John Podlaski (1951 - ) was raised in Detroit, Michigan and attended St. Charles and St. Thomas Apostle catholic schools until graduating in 1969. Immediately afterwards, John started to work for one of the automotive parts suppliers in the area and attended junior college full-time in the fall. During the next four months, John found himself overwhelmed by trying to jumble both work and school. At the end of the semester, John chose income over education and dropped out of school. This turned out to be a huge error as he had a school deferment which protected him from the military draft. Uncle Sam wasted no time and Mr. Podlaski soon found himself in the Army before the end of February, 1970. After a few months of training, John was sent to Vietnam in August and was assigned to the infantry; spending time with both the Wolfhounds of the 25th Division and the 1/501st of the 101st Airborne Division. During his tour of duty, John was awarded the Combat Infantry Badge, Bronze Star, two Air Medals, the Vietnamese Cross of Gallantry, and a few other campaign medals for serving in the theatre. Back in the states, Mr. Podlaski spent four months in Fort Hood, Texas before until his discharge in December, 1971.
The author returned to his former position with the automotive supplier and was promoted to supervisor shortly afterwards. A few months later, he met Janice Jo and they were married in 1973. They purchased a home in Sterling Heights, MI and still live there to this day. A daughter, Nicole Ann was born in 1979. During this same period of time, John used funds from the GI Bill and returned to college on a part time basis; graduating four years later with an Associate Degree in Applied Science.
In 1980, John started to work on a memoir about his experiences in Vietnam. While there, he had carried a diary, and his mother saved all the letters that he had written to her from the war zone - these were used to build an outline. He toiled on a manual typewriter for four years before finally completing his work. Meanwhile, Mr. Podlaski had joined the newly formed Vietnam Veterans of America, Chapter 154 and helped to launch their inaugural Color Guard, which marched in parades and posted colors for many local events. The members of the chapter were a very closely knit group and felt left out in many of the of the discussions about Vietnam. When they learned that John had authored a book, the wives had asked to read it to better understand what their husbands had endured during their time in Vietnam. It was very well received and all the wives said they felt closer to their spouse after reading the manuscript. The group was very supportive and urged him to find a publisher. After many rejections, a publisher was located in Atlanta, who offered to consider the book if it were re-written in a third-person.
Atari had just come out with a new computer console and word processor that made the re-write and editing much easier; his work could now be saved on floppy diskettes. The re-write continued until 1989. John had completed half of the manuscript and lost interest in working on it any longer - it had been a long ten years already. So everything was boxed up and stored in the garage.
Mr. Podlaski continued to work in the automotive sector, primarily in Plant Management positions and claims that he will retire in three more years. John had returned to college eight years ago, and received a Bachelor Degree in Business Administration four years later.
Last year, at his 40th high school reunion, many of his former classmates had asked him about his Vietnam book. John had forgotten that he had offered a copy of his manuscript for others to read and comment on twenty years earlier. Unbeknown to him, many of them had already read the book and urged him to pull it out of storage and continue his work.
Converting the diskettes to Microsoft Word was cost prohibitive; John's daughter offered to retype the entire manuscript and then saved the document on a memory stick. Fourteen months later, the book is finally finished and published. It took almost thirty years to finish, but seeing it now in print makes it all worth it.
The author and his wife own a 1997 Harley Davidson Heritage motorcycle and enjoy riding when possible; both are members of the Great Lakes Chapter of the Harley Owner Group.
Could you tell us a little bit about yourself?
I served in
Describe your book ‘Cherries - A Vietnam War Novel’ in 30 words or less.
Do you know a veteran? Do you know what he/she had to endure and overcome during their wars? Why do veterans show a deep respect for one another and for his country? Some of their experiences will never be forgotten, many non-vets do not understand. Want to learn more? Read, "Cherries - A Vietnam War Novel" for an up close and personal look at how war effects young soldiers. Then you'll understand!
What was the hardest part of writing your book?
When I began in 1980, I had to use a typewriter with carbon paper. Computers and copy machines were not available yet and changes or additions during the edit process required the entire chapter to be retyped. My first computer was an Atari 800XL game console with a word processor, a small amount of memory, and the ability to save / edit electronically. I had to "retype" the entire manuscript and save it on floppy disks before I could begin editing and continuing. The original manuscript was written in the first person and my publisher wanted it rewritten from a third person aspect. The rewrite continued over the next year and when I was half way through the work, the manuscript had already doubled in size. This project had taken so much time and effort over the years that everything finally caught up to me. The enthusiasm was gone, the rewrite frustrating at times, then finally, I just stopped, boxed it all up and moved everything to the garage, where the boxes sat for the next twenty years. I had forgotten that I donated two copies of my original manuscript to my classmates at the twentieth class reunion.
The next class reunion we attended was my fortieth. It didn't take long for word to circulate that I had stopped the project. I was surprised when many of my former classmates showed disappointment; they had all read the original and had been waiting for the published version. After finishing my tale of woe, everyone volunteered to help in whichever way they could to help me finish this work. They were relentless over the next few weeks, and I finally gave in.
Converting the Atari disks to Microsoft Word was cost prohibitive and almost a show stopper. My daughter asked if it were possible to print the data on the disks, then she would volunteer to retype it all once again. A month later, the project was handed to me on a memory stick.
With a renewed vigor, I spent the next nine months rewriting my story. Family, friends and former classmates all chipped in with help and support. Finally after thirty long years, "Cherries" was published on April 20, 2010.
What books have had the greatest influence on you?
I have read so many books, that it is difficult to choose specific ones. I've enjoyed reading books by Clive Cussler, Nelson DeMille, James Patterson and Lee Child. All a fiction and mysteries, but these authors have a unique talent for bringing the reader into the story. You are right there with their characters and able to share the same emotions. Sometimes this leave me exhausted. This is what I tried to accomplish with "Cherries" and by reading the many positive reviews from readers, it appears I've succeeded.
Briefly share with us what you do to market your book?
I've heard from others that writing was easy and marketing was going to be more difficult. I have spent much time on-line and have participated in many marketing training seminars and also subscribed to websites frequented by authors or marketing experts. I've build a website / blog, started a Facebook fan page, joined numerous social groups, have paid for ads on Facebook and had submitted to every book award contest available in 2010. I have signed books at both local and national veteran functions this past summer and have connected with new groups at those events. I spend much of my time joining conversations on social sites and then periodically post about my novel. A couple of local restaurants have also sold numerous copies of my book at their check out counters.
How do you spend your time when you are not writing?
I still work a full-time job and then spend at least a couple of hours nightly working on my book marketing or writing blogs on my website. It seems to be never ending because there is always another new "strategy" to set-up and follow, which takes more time.
What are you working on next?
At this time, I'm just hoping to get to retirement within the next couple of years. Many people have asked me when my next book is coming out. At this time, it is out of the question. However, after retirement, I may consider writing some short stories about my war adventures or even maybe pen a mystery novel of sorts.
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