Tuesday, 27 December 2011


What is your name, where were you born and where do you live now?

My name is John Podlaski.  I was born in Munich, Germany and now reside with my wife of 39 years, Janice, in Sterling Heights, Michigan USA

Did it take long to get your first book published?

How about thirty years...it began when my mother gifted my wife and I with a shoe box containing every letter I had written home while serving in the Vietnam War.  We read through the many letters and a personal diary I carried - my wife, intrigued by it all, had a hundred questions.  She suggested that I make a short outline based upon the letters and diary and then try to flesh it out so her questions could be answered.  I started this project on a manual typewriter and carbon paper, intending to write something no longer than a term paper.  However, as more questions and requests for clarification  were made, the "term paper" grew.  Editing, during this time, required an entire chapter to be retyped in order to maintain proper structure.  In early 1980, Atari came out with a game console that offered a word processor, the ability to store data on floppy disks and a dot matrix printer.  Purchasing this, I spent the next three months duplicating all the key strokes of the paper into this new computer, then finding it much easier to edit and add to the story.

The manuscript was completed in 1986 and then shopped around to various publishers and entered into contests at various colleges; the story was a finalist at Washington State University's International Literary Awards.  I finally located a publisher who was willing to take a chance on my story providing it was rewritten to a third person perspective.  

Six months later, the rewrite was half complete and already exceeded the length of the original.  I began working a lot of overtime on my job and found that there wasn't any time available to continue my project - this continued for the next year.  At that point, I lost interest in the project all together - boxing everything up and moving them to the garage, where they sat for the next twenty years.

In 2009, my wife and I attended our 40th high school reunion - the school was small and we only had sixty students in the graduating class...at least two thirds of them had attended.  The last reunion attended was the 20th, and I had forgotten that I had donated two copies of my original manuscript for them to read and pass around.  So, I was quite surprised when they asked about the status of that manuscript from long ago.  When I told them them I stopped the project shortly after that last reunion, they were relentless in their efforts to get me to pick it back up.  This persistence continued for the next two or three weeks before I gave in.

The floppy disks could not be converted to Microsoft Word without spending quite a sum of money.  My daughter, Nicole, said that if I could print out everything saved, she would get it all into Word.  Six weeks later, she handed me a memory stick with both versions.

Nine months later, April 20, 2010, "Cherries" was born as an e-book on Smashwords.com and later as POD on Amazon.com and other platforms.
Do you work another job as well as your writing work?
    Yes.  I was spending every spare moment to write the original story, dedicating weekends and sometimes parts of my vacation.  My wife was understanding and supportive, because this was something she wanted me to do.  It was her idea and she looked forward to reading and learning about my experiences during the war.  Once my company began scheduling daily and weekend overtime, I found my time limited and had to stop writing altogether.  It was like that for the next twenty years.

    What is the name of your latest book, and if you had to summarise it in less than 20 words what would you say?

    My book is called, "Cherries - A Vietnam War Novel".  Young soldiers are "different" or "changed" when returning home after their first war.  Cherries will show you why it happens.

    Who is your publisher? or do you self publish?

    I am an Indie author and self published.

    What genre would you place your books into?

    At first, I listed it as Historical Fiction and then moved it to General Fiction as some folks on the forums objected that the time line for the story was not "old enough".  I think this topic is debated on and off over time and qualifications for this genre are not defined anywhere.
       Do you have a favourite character from your books? and why are they your favourite?

      My favorite character is my protagonist, John Kowalski.  He is the main character and the story is told through his eyes.  When I read the story, it's enjoyable to watch this character from a distance.

      Where do you get your book plot ideas from?

        I just wrote about what actually happened.  The letters and diary served nicely in preparing my outline and kept the story line consistent.

        Do you have anybody read your books and give you reviews before you officially release them?

        Not in this case.  However, as I had mentioned earlier, the work was highly praised by friends and family and gave me encouragement to finish the novel.  Had that not happened, Cherries would never have been completed. 

        Do you gift books to readers to do reviews?

