Michael Seidelman is donating 10% of novel profits this month to the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation. (photo from Michael Seidelman)
May is Cystic Fibrosis Awareness Month, so author Michael Seidelman will be donating 10% of the profits from this month’s book sales to the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation to help find a cure.
The connection? The heroine of his Garden of Syn young adult series suffers from CF.
“When I was 10 years old, I watched a TV movie called Alex: The Life of a Child, the true story of an 8-year-old girl who died from CF. Seeing that a child could lose her life so young had a profound impact on me then and continues to do so all these years later,” he explained.
Having his protagonist suffer from CF “could potentially raise awareness about the devastating illness,” he said. “I learned a lot about CF while researching for the book and I’m sure anyone who reads it will as well.”
But, while an integral part of her character and of the plot, CF does not define Syn, though it does offer her challenges most people do not have to face, and has made her more responsible and mature than her years. But so have several other factors.
The first book of the trilogy – No One Dies in the Garden of Syn, which was released last month – introduces us to Syn. Right away, we find out that her parents went missing when she was 5 years old and her aunt has looked after her ever since. In addition to dealing with her illness, Syn has regular teenage problems with friendships, boyfriends and school, and exhibits that brand of cynicism so often found in kids of that age.
“Syn,” she notes. “Short for Synthia. I don’t know why my parents spelled my name with an ‘S’ but if I could ask them anything, that would be my last question. Aunt Ruth tells me it’s likely because I was special and deserving of a unique spelling. I highly doubt that’s it.”
Syn is a formidable and likable hero for whom readers will root. And the constant action will keep readers turning the pages. Along her accidental journey, she must face situations and enemies that are potentially more threatening than her illness.
“Young adult novels are usually geared towards an audience of 12 years and up,” said Seidelman when asked whether he was concerned with how young readers might react. “While it does contain some dark themes, I think kids in that age group are familiar with the topics that are explored. I also think that this book is more appropriate for younger readers than many other books in the young adult category. I probably wouldn’t recommend the Hunger Games or Twilight for a 12-year-old reader. While No One Dies in the Garden of Syn may be a bit scary towards the book’s climax, any kid who is comfortable reading the Harry Potter series should be more than fine reading this.”
His own creative journey was sparked by books he read as a kid.
“My favorite stories growing up were about secrets worlds, like Alice in Wonderland and The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. Since I was in high school, I had wanted to write my own book about a secret world. It took me many years before I came up with the right story – one that is inspired by the tales of Lewis Carroll, L. Frank Baum and C.S. Lewis, but at the same time is very different and geared towards an older audience.
“The ideas that triggered the story I ended up telling came to me when I immersed myself in nature and let the ideas flow. I jotted down notes for a few months and made many changes to the story and characters before I sat down in April of 2014 and plotted out each chapter in detail. That took about a month and then it took another four months to write the novel. But that was only the beginning, as there were many rewrites and edits that followed.”
No One Dies in the Garden of Syn is Seidelman’s first published novel. But, as much as he enjoyed writing it, he said, it was not an easy task.
“The rewriting and editing process probably took six times the effort that writing the initial manuscript did, if not more,” he said. “Every single word is immensely important, as are continuity and proper tenses. But, for the second book in the Garden of Syn series, which I am currently working on, I think that part of the process will be smoother. Having now done this once, I now know what works and what doesn’t.
“For anyone wishing to self-publish a book,” he advised, “I cannot emphasize enough the importance of paying for a professional editor. You also need a professional-looking cover that will stand out as people really do judge a book by its cover. Having it professionally formatted for the physical copy and ebook readers is also important. With over 3,000 books published every single day, you need to do everything in your power to make yours the best it can possibly be.
“And then, when it is published, your journey has just begun. You need to use every avenue available to let people know about your book and encourage them to read it. The internet offers many wonderful tools to help do this but you really need to put in the time to market it. As I write my second book, at least 25% of my time goes to marketing the first one.”
The next book in the trilogy will be out next year, and the conclusion in 2018. The first novel is available in paperback and as an ebook from online sellers, including via michaelseidelman.com.