Michael Thal knows the meaning of adversity – both personally and as a book author. In today’s conversation, he will show us how “sticking to it” – against all odds – can pay off.
Michael has written and published more than 80 articles for magazines and newspapers, including Highlights for Children, The Los Angeles Times, and San Diego Family Magazine.
Michael Thal has also published several books in the YA field, so let’s talk to him about his books – how each came to be written, and – finally – brought to print.
David Rothman is an overnight success. He performs Tchaikovsky’s Violin Concerto with rave reviews attracting the attention of the Queen of England. His future is laid out for him like a well-lit freeway. Then, on his twelfth birthday, David suffers from an irreparable hearing loss, plunging him into a silent world. How will David communicate with his friends? What about school? Where does his future lie? The novel shows how an adolescent boy copes with deafness.
Writers-Editors Network: Michael, what inspired you to write Goodbye Tchaikovsky?
Michael Thal: I started losing my hearing 20 years ago due to a virus., when I was 44 years old. I was curious what it would have been like if my hearing loss had occurred when I was a teen, so I wrote Goodbye Tchaikovsky.
Writers-Editors Network: What was the biggest challenge in bringing this book to publication?
Michael Thal: I was actually asked to write the book by a California publisher. Then two years after they accepted the book for publication, they changed their editorial policy, deciding they were no longer planning to publish fiction. So the biggest challenge to bring Goodbye Tchaikovsky to publication was finding another publisher. I contacted about 35 publishers and agents before Royal Fireworks Press picked it up.
Writers-Editors Network: How did you come up with Goodbye Tchaikovsky as the title?
Michael Thal: Actually, I didn’t. The original title of the book was “Between Two Worlds.” My publisher decided on the new title – he felt it would get more hits on Google than the original one.
Writers-Editors Network: What was your favorite chapter or scene to write?
Michael Thal: When I was thirteen I became bar mitzvah, a ritual of a Jewish boy becoming a man and being accepted as one in the Jewish community. It was one of the most moving chapters in my life. So I gave David, the protagonist in Goodbye Tchaikovsky, the same opportunity. However, to learn his Torah portion, David was introduced to a deaf rabbi who not only taught him the Hebrew using American Sign Language to recite during the ceremony, but gave David the confidence to accept his deafness and move on.
Writers-Editors Network: Do you plan on writing more books on deafness?
Michael Thal: I am thinking about writing about a Jewish deaf girl growing up in Islamic Iran.
Learn more about the book: Book Trailer — Facebook — Publisher’s site — Amazon
The Legend of Koolura is a science fiction/fantasy story targeting YA/Middle Grade readers. It shows the metamorphosis of a pre-teen girl with extraordinary psychic powers overcoming a stalker bent on her destruction.
Koolura has the ability to dematerialize at will and reappear where she chooses. She can move objects with her mind and she can even defy gravity! But will these powers be of any use in stopping a stalker intent on her destruction. As the hour approaches for Koolura’s final confrontation with her nemesis, she may finally find vengeance to the man who killed her mother.
Writers-Editors Network: What inspired you to write The Legend of Koolura?
Michael Thal: When my daughter was in sixth grade she refused to read. At the time, everything she liked she referred to as cool. So I asked her, “If I write a story about a very cool girl your age, will you read the book?” She agreed.
Writers-Editors Network: What was your favorite scene in The Legend of Koolura?
Michael Thal: There is one scene in which Neb, Koolura’s nemesis, is stalking her at Universal Studios. Every year, the sixth grade classes at the school where I taught spent a day at Universal. I had a fantastic time with my students that day – taking notes of the amusement park and picturing Koolura right there with us.
Writers-Editors Network: What was the biggest challenge in bringing Koolura to publication?
Michael Thal: I’m glad you asked! I sent The Legend of Koolura to scores of publishers and agents before Adventure Books accepted it for publication as an e-book in 2002. Two years later the publisher went out of business, orphaning my book. For the next ten years, I sent the book out to 160 agents and publishers before Solstice Publishing accepted it for publication – which goes to prove: if you believe in something, never give up on it.
