Carpinello's Writing Pages welcomes MG/YA author Michael Thal. Michael is one of my favorite types of authors: a retired school teacher!
First, a bit about Michael:
Michael is the author of five published novels—Goodbye Tchaikovsky, The Abduction of Joshua Bloom, and The Koolura Series—The Legend of Koolura, Koolura and The Mystery at Camp Saddleback, and Koolura and the Mayans. He is also a columnist for the Los Angeles Examiner (online) writing articles about parenting and education.
Moving from the frigid Northeast to comfy Southern California in 1973, Michael taught elementary and middle school for 28 years until a freak virus left him deafened at the age of 50. He reinvented himself as a writer composing over 80 published articles in print magazines as well as novels for middle grade and high school aged students.
Why did you pick to write books for Middle Grade and YA?
I taught elementary and middle school for almost three decades. I know how these kids think. Therefore that audience was a perfect fit for my imagination to reach out to.
What types of books do you like to read?
To keep up with what’s happening in the YA/MG community, I read a lot of books from that genre. I also like science fiction, action adventure, and legal dramas, like John Grisham’s books.
When you are not writing, what do you like to do?
I make sure I work out at least 5 days a week. I also enjoy spending time with my daughter and my grandkids.
Tell us about Koolura and the Mayans and how the story came to be.
The roots of that story go back to when my oldest daughter was in sixth grade. She didn’t want to read. So I said, “If I write a really cool book will you read it?” To which she said, “Maybe.” So I gave it a shot. The Legend of Koolura was published seventeen years later. True to her word, Channie read it. Koolura and the Mayans was inspired by a family trip to Oaxaca, Mexico. In book two of the Koolura Series, Koolura and the Mystery at Camp Saddleback, Koolura’s dad announces his engagement to Terri Lather. Since my cousin Adam was married in Oaxaca, why couldn’t Koolura’s father? Also, throughout the series the source of Koolura’s powers keeps on popping up. In Koolura and the Mayans that alien technology is explained.
Here's a peek at Koolura and the Mayans:
Enjoy this excerpt:
“Oh, my God!” Leila exclaimed. “This is a Mayan crypt.”
“How do you know?” Koolura asked.
Leila pointed to a wall etching. “That’s a drawing of a Mayan nobleman or king. Crypts like these were reserved for them.”
Leila stood in the room’s center and reached out. She touched the cool rugged walls with the palms of her hands. The length of the room was twice as long, and the ceiling was about twelve feet over their heads. At the apex of the ceiling shone a bright light.
Koolura pointed toward it. “What’s causing that?”
“I don’t know.”
“There’s only one way to find out.” Koolura took Leila’s hand and the girls levitated slowly to the cavern ceiling.
As Koolura got closer to the light, her face turned white as ash.
“What’s wrong?” Leila asked.
“Oh no! This can’t be!”
As Koolura edged away, Leila grabbed the plastic device hooked onto the ceiling, and they descended to the crypt floor.
Noticing the device in Leila’s hand, Koolura backed up against the stonewall, her face still white. “Be careful with that,” she gasped.
Leila studied the device. It looked like a gun used by the early North American Pilgrims, but this one emitted a steady beam of light from its barrel. Then she looked at her friend. “You know what this is?”
Koolura nodded. “It’s a Decoolerizer.”
“I thought you said you destroyed this last year in Las Vegas.”
“This must be another one!”
Koolura paced up and down the narrow room thinking as Leila examined the gun and noticed alien writing on its underside. “Look at this.”
Koolura shook her head. “I’m not going near that thing.”
“Did Neb’s Decoolerizer have writing on it?” Leila asked.
Neb, a wayward transient, had stalked Koolura and her father for years with the Decoolerizer, the device capable of absorbing all of Koolura’s psychic powers. Neb planned on stealing her psychic gifts and making them his own.
“I never got that close enough to check. When Neb came at me with that thing, I thought ‘hot sun,’ and the device melted.”
Leila studied the Mayan hieroglyphics. “I think it says, ‘Help!’”
Have you written other books? If so, tell us a bit about them.
Goodbye Tchaikovsky is the story of an eleven-year-old violin virtuoso who on his twelfth birthday wakes up deaf. A virus that left me deafened during the prime of my life inspired it. I was curious how a child would handle such a catastrophe. The novel takes readers through David Rothman’s middle school/high school experiences until he graduates from high school in search of a career.
What’s next for your writing? Are you working on a new story?
My fiancé died last year from cancer. Jila and I were together for 16 wonderful years. She grew up deaf and Jewish in an Islamic state. Jila’s childhood in Iran wasn’t easy, but she came out of the experience a warm-hearted and loving woman. My newest novel with the working title, Gem of Peace, will take about two years to write after interviewing Jila’s family and researching life in Tehran during the 1950s, 60s, and 70s.
What advice do you have for other authors?
I must have sent out close to 200 queries to agents and publishers regarding The Legend of Koolura. Finally, Solstice Publishing accepted it in 2011 for publication. So my advice to other authors is to NEVER give up.
Anything else you want readers to know?
The Abduction of Joshua Bloom started with a dream when I was in my twenties. It finally was published 40 years later. So I strongly suggest to any budding authors out there to write down those dreams, and then flesh them out. Also, never give up on your dreams. Go through life with a smile. Even when you speak to someone on the phone, wear that smile. They can hear it in your voice. You’ll be happier with yourself, and with everyone else.
Where can readers find you and your books?
Good question. Readers can find me and my books at the following links:
Amazon Author Page