|Author Michael Thal|
Michael Thal 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.
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.
I asked him a few questions about his books, his writing process, and more...
Thank you for having me on your blog.
Were you a blogger before you started writing articles and books? Did one lead up to the other?
Actually, first I wrote articles to develop a name for myself. Some of those publications included Highlights for Children, San Diego Family Magazine, and Writer’s Digest. At the same time I worked on a novel and then submitted to publishers and agents. I only started writing a blog when my publisher indicated that it would help with sales and promotion. Thus, Pop’s Blog was born. It’s a blog about YA books, its authors, and readers.
I like the simple, uncluttered, yet thorough look of your blog. Why the colour green? You do have a greenish shirt on, so favourite colour? :)
That’s a good question. When the blog was set up by my webmaster, Savio, he placed The Abduction of Joshua Bloom on the front page of the blog because it was recently published. The publisher, Solstice Publishing, chose green as the major color for the book cover. Therefore, Savio chose green as the dominant color of the blog. Since there hasn’t been a good reason to change it, so it stays. And my favorite color is red, not green.
Why is your blog titled 'Pops Blog'? Is there a story that led up to this name?
Another good question, Nimi. When my daughter, Channie, married her husband, David, he wanted to know what to call me. I recalled my father calling my grandfather Pop. I thought that was cool, so I asked David to call me “Pop.” For the first six months of my blog, I didn’t have a name. Then I thought of David and the idea just popped into my head and hasn’t let go.
Koolura is in sixth grade in the first book. It says on your website that Koolura series started as 'an impromptu story for your daughter'. How old was your daughter then?
Channie was in sixth grade when I wrote The Legend of Koolura. It was a motivator to get her interested in reading.
Your medical problems and subsequent severe hearing loss is also mentioned. Did you use to write before this too, or may be aspired to?
I taught elementary/middle school for 20 years prior to my hearing loss. I started writing The Abduction of Joshua Bloom when I was in my twenties, two decades before I awoke one morning deafened. Only after my hearing deteriorated where I couldn’t understand my students any longer did I decide to take disability and learn the craft of the writer.
Why the name Koolura? It is a 'cool' name, yes, but how did you come up with it?
When Channie was in sixth grade everything out of her mouth was followed with, “That’s cool.” Since my main character had to be cool, the name just popped into my head.
What is your writing process like? Any particular idiosyncrasies that find a place in it?
I make it a point to write a chapter every month. Then I bring the polished chapter to my writer’s group meeting. There my three writing buddies tear it apart, suggest changes, and compliment areas they liked. I take home their suggestions, edit and resubmit to them via e-mail. They’ll make further changes and after I edit the chapter again, I file it then work on the next chapter. This process continues until the manuscript is complete. Then I go back and edit, submit to one writing buddy, and then the other. When I feel the book is the best I can get it, I’ll submit to my publisher. When I submitted Koolura and the Mayans to Solstice Publishing the editor said, “This is near perfect and should take no time to get ready for publication.”
What are you working on next after Koolura and the Mayans? Or is it a time of break between two books?
Right now I’m interviewing Jila’s family. Jila was my wife of 16 years. She died of colon cancer over a year ago. Deaf and Jewish, a bad combination in Iran, Jila had a tough childhood. Gem of Peace: The Story of a Deaf Girl in Iran will be about Jila’s childhood, her positive attitude, and the love she always showed to family and friends.
Do you work on only one book at a time, or are there many plots and many stories simultaneously?
No, I only work on one book at a time. I also tutor children and recently was recruited to become an International Educational Coordinator for EF High School Exchange Year. I’ll be meeting many young people from all over the world with marvelous stories to tell. Great fodder for novels, don’t’ you think?
It sure is. And do you plan to write a sequel to Goodbye Tchaikovsky?
No plans. If sales improve, perhaps.
Thanks a lot and all the best for Koolura and the Mayans.