Hey guys! Today we’re joined by Michael Griffo, author of the Archangel Academy series – Unnatural and the just released, Unwelcome. He graciously answered a few questions we had concerning his series, his inspiration, and his life.
1. How did you come up for the idea of the Archangel Academy series?
The kernel of the idea came to me one day just out of the blue. I was searching for an idea that would focus on a gay teenager and one that would include supernatural elements, but I wasn’t sure what direction I wanted to go. I do remember that I was on the bus going to work when it came to me. It wasn’t completely fleshed out, but just the idea of a teenage boy going to a boarding school where he meets the love of his life who turns out to be a vampire. At the time I knew very little about Twilight or Vampire Academy so I didn’t know that anything like this existed or was even popular. The title of the first book – UNNATURAL – came to me immediately, so I knew that Ronan had to be a different type of vampire. However, it wasn’t until I started writing the full outline for the book that the idea hit me that he was a water vampire from Atlantis.
2. Is this going to be a trilogy, or will there be more books after Unafraid (the third book of the series)?
Well, I’m hoping that I get to write about Michael and Ronan for the next twenty years, but that really depends upon how much interest there is. My publisher is definitely open to a fourth book and even more and I think they’re going to be making a decision soon. However, when I started writing the first book, the thought was that it would be a trilogy – but one with an opened ending of course. The third book – UNAFRAID – will definitely come to a satisfying and exciting conclusion in the Archangel saga, but the door is open for there to be a fourth book to continue their adventures.
Personally, I would love to at least write one more so I can graduate Michael and Ronan from Archangel Academy and send them off into the world as the next generation takes over the action. I even have a title already – UNLIMITED! So I’ve got my fingers crossed that their journey will continue!
3. I saw on your website that you’ve written a number of plays. Was it an easy transition going from playwriting to full-length novels?
It was actually a much easier transition than I thought it would be. Writing plays of course is all about the dialogue. You don’t have to describe the setting or the surroundings, nor do you have to explain what’s going on in a situation. Before I began writing novels I thought it would be a daunting task, but it really wasn’t. In fact, I found that I embraced having to describe how the Academy and the Cathedral looked and bringing the reader from one scene to the next. It’s really expanded my abilities as a writer and given me an enormous amount of confidence.
I think the main thing to remember is that in both plays and novels you’re telling a story so the elements of character and story structure are really the same, it’s just a different way to present your tale.
4. What book or series are you currently enjoying right now?
I’m currently on book two of The Hunger Games series, Catching Fire. Honestly, I often try to stay away from current young adult fiction because I don’t want it to cloud my head while I’m working on a book, but I’ve heard so much about these novels and the plotline intrigued me so much that while I was on vacation I brought the first one with me. I read it in two days! I absolutely loved it! I loved the story, the characters, and I thought the writing was incredibly good. The second book is much different than the first, but just as intriguing and, of course, just as well-written.
5. Which book (or author) has inspired you in your writing?
Actually The Hunger Games was very inspiring to me because of its style. It’s very simple, clean, and almost like a no-frills book. It’s very different from the Archangel Academy series and the author, Suzanne Collins, made a big impact on me. I would like to bring a little of that kind of immediacy and streamlined narrative to my next book.
The other writer who greatly inspired me is the playwright Edward Albee. I remember seeing a revival of his play, A Delicate Balance, on Broadway many years ago and being so inspired by the writing, the dialogue, and the characters that I went home that night and started working on my first play, No More Sundays. I just love that he has such a powerful voice, is fearless in his approach, and is willing to explore the world through his plays. I often go back and read his work just to remind myself of how effective words can be when used effectively.
I also have to say that Jane Austen is an inspiration as well. Her novels are classics for a reason. They are perfect snapshots of a specific place and time, very intimate and in-depth, but at the same time they convey universal themes and ideas. Her writing is also effortless and her use of words and sentence structure is just amazing. Anyone interested in becoming a writer should read her books, I think they’ll learn a lot.
6. What advice would you give someone who wants to become a professional writer?
See my answer to question five! Read Jane Austen! Haha! Actually read as much as you can – good books, not-so-good books – you can learn something from all of them. Formal training is important as well, of course, so you can get the basics and have a strong foundation. And keep writing. The only way to find your own voice is to keep working. Your first attempts may not capture the essence of who you are, but if you keep at it, eventually you will find what you what to say and create a unique way to say it.
You also need to learn a little bit about the business side of things. Don’t be naïve. You can’t think that just because you wrote a novel, someone will want to publish it without doing any legwork. You have to search for an agent, then a publisher, then be willing to work with an editor. A professional writer needs to have a thick skin. An editor will always come back with edits and ways to make your book better, don’t take it as an insult, if you do, you’ll never grow and become a better writer. Take the critique (even if you don’t initially agree with it) and let it sit with you for a few days, then take a fresh look at your work. Oftentimes, you’ll see that your editor has made good suggestions to create an even stronger book. And if you don’t agree with something, be able to back it up concretely. At the end of the day you have to stand behind your work.
You also have to realize that you will have to do a huge amount of marketing. No one is going to do this for you. Your publisher may jumpstart things for you, but you are the one who has to go to the book signings, create a web page, and get your name and your words out there. It isn’t easy, but hopefully it’s fun and worthwhile. In any event, in this day of modern publishing it’s absolutely essential.
Thanks Michael for answering those! And it’s so nice to meet a guy who reads (and admits to reading) Jane Austen.
For more information on Michael and his Archangel Academy series, you can visit his website. And be sure to check out the rest of the Unwelcome Blog Tour sites by going to Teen Book Scene!