Starving Interview: Michael Lachman, Author of A Spark Ignites

Good morning, my literary foodies!  This fine Friday, we start the day by sitting down in the kitchen with Michael Lachman, the chef behind today’s meal, A Spark Ignites.  Let’s see what is what!

Please introduce yourself to my literary foodies!

Hi, I’m Michael Lachman. I’m a huge comic book fan, enjoy scifi and fantasy, and am all around basically a huge geek. My writing often reflects that. I just recently had my first child, a girl, and already started collecting products from the DC Superhero Girls line for her.

Do you do any work outside of the writing kitchen?  Any non-work interests?

I’m currently in my last semester of law school. I left my job recently due to the upcoming bar exam and the recent birth of my daughter, so for now I’m just a student. As for my non-work interests, I’ve always enjoyed comics and animation, and I don’t just mean consuming. I’ve drawn my own comics and animated my own cartoons (just check out my book’s animated trailer). Lately though, I haven’t been able to work much on those things as much as I’d like.

What is your latest dish to be served up?  Are there any past pieces of literary cuisine you think we should take a bite out of?

I actually came out with three stories at around the same time. The first is A Spark Ignites, my full length novel, if on the shorter side. It follows a kid who has the mantle of a recently deceased superhero thrust upon him. He basically has to learn how to be a hero while trying to find out exactly who’s responsible for killing his predecessor. It’s got action, drama and mystery, along with a twist I doubt you’ll see coming. I’ve also wrote two short stories that take place within the same universe. The first is Walking the Wire, a short story (available for free on amazon and smashwords) about a supervillain, which takes place during the events of A Spark Ignites. It stands by itself though, and reading one isn’t required to reading the other. The other short story I wrote is A Sparked Interest, a romance story (taking place after A Spark Ignites) about a teenager going out on his first date ever out with his dream girl, but it doesn’t go as planned. This story also stands alone, and is available for purchase on amazon or for free on my website,

What made you want to put on the chef’s hat and whip up your own books?

I’ve been creative as long as I can remember. I was writing and drawing my own comics when I was six years old, animating my own cartoons when I was eleven, and writing my own screenplays when I was seventeen. It was only a matter of time before I wrote a book. I know it sounds cliché, but I feel like I have all these stories in me that just have to come out.

Do you have a genre of specialty or do you dabble?  Why?

I’m currently working on some superhero stories (there are at least two more books in the Spark series), but I’ve dabbled in others as well. I’ve already outlined a series of seven books in a new series I’d like to get to one day, which I’d call urban-scifi, and I’ve outlined another book which is a Stephen Kingesque horror. However, all my stories, with the rare exception, seem to revolve around teenagers. Not quite sure why though.

Style!  Every literary chef aspires to have their own unique one!  What do you think sets yours apart and why?

I feel as though I’m too new to the process to have a style I can call my own. I just try to write simply, wherein anyone can understand it and enjoy it, regardless of age. I try to ensure that the plot and emotions are complicated and deep enough for an adult to appreciate it, while still being appropriate for younger readers. I also cut out anything I feel bogs the story down, which usually means I end up with fairly short chapters that rarely end in cliffhangers, perfect to read while waiting for a stop on the subway. (Cliffhangers, especially at the end of a book are something I try to avoid in all my works. I would rather leave the reader satisfied and come back later for more because he enjoyed the meal than leave them still starving and forced to come back.)

Even the best of us find inspiration is the dishes of others.  Do you have any literary inspirations, heroes, and influences?

I’m a huge fan of Brandon Sanderson, who is the most creative fantasy author since Tolkien, in my option. I also look up to Eoin Colfer, who managed to write children in a way that doesn’t seem childish to adults, as well as Michael Bailey, who I only discovered recently, but I’ve found his balance of superhero action with teen drama to be some of the best I’ve read. But the writer who has probably had the biggest influence on me is probably K.A. Applegate. Animorphs was an obsession of mine as a kid, and I would say that even before Harry Potter, it was Applegate’s series that made me into a reader. While my writing isn’t the same style as hers, I’ve been trying to capture the same feel. No one has really ever done a teenage superhero team (because let’s face it, that’s what the Animorphs were,) quite like her. She captured the feel of teenagehood along with sci-fi absurdity, all in a package appropriate for kids without ever talking down to them. My hope is someday there’s a kid who thinks of Spark the way I think of Animorphs.

Let’s get into the meat and potatoes: the art and craft of writing itself!  Do you have a preference of points-of-view when you write?

Not really. I find it depends on the story being written. A Spark Ignites was originally written in first person when I started, but two chapters in I realized that third person would fit the story better. The writing style should always serve the story, not the other way around.

Sparse or wordy, how do you like your descriptions served up?  Are you a Hemmingway man or do you like some saucy adjectives with your nouns?

Descriptions are a tricky thing. Too much of it and the reader’s eyes will glaze over, or they’ll skip pages. Not everyone is George R.R. Martin, who can spend pages describing what everyone is wearing and eating and still make it riveting. Personally, I’d rather err on the side of caution, and keep things sparse. It does mean that A Spark Ignites runs a little short, at barely 50,000 words, but I’d rather have 50,000 words that keeps the reader entertained than 100,000 words that don’t.

Picking off the menu of base literary conflicts, what’s your favorite and why?

Internal conflicts are always the more interesting to me. It’s the one sort of conflict everyone has experienced.

What do you think is more important to your recipes, plot or characterization?  Why?

It depends on the story I’m trying to tell. If I’m telling a romance, then characterization is important, while plot is often more important to action/adventure and mystery books. I try very hard to include a healthy mix of both, but if I’m honest, I usually have to plot mapped out long before I have the characterization down.

We all know that the first taste means the most!  What do you do to get that first bite hook with your readers?

This is tricky, and something I’m still struggling with. Instinct says to start with some action, but that only works in a visual medium. When it comes to the written word, you must have the reader care about the character before you can get them to care about any action they’re involved in. So admittedly my stories start off slow. I try to build an air of mystery, even in ordinary situations, but I’m not sure how well it comes across. What’s frustrating is that the best part of A Spark Ignites happens 75% into the book, but I can’t really advertise it without ruining the book for people, no can I lead with it, because it wouldn’t feel earned. Ultimately the best way to hook a reader is probably a cool cover. Sad, I know, but we all judge a book by the cover, whether we admit it or not.

The most important of questions: Cake or pie?

I’d say cake. Unless the pie was of the pizza variety.

Finally, if you could give one piece of advice to aspiring literary chefs out there, what would it be?

The hardest part of writing is motivation. Sometimes you just sit there not feeling like writing. And that’s ok. You’ll hear folks say you have to write every day, but that isn’t true. But you should be writing more days than not. If you realize you haven’t written at all this week, and its Wednesday, then force yourself to write. Just don’t make yourself crazy. In writing, there are no hard and fast rules. Do what works for you. Set yourself a goal, and stick to it. Maybe 1,000 words a day for five days a week. In three months, you’ll have a finished first draft. But the most important advice I can give is always accept criticism graciously, and use it to improve your writing. Nothing is worse than a defensive writer who attacks the readers.

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