Please tell us about your latest book. My latest book, Koolura and the Mayans, is the third book in the Koolura Series. Each book in the series is loosely connected to the other books in the series, but a reader doesn’t have to read book one to appreciate book three. In this third book, Koolura, a girl with extraordinary psychic powers, visits Oaxaca, Mexico with her deaf friend, Leila for a family wedding. The girls visit Monte Alban, a Mayan archeological site. When they explore one of the ruins the girls are transported over 1000 years into the past where they meet an advanced race of aliens that are enslaving the Mayan people and perhaps planning an invasion of Earth. Can Koolura and Leila prevent a time shift?
What can we expect from you in the future? I just started researching for my next book, Gem of Peace: The Story of a Deaf Girl in Iran. It will be a fictionalized account of the life a Jewish girl in Iran during the 1950s-70s. It will be loosely based on the childhood of Jila Haghighat, my fiancé, who died last year from colon cancer.
How do we find out about you and your books? You can learn more about my books and my writing on my website at www.michaelthal.com. If you’re interested in young adult novels, visit Pop’s Blog at www.michaelthal.com/blog. Here’s where you can read book reviews written by independent authors as well as traditional authors. I also write about current trends in YA lit and suggest books for kids to read. Here are more links:
The Legend of Koolura: http://www.amazon.com/Legend-Koolura-Michael-L-Thal/dp/1470135337/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1458245825&sr=8-1&keywords=the+Legend+of+Koolura
Koolura and the Mystery at Camp Saddleback: http://www.amazon.com/Koolura-Mystery-Camp-Saddleback/dp/1494351730/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1458245888&sr=8-1&keywords=koolura+and+the+mystery+at+camp+saddleback
Koolura and the Mayans: http://amzn.com/B01D3UM8JY
Goodbye Tchaikovsky: http://www.amazon.com/Goodbye-Tchaikovsky-Michael-Thal/dp/0880924691/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1458245970&sr=8-1&keywords=Goodbye+Tchaikovsky
The Abduction of Joshua Bloom: http://www.amazon.com/Abduction-Joshua-Bloom-Michael-Thal/dp/1625260725/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1458246019&sr=8-1&keywords=The+Abduction+of+Joshua+Bloom
The books are also available on publisher websites and on Barnes & Noble.
How much of your personality and life experiences are in your writing? I taught elementary/middle school for 28 years. During that time I learned a lot about the middle grade student. That knowledge has been carved into the personalities and behavior of my characters. For example, Koolura is modeled on the personalities of my daughters, Channie and Koren. I also have a strong belief in being kind to others, so my main characters tend to be friendly and polite. Their antagonists, on the other hand, aren’t as accommodating bringing tension and stress to the stories.
When did you first think about writing and what prompted you to submit your first ms? I first started writing seriously after a dream about being abducted by aliens. From that dream I wrote The Abduction of Joshua Bloom. However, that project started during my late 20s. The book didn’t get published until 2012. Back in 2000 I suffered from an irreparable hearing loss that left my right ear deaf and my left ear severely damaged. I couldn’t understand my students any longer. When my ENT specialist suggested disability, I jumped at the opportunity to become a full time writer.
Generally, how long does it take you to write a book? That depends on the book. Koolura and the Mayans took two years to write. Goodbye Tchaikovsky, the story of a deaf violinist, took about a year to write.
Do you have a set schedule for writing or do you just go with the flow? I try to write a chapter a month. For Gem of Peace, I’m in the research stage and should get started writing the book this summer.
What is your writing routine once you start a book? I write a chapter then get together with my writing group, The San Fernando Valley Critters, and share what I’ve written. They read the chapter and provide feedback. I then go home, edit, and then write the next chapter. So it goes until the book is finished. With the finished manuscript I re-read, edit, then send off to trusted friends to read and advise. Once that’s done, I’ll send the edited version to my publisher. She is always impressed with how little work she has to do. LOL.
What about your family, do they know not to bother you when you are writing - or are there constant interruptions? My daughters are adults and don’t live with me any longer. My Jila passed away last year. All I have left to interrupt me is Scribble, my dog. So if she wants to bother me, I give her a bone and that usually shuts her up. LOL!
What do you do to relax and recharge your batteries? I visit Channie and my grandchildren or take a trip to Boston to see Koren. But usually, I enjoy going to the gym for a workout.
What truly motivates you in general? In your writing? Once I set a goal for myself I see it through. The monthly meetings of my writing group are a huge motivator to have something to show my writing friends. I refuse to go empty handed.
Where do your ideas come from? A few of my ideas came from dreams. Some come when running around beautiful Lake Balboa. And others just pop into my head. I keep a pad of paper nearby and write down ideas so I won’t forget.
Do you feel humour is important in YA fiction and why? Yes, humor is very important. For example, in The Legend of Koolura there are many classroom scenes. To keep my kids interested as a teacher I used humor. When kids read they too like to laugh. There are also sad scenes, exciting scenes, and scenes that will make you cry. All the emotions are tugged in my books.
