Article first published as Interview with Michael Dadich, Author of ‘The Silver Sphere’ on Blogcritics.
Michael Dadich has been writing since first setting pencil to a steno pad at age eight. A year later, he began developing the world of his current series-in-progress, and even created its title, “The Silver Sphere.” Now, with the support of years of experience, those early maps and back stories have progressed into what he hopes is a fresh and entertaining take on the classic young adult fantasy adventure.
Despite Michael’s frequent escapes into parallel worlds, he roots himself firmly in his very real family and community. When not pacing the yard maniacally after every few pages of writing, he spends as much time as possible hanging out with his studly young son, and inspirational wife Jenna. He also coaches several local youth sports teams in Beverly Hills, and alternates between yelling at his two crazy Corgis and hiking with his trained German shepherd.Tyler: Welcome, Michael. It’s a pleasure to interview you today. First of all, I love one of the opening sentences I read for the book’s description: “Shelby Pardow never imagined killing someone. That’s about to change.” Sounds like a great way to grab the reader’s attention. Can you tell us more about who Shelby is and what killing has to do with the novel?
Michael: Thanks, Tyler. Shelby is the young teen protagonist in my novel. After leading a mundane life, she is thrust into a new world where she must learn to battle evil forces that threaten all she knows, and learns there.
Tyler: Tell us about this other world of Azimuth that Shelby ends up in. How is it similar or different from our own?
Michael: Azimuth is a world, 200 light years away, that resides in the Eridanus constellation. A bygone civilization on Earth traveled there to escape a dark force that threatened their survival, and integrated peacefully with its occupants. It is a world where magic and technology (sorcology) co-exist. Due to the loss of massive life in prior wars, advanced technology has now been banned on Azimuth, except for the United Forces, who exist for protection in dire circumstances. The United Forces operate on bases and star ships that are not located on Azimuth. There are magical portals, enhanced by technology, which can be used to travel from Earth to Azimuth. The landscapes in some areas are similar to Earth, though the undertone and some of its inhabitants and creatures are not. Or perhaps, maybe it’s not so different to how Earth was long ago. I read recently that there is evidence now that the T-Rex was covered in feathers. Who knows what existed here billions, or even thousands of years ago really?
Tyler: I love the novel’s title. Will you tell us what it represents—what is the silver sphere in the book?
Michael: The Silver Sphere is a magical armillary device created by the Truth Seekers, the celestial protectors of the universe. The Sphere can deliver the precise celestial coordinates of Biskara, considered to be Satan in the Eridanus constellation.
Only the Aulic Assembly members have the ability to operate the Silver Sphere. Upon death, the Kin inherit their counterparts’ ability to utilize the Sphere.
Tyler: In the novel Shelby is with the Kin—will you explain to us just who or what the Kin are?
Michael: The Kin are certain individuals who are born with the ability to be linked to a member of the Aulic Assembly. Why and why were they on Earth? That’s part of the story ;).
Tyler: Tell us about the villain, Malefic—I understand he’s a demon spawn!
Michael: Malefic is the mortal son of the demon Biskara. He has been bred for war and has been biding his time to instill his father’s mission. Let’s see, how would we all perceive Satan’s motives? He wants to spread death and despair and rule Azimuth, and won’t stop there. Although your reviewer, Ben, wished that the villain was fleshed out more, I preferred to keep him as mysterious as how we view Satan here on Earth. I was trying to capture that creepy, spooky feeling of the unknown. I remember reading the Time magazine article (do you remember it, Does Evil Exist?, the cover is black?) It’s an interesting topic because we just don’t know where it comes from, and that makes it scarier. I learned from his review and really appreciated his feedback.
Tyler: Michael, a lot of fantasy novels focus on people from the real world being sucked into another world. What made you decide to do that with your novel rather than simply setting it wholly in a fantasy world—what about that plot device appeals to you?
