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RT: Your new book Where are My Christmas Presents is a story that reminds us about the true spirit of Christmas. Is there an event or person who inspired this book?

J.G.: The short answer is "no." I would love to say that it was concocted from some heartwarming event in my life, but that would not be the truth. Perhaps there are some parts from my own childhood experiences. Every Christmas morning my brother and I would race down the stairs to a well-lit room (for my father’s camera shots) full of Christmas toys and goodies. So I began to write the story by imagining what it would be like if a nice, normal child sneaked down from his bedroom early Christmas morning to discover there were no presents under the tree. He would probably be upset. Would he go looking for them? Possibly. What if in his search he ran into other kids and people in much worse situations? Would he still care more about finding his presents? What if he found them? Then what?

The story unfolded from there, especially when I started thinking about the powerful true spirit of Christmas and how most children are basically good kids. Of course I had to throw in some Christmas magic along the way!

RT: The book is set for public release in October 2007. Have you had the opportunity to share it with kids? What kind of feedback have you received?

J.G.: After I wrote the story, I felt like I was sitting on this wonderful Christmas tale. I knew I wanted to test the story on my two harshest critics, but I wanted a complete book. So I had to be patient while my brilliant artist, Dot Young, transformed all the pages into living color. It was worth it. Her beautiful, homey style and bright colors complemented the story perfectly. The pictures are on every single page are absolutely gorgeous!!

I gave the first part of the book to my youngest daughters (my two harshest critics). If they did not want to read any more of the story, then it probably wouldn't be worth the effort to print. If they made a passing comment like “I wonder what happens” then I would judge their reaction as lukewarm, at best. When both of them begged me to read the rest of the story, I figured I had something!

I have since tested the story with other young children and had older kids read it, too. In most cases, the book not only held their attention throughout the book, but they applauded the surprise ending!

RT: As this is your first book, what are your criteria for labeling it a "success"?

J.G.: I think selling a million copies would be pretty good. Realistically … I would like to sell enough copies to make a significant donation to a charity for children that contacted me. This organization has read the story, loved it, and wants to endorse the book. That helps, too. In return, we will be giving a portion of the proceeds from the sale of each book to this charity. If the total donation amounts to $20,000 or more , then that would be a true success.

RT: You have a technical background, having worked in the Information Technology field for most of your career. What did you find to be the most difficult part of transitioning from fact-based, technical writing to children's fiction?

J.G.: Ha! The hardest part was transitioning to Information Technology after writing all my life. I have such a big imagination that it is hard at times to focus on the demands of logic in the IT field. It gets me into trouble sometimes in the corporate world. Everything is so strict and there are so many rules. In children’s fiction, there are no boundaries.

RT: What is your favorite part of the writing process? What is the easiest for you? What is the hardest?

J.G.: Hmmm, I haven’t really thought about that before. For a short story, I think my style is usually to come up with a twist or unique plot or maybe a surprise ending first. If I think it is worthy of being a story, I will “fill in the blanks." So I guess my favorite part is coming up with ideas that are unique. Once I have that, the easiest part is coming up with subplots, interesting storylines, and exciting situations.

The hardest part is starting the story. I always want the perfect beginning in order to assure the reader that the story will be appealing and worthwhile. Getting a reader interested in a story is like advertising: you have to grab them in the first few pages, because that will determine whether or not they are interested enough to keep reading. What good is all the excitement and fun later on in a book if the reader closes it forever from disinterest at the beginning?

RT: In 2008, your company, Sterli Publishing, is planning to publish a number of new books, from works of fiction to a cookbook. How did you select the titles you are going to produce next year?

J.G.: We have a dartboard in our office. Seriously, though, it all comes down to what we think the “public” will be interested in.

For example, we have a Woodcarving book coming out from one of the premier woodcarvers in the South. Since a traditional “how to wood carve” book probably wouldn't sell well in an already saturated market, we plan to add some flair and mystique to spice it up. The book will have lots and lots of pictures of his incredibly beautiful handiwork, and some other surprises!

Our next children's book should be a big hit. I can’t say a lot about it right now, but be prepared to hear a lot of kids talking about "Ms. F.D." Maybe I’m being a bit over optimistic, but it’s just such an exciting, creative piece of work! Stay tuned, folks. You will never see anything that is “plain Jane” from Sterli Publishing.

RT: What kinds of books does Sterli Publishing produce? Do you accept manuscripts from outside authors? If so, what are your submission guidelines?

J.G.: Sterli Publishing was created from a vision that any creative individual should have a shot at stardom. We encourage all aspiring authors and illustrators to submit their work. All we ask is that they fill out a short form that asks for biographic information, goals, aspirations, and how they envision the publishing process (i.e., what they are willing to do and how much they want us to do). You can find submission guidelines and forms on our website.

We do our best to be honest and straight forward. We can’t stay in business if we take every submission, but we certainly try to offer suggestions and feedback to all.

We are trying to help other creative and talented authors and illustrators get started and be as successful as some of the most widely known authors.

RT: In addition to your book, you have written a number of short stories. Do you have a favorite writing genre? Is it possible to read these stories?

J.G.: Fantasy is probably my favorite writing genre. I love to use my imagination, and there are no boundaries in the fantasy world or — um - worlds. Children’s fiction is pretty near and dear to me, as well. Having a child read my story and say “that’s pretty cool” or “Wow!” makes it all worthwhile!

You will definitely be able to read some of those other stories at some point in the future. Right now, I am working to create a compilation book with author submissions. We are targeting that book for 2009. You have given me an idea. Note to self: whet people’s appetites by offering excerpts or stories on our website.

RT: Although you opted to earn a technical degree, you have always loved writing. Where do you think that passion comes from? Did you read a lot as a child?

J.G.: Oh yeah. I read all the time. My mom says I have all these certificates from reading 100 books or more during the school year. Frankly, all I remember is being alone for hours and hours in my room and reading books about mythology, fairy tales, and stuff like that.

When I wasn’t reading, I would spend those hours in my room writing. All through school, I would write stories and the teachers would ask me to read them to the class. You think critics are tough nowadays? Try reading to your peers in 5th grade ... right before recess!

RT: Is there anything else you’d like to add?

J.G.: I am very excited that our book Where Are My Christmas Presents? will be available for this upcoming holiday season. You can pre-order now on our website or wait until later in October to order it on Amazon. It should also be available at bookstores in plenty of time for purchase by Christmas. If you are looking for the “feel good” children’s Christmas book for this holiday season, get it as soon as possible. I guarantee it will put some Christmas spirit in your home and have your children wanting to do good deeds for others!

Other than that, I want to thank you for the opportunity to have this interview. I’ve enjoyed my time here and hope everyone has enjoyed our conversation. And to all — Merry Christmas!

Website: http://sterlipublishing.com


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