Author Michael Thompson shares his love of vocabulary and prose
Michael Thompson, a 23 year old from Bristow, has been spreading his love of storytelling right here in Warrenton. For the past two years, he has participated in YABBA Fest (Young Adult Books Bands and Authors), an annual event started in October of 2016. During the festival Michael provided book signings, readings and panel discussions for locals and visitors to enjoy. He is also involved in planning the 2018 YABBA Fest with Allegro Community School of the Arts.
But, there is much more to Thompson than his involvement in promoting literacy in our town. He is a published author of four books. “I have been telling stories since I could hold a crayon,” he shared. “The Chicken Boy series was my first dabble into publishing and the character was actually created when I was 9 years old.”
When he was just 13 years old, Thompson published his first illustrated chapter book: Chicken Boy and the Wrath of Dr. Dimwad, and formed his own publishing company, Thompson Original Productions LLC. The inspiration for the company name and the drive to write came from one particular teacher: “Every time I brought my 4th grade teacher, Mr. Charles Aracich, a new story or picture…he would say ‘oh a new Thompson original.’” Thompson shared, “He inspired me and said to never stop writing Chicken Boy.” Now, Thompson visits Mr. Aracich’s classroom annually to speak with students, as a way to give back and empower the next generation of writers.
The journey from writing and illustrating to publishing wasn’t easy but Thompson had support along the way. “My parents were a big help. Legally I was too young to operate a business on my own, so my mom became my manager and my dad my editor,” Thompson said. “Getting published was a nice personal validation for me. Writing was something I was doing naturally and would have done really no matter what. It was very fulfilling to have my work on the bookshelf in the stores.” Initially, Thompson’s work appeared on Border’s shelves and about a year later at Barnes & Noble where.
Thompson’s most personally treasured work to date is World of the Orb, released in October 2016. The author began conceptualizing this book as far back as 4th grade and through middle school, but truly began writing the story while in high school. Although his attention was split between writing, illustrating, school, and a social life, Thompson nourished his writing skills as he matured.
One of the underlying messages of World of the Orb is conquering self-doubt, which spoke to him personally as he was writing it. “I knew World of the Orb was something special from the beginning, so I felt an enormous sense of responsibility to tell the story right,” said Thompson. “My main character is so humble that he’s unwittingly sabotaging moments when he could be brave. His journey into this new world unlocks powers he didn’t know he had, which is reflective of one of the story’s primary themes: the humble will be exalted.”
This literary work is a portal fantasy and Thompson’s creative ideas for the book came to him while he doodled in class. “I drew many creatures and knew I wouldn’t be able to write a story about each one, but I knew they all needed a place to live. So I created an environment; I drew many maps on the back of worksheets until I arrived at the one I used in the book,” shared Thompson. He even developed continents and biomes to include in this fictional world. Thompson described portal fantasy as “the reverse of urban fantasy which was most popular to write at that point in time and noted by the likes of Percy Jackson and Harry Potter.”
Details were not overlooked by Thompson. He even developed an entire language for the book called Trymbadorian, which also included its very own alphabet, and he wrote in terrestrial words. “You can see a little bit of it [language] on the cover; it’s etched in the rim of the Orb’s silver stand,” he shared. “There is an inclination in fantasy writing to avoid terrestrial words; meaning when fantasy authors write, especially in the first person, they can’t have their characters comparing their experiences and what they’re seeing to earthly things. This is what makes World of the Orb unique.” He explained the environment he created in this book is otherworldly, but because the main character is from Earth, he wrote everything clearly for the reader, in earthly terms. “It’s very exciting in that sense; I think it helps the imagery of the world fully come to life for the reader. I don’t want readers to do any work while they are reading. I want them [the reader] right behind the main character’s eye: to see, sense, feel what the character does.”
In the spring of 2016, Thompson graduated from George Mason University, magna cum laude and completed writing World of the Orb. “As soon as I graduated I was able to pour myself into completing the book with same rigor and schedule I kept to in college,” noted Thompson. Yet while he was in college, Thompson’s fiction writing professor Laura Scott, a professor and author, mentored and had a positive influence on him: “She helped with ideas on how to balance work and school, and offered a great deal of advice.”
Scott, who typically provided feedback to classmates in the form of positive comments, areas of improvement, followed by more positive remarks, was at first speechless after Thompson concluded his selected reading. She eventually said, “That sounded like professional fiction. It sounds like someone who has been writing for 40 years. I have no suggestions on how to improve the scene.”
Thompson admitted there were other authors who influenced his passion for storytelling: Brian Jacques (a high fantasy fiction writer – shield and sword style) and his great grandfather Lawrence Schoonover (a historical fiction writer). Jacques’ Red Wall series in particular captured Thompson’s interest, and World of the Orb was dedicated to Schoonover.
“Vocabulary is beautiful and introduces words many people have never heard before. Both Jacques and my great grandfather use vocabulary brilliantly. The thing I love about the English language is there is a word for everything,” said Thompson. “Brian Jacques has a saying I really admire: ‘As much as there are words in poetry; there is a poetry in words.’”
Both authors’ use of vocabulary appealed and influenced Thompson: “The fun in Jacques words and the rhythm of sentences in Schoonover’s works were compelling.” Thompson also mentioned he never met his great grandfather; he only knew him through his work.“Writing is in my blood,” he shared. In honor of the ancestral influence, Thompson named the fictional high school in World of the Orb after his great grandfather; the name of the school comes from a family name of Van Schoonhoven, which changed when the family arrived at Ellis Island.
Schoonover’s work provided a spiritual guide for Thompson: “To see that it (writing) could be done and was done by someone in my family before me is amazing. Schoonover’s work was translated into multiple languages, and was required reading in colleges. The Spider King was even dedicated to my grandmother.” Schoonover’s literary work spans from 1948-1973.
With an innate talent for art and storytelling, Thompson has proven himself an author on his own merits. This youthful writer has enthralled readers and will do so for decades to come. His journey will continue with the creation of a new urban fantasy and adventure story, and World of the Orb part two. For more information on upcoming book signings and release dates, visit his website (worldoftheorb.com). You may also find Thompson’s World of the Orb on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook.
Fictional works by Michael Thompson
Chicken Boy Series includes: Chicken Boy and the Wrath of Dr. Dimwad, Chicken Boy and the Destruction of the Doggy Doo Doo Demons, and Chicken Boy and the Fight of the Ferocious Flower. This series includes illustrated chapter books geared towards elementary aged students. The third book in this trilogy was released in 2011 and Thompson has plans for releasing additional books in this series.
World of the Orb. This portal fantasy geared towards young adults, provides creative, descriptive prose and incredible imagery. Watch for a release of World of the Orb part two in the future.
Scholastic Grant. Thompson applied for a scholastic grant late in 2017. If awarded, this grant will enable Thompson to create audio versions of his stories which he will personally narrate so individuals with reading and vision difficulties will be able to enjoy the stories he creates.