Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Interview with Michael Young author of Canticle Kingdom

1. What would you most like your readers to know about you?

I guess that I will always try to write books they could read as families or that they wouldn't be ashamed to give to their kids. I want to write entertaining books that will leave you with a good feeling when you're done.

2. What is the silliest thing you have ever done?

Whew, that's a hard one in a life marked with a large degree of silliness. (I'm the oldest of eight children). A recent one is driving off with a bunch of library books still on the roof of the car. I had set them there to put my son in his car seat and forgot about them. Luckily, I realized my mistake soon and salvaged the books without any visible damage. Believe me, I can be a bit scatterbrained at time and there are many more stories like this. I'm working on it.

3. What is something unusual about you that most people don't know?

Well, at least a lot of people around here don't know that I'm "double jointed" in all of my fingers. I can bend them back ridiculously far, make them act as effective fans and win at every game of mercy I've ever played.

4. What made you decide to become a writer?

I love telling stories. I'm the oldest child in my family and was often tasked with tending the younger ones and entertaining them. I used to make up elaborate stories and 'quests' to go on. My brother and I would even ride our bikes and pretend we were flying spaceships going on missions that I made up. Good times.

5. Is this your first book?

It is the first one that I've published, but the second one that I've written. The first one is one that I wrote in high school and that still needs some work. I have some other things on deck, so I hope that it will be the first of a good number.

6. Where did you get the idea for Canticle Kingdom?

I'm not sure what corner of my brain I fished it out of. The idea just came to me one day while I was working at Target during my second year at college. I'll have to poke around that corner of my brain for some other ideas.

7. How long did it take you to write Canticle Kingdom?

The first draft took about a year, and many months more polishing things up. I had the idea in 2005, got a contract in 2009 and it's on the shelf this year. So, it was a long process.

8. Was there research involved?

A little. I draw a lot of the settings from places I've been, but I incorporated some characters based on actual people and in that case I had to do some date checking to make sure it fit. I'm actually holding a scavenger hunt contest to help readers figure out who those people are.

9. What was the hardest part to write?

The ending, by far. I was trying to strike a balance between tying up the story nicely and leaving myself enough space to continue the series if I chose.

10 What part was the most fun to write?

I loved writing the parts with little historical bits in them. I love history and I'm an educator by trade, so it gave me a little extra satisfaction.

11. Is there a character that you identify with?

Probably Johann. He's got big dreams for his future, but he sometimes trips over his own feet on the way. (See the library book incident above)

12. What do you hope your reader takes away from this book?

I hope that there's a lot of entertainment and that they learn a little something about Germany, music, history, anything.

13. What are your thoughts about polishing a manuscript?

I like to have a few other pairs of trusted eyes look it over. There are things as an author you won't catch no matter how many times you look at it because you know what you meant to say. I'm constantly surprised how much a good rewrite can boost the story. It's hard work, and often a bit nerve-wracking when you're forced to make changes you don't really want to for the good of the story.

14. Who were your mentors, editors, readers, support group as you wrote and polished your manuscript?

I have to thank my wife, Jen, and her mother Karen for reading it and giving me great feedback. My friend, Mattie Tanner, is an editor who gave it a once over and helped immensely. My parents and siblings always cheered me on as well. "So, Mike, when's that book of yours coming out?"

15. Do you use a critique group? Why or why not?

I've been using an online one at www.critiquecircle.com. It's free and has given me great feedback. I like it because it's all people I don't know and thus I feel that the feedback is more impartial. I like having a mix of people I know and people I don't know read my work so I can get a better picture. Both groups give you different kinds of feedback: the people who know you are more invested in you and your story and thus are more eager to help, but the people who don't know, are more likely to give you unfiltered feedback that you may need to hear just as much. You have to grow thick skin, which I'm still working on.

16. Was there a discouraging moment along the way?

More than one. I wrote the book while I was going to school full-time and working full-time. Most days I would only get in a few paragraphs and many times, I thought "Is there really a point to this? I might finish by the time my kids are in college." Thankfully I was wrong.

17. What was the high point?

Fortunately, there were many of those too. Meeting with Cedar Fort at the BYU Publisher's fair, getting my letter of acceptance, seeing the first copy of my book on the shelf at Deseret Book next to Harry Potter. (A happy coincidence) It took a minute for it all to sink in- that it wasn't just a file on my computer anymore.

18. Do you have other books in process?

Yes! I've got two fantasy manuscripts not related to "The Canticle Kingdom" in the final revision phase, and I'm about three-fourths of the way through a sequel to "The Canticle Kingdom." And I've a few others in the works. Basically, I want to keep writing as long as I can. Writing is my stress-release activity, and a thrill every time I do it.

19. What have you learned from Canticle Kingdom that will make a difference for you on your next writing project?

If you have multiple storylines going on the same time, be sure not to switch too often between them. It kind of gives the reader whiplash. That was one of the biggest things I had to tweak before it was ready.

20. Where can we find your book and where can we go to check up on you and your next project?

My book is at Barnes and Nobles, Deseret Book, Borders, Amazon.com, and at CedarFort.com. You can read up on what I'm up to at www.writermike.com.


Crystal Cook said...

This is a great interview!! I actually am honored to say that I personally know Mike! So happy for him!

Thanks :)

L.T. Elliot said...

Great interview! I think almost all writers are a bit quirky and forgetful. I leave stuff on top of my car all the time. ;)

Carolyn V. said...

Great interview Linda. Congrats on your book Michael! =)

Heather Justesen said...

Great interview! And double jointed in every finger? The thought gives me the shivers! =)

Zoe C. Courtman said...

Nice interview - those were really nifty questions. Thanks for sharing!