The Write Stuff – Monday, October 9 – Interview With Michael Okon

If you haven’t already heard about this week’s guest, you are likely to do so over the next few months, or at least, one or two years at most. I say this, because his career is starting to take off like a runaway freight train.

Michael Okon is an award-winning and best-selling author of multiple genres including paranormal, thriller, horror, action/adventure and self-help. He graduated from Long Island University with a degree in English, and then later received his MBA in business and finance. Coming from a family of writers, he has storytelling is his DNA. Michael has been writing from as far back as he can remember, his inspiration being his love for films and their impact on his life. From the time he saw The Goonies, he was hooked on the idea of entertaining people through unforgettable characters.

Michael is a lifelong movie buff, a music playlist aficionado, and a sucker for self-help books. He lives on the North Shore of Long Island with his wife and children.

Today I am featuring Monsterland, a teen & young adult monsters & horror novel, expected to be released on Friday, October 13. (What an appropriate date for a horror novel!) He describes his book as follows:

Welcome to Monsterland—the scariest place on Earth.

Wyatt Baldwin’s senior year is not going well. His parents divorce, then his dad mysteriously dies. He’s not exactly comfortable with his new stepfather, Carter White, either. An ongoing debate with his best friends Melvin and Howard Drucker over which monster is superior has gotten stale. He’d much rather spend his days with beautiful and popular Jade. However, she’s dating the brash high-school quarterback Nolan, and Wyatt thinks he doesn’t stand a chance.

But everything changes when Wyatt and his friends are invited to attend the grand opening of Monsterland, a groundbreaking theme park where guests can interact with vampires in Vampire Village, be chased by werewolves on the River Run, and walk among the dead in Zombieville.

With real werewolves, vampires and zombies as the main attractions, what could possibly go wrong?

Will you tell us about your most recent release?

Well, my release isn’t so recent, but it’s certainly updated. In 2015, I wrote and self-published a book called Monsterland. Two years later, I have a literary agent, an entertainment attorney, a film agent, a publicist, and heavy film interest from a very well-known producer, plus a two-book publishing deal for the same book. It’s been quite a ride! Monsterland follows the story of teenager Wyatt Baldwin, who gets the opportunity of a lifetime to attend the grand opening of the scariest place on earth – Monsterland. It’s a theme park with real werewolves, vampires and zombies.

That’s quite impressive. What was the inspiration behind it?

I always wanted to write a monster book but couldn’t settle on which type of monster to focus my story on. In the summer of 2015, I was watching an 80s and 90s movie marathon with my son who was 7 at the time. I showed him all the classics – The Goonies, Back to the Future, Gremlins, Jurassic Park…etc…It occurred to me while watching, why isn’t there a theme park with zombies. I called my brother immediately to tell him about the idea for a book I’d like to write and he told me, “No.” I was certainly confused. He said, “It has to be a theme park with werewolves, vampires AND zombies.” I started beating out the character arcs that night.

What was the biggest challenge you faced writing this book and how did you overcome it?

I honestly didn’t come across anything insanely challenging. I make sure my stories are fully written in an outline before I write Chapter 1. I need a roadmap to write, otherwise, I’d be lost. Every character’s arcs are beat out before, then when I know where each character is going, I dive into the novel.

That’s becoming an increasingly logical approach for me, an erstwhile pantser. What other novels have you written?

I have written and self-published 3 self-help novels under the pen name Michael Samuels. I then began writing novels, and wrote 15. Monsterland was the one that stood out and has been gathering a ton of momentum.

Have there been any awards, productions, videos or anything else of interest associated with your work?

I have an entire team behind me whose sole focus is to get my brand out there in the marketplace. I have won dozens of awards, and my brother has created some online videos. There is some heavy interest from Hollywood about my book Monsterland, so we’ll see where that goes.

What else are you working on?

Monsterland 2 is in the books, and will be coming out May 26, 2018. I’m in the middle of Monsterland 3 now, and currently beating out Monsterland 4 and 5. It seems that I’m going to be writing about monsters for the next several years, which I’m perfectly fine with.

What is your work schedule like when you’re writing?

