I’m happy today to host Michael Thal. His book Koolura and the Mayans won the Gold at the 2018 eLit Awards in the Juvenile/Young Adult Fiction category. Wow! For more information on this amazing award, see Koolura and the Mayans Wins Gold at the eLit Book Awards.
Michael Thal is the author of five published novels—Goodbye Tchaikovsky, The Abduction of Joshua Bloom, and The Koolura Series—The Legend of Koolura, Koolura and The Mystery at Camp Saddleback, and Koolura and the Mayans.
Moving from the frigid Northeast to comfy Southern California in 1973, Michael taught elementary and middle school for 28 years until a freak virus left him deafened at the age of 50. He reinvented himself as a writer composing over 80 published articles in print magazines as well as novels for middle grade and high school aged students.
You can learn more about Michael Thal on his website and blog at www.michaelthal.com. His books can be purchased on Amazon.com and Barnes & Noble in print and as e-books.
Today, he’s talking about Koolura and the Mayans. As a bonus, I’ve read the book and loved it! See my review at the bottom of the post.
About the book:
Koolura, a girl with extraordinary psychic powers, is back again with pal Leila. The duo is off to Mexico for Koolura’s father’s wedding. When touring a Mayan archaeological dig, the girls uncover a mysterious device that hurtles them 2000 years back in time. They soon discover aliens from the planet Aquari living amongst Mayan natives. Are these Aquarians planning to take over Earth? And can Koolura and Leila stop them in time?
Koolura and the Mayans was published in 2016 by Solstice Publishing and is 131 pages.
Why did you decide to write this book?
Koolura and the Mayans is the third installment to the Koolura Series. Each book can be read independently without pressure of reading the other books in the series. I got the idea for Koolura and the Mayans when I traveled with my daughter to Oaxaca, Mexico for my cousin Adam’s wedding. We took a day trip to Monte Alban, an archeological site of Mayan civilization. That’s when I got the idea that perhaps Koolura could visit this site and be plunged back in time to the age of the Maya.
What genre is your book?
Koolura and the Mayans is historical fiction and science fiction.
Do you consider your book character-driven or plot-driven?
The book is plot driven.
What makes your book unique?
Koolura and the Mayans won Second Place in the 2016 Royal Dragonfly Book Awards. One of its main characters, Leila, is deaf. Koolura met her in book two of the series, Koolura and the Mystery at Camp Saddleback, and learned American Sign Language from her friend. Readers will see that deaf people are smart and resourceful. I think exposing young readers to characters with disabilities is important in broadening their horizons.
Do you plot ahead of time, or let the plot emerge as you write?
The book I’m writing now, The Lip Reader, is a novel in which I’m letting the novel emerge as I write. However, I plotted each chapter of Koolura and the Mayans before I started writing. Of course things changed as the novel evolved and I had to add chapters and throw out others that didn’t seem to work.
How do you develop the names for your characters?
That’s a great question. I gave Koolura her name because she’s very cool. She can read minds, lift objects with a thought, and even fly. Now that’s cool. Leila got her name in memory of my Aunt Lilly.
How do you decide on the setting?
My visit to Monte Alban forced an obvious setting on me. In Koolura and the Mystery at Camp Saddleback I visited a lake in the Santa Ynez Mountains outside of Santa Barbara when my wife and I visited our daughter Koren at college. I thought that would be a perfect site for a summer sleep-away camp, and I was right. There was such a camp nearby, which I toured and took copious notes for Camp Saddleback.
Do you have a writing mentor?
Yes, I have two. Anne McGee, the author of Anni’s Attic and the Cedar Creek Mystery series, looks over my chapters giving me ideas for improvement. Susan Schader, a professional editor, is a huge help in pointing out my errors. Thanks to them, I feel my writing has improved tremendously over the past few years.
What’s your writing schedule? Do you have a favorite place to write?
I make it a point to write one chapter per month. I usually write the rough draft in pencil at my desk, then type it up on my computer as I make changes.
Anything else you’d like to add?
I was a teacher for 28 years until a virus robbed me of my hearing. Getting a good education is extremely important. We never know what life will throw at us and it’s important to be prepared. Not able to understand my students any longer, I took disability and taught myself how to write. Readers can visit my website at www.michaelthal.com where they can learn about my five YA novels and read my blog.
Other books by this author:
The Legend of Koolura: http://tinyurl.com/a63jamp
Koolura and the Mystery at Camp Saddleback: http://amzn.to/1ifKn39
The Abduction of Joshua Bloom: http://amzn.to/1mTgLGP
Goodbye Tchaikovsky: http://tinyurl.com/bh95ht7
Michael Thal has written a marvelous story. Koolura is off to her father’s wedding in Oaxaca, Mexico. To get there, she uses her superpowers to pick up her BFF, Leila, and magically transport both of them to the Oaxacan airport. Once there, on a harmless tourist trip to Monte Alban, the ruins in the Valley of Oaxaca, the girls stumble into a pyramid and are whisked back in time. They find the ancient Mayans are under the thumb of alien invaders. In order to return to modern-day Oaxaca, the girls have to help.
Both of these girls are great role models. They’re good friends, they’re brave and strong, and they do what’s right even though it’s dangerous. Leila is hard of hearing, and the girls communicate using American Sign Language, adding another dimension to their friendship.
This is the third book in the series. I’ve read the other two, and was glad to discover this one. It’s educational, with the history of the Mayan civilization woven in. In addition, it’s also got a sci-fi element. Michael Thal gives us a glimpse of the society of the alien invaders; not somewhere you’d want to live. But Koolara must travel there in order to save the Mayans, and the arc of human civilization.
This book is one that can be enjoyed by adults as well as tweens. You don’t have to have read the other books in the series to enjoy this one. But warning: once you pick it up, set aside the afternoon, sit back, and hold on for the ride!