July 20th, 2018
I asked Michael where he would like our interview to take place:
On a dark, lonely road winding through a barren valley that smells vaguely of death, a single light flickers: your destination. The way is treacherous in the inky darkness, but your feet find their way, and you’re soon approaching the source of the winking light. It’s a small, battered and derelict building, with one-quarter of its roof gone; collapsed or blown away or simply rotted over time. The only other feature, is a massive, ornate, gilded door, a stark and glaring contrast to the rest of the scene. You pause a moment in wonder, then place your hand on the smooth metal, push it open, and walk inside.
There, in a corner of a brightly lit, immaculately decorated room whose dimensions, you realize, are larger than the whole building appeared from outside, sits a small table, and at the table, sits a man. He glances up at you and smiles, then casually waves a hand, calling you over. You move to take your seat, then notice a banner hanging on the wall above. In dark letters on the bright blue fabric call your attention, and you take just a moment to read them.
For every item that carries the darkness of humanity, there’s one that holds the light. And that light is worth believing in. Not just in others, but in yourself as well. – C.M. Rayne
“This,” he says, waving his hand casually before him, “is that one item that holds the light for me. No matter how bleak the outside world my get, as long as I have my words, my inner world will always have light. It is my greatest hope that one day my words, simple and plain as they may be, will lift the heavy burden of darkness, and I may once more find myself taking a walk outside. Now, please, your questions. Let’s begin.”
Laura Mae: Hi Michael! What are you currently working on?
Michael Chrobak: Right now I’m in the editing stages for Book 3 of the Brother Thomas and the Guardians of Zion series. I plan on writing one more book in that series after this, then move onto something else before coming back to continue the series. (Good luck to you!)
L: And how would you say that is going right now?
(I’m sure it will pick up soon!)
L: What inspired you to enter the world of writing?
M: About 2 ½ years ago, after having suffered for nearly 15 years with a health issue that had continually become worse, I had to take time off from everything. Like, everything. Quit work, stopped my volunteer work, pretty much became home bound. But, I still wanted to keep in touch with the teens who I had been working with through the youth ministry program that I had volunteered with. So, since I couldn’t be there with them, I started to write stories that were inspired by the myriad of questions that high school teens have asked me over a 30+ year period – mostly questions that related to faith/religion/spirituality. But, just as I have always done when answering those questions, I didn’t want to just spit out words or quote bible passages. I wanted to give them answers in a way that made sense to the way teens think. That’s where the idea for a team of teenage superheroes with powers based on the Fruits of the Holy Spirit came from. (Very smart!)
L: And how long have you been writing for?
M: Casually writing? All my life. Seriously writing? About three years now. I started with a personal-triumph story (non-spiritual) that I eventually tossed because it felt like I was writing to try and win an award, versus writing what came natural and free. (I think you made the right decision.)
L: Are there any specific books or authors who inspire your work?
M: So, so many. A lot of the classic authors inspire me to continually improve my storytelling, and authors like Asimov, Zelansky, Donaldson, Clarke, Herbert, Tolkien, and Lewis (along with a ton of others) inspire my creativity. (The classics are always good to refer too.)
L: As far as writing goes, what has been the most challenging for you?
M: Honestly, the marketing part. I love the writing. I love editing. I love formatting and getting a book ready for print. I do not enjoy the marketing part. Maybe because I spent most of my work career in marketing and sales. It’s the only part that still feels like work.
L: Are there any regrets you have or anything you wish you knew sooner?
M: Yeah. There are a ton of people/companies out there that will gladly overcharge an author for doing things that really are fairly easy to do with just a bit of training. There are only two things I don’t do on my own now. The first is editing. Anyone who self-edits is just setting themselves up for failure. And the other, is cover design. Trust me, pay someone to do this. Yeah, sure everyone says don’t judge a book by its cover, but we all do.
L: What would you say is your favorite book or series of all time? Why?
M: I’m going to name two. The first would be the Conan the Barbarian series. Probably since they were my first entry into the world of fantasy. And the second would be The Chronicles of Amber by Roger Zelazny. Such an amazing series!
L: In a brief statement, have you self-published or traditionally published? What
was your experience?
M: I’m self-published, mostly because it was far easier to learn and there is less
‘wait-time’ to get a book into the market.
L: For aspiring writers out there, what would be the best advice you want them to know?
M: Spend the time to learn the industry. Reach out to other self-published authors (if that’s the route you want to go) or traditionally published authors (if that’s your thing) and don’t be afraid to ask them questions. From what I’ve learned, this industry is filled with really, really amazing people who are more than happy to spend a few minutes answering questions or pointing a new author in the right direction. Don’t feel like you’re in this on your own!