Michael: Well, Tyler, I really enjoy researching when
I develop my outlines and history in general. I believe we are not
alone in this universe, much less others, and that good and evil does
exist, and not just on the mortal plane. I also believe that there is a
strong possibility, in the billions of years the Earth has existed,
that we were not the first advanced civilization that existed here. So I
read a lot, not just fiction for pleasure, but on history and theories
that revolve around it. I don’t think, regardless of what faith you
follow, that life ends fully when we pass. I believe the possibility
exists that there may be the ultimate battle ahead of us, and there is a
struggle between good and evil, and we will all be needed when we are
ready. The sequence involving the characters Nick Casey and Lucas Denon
came to me from a dream I had after a near death experience, involving
John Lennon. I was hanging on to life when I experienced the dream. Or
just maybe it wasn’t a dream, but a journey. It shook me to the core
when I emerged from this state. I saw something. I fully recovered from
my ordeal physically, but what I observed did inspire me in developing
the celestial backdrop and the world of Azimuth, including portals
that some believe truly exist.
I recently finished reading some books on Machu Picchu, the Canary Islands, the map of Piri Reis and the Mayans. I find it fascinating.
Tyler: Would you tell us more about your process—you mentioned creating a history—so I’m wondering whether you have to keep timelines or chronologies so you can keep everything straight, and also when I introduced you I mentioned you make maps of your world. Can you tell us a little about that whole process of creating your world and making it real and keeping everything straight? Do you find all that fun or is it complex and frustrating?
Michael: The most frustrating part for me is establishing a routine for my writing. I have a serious day job, and made a commitment to my son to coach his teams (I love sports and the bonding time with him and supporting his passions are important to me). In Stephen King’s On Writing, he recommends carving out a few hours a day to write. Sometimes my schedule can make this impossible as I work all day, often coach after work, and then you have things like client dinners and birthdays, etc. I find that the summer is the best time for me to set a routine. Work slows down and I take a break from coaching, and try to keep my social calendar to a minimum. In my sequel, I have the added pressure of deadlines to meet from my publisher. They are very understanding of my schedule though. Sometimes the words just flow, and sometimes you are staring at that blank white page for an hour. You just have to remember to keep writing and push through, even if you think it’s terrible. LOL. You can always rewrite and color in what is missing later. Part of my process is researching some topics, then taking long walks and thinking about it. I tend to pace my yard after writing several pages. The air is good for you too.
Regarding maps; I am not a good artist. When I was a kid, I enjoyed placing oak tag down and mapping out the world I was creating. I was blessed to find Mallory Rock, who is an artist with Evolved Publishing, and working with her has been great and we have become good friends. Keeping the chronology and history I am creating is really just about being organized. If you miss something, hopefully the edits and beta readers catch some things that lurk. Sometimes, as the writer, you can miss things because the story is in your head, and even if you go over your writing a hundred times you need a fresh set of critical eyes on it. Researching a topic you want to implement, in general, is the fun part, but yes keeping notes and timelines, and outlines, is essential. I still use a steno pad for that part.
Tyler: One thing our reviewer, Ben Weldon, liked about the book was the new fantasy creatures you created. Can you tell us about some of the original creatures in the novel and where you got the ideas for them?
Michael: As I mentioned earlier, after researching and reading about folklore and myths, I take long walks, and often pace my yard as part of my process. I can’t really explain imagination, as some things just emerge. The Fugues, the protectors of the Sphere, developed when I had a dream where I was walking in the woods and several blue eyes materialized around me while they sang a beautiful song. I enjoyed creating the Battleswine, a warrior race with a boar’s head. The disembowelers are terrible beasts I would not want to face in battle. I also put my own spin and ideas on Baku, who in Japanese folklore are supernatural beings that devour dreams and nightmares, and some other mythical creatures such as the Manticore and Leshy.
Tyler: I understand this novel is the first in the series. Will you tell us a little about the series and its overarching plot or other plans you have for it, without giving away too much? How many books will there be, etc.?
Michael: This set of Kin will go through a trilogy. I’m currently writing book two, The Sinister Kin, where they will face a new challenge involving their evil counterparts. There is also a prequel planned, that will go through the story of Biskara’s first attack on Azimuth after he was considered a myth, and how his son Hideux came to power.
Tyler: You mentioned mythology. Do you feel like you’re creating a new myth for your book, and why is creating a mythical type world important to you or to readers, in your opinion?
