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"When people ask me if there is any theme that runs across my books I usually respond 'Yes, stuff blows up.'"
Looking for suspicious
Hoosiers activity.
Illustration by Gabe Rhadigan

Michael P. Spradlin is the author of more than a dozen books for children, some of which have actually been published. He grew up in a small town in Michigan not far from the Indiana border, which may explain his irrational fear of Hoosiers. (Both the inhabitants of the state of Indiana and the movie starring Gene Hackman).

Surrounded by books in his formative years, he grew up loving to read, imagining himself the hero of numerous epic battles and indulging in his favorite pastime, which was smuggling fireworks across the Ohio border so that he could blow up his collection of Plastic Green Army Men and Matchbox Cars.

School Library Journal called his first book for children, The Legend of Blue Jacket, "a well-researched labor of love." His first novel, Spy Goddess: Live and Let Shop, was a 2006 Edgar Award nominee by the Mystery Writers of America for Best Young Adult Mystery. The second book in the series, Spy Goddess: To Hawaii, With Love, was given a starred review by VOYA. His newest project is The Youngest Templar Trilogy. The first book The Youngest Templar: Keeper of the Grail was published by G.P. Putnam Sons in September 2008. An international sensation, rights to The Youngest Templar series have sold in more than a dozen countries including Germany, France Russia, Spain, Italy, Brazil and most recently Denmark. It is also available as an audio edition from Listening Library. The second book in the trilogy The Youngest Templar: Trail of Fate was released in October 2009 and called by School Library Journal 'brilliant' and 'riveting'. The third book The Youngest Templar: Orphan of Destiny was released in fall 2010.

Michael's first book for grownups It's Beginning To Look A Lot Like Zombies, was a five week New York Times Bestseller. Published in fall 2009, the book received raves from The New York Daily News, The Baltimore Sun and many other review outlets. Since then Spradlin has collaborated with illustrator Jeff Weigel on Every Zombie Eats Somebody Sometime: A Book of Zombie Love Songs and the upcoming Jack & Jill Went Up The Hill: A Book of Zombie Nursery Rhymes.

Spradlin also ventured further afield in the adult humor vein with his hilarious book Pirate Haiku: Bilge Sucking Poems of Booty, Grog & Wenches For Scurvy Sea Dogs. Visit PirateHaiku.com for details on this hilarious story told completely in haiku.

In the Summer of 2012 Boy's Life Magazine will publish Michael's very first short story Running With Geronimo. It tells the story of the Geronimo campaign of 1886 through the eyes of a young boy and is based on a true story. This is Michael's first ever published short story and there is special significance in the fact it is being published in Boy's Life Magazine. Growing up Michael was an Eagle Scout and read the magazine religiously. What many people don't realize is that Boy's Life has a storied history of publishing some of the greatest writers in the world in it's 100 year existence, Jack London, Ray Bradbury, Robert Heinlein and Arthur C. Clarke among others. While he doesn't count himself as within a dozen counties of these giants, the thrill of being published in a magazine he grew up reading, one that influenced him as a writer is... well... thrilling.

Michael is also the author of several picture books for children including the award-winning Daniel Boone's Great Escape, which was a finalist for the Spur Award from the Western Writers of America. Off Like the Wind: The First Ride Of The Pony Express published in the spring of 2010 was the winner of the Wrangler Award from the National Cowboy Hall of Fame and Museum for best Juvenile book. He is also the author of Texas Rangers: Legendary Lawmen and Baseball From A to Z.

Spradlin released his first adult novel Blood Riders in September 2012. Called ‘Outstanding!’ by the San Jose Mercury News, Blood Riders tells the story of Jonas Hollister, a disgraced cavalry officer who must defeat a group of supernatural creatures to restore his reputation and regain his freedom from prison.

In 2012 he also teamed with his frequent collaborator illustrator Jeff Weigel for The Monster ABC Book a delightfully colorful and entertaining book for children. Each letter of the alphabet features a different monster from around the world with amusing and fun illustrations that add an extra element of learning to each page.

New projects in 2013 include the middle-grade series, Killer Species coming from Scholastic. The first book Killer Species: Menace From The Deep will roll out in Scholastic School Book Fairs in January 2013 and be available in bookstores in July 2013. The series centers on the story of 12-year-old Emmet Doyle and his friend Calvin Geaux who must stop a deranged environmentalist, known as Dr. Catalyst, from releasing genetically altered animals into the wild.

In March 2013, Michael teams with fellow New York Times Bestselling author Roland Smith to continue Roland’s best-selling I,Q series. Their first co-written novel is I,Q: The Alamo. I,Q tells the story of Quest Munoz and his stepsister Angela Munoz who travel the country as their famous musician parents perform concerts at cities across the United States. When the mysterious roadie Tyrone Boone joins their entourage, Q and Angela are drawn into a mystery involving Angela’s mother Malak Turner, a former Secret Service Agent who died in the line of duty. Or did she? Malak was on the trail of the most dangerous terrorist cell ever known, the Ghost Cell. From Independence Hall to the Oval Office to the gates of the Alamo, Q and Angela with Boone’s help, follow a dangerous trail. A trail where the Ghost Cell always seems to be one step ahead of them.

As always check the Coming Soon page for details!

When not writing, he enjoys reading, traveling, spending time with his family and worrying over the fact that he really should be writing instead of doing other stuff. He lives in Michigan with his wife Kelly, and two dogs Willow and Apollo.

