I met Michael E. Thies in an online writing group over 10 years ago. He was in high school at that time, working on this epic fantasy novel “The Guardian of the Core” that spans across the cosmos. His pitch for the story is an interesting one, “Fantasy set in the far future.” It follows the aftermath of a great war between the gods and the Guardian – the arbiter of the galaxy that prevents any cosmic cataclysms from ever happening.
The first book, “Trials of the Core” was released in 2013. It’s a blend of “Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire” and “The Hunger Games.” The worlds’ finest enter a competition to become the apprentice of the Guardian. It was a superb piece of work – it’s not perfect, I’ll admit that – but it was damn fun to read, full of action and adventure.
Now, 2018, Book 2 “Curse of Pirini Lilapa” is going to be available this month on the 21st. (That’s today, or tomorrow, depending where you live on this planet.) In full support and excited over this upcoming new release, I bothered Mike with an email, asking some questions and like the cool guy he is, emailed back with all the answers.
Where did you grow up?
MIKE: I grew up in a small town of 5,000 people called Slinger, Wisconsin. I lived there until I went to college but those were still relatively small of around 68,000 people. In my twenties I lived in Santiago, Chile for one year which had 7 million people and now I live in a “small” town in China called Yixing with 1.5 million people.
What got you into writing?
MIKE: I remember reading Goosebumps novels by R.L. Stine (and even meeting him at Disney World.) I tried to create my own stories when I was younger and then in 7th grade I did a short story about gods fighting in a coliseum. That short story eventually evolved into a part of my series called Guardian of the Core. I guess it seems I have always been interested in writing.
Your writing tips to aspiring novelists and writers?
MIKE: The first draft is always the hardest. You need to write it though, it’s not going to write itself. I find a really easy way to accomplish this is 1,000 words/day. Just think about it, there is 365 days in a year; that’s 365,000 words. Most novels are around 70 – 100k meaning that even with time off in between revisions, you could get 3 drafts finished of a novel. For me, 1000 words means perhaps 1.5 hours. Persistence is the key, but this I found is the easiest way to do it because the days of much inspiration is few and far between.
Any advice for self-publishing authors?
MIKE: Don’t worry about the term “Self-Published,” I know that I don’t. The biggest mistake you can do is have your first novel be bad. Why? Because if the first novel is bad, people are going to assume the rest of your writing will be bad as well. So, get yourself to a professional editor; get yourself to a cover designer; a map maker—anything or anyone you need to make your final product look as professional as possible. That first book you will never make money on (unless you are lucky) it is there to establish your name and your credibility in the field; think of it as an investment in yourself.
What’s your current job?
MIKE: Currently, I teach Advanced Placement (AP) English Language and Composition at Yixing High School in China. It is the same as teaching in the United States just with far less students and my students being Chinese individuals who want to go abroad and study instead of staying in China. This has honestly been one of the best decisions I have ever made in my life, especially as an already-published author. Many people you run into while you’re traveling meet authors, and so it is very easy to promote yourself overseas and build more of a fan base. Also, teaching abroad expands your horizons and that expansion no doubt will work its way into your future novels whether subconsciously or consciously. And, because English is the “Language of the World” you can go ANYWHERE and teach English. It’s a fantastic life decision for those who want to experience more of the world and are tired of the monotony.
Tell me more about Book 2: Pirini Lilapa.
MIKE: The Curse of Pirini Lilapa is the sequel to The Trials of the Core and the second book in the Guardian of the Core series. I am very impressed by this book, more so than my first one, and I believe people are really going to enjoy it as well. In this novel you will see the same characters you love (or hate) like Zain Berrese, Prince Hydro Paen, and Eirek Mourse, but by the end of the novel, when the Curse of Pirini Lilapa has finally happened, the readers will see an interesting thing happen: the story will start to branch out. New character perspectives that readers can get excited about are Aiton Paen (Hydro’s younger brother), Conseleigh Iycel, and Brisine Berrese (just to name a few). The subsequent novels will continue this style and you’ll find more and more secondary characters becoming main characters as each voice is important to the galaxy of Gladonus.
Book 2 has a very different narrative structure than seen in most books: Why choose this style?
MIKE: Yes, this book follows a four part structure. The first three parts focus on one main character and a secondary character(s) that directly relate to them and their struggle. In part I we follow Zain Berrese and also Zakk Shiren and Brisine Berrese. In part II we follow Hydro Paen and his younger brother, Aiton. In part III we follow Eirek Mourse and Guardian Eska. Then, in part IV, every character makes a cameo appearance in the novel. Why? This is done symbolically to show that Pirini Lilapa (which begins at the end of part III) affects everyone no matter who you are. Also, the reason why it follows the order of these particular characters is that Zain has the most urgent storyline (rushing home to save his mother). Hydro has a compelling story line as well, but not nearly as urgent. Both of these characters, however, do something that will in turn affect Eirek Mourse (the novel’s main protagonist) in unexpected ways.
You’ve traveled to Chile and now currently living in China, does living in different locations have an effect on your writing?
MIKE: There are plenty of places that show up in my book that remind me of certain cities I have visited or certain structures that I have seen during my travels. Mostly, though, it is the culture that really sticks with me and something that I try to interweave between characters and situations with my novel. If I see a certain nation as people from this particular race, I will always question about how they look and how I can expect them to act based on things I have experienced abroad.
Your book has characters from every corner of the map, how important is culture in your stories?
MIKE: Like I mentioned before, culture is very important. Each nation does things a little bit different and some of these things I have thought up myself, and other things I have taken from interactions. For me, it adds more authenticity to the novel. One of my favorite traditions is the backstory behind why the Paen households let their tears hit the ground. It goes back to their sigil and a tear being pierced by a sword. This was unplanned, but when I started writing it, it seemed to make sense, like it was already there waiting for me to discover it. I think that is one of the coolest things about writing a novel.
It took YEARS between book 1 and book 2. How long can we expect Book 3?
MIKE: That is a good question. The honest answer is, I have no idea. My original plan was to have 4 books in the series, however, after the first draft of book 3, I am now considering dividing it into two separate books as it is quite big now (210,000 words). This depends on a couple of things, the biggest factor being how long the fourth book is. I plan on starting the first draft over the summer, after the release of book 2. When I finish the series completely, and I have a clear idea of how the book ends (and any surprises in the fourth book) it will inform my decision for book three.
What’s your current reading list?
MIKE: I feel bad about saying this as an author, but right now my reading list is very light. I have been putting more time into teaching and writing than into reading. I do want to start getting back into reading though as I do feel it is quite beneficial to writing. I know that after reading the Game of Thrones by George RR Martin my writing increased significantly. I am currently on the Dark Tower series by Stephen King, but they don’t pull me in as much as I’d like in order to continue reading them non-stop.
How about authors that influenced you?
MIKE: George RR Martin has definitely influenced my writing. He is so good at descriptions and sometimes I match him too much which makes some of my stories feel more verbose than necessary. Christopher Paolini also influenced me quite a bit as a writer because he published his first novel so young (at the age of 15). It made me believe that I, too, could write something great at a young age and don’t need to wait until I’m older. Now, Eragon was definitely the best in his series, after that I believe his writing went down especially when compared to Martin. But, he should serve as an inspiration to all.
Hello? Are you guys still here? Oh, thank the Big G. Go grab the “The Curse of Pirini Lilapa” and/or get the first book, “Trials of the Core” if you haven’t yet. I think I wrote a review of the first book, right here on this blog. You should check that out as well.