Today, I’m thrilled to share my recent conversation with Michael Sortino, author, Catholic dad, and all around great guy! I hope you enjoy this chat with Michael and that you’ll support his work by checking out his great books! Lisa
Q: Hi Michael! It’s great to catch up with you following our recent podcast interview. Would you please briefly introduce yourself and your family for those who may have missed that conversation?
Sure, Lisa. My name is Michael Sortino. I’m a Catholic husband, father and writer. My wife and I have four children, ages ranging from 13 down to 7. Inspired early on in our lives through the Life Teen program and great pastors and friends, we’ve been on a mission to grow and sustain a healthy Catholic family for the last 14 years – and by God’s grace alone, we’re still at it! Just like most of the country, times have been tough for us lately, but we have faith that the Lord has brought us here, He loves us, has given us talents to use for His glory and for his people, and He will see us through.
Q: Let’s remind our readers about your two wonderful books. First, please give everyone a summary of Teddy Gyros, your series for kids, and the first book Teddy Gyros: Kid Vampire Slayer: Book One: It Begins.
Teddy Gyros is a mystery thriller fiction series for kids, ranging 8 – 13 years old, but parents and other adults have liked it, too! It revolves around a young kid who has the strange ability to see vampires that plague people in a secret-filled, struggling small town of Witowpitee, Minnesota. Yes, it is a town without pity, as you may have guessed. While trying not to be too scary (there’s no blood and gore), I give kids a fun, thrilling story that also serves up a healthy dose of character and faith-building messages. Book One: It Begins, is the first story, where Teddy realizes he truly does have a gift and tries to use it to help Old Mrs. Withers, a woman haunted by a vampire that feeds off her bitterness and resentment from past wounds. It’s ultimately a spiritual allegory and tale about the power of love and forgiveness.
Q: What types of responses have you had from kids and parents who have enjoyed Teddy Gyros together?
Kids and parents really enjoy the first book, and are clamoring for more. I’m surprised at how adults enjoy reading it, even though it’s geared toward kids. I try to make it funny and mysterious enough for young ones, yet complex and deep enough in areas so older readers will feel like they’ve found a few gems along the way. Priests love it too! My brother, an amazing young priest, is practically my biggest fan, and writes Fr. John Bartunek, LC, author of Inside the Passion: An Insider’s Look at The Passion of the Christ, “Teddy G. combines a seamless, suspenseful, and fast-paced story line with a surprisingly deep and true message. It’s a tasty, chewable spiritual vitamin that will be enthusiastically enjoyed by kids who (correctly) eschew stories that have good morals but boring plots and characters.”
Q: I’m sure you’re getting a lot of readers clamoring for the next book! What are your plans for the series?
The series is planned and trying to gain traction. My trouble is that I don’t write totally mainstream works that are so politically correct they can’t even bring up a remote thought of God, but I also don’t write traditionally Christian material that only preaches to the choir. I try to walk the line a bit, and this has been difficult, because you’re not embraced all that well by either side. Bottom line, I’m looking for a publisher that believes in what I’m doing (or patrons of the arts!) to get behind the series and give it the boost it needs. With the big family to support (nowadays, big families are any with kid-count above zero!), I can’t afford to continue to invest in the series myself. I have a Catholic publisher interested at the moment, but they’re slowly ramping up their fiction department and may not be able to get to it for another year. I had hoped Book Two would be out in time for Christmas, this year, but now, maybe Easter of next. We will see what the Lord has planned.
Q: Let’s turn to your very funny book, Food Makes Me Happy: (And That’s My Problem!) Tell our readers a bit about why you decided to write this book and what it’s all about.
This one was fun to write and it grew out of a desire to just cut to the chase and bring out in the open what everyone doesn’t seem to want to admit about the whole weight loss issue. I won’t make you read the book to find out the main point (although I’d appreciate it if you did!). To sum it up in a nutshell, we’re using food as the next legal drug, and we have to learn how to find true happiness apart from our taste buds. This joy can only be found in the Lord, and in being who He made us to be. I try to keep it a fast, fun read (my friend, Frank Griffitts, also did some great cartoons that are interspersed throughout), because, if you can’t look at yourself and life with a sense of humor, you’re losing half the battle right from the start, and who needs that?
Q: I’ve seen your hilarious YouTube “Food Tip” videos – can you share a couple of your most effective food tips here?
Just like with any other battle you’re trying to fight, I believe that information and awareness is key. The enemy always wants to keep us scattered and in the dark. The most basic tips that seem to work well on a daily basis are 1) Evaluating each “what to eat” decision based on your core beliefs and goals, and thereby winning the battle each mole hill at a time; and 2) Simply repeating to yourself, if you’re trying to resist temptation, key reminders like, “This food will not make me happy,” or “Why am I doing this? What will my legacy be?” helps you turn your heart and mind toward positive ways to find happiness and live life to the fullest.
Q: What are a few words of wisdom you might have for folks looking to drop a few pounds in a fun and sensible way?
Read the book! Yeah, you walked right into that one 🙂 Seriously, I talk in the book about not going to extremes – don’t starve yourself, and don’t gorge yourself (which usually happens shortly after you’re done starving yourself!). Moderation is key, but it’s not as simple as that. Cutting back on sweets makes a huge difference, but I believe the only way we can beat the “need to feed” our emptiness, fear, or stress, is to fill ourselves up with the one thing that can give us lasting joy, God! Basically, yes, cut the carbs, but boost up the Grace and loving pursuit of our Maker, and you’ll not only find that slimming figure you’ve been looking for, but a foundation that can’t be broken.
Q: Has writing the book helped you to deal with any of your personal “food relationship” issues?
Honestly, I can say that it has, and it’s not because I think, wow, I better look good if people are going to trust what I say! (My book touches on how “the way we look” can’t make us happy either.) But, really, laying out the truths that I’ve learned over the years, and focusing on them truly has helped me to keep myself on a healthy track. Sure, I stumble and fall sometimes, but now I have built in alarms that go off, warning me, “Hey, you’re going off track, put down the ice cream!” and I have healthy ways to turn to that I know work wonders in bringing me back to center.
Q: What other projects do you currently have in the works?
I’m developing a family film script, and also have another kids fiction series in development that I’m very excited about – it’s being considered by a big Christian publishing company (because it’s more straight-forward Christian material). I also have plans for a curriculum for kids that takes the message of my “Food” book to them in their Catholic and Christian schools, helping them at an early age, not only to form healthy eating and exercise habits, but to learn that they are beautifully and wondefully made in God’s image, and this is the endless fountain from which they can draw their self-esteem and peace all the days of their life. This will be a non-profit venture, so I’ll have information soon on how people can be a part of this.
Q: How can readers keep up to date with your various projects?
They can visit my website frequently (www.sortinomedia.com), or email, firstname.lastname@example.org, and request to be put on the mailing list for occasional, non-inbox-burdening emails! You can find me on Facebook and become a fan, as well, if you’re into that.
Q: Thanks for your time and efforts Michael! I love your writing! Are there any additional comments you’d like to share with our readers?
Thank you, Lisa, for all the wonderful work you do. To your viewers, thanks for your support and for your prayers, if you can spare them! Peace in Christ!