        Yes.  I will gift an e-book version in exchange for a book review on Amazon.com

        Do you read all the reviews of your book/books?

        Yes.  In fact, I utilized Facebook a lot to get readers of my novel to post their thoughts.  However, it seems that many of my readers are intimidated about posting a book review on Amazon.com.  As a result, many people were more comfortable leaving messages on my blog website instead.

        What was the toughest/best review you have ever had?

          I was quite excited to start seeing all the five star reviews posted on Amazon.com and looked for more daily.  After a couple of months, I got a one star rating which criticized my writing style, editing and grammar.  It was like a punch in the gut which forced me into a depression, I kept dwelling upon this one awful review.  I found myself visiting forums and visiting with other groups within Goodreads and heeded their advice.  I had the book professionally edited and now think of it more as a polished diamond.  The revised edition has not received any more criticism about grammar, etc. and the reviews since have been quite favorable.  Thinking back, that awful review actually prompted me to react in a way that improved my book - for that I am now grateful. 

          How do you come up with the Title and Cover Designs for your book/books?Who designed the Cover of your books? 

          My original title was "The Ingenuous Soldier" which I thought was appropriate at the time, because my story is about about the innocent, scared, naive, young teenage soldiers who go to war.  One publisher, a Vietnam Veteran himself, suggested that I change the name to "Cherries", the moniker used to depict that same group of soldiers in Vietnam - The New Guy!.  The name stuck!

          As for the cover, Smashwords.com offered a list of cover designers to authors to help with covers.  I contacted the owner of DigitalDonna.com and we collaborated on a book cover design.  I summarized the story for her and told her what I had in mind.  I sent her some digital photos to help generate ideas.  After three tries, we finally agreed on a design and made several enhancements to get it where it is today.  Donna is highly recommended and has exceeded the expectations of everyone I had referred to her.

          How do you market/promote your books?
            There are several things that I've done to market and promote Cherries.  First, I search the internet and participated in many book marketing training sessions and followed a check list.  I created a website and blog to promote Cherries, a Facebook fan page, created a book trailer, participated in book signings at veteran events this past summer, and even had a couple of local restaurants sell copies at the checkout.  I've created tri-fold brochures that are left everywhere, passed out business cards with a summary and ordering information.  Lastly, I've advertised on Facebook and several other book promotion websites.  The work is continuous and I'm finding that I have to dedicate at least a couple of hours daily on marketing to get the word out.  
             What do you think makes a book a really good/bestseller ?

            The obvious is that it has to be a good story and well written.  However, unless readers are aware of this great book and know where to find it, sales will be uneventful.  Book promotion, advertising, speaking engagements, book reviews and word of mouth seem to be the keys in having a best seller.  In my case, Cherries is selling well, but I am still finding new readers that are just now finding out about it.  

            What do you do to unwind and relax?

              I spend a couple hours each night in bed reading while my wife watches television.  I like action / adventure and mystery novels the best, but have also read numerous Vietnam War novels to learn more about the conflict and what other soldiers had to endure to survive.

              Have you ever based characters on people you know or based events on things that have happened to you?

              As I explained earlier, Cherries is written about my actual tour of duty in Vietnam as told through the eyes of my protagonist.  Names have changed, but the characters are based upon real people that I spent my year with. 

              Are there any hidden messages or morals contained in your books? (Morals as in like Aesops Fables type of "The moral of this story is..")

              But of course.  Cherries starts with a quote from the late General William T. Sherman in his address of 1880:  "There's many a boy here today that looks on war as all glory, but boys, it is all hell."  I would also like to add that even though the background for Cherries is the Vietnam War, those experiences within occur in every way.  Readers of Cherries will learn how war effects the young soldiers of yesterday, today and tomorrow. 

              Where can readers follow you?

              Your web site ?    http://cherrieswriter.wordpress.com 
              Your facebook page?  http://www.facebook.com/cherriesnovel
              Your Goodreads author page?    http://www.goodreads.com/user/show/3772926-john-podlaski 
              Your Twitter details?   https://twitter.com/#!/pdoggbiker

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