What kind of research do you do? For Koolura and the Mayans I had to research a lot about Mayan civilization and incorporate that knowledge into my book. In Goodbye Tchaikovsky I researched hearing loss as well as Deaf Culture and specific signs. To be effective I took ASL classes at a community college. As I’m researching for Gem of Peace I am interviewing Jila’s family to learn more about her childhood in Iran, the community in which she lived, the Persian language, Iranian architecture, etc. Writers want our books to feel as realistic as we can make them feel.
Would you like to write a different genre than you do now, or sub-genre? The Abduction of Joshua Bloom is science fiction. Goodbye Tchaikovsky is realistic fiction. And the Koolura series is middle grade/YA fantasy. All five books are linked to the middle school/high school audience I write to. However, adults read my books too and enjoy them as much as the kids.
What does your husband/wife/boyfriend/girlfriend think of your writing? Jila was very proud of my writing. Whenever I had a book signing party she’d invite her family and prepare the food.
Please tell us about yourself (family, hobbies, education, etc.) I grew up on Long Island, New York during the 1950s and 60s. I earned a BA in History at the University of Buffalo then went on to Washington University to earn a MA in elementary education. I chose to live in Los Angeles because of the warm climate. I have two adult daughters, I enjoy traveling, and exercising at the gym.
Fill in the blank favorites - Dessert. City. Season. Type of hero. Type of heroine. My favorite dessert is chocolate ice cream. My favorite city is New York City (in the spring/summer), and my favorite season is summertime. As a boy, my hero was Superman and my favorite heroine was his cousin, Supergirl.
What are some of your favorite things to do? I enjoy tutoring children and I volunteer at my local synagogue teaching ESL to Iranian and Russian immigrants.
Do you have a favorite author? Favorite book? Right now I’m really into Marissa Meyer’s The Lunar Chronicles. The first in the series is Cinder, which is followed by Scarlet, and then Cress and Winter. I’ve turned into a real Lunatic!
Who are some of your other favorite authors to read? John Grisham’s books always hold my attention. And a little known author, Anne Lauder McGee is excellent. You don’t want to miss her extraordinary historical novel about the Civil War, Anni’s Attic.
What do you think of critique groups in general? My critique group has been a huge asset to me.
Where do you see yourself in five years? My ex-wife and her husband bought me a condominium in Encino, CA. I plan on being here in five years. I love the place. However, I just started a new job as an International Coordinator for exchange students from Europe and Asia. So I see myself getting involved with that job and taking copious notes for book ideas I may get from that experience.
How long have you been writing - have you always wanted to be a writer? I’ve been writing since I was 27 years old, so that’s about 40 years now. Writing professionally began after I left my sixth grade teaching job back in 2001. My interest in becoming a writer was evolutionary, however losing most of my hearing was a huge impetus.
How many books have you written, how many have been published? I’ve written five books and all five have been published.
After you've written your book and it's been published, do you ever buy it and/or read it? I always buy a copy for my Kindle. I guess I’ll re-read the books after their 10-year publication dates. Got some time on that. I did re-read Goodbye Tchaikovsky. While writing it I injected the emotions of my hearing loss into David Rothman, the main character. So when I read about David’s trials, I cry every time.
Among your own books, have you a favorite book? Favorite hero or heroine? I feel the closest to David Rothman because we both suffered from an overnight hearing loss. So Goodbye Tchaikovsky is my favorite, and it’s won awards. Recently it won Second Place in the Royal Dragonfly Book Awards.
What book for you has been the easiest to write? The hardest? The most fun? Goodbye Tchaikovsky was written in a year, the fastest book I’ve written. It was also the hardest because of my emotional involvement with the main character. Koolura and the Mystery at Camp Saddleback as well as Koolura and the Mayans was a lot of fun to write. Having the support of my writing group can attest to that.
Which comes first, the story, the characters or the setting? That depends. In The Abduction of Joshua Bloom the story came first. In Goodbye Tchaikovsky the protagonist came first. When I write the Koolura series I first think of Koolura, then the setting, and finally the plot.
What is the hardest part of writing/the easiest for you? The hardest is sitting down and doing it. Once I’m in my seat, time flies.
What is the most rewarding thing about being a writer? A teenage girl once said to me, “I love the Koolura Series. I can’t wait until the next book comes out.” I’ll make sure to give her a copy as soon as my print copies are sent to me.
If you weren't writing, what would you be doing? I’d probably tutor more children or take on a part time job.
Are there any words of encouragement for unpublished writers? It took over 150 rejections before The Legend of Koolura was accepted by Solstice Publishing for publication. So never give up and make sure when you do submit the work it is your best.
Koolura, a girl with extraordinary psychic powers, is back again with pal Leila. The duo is off to Mexico for Koolura’s father’s wedding. When touring a Mayan archeological dig, the girls uncover a mysterious device that hurtles them 2000 years back in time. They soon discover aliens from the planet Aquari living amongst Mayan natives. Are these Aquarians planning to take over Earth? And can Koolura and Leila stop them in time?