Welcome to our September First Friday Breakfast (yes, due to events beyond my control—a wee bit late) with author Michael Thal. Michael is the author of four published novels—Goodbye Tchaikovsky, The Abduction of Joshua Bloom, and The Koolura Series—The Legend of Koolura and Koolura and the Mystery at Camp Saddleback. He is also a columnist for the Los Angeles Examiner 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.
This morning I’m enjoying a sesame seed bagel topped with goat cheese and cranberries (a seasonal favorite) and arugula salad topped with blueberries and chopped persimmon slices. A pumpkin spice coffee is my beverage of choice. What are you having for your virtual breakfast, Michael?
At 65 I have inherited the family bulge. Though I exercise vigorously 5-6 times a week, the mid-drift bulge won’t go away. So every morning I have a bowl of cereal with milk and a banana. Naturally, my virtual breakfast would be an indulgence. I would love to pig out on an “All American Slam” at Denny’s. This would include fresh fruit, two eggs (over easy), an English muffin, and two pancakes topped off with a large glass of cranberry juice.
Yum! Tell us about your writing process from concept to draft to revision.
First, I write a basic outline for the book. Each subheading eventually becomes a chapter. I’ll write a chapter in long hand at my desk. Then I’ll take it to the computer and embellish. Every month I meet with a group of writers, the San Fernando Valley Critique Group, where we critique each other’s work. They tell me what works and what doesn’t. When I get home, I’ll look over their ideas and rewrite the chapter. This process goes on until the book is completed. After I re-read and edit, I’ll take the book to my daughter, Koren. The two of us will spend a few afternoons reading the book together out loud. Koren has an excellent ear for dialogue and will let me know what sounds forced and what comes across with a sense of reality.
Let me top off your cranberry juice, Michael. Tell us about The Abduction of Joshua Bloom. Why this book, why now?
Before The Abduction of Joshua Bloom was published, it had the working title, “The Light.” The idea for the book came to me forty years ago in a dream. I woke up before dawn with the vision fresh in my mind and jotted down notes. In the morning I turned it into a short story. I showed the story to a friend and he said, “This is an outline for a novel. Why don’t you write it?” So I did, but it needed a lot of work. As a full time teacher and a single dad raising two daughters, who had time?
Twenty years ago I awoke with a severe hearing loss, which grew worse during the next six years. At the time I was a sixth grade teacher. When I couldn’t understand my students, I resigned my tenured post and taught myself how to write. After Goodbye Tchaikovsky and The Legend of Koolura were published, I dusted off the old “The Light” manuscript, re-wrote it for the YA audience, and presented it to Solstice Publishing. June 2014 the book was released.
I love how all these events worked together to produce a novel. What did you find fun/intriguing about writing this story and what was difficult?
I enjoyed creating an alien culture based on my research in Israel. When I was thirty I traveled to the land of my grandfather to discover my roots. I also uncovered a history that I fictionalized and incorporated into my manuscript. Delving into Jewish culture and history was very rewarding. Regarding the Jewish theme, Amazon reviewer Joe Bock says, “The book borrows quite a bit from Jewish culture and offers many valuable lessons about such diverse topics as self-esteem, forgiveness, civil rights, theology, feminism and morality in general; but you don’t have to be Jewish to garner the lessons conveyed.”
The tough part wasn’t the writing, but finding a publisher and then marketing it. That has proven to be a daily task taking me away from writing my next book, Koolura and the Mayans, the third installment in the Koolura series.
Mayans! Now you’ve intrigued me. Tell us about your next project and when it may be published.
I got the idea for the Koolura Series from my daughter, Channie. When she was in the sixth grade she didn’t want to read. I offered to write her a book about a very cool girl her age with psychic powers. Channie loved the idea and agreed to read the novel after it was published. True to her word, my eldest daughter read The Legend of Koolura 18 years later when the book was published in 2012. Since the time it was published, I worked on a new Koolura adventure, Koolura and the Mystery at Camp Saddleback. That book was released in 2013. Now I’m working on Koolura and the Mayans. Here Koolura and BF Leila find themselves transported back in time to the land of the Mayans where they discover an alien race of people enslaving the natives. Right now, I’m about 2/3 finished with the book with the expectation of completing the novel and having it published by late 2015 or early 2016.
Thank you for sharing your breakfast and writing life, Michael. Loved hearing about your writing process. I love the Koolura series and after hearing more about it, I look forward to reading your SF book. Keep us posted about Koolura and the Mayans.
Here are a few links if you want to read more about Michael Thal and his enjoyable books.
Koolura and the Mystery at Camp Saddleback: http://www.amazon.com/Koolura-Mystery-Camp-Saddleback-ebook/dp/B00I0DQBBG/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1399951199&sr=1-1&keywords=Koolura+and+the+mystery+at+camp
You can learn more about Michael Thal on his website at www.michaelthal.com. His books can be purchased on Amazon.com and Barnes & Noble in print and as e-books.
Before you rush to Amazon to buy The Abduction of Joshua Bloom or click http://www.amazon.com/Abduction-Joshua-Bloom-Michael-Thal-ebook/dp/B00KO2JCSU, who would like to join us for another glass of cranberry juice?