Book Bites for Kids interviews Michael. Listen to the full interview.

New York Times Best-Selling Author Christopher Moore and Michael interview each other. Head over to Borders.com to read the interview.

 

question:
What inspired you to become a writer?
michael's answer:
I'm not sure if there was a ‘bolt of lightning' moment. I grew up loving books and loving reading. Growing up in the age of no internet or cable TV, books were a tremendous source of entertainment to me. Since I loved books so much, I naturally progressed to the idea that writing them would have to be the coolest job ever. Eventually I just reached a point in my life where I said to myself, “Self, if you're ever going to do this, the time is now...”

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question:
Your books seem to cover a wide range of topics and themes. Why do you think that is?
michael's answer:
Well, those who know me well would say it's because I have the world's shortest attention span. I think it's because I find so many different things fascinating. I look first and foremost for stories. Even my picture books, which are non-fiction, tell stories with a beginning, middle, and an end. After that I just try to write the best story I can. When it comes to fiction I try to write the kind of books that I like to read. Fast paced action and adventure is the ticket for me. I'm often asked is there a common theme to all of your books and I usually reply. “Yes, stuff blows up!”

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question:
What advice do you have for prospective writers, regardless of their age?
michael's answer:
My number one piece of advice is to write. Writing is a craft and a skill just like any craft or skill and the more you practice it, the better you get at it. I often tell students during school visits that no matter what they are interested in — sports, music or whatever — they will get better by practicing. Writing is the same way.

Adults want to know how to get published. My answer to that is to write your book first. When you are done, re-write it. Then re-write it again. When you are done with that, find an agent. You pretty much need an agent to get published by a reputable publisher these days. You can find lists of agents at Literarymarketplace.com. Find one that represents books like yours and send them a query letter. They'll take it from there.

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question:
Which writers have influenced you? What are some of your favorite books?
michael's answer:
There's a pretty long list. Probably the greatest influence on my work was Franklin W. Dixon, the ‘author' of the Hardy Boys Books. When I later found out that Franklin was part of the Stratemeyer Syndicate, I felt betrayed. But I still loved the books. The pace of those books is breathless; virtually every chapter ends in a cliffhanger. I can definitely see their influence in my work.

My favorite book is Cannery Row by John Steinbeck. I also love The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald because I think it has the most perfect closing sentence of any novel ever written: “So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.” No one will ever do it better than that. If I were going to be stuck on a desert island for any length of time I’d take Lonesome Dove by Larry McMurtry, which contains some of the best dialogue ever written.

When it comes to children’s books, besides the aforementioned Hardy Boys books, I loved My Side of the Mountain when I was a kid. I must have read it twenty times and I discovered something new each time. Another big influence on me as a kid was Sports Illustrated magazine. I was and am a sports nut, and Sports Illustrated has been the home of some of the best magazine writing ever done. I learned a lot by reading and re-reading some of the articles there.

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question:
Do you find movies and television influence you as a writer? What are some of your favorites from each medium?
michael's answer:
Sure. Any medium that tells a story can be a training ground for writers. And movies and television are great for studying dialogue and how it can carry a story. I especially think television gets a bum rap, as there are a lot of very well written televisions shows out there. Buffy, the Vampire Slayer is, in my opinion, one of the best written TV shows ever. But there have been so many good ones: M*A*S*H., Hill Street Blues, Cheers, and some of my current favorites like Supernatural, Heroes and Battlestar Galactica. The thing about any TV show or movie that works well is that it is first and foremost a well told story.

When it comes to movies The Princess Bride is my all time favorite. It’s hilariously funny and well crafted. Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid is another favorite. But I tend to also like big epic movies like Gladiator and Braveheart where lots of stuff explodes.

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question:
Do you have a specific time that you write?
michael's answer:
Not particularly. I write when the mood strikes but I am by nature a night owl, so that’s probably when most of my writing gets done. I’m not one of those “you need to write every day” people. Almost no one with any kind of job that you can think of does it every day. I sometimes think it’s a good thing to take a break from it. Everyone needs to recharge the batteries. Plus I do a lot of what my wife calls “writing in my head” (she says I actually have a “writing in my head” face. I’m not sure if this is a compliment) where I think about stories or plots or characters before I sit down to write them.

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question:
How much revision do you typically do?
michael's answer:
Well it depends on how much needs to be done. I tell students that every writer rewrites, no matter who they are. You don’t just sit down and bang out a 600 page novel and that’s it. I do a lot of my own revising and rewriting before I send anything in. Then it depends on your editor. Sometimes a little, sometimes a lot.

One of my techniques is to read what I’ve written from my previous session, and then rewrite and revise it before I move onto the next chapter. It’s a way of getting me back into the voice and the character, and I’ve found it a very useful way to keep going.

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question:
Where do you find the illustrators for your Picture Books?
michael's answer:
I'm often asked this question by people who want to write a picture book and have it illustrated before selling it to a publisher. This is backwards from how it is actually done. Most publishers will not buy an 'already illustrated' picture book, unless it is written and drawn by the illustrator. The picture book manuscript is bought by the publisher first and then they decide which artist will illustrate it. This allows them to have input into the direction of the art and editorial input into the manuscript. Illustrators prepare sketches and mock ups and story boards of all of their picture books before doing finished art and they go through a revision process just like a writer. If you want to get a picture book published, find an interested publisher first and they'll contract the illustrator.

 

Do you have a question for Michael? Ask him.

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