Good morning and welcome back to the Round Table Chat where I indulge getting to know my fellow authors. Today with me I have Michael Drakich a diverse author of sci-fi and young adult novels. I’ve known Michael for a while now and must say he is a very giving person when it comes to helping others. He’s helped me quite a bit by critiquing my drafts or being a beta reader. He’s quite an insightful person.
Hello Michael, I’m so glad to have you here this morning. Can I offer you some espresso, cappuccino, maybe some tea?
Michael – Good day, Annamaria, thank you for the kind praise. Normally I begin most days with a cup of black coffee, but on Sundays, I treat myself to a couple of large vanilla almond lattes at home. Sunday morning is one of my favorite times to write. I try to find time every day, but for those long sessions, this is my favorite. When is your peak writing time?
Annamaria – For this special morning I baked pignolata, a crunchy and delicious Sicilian hard pastry. It takes about a week to make it. I also have the pumpkin bread in honor of our Thanksgiving holidays. Can I offer you of both? By the way, my best time to write is early in the morning when all the kids are still asleep. I usually get up before six o’clock.
Michael – Thanks, but I’ve already had my share of everything bagels and cream cheese. One of these days I’m going to have to learn how to spread that cream cheese a little thinner. It’s hard to resist. I’d hate to know the calorie count I get those things up to. Somehow I doubt your pignolata would come close in that measure. You’re too thin for that.
Annamaria – Now that we are comfortable, I’m very curious to understand how a real estate man started his writing career. What made you turn to writing?
Michael – I’ve always been an avid reader. Prior to my writing career which started some seven years ago, I had a practice of going down to the Chapters book store located in our main mall. The store also featured a Starbuck’s, so after purchasing a venti latte, I would peruse the discount shelves for sci-fi and fantasy and would usually end up buying something cheaper than the coffee cost.
It so happened I picked up a rather voluminous book written by a known author which was part of his highly successful series. It wasn’t the first of the series, but the description sounded stand-alone so I thought I’d give it a chance.
It’s my habit to finish any book I start, regardless of whether I like it or not. I paid for it; I’m going to read it. This one was a challenge. I found the storyline incredibly simple, the characters shallow, the dialogue atrocious, and the author’s efforts to extend the scenes way beyond what was necessary an obvious ploy to get the word count high. In short, I thought it was terrible. I rated it as one of the worst books I had ever read.
It couldn’t have been more than I week after I finished the book, when to my surprise, the series of books had been made into a televisions series. I was floored. If that stuff could warrant its own show, then anyone could do it.
I sat down the next day and started writing. It took me ten months to kick out my first novel. I was overly pleased with myself, but after showing the book to a number of friends and family, I realized the truth. It was crap.
In the meantime, the one thing that did happen was I got the bug to write. From there, I joined a number of writing groups – one in my neighborhood and, over time, three different ones online. I worked hard on learning the craft and continued to write. The next novel I completed was good enough to get me a contract with a small publisher. I haven’t looked back since.
When did you first start? Was there any single thing that served as your main impetus as I had? I know I see you at Critique Circle, are there other venues you use to assist you?
Annamaria – I started writing creatively since before I started reading, and I started reading at the age of eight. I loved to create images with words. Back then I started by reading paranormal, believe it or not. What genre do you enjoy to write in?
Michael – I like to write in the genres I read. My works, although covering more than one genre, tend to fall within the larger category of speculative fiction. Having read a number of your works, I find it interesting how you have a blend of both contemporary fantasy and romance. For me, those are strange bedfellows, but I know all those urban fantasies out there fit that mold. I think with your White Swans series, you don’t fall into the urban fantasy genre, but instead, it’s something more unique. Where do you consider yourself as a genre writer?
Annamaria – I’m not a genre writer because I always tend to mix several genres together. My favorite mix is sci-fi and fantasy with a wonderful twist of romance. But you said you write in the genre you read. You read sci-fi/fantasy, but some of the works I’ve read of yours are young adult, please explain?
Michael –YA is merely an indication that the protagonist is between the ages of 13-18, nothing more. Putting YA characters into a sci-fi/fantasy scenario is a natural. Most science fiction stories often involve new experiences. Many epic fantasies include some kind of a difficult journey. When you look at them together, new experiences, difficult journeys and the character’s maturation from child to adult, there is a common thread. The unique challenges in sci-fi and fantasy help the YA protagonist mature. In my thriller, all the characters are adults. It’s not realistic to put a YA character in a situation that, in essence, requires already developed knowledge and skills.
One other aspect in writing is recognizing the marketplace. Many readers today are just that, young adults. For them, it is much easier to emote with a character who is of a similar age. I take it that’s the reason why Kendíka is 18.
Annamaria – Your are correct. When White Swans starts Kendíka is actually 17, for the purpose of watching her grow and mature and to see where this growth takes her. As I writer, I find it entertaining to see my characters develop into adult.
