Author/Illustrator Spotlight Michael Thompson

Conventions are a great way to get to know people, especially those who share similar interests. It was my pleasure to meet Micheal Thompson at RavenCon this year. Michael Thompson is an author and illustrator from Northern Virginia known locally for his children’s chapter books and sci-fi/fantasy works for young adults.  His new release, World of the Orb is available through Amazon. Please visit Michael’s website for more information.

  • Tell us about your journey of becoming an author.

I’ve been a storyteller ever since I could hold a crayon: conjuring characters, plunging them into epic quests and battles.  In school, the margins of my notebooks and the backs of my worksheets would overflow with the characters that would eventually populate the worlds in my books.  In fourth grade, I put together my first-ever chapter book, spiral-bound it at Kinko’s, and shared it with the class.  My teacher loved it.  My classmates celebrated it.  After class, my teacher, Mr. Aracich, told me if I worked hard, my books could be on the shelves one day, and when the image of a cover with my name on it sitting in a bookstore flashed through my mind, it was the greatest feeling ever.  So, I started my own publishing company when I was thirteen, rewrote and published some of my old stories, and started doing book signings at Borders and a few local gift shops.  My teacher was right.  Storytelling could actually be a career!  And what a relief that was, because I’d be doing this no matter what.

  • Who inspires you as an author?

The greatest inspiration I have as an author is Lawrence Schoonover, my great grandfather. He was a historical fiction novelist whose books had become translated into multiple languages, and were even made required readings for college students.  My family began telling me stories about him the more I got into writing.  His book, The Spider King, is even dedicated to my grandmother.  Knowing that writing was in my blood and seeing the work and legacy of my great grandfather only reaffirmed my passion for writing and love of words, and concreted my resolve to become an author.  It was for those reasons I dedicated my first YA novel, World of the Orb, to Grandpa Schoonover.

  • What genre is your book?

The genre is called “Portal Fantasy.” The story takes place in an alternate shield-and-sword style fantasy world, but the main characters are from Earth.

  • Tell us about The World of the Orb.

Best friends Marvin and Andy have just discovered the Museum of Natural History’s unnatural secret: The Orb, a mysterious relic that plunges these two modern teens into a medieval world of monsters, myth, and magic. To return home, they must embark on a global treasure hunt to unite five elemental crystals, all while eluding the eye of a tyrannical warlock bent on conquering the Realms. This isn’t the field trip they expected…

  • What inspires the concepts behind The World of the Orb?

The concept I draw upon most in this book is that of destiny: how everything aligns the way it does, whether it’s random, planned, or both.  Additionally, I wanted to modernize the classic tale of an unlikely hero’s rise.  My main character is a quiet bookworm, modest and unassuming, and by necessity he needs to grow up fast and become like the heroes he once read about.  For this, I kept in mind the timeless theme of “The humble shall be exalted.”

  • Is this a series you will develop?

Absolutely! I’m already working on book 2.  This world is vast, magical, and full of unique histories.  There are endless possibilities for storytelling here.

  • What is your method of writing?

I use a system that I adapted from my time in college: I set up a huge desk calendar and fill it with weekly milestones that I need to reach to stay on schedule.  For these books, I generally know what each chapter will encompass, so I tend to arrange my deadlines based on churning out those chapters.  I find it’s a good way to break down a huge task into smaller tasks and keep myself writing at a steady pace.  Plus, scratching those objectives off the calendar is a super satisfying feeling.

  • What are the pros and cons of self-publishing?

The main pro of self-publishing is also its main con: you’re doing it all by yourself.  You wear a lot of hats.  You’re a writer, editor, formatter, publisher, illustrator, social media manager, marketer; the list goes on and on.  But in some ways this can be freeing because you have the final say on how everything looks and sounds.

  • What advice would you tell inspiring authors who wish to be publish?

Don’t worry. Self-publishing is actually really easy once you learn the ropes; there are a ton of services like Amazon’s CreateSpace that can let help you get your work out to a worldwide audience as soon as it’s done.  Stop by the library sometime and pick up some books about being your own publisher too (I recommend A Simple Guide to Self-Publishing by Mark Ortman).  With that worry out of your mind, get going on that book you’ve been thinking about for so long.  Don’t wait for inspiration to strike.  Set aside scheduled time for you to do your thing, and write.  If you have a story growing in your mind, that means that it is meant to be told, and only you can bring it to life.

  • Tell us something about yourself!

I was always getting in trouble for doodling or daydreaming in class. It wasn’t until that moment I mentioned in fourth grade when it hit me that storytelling could be more than a “distraction” or a “disruption.”  Because that teacher believed in me, I was able to pursue my dream without fear.  The smallest expression can change the direction of a person’s life forever.

What are your thoughts?