Michael: Myths are passed down generation to generation. Perhaps some of these myths and legends were actually real and not fictitious. I believe that the fact we are standing here, the complexities of the human being alone, show that anything is possible. Humans have been on earth just a few seconds really. Maybe, for instance, a manticore did roam the ancient world. Who is to say that a spirit world or a celestial land does not exist? Is it possible, that similar to our mortal plane, that good and evil exists in the “afterlife”? That God needs his soldiers, and the devil is recruiting his? Or whatever religious beliefs you have has a little spin on it (I happen to have been raised as Catholic). I may have glimpsed that world in my coma-like state after my accident.
Maybe it was just a dream, but it didn’t feel that way. So when I have been writing “The Silver Sphere,”I took some of my personal experiences and imagination, borrowed from some folklore and myths I researched, and used it all to world build and create. Science recently has advanced to where we are sending out our space probes deeper and deeper. In twenty or thirty years, they will be deeper still and closer to answers hopefully. There may actually be a world in the Eridanus constellation that is habitable. If the great dinosaurs lived here so long, what could be there? Does magic and technology exist there, and what are the citizens like? I have read about portals; some think there may have been one in the Bermuda Triangle and other places. Well, maybe someone knows how to harness that power. And what if good and evil were struggling elsewhere? These are the questions I ask myself in my process.
Tyler: What do you think makes “The Silver Sphere” stand out from all the other fantasy novels being published these days?
Michael: Since I don’t bother to chase trends i.e., vampires, angels, steampunk etc., my main goal was to provide a fresh and unique fantasy adventure story. I wrote my very first chapter well before many of the current popular books in this genre, and the concept started when I was just a kid. I think one of the benefits is that this story marinated for a long time. I feel “The Silver Sphere” makes a case that every one of us has the potential to correctly answer the call, “You are needed.” Though I wish I finished it sooner, life and its responsibilities and demands can get in the way of your passions sometimes. I learned to listen to that enthusiastic little boy again. But I believe it’s better for it. I think it is an original storyline with a quick pace.
Tyler: What age group of readers do you think will most enjoy the novel, and what kinds of responses have you received for it so far?
Michael: I think it’s appropriate at age 12 and on. I have had great feedback though from readers in their 30’s and 40’s, and older. The Silver Sphere recently won the Mom’s Choice Gold award, as well as the Wise Bear Books Gold award, and is a finalist in the Readers Favorite awards. I’m excited to possibly attend the Readers Favorite convention in Miami; I’m working on my schedule now to attend, because I think it would be a great experience and I plan on bringing my ten year old son and wife. Last week, it was nominated for YALSA’s 2014 Best Fiction for Young Adults. This is one of the biggest awards in Young Adult literature and I consider this a huge honor just to be nominated. I am always humbled and thankful whenever I receive a good review, award or nomination. I also appreciate critical reviews as they help improve my writing. I find that some readers enjoy multiple points of views, for instance, while others do not. I think it’s all a matter of taste. I purposely set out to write in that manner (multiple POV’s), while keeping the main protagonists the focal point. I liked showing different perspectives.
I have received great feedback on the world building in general, and most readers and reviewers find the plot fresh and unique. I believe your reviewer, Ben, wished there was some more back story on Azimuth’s code, where advanced technology is banned. I had explained that the great leaders on Azimuth had decided on this code long ago, when weapons of mass destruction and the like killed and destroyed millions, and I placed the code in the glossary for reference. Although I did not want this to be a large focus in book one, I learned from his review and it was helpful and will improve my thought process when writing about Azimuth. As I mentioned, there will be a prequel that involves a great war on Azimuth and more of its origins, and more of a focus on the code and many of the other customs and history in general.
I think the proudest moment through my writing journey was when my son came up to me and said, “So dad, how does it feel to be a multi-award winning author?” I never thought of it that way, though I was happy and humbled when I won them. Award winning author. That little eight-year old boy that dreamed of being an author; he was beaming inside of me.
Tyler: I know that feeling myself, Michael, since I was about eight when I first dreamt of being a writer. What tips do you have for the little boys and girls out there now who might want to grow up to be authors or even for adults wanting to write a book?
