Squawk Radio

Tuesday, January 24, 2006


Here is my thing. I’ve written and had published three books now. I’m lucky enough to have two more in various stages of production. I’ve worked in the publishing business for nearly 25 years. During that time, it’s been my good fortune to work with and meet literally hundreds of writers. Artists every one of them. Some truly talented people. Pulitzer Prize winners and New York Times Bestsellers. You name it.

As a teenager, I must have read The Martian Chronicles 77 times and I’ve had the distinct honor of meeting Ray Bradbury twice. Anyone who knows me well will find it hard to believe when I say it was one of the rare times in my life I’ve been speechless. For a kid from a tiny little town in Michigan who grew up loving books, I’ve been pretty lucky to meet so many great authors.

Because I hold writers in such esteem, I think maybe that’s why I have a really hard time using that word to describe myself. You know. The W word. Okay…here goes…‘writer’. (If there are any fans of the TV show Happy Days out there, remember the episode where Fonzie had to tell Richie Cunningham that he was wrong? And he keeps going “I was wrrrr….I was wrrrrr….I was wrrrr”. It’s kind of like that).

Whenever I’m introduced anywhere as a writer I feel myself cringe. It’s almost like an out of body experience. I look around to make sure there isn’t some other Mike Spradlin standing in the room somewhere. A doppelganger. A long lost identical twin. Or that guy from the X-files that could shape shift into anybody (wasn’t he creepy?). I say to myself, ‘they can’t be talking about me!’ As in The Princess Bride I expect some old crone to jump out of the crowd and holler “Liar!” “Faker!” “Queen of Garbage!” That hasn’t actually happened yet, but it could!
But here it is, publication day for my new book SPY GODDESS: To Hawaii, With Love in hardcover and SPY GODDESS: Live and Let Shop in paperback. (Reasonably priced at only $5.99!) So now I guess I have to deal with it. I’m a wrrrr…

A few years ago, I wrote a picture book for kids called The Legend of Blue Jacket. It was a great experience and I thoroughly enjoyed the whole process. I wanted to do more. But I quickly learned that almost harder than getting published, is getting published again. So it took me a while to come up with a saleable idea.

For many years I’d had this idea about a young adult series for kids. There would be this boarding school. Only the boarding school would secretly be a training school for spies. And that idea floated around in my head for a long time. I had read somewhere that you can’t actually have a novel until it has characters. And I didn’t have those yet. Details!

Then a couple of years ago my daughter Rachel was in the hospital recovering from a very serious (but not life-threatening) operation. I think there is something transitive and cathartic when you have a child going through something like this. My daughter, Rachel, is the toughest person I know. She deals with all of these health challenges that would cripple most adults. She attacks her months of physical therapy like a Navy Seal. And all of a sudden I had my character. Into my head popped the fictional alter-ego of my daughter. I think that wanting this book to be a gift to her; a permanent monument to her perseverance and indomitable spirit, is what finally got me to stop talking and thinking about it, and actually write it. She gave me a character that, even when life isn’t going her way, and a challenge arises, always sees it through to the end. It’s funny how children are. All the time you think you’re giving things to them and it turns out it’s the other way around.After that moment, it was like a movie screen went on in my head. There were nights that I couldn’t get the words down fast enough. In four months of writing a few hours every night and a lot of revising and rewriting, I had a first draft.

Rachel Buchanan, the heroine of SPY GODDESS is a spoiled, Beverly Hills Princess. (Important disclaimer: That part I made up. My real daughter is not a spoiled Beverly Hills Princess). After some (not too serious) trouble with the law she gets packed off to mysterious Blackthorn Academy in rural Pennsylvania (and hello, is there even like a mall in Pennsylvania?) Once there she meets the headmaster Mr. Kim and quickly learns that there is something freaky about this school. She has to take classes in things like micro-electronics, code theory and criminology. She has to learn martial arts. Her only thought is how soon can she get away from this place?Then one day a couple of FBI agents show up at the school and Mr. Kim goes missing. Soon she’s up to her eyeballs in International Espionage and captured by a whacked out real life Dr. Evil. It’s a story of non-stop action, adventure and snappy dialogue. My favorite kind of book.

Along the way, Rachel undergoes a transformation. She learns that she has tremendous will and abilities that she didn’t even know she had. That she can kick butt and take names. As you read, you soon know that she’s going to come through. And crack wise while she does it.

The other promise I made to myself when I started writing is that I was going to make sure that I wrote a book that was like the ones I loved as I kid. Books full of action, humor, mystery, humor, suspense, humor, intrigue, humor, and especially humor. Life is too short not to laugh.

Having the first book, SPY GODDESS: Live and Let Shop published has been a blast and now that it’s in paperback, I’m really excited. I’ve sold mass-market paperbacks for many years and to have a mass-market paperback out there with my name on it (and my very own teaser chapter for Book 2!) is a thrill. Live and Let Shop received some very good reviews from the school and library media and one reviewer even made some favorable comparisons to Harry Potter. I almost passed out when I read that one! But my favorite comment came from a young reader named Melissa, age 11, who sent me an email that said “Dear Mr. Spradlin: SPY GODDESS: Live and Let Shop wasn’t anywhere near as boring as I thought it was going to be!” How can you not love that?

So now SPY GODDESS: To Hawaii, With Love is making its way to bookstores and online retailers. I think the series is a lot of fun and as the father of a 14 year old daughter I can assure you that it’s all about the girl power! .(Although I think boys will like it too. As I said there is marital arts and stuff blowing up in it!) And I have my fingers crossed that it does well enough for there to be more books, because I sure have the stories. I think anyone age 10 and up will love it. And as far as content, no foul language, no sexual situations just lots of suspense, humor and stuff exploding. So no worries there.

I know that there are lots of readers out there that read both adult and Young Adult novels. There is a trend in the industry now for adult writers to write YA novels. Carl Hiassen is a good example. So I’m curious to know who out there is reading YA and if not, why not? There are a lot of great books being published in that genre right now. I would love to hear your thoughts.

(Editorial note: You can visit Mike's website and learn more about his work at www.michaelspradlin.com.)

Teresa Medeiros, 7:00 AM