The title is Slippery Willie’s Stupid, Ugly Shoes. It is about a boy who has slippery feet and just slips, slides and spins all over the place. Even his socks and shoes slide off his feet when he is just sitting down. He has new shoes made for him that will stop the slipping and sliding. But he thinks that they are the stupidest, ugliest shoes in the whole world and that everyone will laugh at him when he wears them. The story deals with “differences” and gives the message that being different is OK. It has received some wonderful reviews.
Tell us something about yourself.
I was born and grew up in the Bronx and grew up in a predominantly Catholic Christian community of hard working, hard drinking, God fearing, patriotic, blue collar folks. (Hard drinking may be an oxymoron in this mix but it was the way it was–it is also why I don’t drink since I saw so much damage from that even in my own family). I am sure my background is reflected in my writing. It was always in me to write but writing was way down on my list of priorities. Lots of illness, three kids to raise, keep food on the table etc, etc. so, for me, sporadic writing was the way of things.
What inspired you to write this book?
After I got married we moved to Jersey and got involved in the Foster Care Program. They sent us a three year old named Brian and his brother Joey, 6. They were the same age as our two boys. Our house was INSANE–They were supposed to stay for a “few days” and wound up with us for two years. Anyway, Brian was ‘off the walls”–hyperactive, no self controls, just a mess. He would simply get up and run–BOOM–into the wall, fall off the steps etc–he never got hurt. His behavior planted the seed for “Slippery Willie’s —-shoes”.
How did you choose the title?
My son’s name was William and we called him Willie (today he is Bill) The story evolved from Willie being slippery all over to just his feet and along came the shoes and here we are.
What obstacles did you encounter in getting this book published? How did you overcome them?
Obstacles?? Rejections–book was way too long–editing–it is half the length it originally was with far less characters.
How did you know you wanted to be a writer? How did you get started?
Like I said. I knew it was in me to write. About 20+ years ago I wrote a few unsolicited columns for a local newspaper and brought them over, dropped them off and asked if someone would read them and maybe get back to me. A few days later the publisher/editor, a man by the name of Judson Bailey, gave me a call and asked me to stop by. He was an old-timer from the old school of journalism (pre-computer, pound the pavement guy). He had this huge mane of silver hair that flowed backward to his shoulders and the bushiest, silver eyebrows I had ever seen. Anyway, he says to me, “Petie (he called me Petie), you have this unique way of saying things. So give me a column a week about whatever you want to write about. I’ll give you $25.00 a pop.” It was amazing. I had never done anything professionally and he asks me to write what I want. He never edited anything either. Well, that’s how I started. Hooked on with a few other newspapers and then, after about five years, Mr. Bailey passed away from cancer and the other papers went out of business. So, from maybe 95′ until about three years ago I was sort of in “writer’s limbo” not really doing any writing.
How do you come up with the names for your characters?
I explained where “Willie” came from. The fiction I am writing is about real people so I just use real names and nicknames that feel right to me. For example, in my novel, Beeker and Dancer are two of the characters (they are kids).
Did you learn anything from writing and publishing this book? What?
If you were doing it all over again, what would you do differently?
I’m not sure. I am where I am at this point in time. I love the expression, “Yesterday is history, tomorrow is a mystery, today is a gift, that is why we call it the present”. I let tomorrow take care of itself and use today the best I can. Yesterday is over.
What types of books do you like to read? Who are your favorite authors? Why?
I like Hemingway’s “Old Man & The Sea”. So simple, yet you are in the boat with Santiago feeling his exhaustion, his determination, his respect for the great fish he is battling who he even calls “brother”. I think Hemingway reflected life for so many in this story. Struggling, fighting to “stay afloat” and having that one moment where maybe–just maybe you think you have made it and then outside forces rip it from your grasp. I also enjoy C.S. Lewis’ “Chronicles of Narnia”. I love how Lewis’ mind creates these strange places and peoples. I believe his motivation is biblical. In volume three, “The Horse and his Boy” the names for people and places he has come up with are amazing to me. Names like Mezreel and Lasaraleen and Tarkheena or the The Valley of the Thousand Perfumes”—it’s hard to keep up—-
Are you working on your next book? What can you tell us about it?
Yeah–the final draft is just about done. Tweaking on mechanics is going on. “The title (for now) is “The Priest & The Peaches” and it is about five kids who have lost their parents over a period of a few years and wind up on their own on New Years, 1966. It is funny, it is sad–it is NOT dark. It is ultimately about family taking care of family being guided by a tough yet kind and humble Catholic priest. It is not a religious book. Have not sent it out yet but it should be ready very soon.
What is the best advice you could give other writers about writing or publishing?
Keep at it.
Who is the perfect reader for your book?
I think 6 to 10 year olds. They can read it, they can discuss it, and they can have it read to them.
Where can readers learn more about you and your book?