Michael: It’s such a wonderful feeling, isn’t it, Tyler? That feeling alone is why I recommend following your dreams at any cost. Following those little boy’s dreams. I learned so much on my personal path to becoming a published author. In college, I had an excellent professor, and he wanted me to join his writing workshop. At the time, I was vice president of my fraternity (it really is work LOL) and working nights as a club promoter/bartender/doorman to pay the rent. Along with school work and everything else I wish I took advantage of that opportunity more, as he felt I had real potential to develop. After I graduated, I was offered an opportunity to enter a prestigious training program in the World Trade Center (another story). So I took the job, and this started a cycle of working from morning to late at night. Eventually I met my wife and we started a family. When I moved from NYC to LA, I found a box that had some of my creative writing from college, and a steno pad from when I was eight, with notes on the Silver Sphere. So I began to write again. I had written a couple of hundred pages of the first draft when I suffered a brain aneurysm while playing hockey. I learned dramatically that life is fragile. It can be gone in an instant. No time to pack, square some things away, and finish up projects. (This is where I had that dream sequence I mentioned earlier). I was fortunate to have a full recovery. I decided to spend more time with my family at that point, and shelved the writing for some time. I began getting involved in my community, fundraising, and coaching all my son’s teams and becoming park board president at my local park. Then my wife, who had constantly been in my ear about continuing my writing, gave my manuscript to a close friend who is a publicist. He really enjoyed what I had written so far and encouraged me not just to consider it a hobby. The reason I am giving a little detail on my writing journey is that everyone will have one slightly different. I think you need support from your friends and family, a muse always helps, and to study writing.
There are several good books on writing; I started with most of Sol Stein’s, and Noah Lukeman’s the First Five Pages. And learning the craft never ever stops. Feedback, reviews, other books, edits. You are always learning. Much of it can be subjective, and some things will contradict each other (especially reviewers). You take what strikes a chord from all, and make some notes to see if you can improve your writing as you continue.
I have an independent editor, Kira McFadden, who was just great and positive to work with. I found Kira through my literary coach, Timothy Staveteig, who is a former lit agent and I recommend to aspiring writers. After Evolved Publishing signed me, I worked with Dave Lane, one of the owners there who also did my final edit. Dave is just a rock star in editing. You learn a large amount from each editor you work with, so I recommend finding a good one whom you can work with and is responsive. It might be a good idea if you can find an editor who will go with you through the process chapter by chapter, because it’s basically very similar to taking a creative writing class, but more personal and intense. This would fix any early flaws, like the common “showing vs. telling” issues new authors tend to have. Once you learn the craft a little and have an outline in place on your story, just sit and write. Don’t worry about the quality in the beginning. That’s what rewrites are for, then edits, beta reading, more rewrites, more edits, LOL. It’s not easy, but the entire process is rewarding in the end. If you are a parent, and your little one starts writing short stories and the like, similar to us, Tyler, then pay attention. Support it, work with them on it, be enthusiastic, and as they get older, encourage it and if you can afford to, get them involved with a writing tutor, class, or group. Ask their teachers for advice.
Tyler: What would you say would be the primary influences on your writing—other fantasy writers, films, or something else?
Michael: There were many, but one particular author, C.S Lewis, taught me the invaluable gift of the love of reading. I was nine when I viewed Star Wars in the theater (several times), and I enjoyed reading Terry Brooks, Anne McCaffrey and Piers Anthony at that age (still do). I read that most of the basic material a writer works with is acquired before the age of fifteen, so obviously the books I read and enjoyed when I was younger had a big influence on my writing.
Tyler: I’ve heard that too and think it’s very true. Well, thank you again, Michael, for the interview today. Before we go, will you tell us about your website and what additional information we can find there about “The Silver Sphere”?
Michael: You’re welcome, Tyler, and thank you for your time. I spent a lot of thought and effort on creating my website: www.thesilversphere.org. My incredible artist and art director overall, Mallory Rock, worked really hard to create my vision, and I think she did a superb job on the book trailers. I did something a little different regarding book trailers, outside of the main one; we also created character spotlights. One of my best friends, Kevin Martin, is the lead singer of the platinum selling band Candlebox, and he gave me permission to use his excellent music. I hope everyone enjoys the site and its content.
Tyler: Thank you, Michael, and I hope you’ll come back to talk about your future books.