L: What does a typical day of writing look like for you? Any rituals or ‘must-haves’?
M: I usually start around 6 or 6:30 AM. That’s when the dogs get up. I have breakfast with my wife, help her get ready for work, then at 8 AM, I get started. First thing is social media and marketing. Since I really hate doing it, I force myself to get it done first. By 10 AM, I’m done with that. To get myself in the mood, I’ll do a bit of reading. (Yes, reading is a part of writing. If you’re not reading on a regular basis, you should be). After lunch, while the dogs are taking their third or fourth nap, I start writing, and I don’t stop until my wife gets home from work, usually around 6 PM. Typically I don’t write once she’s home unless I’m on a deadline and behind.
L: Besides writing, what is it you like to do?
M: I’m an avid reader, well, at least by my standards. I try to finish at least one book a week. (I know there are people out there who complete multiple books in a single day laughing right now…)
L: Any songs or type of music you need to listen to when you write?
M: When I’m writing, I find music to be a distraction, unless it’s something like Spa music. And it has to be songs with no words. If I know the words, my mind will start singing and then my writing goes to heck.
L: What’s a word or phrase that people say that always irritates you?
M: To be a writer, you have to write every day.
L: Who is your favorite literary character and why?
M: Hari Seldon from the Foundation Series by Asimov. The dude was like, crazy smart.
L: Where would you say you get most of your inspiration?
M: Life. Just watching others, or recent news. Also from reading fiction, especially fantasy and sci-fi.
Michael Chrobak has been involved in working with Youth and Youth Ministry programs since he was a teen himself; a long, long time ago. He has held the position of Director of Religious Education and Youth Minister for St. Bonaventure’s Parish in Concord, CA, and also as Youth Minister for St. Michael’s Parish in Livermore, CA. He has survived raising four children of his own and now lives in Oakley, CA where he continues to stay involved in Youth Ministry through his blogs and books.
Thomas could think of a million places he’d rather be right now than on a Confirmation retreat. After all, his parents forced him to attend. It’s Saturday morning and already he wants to leave. Suddenly, Thomas is challenged by a dark presence bent on destroying his faith. Thomas learns that not only is his life in danger, but his entire world is about to break apart!
And then, he starts seeing things. Strange, colorful shapes that float above the heads of the people closest to him. Each shape carries a message, though what they mean and why they are there, he has no idea. He only knows he can’t tell anyone – they might think he’s crazy! All along, the dark forces threaten to tear him and his family apart. He feels trapped, desperate, and alone.
If only he had superpowers. But then again, perhaps he does…
Picking up where Book One: Foundations of Faith left off, Thomas has returned to his college campus still curious as to the events that he just experienced during the retreat. Pondering the people he met, Theresa, the Endlessly Dying Girl, comes to mind. Without warning, he finds himself standing in her room! Convinced it was nothing more than the machinations of an overly-tired mind, he dismisses the event. The next morning, things become even more strange. Another dimension. The Armor of God. A Devil’s curse. It’s no wonder Thomas wants once more to run away. And then, he receives an invitation from Father Dominic to join his mentor and friend in Panama for a mission project over the summer. Thomas gratefully accepts, thinking this is the perfect place to escape for awhile. Little does he know how wrong those thoughts are. Now, not only is he responsible for the lives of eleven other young adults, but his own life is in jeopardy, too! To survive, Thomas must find the one person who can wear the Armor of God. He must find The Paladin!
Julianna has lived in the shadow of her brother, Thomas, all her life, wishing she was more like him. He didn’t have the ultra-strict rules that Julianna’s father imposed on her. And he had never had to deal with bullying and threats from the kids at school like she had. All because of one night. The night one of her best friends became her worst enemy. The night Julianna first used her power. Now, four years later, she is about to use it again.
The last time she had seen her brother, he was lying face down on a dirt road, a dark pool of blood surrounding his body. Unknown to her, Thomas wasn’t dead. In fact, Thomas, Gemma (The Paladin) and Theresa (The Endlessly Dying Girl) are even now on their way to rescue Julianna and the rest of their friends.
Armed with the spiritual powers they are still learning to harness, those three are prepared to face down four heavily armed men. Little do they know the extent of the challenge they will face, nor which of the captives will be the next to join the Guardians of Zion, and which would stand against them. In the darkest jungles of Panama, a war is coming.
One hero will rise; one hero will fall.
Due to release August 1st, 2018! Keep an eye out!