Learn more about the book: Book trailer — Barnes & Nble — Amazon
Koolura and the Mystery at Camp Saddleback, the sequel to The Legend of Koolura, tells the story of Koolura mysteriously losing her powers. Koolura has the ability to teleport, levitate, heal, and even fly. But at Camp Saddleback, Koolura wakes up drained and powerless. Who or what has stolen her psychic powers?
As Koolura searches for the truth about her power loss, she and the Chumash Girls have to deal with pranksters ruining their cabin and destroying their summer. Campers plan revenge, but problems escalate as lives are threatened. Will Koolura and the Chumash Girls solve the mystery at Camp Saddleback?
Writers-Editors Network: What was the inspiration for this sequel?
Michael Thal: While visiting my daughter at the University of California, Santa Barbara, we stumbled upon a lake and nearby sleep-away camp. I got the brilliant idea for a plot involving Koolura.
Writers-Editors Network: Was the sequel any easier to get published?
Michael Thal: Once The Legend of Koolura was doing well, I submitted Koolura and the Mystery at Camp Saddleback, and it went through the publishing process like a kid falling down a slide.
Learn more about the book: Book Trailer Amazon
Michael L. Thal’s latest book is The Abduction of Joshua Bloom (Solstice Publishing, June 3, 2014). A high school track star is abducted by aliens, explores strange worlds, uncovers genocide on a planetary scale, and is thrust into extraterrestrial politics that decides the fate of an Earth on the brink of war or unification. Joshua Bloom’s abductors are an alien race who justify their act in an attempt to save their people. Joshua finds himself in a world dominated by women, where men are subjugated to their whims. He travels to a dinosaur world, visits a water planet, and a world doomed by a star about to nova.
Writers-Editors Network: What was the inspiration for The Abduction of Joshua Bloom?
Michael Thal: I had a dream one night. I woke up before dawn with the entire dream fresh in my mind, and I 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.
Writers-Editors Network: What was the publishing route for this one?
Michael Thal: The Abduction of Joshua Bloom was originally released in 2002 by Adventure Books. Unfortunately, the publisher went out of business two years later. Since then, I’ve been trying to find it a new home. Following my Koolura success with Solstice, they agreed to look over the manuscript. They loved what they read and offered to publish it.
How he became a writer . . .
Writers-Editors Network: When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer?
Michael Thal: I always enjoyed writing, but after my second hearing loss I couldn’t understand my students any longer. I taught sixth grade and was clueless as to what the children were saying to me. After the doctor gave me the go-ahead to apply for disability, I decided to write full time.
Writers-Editors Network: What do you like to do when you’re not writing?
Michael Thal: I love working with children. I tutor kids from first through twelfth grades as well as college students. When it’s one-on-one I can understand the children better, and when I can’t understand what a child is saying, he can write me a quick note.
Writers-Editors Network: Where is your favorite place to write books?
Michael Thal: I usually write the first draft in pencil at my desk in my bedroom. Then I move to my office to re-write the chapter on my computer.
Writers-Editors Network: Do you outline books first? Or just start writing?
Michael Thal: I outlined Goodbye Tchaikovsky first. I just started writing The Legend of Koolura.
Writers-Editors Network: Do you have any writing rituals?
Michael Thal: Motivating myself to write is the biggest task I face. Once I sit down and commit to write, I won’t give up until the chapter is written. Then I go to the gym, get in a good workout, and finish up with lunch at Subway.
I make sure I work out at a gym or jog about 5–6 days a week. This keeps my body healthy and my mind alert. My favorite running site is Lake Balboa, where I got many ideas for my books as I plotted them through or needed plot twists during the writing process.
Advice from Michael Thal . . .
Writers-Editors Network: Do you have any advice for other writers?
Michael Thal: Never, ever give up. Once you have written a manuscript you’re proud of, re-read it with a friend. Then make the corrections and send it out. If you get a rejection, send it out again until it’s accepted.