I’m an early riser. I’m up at 5am. Eat breakfast, generally, bacon and eggs. I see my kids off to school. Then I research and develop my subject ad nauseum from 9 to 5. I consider that my day job. I have to know the ins and outs of my subjects. Google and Amazon are my best friends. I always cook my family dinner and it gives me a break from development. I tuck in the kids and wife around 8pm, then I go to my den and write until my eyes go. I do this every single day.

Tell us about your path to publication.

I self-published 18 books and had a nice little career going. I was reading a book a couple years ago called How to Sell a Screenplay in Hollywood (or something like that) by Syd Field. In it, he interviews an entertainment attorney named Susan Grode. I told myself, when I get my first agent contract I’m going to have this lady read it. Fast forward a few months later, I received an email from an agent in London who was interested in repping my works. I asked him to send me a contract and he did. I emailed Susan and introduced myself. She called me 2 minutes later and said before you sign with this agent in London, let me introduce you to my friend in Brooklyn named Nick Mullendore. I’m a Long Island guy so it made sense to stay local. We met for lunch and he signed me that day. That evening Susan said she would also represent me. Nick took my book Monsterland around and it was rejected by everyone. 6 months later he had a conference call with a Film Agent in Los Angeles. He was pitching her a romance novel and she said she wasn’t really into it, she’s into monsters. He said he had the perfect author for her and sent her my book. She read it in one weekend and we had a conference call the following Monday. She said she will get this on every producer’s desk in Hollywood, but it needs to get published. Nick got the book into the hands of Kevin J. Anderson who runs WordFire Press. WordFire read the book, loved it, and signed me to a two-book publishing deal for Monsterland 1 & 2. The film agent kept her promise and got the book into a few producer’s hands, who plan on shopping it around. This all happened in two-years. I have to pinch myself how many times I’ve caught lightning in a bottle so far. The universe is definitely responding to my requests.

Why do you write?

I am a universe builder. There is nothing more thrilling than creating something and pulling your reader into this world you’ve built. Keeping your reader there and entertained is something I get a kick out of.

What motivates or inspires you?

Watching movies is, by far, my biggest inspiration for writing books. There are certain films that have stood out in my life that I know where I was, who I was with, what I was feeling at the time, when I saw the film. I want to create that same type of feeling for my readers when I’m writing. I want people to never forget the first time they read a book of mine. I want that to stay with them forever, the same way seeing Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back was for me.

How do you pick yourself up in the face of adversity?

I wrote the book on overcoming obstacles. Adversity is what you make of it. I have been rejected by every publishing house, every film agent, every literary agent, and every business contact, I’ve practically ever come across. Life is about rejection. But…when you are rejected, that only strengthens your position to get to a YES, if you continue to push through. Every adversity, every failure, every heartache carries with it the seed of an equal or greater benefit. Napoleon Hill said that. For every NO I’ve ever received in my life, I’ve had a YES that was beyond my wildest dreams, I was so grateful for receiving that NO the first time around. I sometimes hope for a NO, because I know there is going to be a massive YES just around the corner.

I am a BIG fan of Napoleon Hill. Do you have any pet projects?

I am a sucker for self-help and law of attraction books. I have over 200 in my library and have implemented all of their teachings into my life. I continue to write down my goals on a monthly basis and see how these things manifest in my life. So far, I’m at a 90% success rate in a three year timeframe. Not bad, I must say. Other than that, I’m a huge Disney guy, I love to gamble (especially craps and poker), and I haven’t eaten bread, rice, pasta, potatoes, fruit or veggies in 5 years. I’m in the best health of my life.

Thank you, Michael, for taking the time to join us. Before I give my site’s visitors a taste of your work—followed as usual by your social and book-buy links—I’d like to conclude this interview with a Lightning Round. In as few words as possible, please answer the following:

My best friend would tell you I’m an… Insanely funny person who makes light out of all situations.

The one thing I cannot do without is: Steak (and butter).

The one thing I would change about my life: Eat more steak and butter.

My biggest peeve is: People who are addicted to their smartphones.

The thing I’m most satisfied with is: My diet. I’ve reclaimed my health eating all foods I was told not to eat – steak and butter.

