Interview in partnership with Richard Wagner, the author of Needles, the Forgotten Christmas Tree.
Richard Wagner grew up in Southern California. When he was fourteen years old, a business friend of his father’s had a small Christmas tree delivered as a thank-you. Their family already had a large tree decorated in the house. Not being able to find anyone who needed a tree, that small Christmas tree stood outside by itself for the remainder of the Christmas holiday. Needles, the Forgotten Christmas Tree is a tribute to that little tree and what might have been, but more importantly, to all the beauty, goodness, and hope that Christmas brings to us all. Mr. Wagner continues to reside in Southern California with his wife and two children.
What do you think makes a good story?
I don’t think it is any one thing. It is important to have a character the reader can identify with. From there, the story needs to flow and not be disjointed. Last, I think it is important to leave the reader with something they can hold on to like a lesson, or something that truly gives the story meaning.
What was one of the most surprising things you learned while writing Needles, the Forgotten Christmas Tree?
The ultimate lesson from the book is that we all have to persevere through adversity in life and never give up. That concept was not pre-conceived when I started writing the book. It evolved throughout the story to where it was staring me in the face at the end, and I took advantage of it.
What do you like to do when you’re not writing?
Aside from continuing to work part-time taking care of real estate investments and properties that we own, I spend a great deal of time on our sailboat. There is always something to work on, not to mention taking the boat out and motoring or sailing and spending time at Catalina Island. My wife and I also like to travel. We recently took an eight-week, 22-state trip cross-country. It was eye-opening to see how vibrant and dynamic our country truly is and to visit some of the great landmarks and historical sites. We love to get away, even if it’s just for weekends
Where do you get your information or ideas for your books?
This is my first book, and it is inspired by a real-life experience. When I was 14, a tree was delivered to our home by a business associate of my dad’s. It was a small, scraggly tree. However, we already had a decorated tree in the house. We tried to find someone to take the little tree, but couldn’t find anyone so that little tree sat on the side of the house for the entire holiday period. I never forgot that little tree, and for many, many years, I wanted to write a story based on what might have been.
When did you write your first book, and how old were you?
Needles, the Forgotten Christmas Tree is my first book. I have written articles and op-eds for newspapers and other periodicals, including the Wall Street Journal, but I just kept putting off writing this book for many, many years. Life got in the way—work, kids, youth sports, college, etc. Finally, one day I just sat down and the story, which had been on my mind for so long, poured out. How old was I? Let’s just say the kids were out of college, and we liked to travel….
For more information, visit https://needlesthechristmastree.com.
Written by Richard Wagner
Illustrated by Sydni Kruger
Ages 3+ | 38 Pages
Publisher: Mascot Kids | ISBN-13: 9781645437086
Publisher’s Synopsis: The world is not always a perfect place. Needles, a scraggly little tree, must endure criticism, laughter, and setbacks to realize his goal of becoming a beautiful Christmas tree.
This is a story of dreams, desires, hope, determination, and never giving up. It also offers the observation that what others think is beautiful may not really matter. Beauty is truly in the eyes of the beholder and paired with the spirit of Christmas, maybe we can make the world just a little more perfect!
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This interview—Richard Wagner Discusses Needles, the Forgotten Christmas Tree—was conducted between Richard Wagner and Book Zone Reviews. For similar books and articles, follow along with our content tagged with Christmas, Christmas Tree Books, and Picture Books.