid watching ‘Winky Dink and You’. It was a TV show where you (your Mom) sent in for this piece of plastic that you attached to the front of your TV set. Then you drew along with the guy on Winky Dink. I loved that show.
I didn’t set out to become a writer. I wanted to do something that was fun. I started by drawing cartoons about my dog, Max. He was the inspiration for my character Sweetles™ who is the impetus for my book series: A Sweetles Dream®. The concept is: during the day, while Sweetles™ is playing, he sees something unexpected. That leads him to dream up a solution to the situation he’s seen.
For example, in my book, Mary Elizabeth The Spotless Cow, he is playing ball as soon as you open the book. He chases the ball across a field and Mary Elizabeth frolics past him. She triggers his dream.
The bonus in children’s books is that, not only is it fun, but I hope I can make a positive difference for kids through the affirmative actions and concepts about friendship, family, self-confidence and relationships in my books.
When you were a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?
I wanted to be an astronaut. Space, the final frontier…I was always intrigued by that. In science class at school they showed us the planets and stars and the galaxy. We had fascinating science books. Men were taking the first trip to the moon. Like Neil Armstrong. So my room looked like NASA. I had Lunar modules and rocket models and all kinds of planetary books.
How did you come up with the idea for your book and were there any glitches along the way?
My mother in law, who is a dear friend, had gone through a pretty rough time with breast cancer, chemotherapy and radiation. She needed to laugh. So I decided to write a funny story for her. When I picked up the pencil, some kind of crazy inspirational thing happened. A thought came to me about a farm in Ohio. Then there were lots of cows. Suddenly I had an idea—what would happen if a new cow, a spotless cow, arrived at a farm and encountered prejudice from the other cows for being different. The inventive, funny way she overcomes their spot discrimination would be the kicker. I rapidly had a beginning, middle, and an end. I didn’t want to forget any of it. I had to write and illustrate it as quickly as possible.
Five hours and many broken pencil points later, Mary Elizabeth The Spotless Cow was born.
You’re shipwrecked on a deserted island. What character from a book other than yours would you want to be stranded there with you? Why?
Huckleberry Fin or Robinson Caruso. Guys with raft and island life experience that could get me off of there. I’m not too good at building things without tools and a hardware store. I’d probably wind up talking to a soccer ball.
If we peeked inside your closet, what would we see?
A Hawaiian sunset! I like colorful, happy, fun attire. My main wardrobe consists of vivid Hawaiian shirts. If I get stranded on that deserted island not only will I look the part – but hopefully a plane will see my shirt and save me!
Tell us your favorites:
Movie: City Slickers
Actor: Billy Crystal
Book: Jurassic Park
Singer: Frank Sinatra
If you could have super powers what would you wish for?
My first thought is being able to fly…but no one would bring me peanuts. So I think something really super, like the power to be able to eat as many snacks as I want without gaining weight. Supersnack Man! Has a nice ring to it. Don’t you think?
If you could choose to live in another time, would you prefer the past or the future?
The past. Maybe on the ship with Columbus. I could say:
“You know this really isn’t India…nobody will think any less of you if you stop and ask for directions.”
Are you working on any new books now? Tell us about them.
Since Mary Elizabeth The Spotless Cow was published I’ve completed the second book in the “A Sweetles Dream®” series called Ernie the Dysfunctional Frog. Without giving away the surprise, it’s a fun, goofy and unexpected tale about acceptance, family, friendship and love. And, of course, frogs.
Where can your fans learn more about you?
Would you like to share anything else with your fans?
During the months of November-December, purchase Mary Elizabeth The Spotless Cow
from the Sweetles website for only $12.00 (List price: $17.99). When you buy this book, 50% of net proceeds go to Phoenix Children’s Hospital Child Life Program.
Visit https://sweetles.com/product/books/mary-elizabeth-the-spotless-cow-book/ for more information.
For more about the book watch Mary Elizabeth’s book trailer: http://youtu.b/72fOn1tEbDM
Thank you for having me and giving me the opportunity to talk about my book!
– Sal Barbera