 

And now, for your reading enjoyment, an excerpt from Monsterland:

“They’ve found us,” he growled in the unique language they used after transformation. “Run!” he barked as he turned to his pack, watching his friends’ naked skin transform until it was covered with the same silvered fur.

They cried out in unison at the pain, howling with the injustice, and then ran in fear from the interlopers threatening their habitat.

They separated into two groups and took off in different directions to confuse the strangers.

Billy tore through the brush, thorns ripping his fur, and, in his adrenaline rush, he didn’t feel anything. He glanced backward; the humans were chasing them, one running with a huge camera. Nine other hunters followed, the long barrels of their rifles bearing down on them.

Behind him, he heard multiple shots and triumphant shouts, knowing that his friends were succumbing one by one.

With a frantic growl, he urged Little John, Petey, and Todd to run faster.

Little John’s massive body was blocking him. Billy bayed at him to keep his head closer to the ground. He worried about Little John, knowing that his big frame might as well have had a target painted on it.

“Stay close together,” he urged. His heart sank when he heard Todd yelp. The shot hit his friend from behind, sending him careening into a trench. Billy wanted to stop but knew he couldn’t help Todd. The humans were on his friend’s fallen body seconds later. He had to find Petey and Little John a place to hide.

There was a loud scream as one of their pursuers stumbled on a root to their left. Billy paused, panting wildly, to get his bearings next to the broad trunk of a cypress tree.

“Which way?” Petey asked.

Billy’s eyes searched the tangle of the mangroves for an opening.

A shot rang out, splintering a tree, sending shards of bark around them. Billy reared in surprised shock. It wasn’t a bullet. A red feathered dart was vibrating next to him, sticking out of the wood.

“What is that?” Petey whimpered.

“It’s a dart,” Billy said. “They’re trying to capture us. This way!”

He and his pack mates took off, disappearing into the twisted vines.

They clawed through the swamp, hiding behind clusters of Spanish moss, dipping under the water when the hunters approached.

One man in the group stood taller and leaner than the rest, his dark wolfish eyes scanning the dense undergrowth looking for them. The man paused, training his gun in Billy’s direction as if he could see straight through the foliage.

Billy held his breath, terrified of discovery, but the harried sounds of a chase distracted the leader of the hunters.

Billy and his pack skirted solid ground, their bodies quivering. He glanced at the sky, wishing for the sun to rise so that he would transform back to being human.

The splashes of their pursuers seemed to recede. The pack waited in claustrophobic silence for the time to pass.

Billy spied a dinghy heading towards the flat-bottom boat as dawn approached. They heard the sputter of an engine being turned over.

“They’re leaving,” Little John said hopefully.

The rays of the sun lit the eastern sky. It was quiet once more. They paddled softly toward the shore. Coming out of the water, they shook themselves of the muck. Early morning birdcalls broke out in the thick stillness.

Billy barked a cry of dismay as shots rang out. Little John went down in a tumble of leaves and mud, a dart silencing him.

Billy veered right, squirming under a broken log, Petey barreling over it. The report of another shot and a loud thump told him that he had lost Petey too.

What do they want from us?

Billy dug his paws into the marshy land, his heart pumping like a piston. He leaped high over an alligator dozing in the shade of a leafy tree. Billy felt the impact of a dart; a sharp pain ripping into his flank.

His eyes dimmed as he tumbled headlong onto the boggy ground. He rolled over and over, coming to rest on a bed of rotting leaves. He couldn’t move; his limbs were leaden. His ears registered the sound of running feet.

Billy looked up into the triumphant, black eyes of the man who led the attack. The hunter placed his boot on his neck, holding him down.

“Got ya,” he heard the man say with a thick accent before everything went dark.

 

Those of you who would like to lean more about Michael Okon can do so here:

Web: www.michaelokon.com

Twitter: @IAmMichaelOkon

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/iammichaelokon/

Snapchat: https://www.snapchat.com/add/iammichaelokon

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/iammichaelokon/

 

You can purchase his book here:

https://www.amazon.com/Monsterland-Michael-Okon-ebook/dp/B0751F3B3S/

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