If young adults lend themselves so well for sci-fi and fantasy why are all the characters in The Infinite Within, adults, I mean Brooke could have had a younger sister and we could have watched how what happens to the protagonist affected the sister?
Michael – That would have been too displaced from the action. Everything was happening to Brooke Jones, the main character in The Infinite Within. Even at forty-two years of age, she is six years younger than the average age of astronauts today. When writing science fiction, I’m a believer that the word science is very important. That’s why it’s first. In both of my sci-fi’s, The Infinite Within and Grave Is the Day, I spent a significant amount of time doing research to ensure the plausibility of the background was there. What good would it be to have an eighteen year old astronaut at NASA when the average was thirty years older? By ensuring the setting was as real as possible, it lends credence to the story as, although not likely to occur, possible. I think people enjoy sci-fi where they wonder whether the futuristic elements could happen.
Besides, I like to mix things up. Although sci-fi is my favorite, my other two novels are not. The Brotherhood Of Piaxia is an epic fantasy and Lest The Dew Rust Them a contemporary thriller. My current work in progress is another epic fantasy entitled Demon Stones. I have a somewhat dystopian sci-fi planned next where genocide is legalized. Variety is the spice of life.
What future works do you have planned?
Annamaria – Working with my editor on Incantation Paradox, getting critiques for White Swans, my writer’s group is looking at Dragons in the Resistance, and I’m trying to finish A New Era, which is a collection of short stories around a disaster that almost destroys the earth. All the character in the story will come together in one place.
So far you’ve written all stand alone novels, do you have any plans for a series?
Michael – Demon Stones will be a stand-alone, but it is set in the same fantasy world as The Brotherhood Of Piaxia. Unlike Piaxia, this is set in the southern kingdoms. All the main characters are new but there will be some cameo visits from the main characters of Piaxia. My goal was to have it ready by Christmas, but now I’m thinking February 2014. I might hold off longer still, as I want to try sending it by a few agents first.
As I mentioned before, I originally had a small publisher, but we parted ways. For me, I don’t think I would like to deal with any small publishers again but instead shoot for one of the big six. That, of course, requires an agent.
Have you had any dealings with any literary agents? They’re more elusive than the sasquatch!
Annamaria – I’ve actually met a few at the James River Writer’s Conference and I still don’t really know what to make of them. They are a friendly bunch to talk to but when you pull out a sample of your manuscript the first thing they tell you is that if they don’t fall completely in love with it they won’t represent it. One agent recounted how she loved a story but couldn’t find a publisher to bite, which leads me to believe they are not looking at how well a story is written, or how well it would do with the readership at large, they have to like it. I understand they should enjoy it since they’ll be representing the novel, but I think it should take more than just an agent liking it.
You’re aiming quite high. Are the big six taking on new authors? I’ve heard that for them to pick up an Indie they have to have a certain amount of sales or they won’t touch them.
Michael – That’s the big picture, and in such a marketplace, the going is awfully rough. Even though what you say is, for the most part, true, every blue moon a new author can strike a chord with an agent and get taken on. Also, the big six have been experimenting again at direct inquiries. Last year, Harper Voyager, the sci-fi/fantasy division of Harper Collins, opened the door for two weeks to new submissions. When those opportunities arise, you have to jump at them.
One of the best pieces of advice is to just keep writing. With each new release you build your clientele and your backlist continues to sell. It becomes a pyramid thing building up your resume. Sooner or later, they can’t ignore you anymore.
Which reminds me, it’s time to get back to the grind. Wishing you, Annamaria, the best in all of your writings. Any time I can help, don’t be afraid to ask.
Annamaria – Like wise, I’m always here to help. As the holidays come closer, I wish you and your family a Happy Thanksgiving.
I live in Windsor, Ontario, which is Canada’s most southern city, just south of Detroit, Michigan. I’ve been writing for some seven and a half years now and have just released my fourth novel, The Infinite Within. My previous releases were Lest The Dew Rust Them, Grave Is The Day and The Brotherhood Of Piaxia.
Years have passed since the overthrow of the monarchy by the Brotherhood of Warlocks and they rule Piaxia in peaceful accord. But now forces are at work to disrupt this rule from outside the Brotherhood as well as within! In the border town of Rok, a young warlock acolyte, Tarlok and his older brother, Savan, captain of the guard, become embroiled in the machinations of dominance. While in the capital city, Tessia, the daughter of Piaxia’s most influential merchant, begins a journey of survival. Follow the three as their paths intertwine, with members of the Brotherhood in pursuit and the powerful merchant’s guild manipulating the populace for their own ends.
Going into outer space calls to Astronaut Brooke Jones like the sirens of old, and when the chance to be part of the first manned mission to Mars arises, she is ecstatic. But little does she know the fate that awaits her on the surface of the red planet or the results of her encounter when she gets back to Earth.
Michael can be found here.