True Colorz is your web source for all things YA in the LGBTQ community! Our blog features new releases, featured authors, interviews, and reviews/recommended reading.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Featured Author: Michael Griffo

Michael Griffo is the author of six novels, an essay, and ten plays. His debut novel, UNNATURAL, the first book in the acclaimed Archangel Academy series, was published in 2010 by Kensington Books. The next books in the series - UNWELCOME and UNAFRAID followed. Next, Griffo wrote The Darkborn Legacy with MOONGLOW being published in March 2013 and SUNBLIND in September. The final book of the trilogy, STARFALL, will be published in March 2014. In between, he wrote an essay in the anthology, DEAR TEEN ME, published by Zest Books.

His first play, NO MORE SUNDAYS, won the New Jersey Perry award for Best Original Play. His other plays include PEN PALS, 9TH STREET WATER, TWO, and PIECES, all of which have been produced across the country and in London. His short plays, CLOUDY and 5G/10B are published in Smith & Kraus' The Best Ten-Minute Plays, 2 Actors: 2005, and CLOUDY is licensed by

For more information, check out the author's newly-revamped website at or connect with him on Twitter @Michael2264.

Q&A with Author Michael Griffo:

  1. Which of your characters is most like you?

    Most all of my characters are a little bit like me, I've sprinkled a few Michael-isms into many of them. However, I think the one who is most like me would be Dominy Robineau, the protagonist of The Darkborn Legacy.

    Both she and I have a great sense of humor and rely on laughter to help us get through the most trying of times. We also have a love of words, both constantly creating new words for our own personal dictionary. Most important, we never give up. Adversity and obstacles may come our way, they may paralyze us momentarily, but, ultimately, they don't destroy us, they only make us stronger.

  2. In what way is your story unique compared to other books in this genre?

    The Archangel Academy series - UNNATURAL, UNWELCOME, and UNAFRAID - are rare in that the protagonist is a 16-year-old guy who is also gay. Not only that, but he falls in love with Ronan and they have a beautiful, long-lasting relationship. I deliberately chose not to create a love triangle or have outside forces destroy their bond because I thought it was very important to show young readers - gay and straight - that such a love can endure. As a young reader, I was never exposed to that type of relationship, in fact, the closest I got was reading A SEPARATE PEACE, which is one of my favorite novels. I have no idea if John Knowles meant for Gene and Phineas to be gay, but that's how I read them. I wrote the Archangel Academy series, in part, as a way to give young readers, but especially those in the LGBTQ community, the chance to identify with strong, loving characters, who just happened to be gay.

    I also think The Darkborn Legacy - MOONGLOW, SUNBLIND, and STARFALL - are unique in that even though the plot involves supernatural shenanigans and fantasy elements, at its core it is a story about friendship. Dominy's friends are her lifeline and her friendship with Jess is so enduring it continues even beyond death.

  3. What did you like to read when you were a teenager?

    This question is so interesting because sometimes as an adult you forget the things that inspired you as a teenager.

    As I mentioned, I loved A SEPARATE PEACE, in fact, every couple of years I reread it and I'm still amazed at how much I love the writing and the story. I spent a lot of time reading gothic novels like JANE EYRE, another all-time favorite that I reread often, and all of Shirley Jackson's novels and short stories, Edgar Allen Poe, Agatha Christie, and Henry Slesar, who was actually the headwriter of one of my favorite soap operas of all time - The Edge of Night!

    The common denominator of all these books is that although they were mysterious, sensational, supernatural, with lots of unexpected plot twists, character was vitally important. These authors knew that it didn't matter how great the story was, if the reader couldn't connect with the characters because they felt they weren't real or engaging the reader would toss the book away half-way through - and without curious and excited readers, books are really just stacks of paper.

    I also have a great love of science fiction and read - and watched on TV and in the movies - as much of it as I could find. rLogan's Run, Planet of the Apes, 1984, Brave New World, The Man From Atlantis, Star Wars, Space: 1999, Land of the Giants were all favorites of mine. And again, while these books and TV shows were otherworldly in scope and atmosphere, the characters are stories were grounded in reality. Yes, I found the out-of-this-world plots and scenarios fascinating and inspiring, I loved these stories because the characters were grounded. I never felt that they were contrived or only existed to further the plot - it was the other way around, the plot continued to progress to even more fantastical lengths because of how the characters handled each situation. I really have tried to keep these lessons in mind as an author - as long as you stay true to your character and keep him or her real and honest, the most outlandish plot you can ever come up with will be accepted by your reader.

  4. What are your writing goals for the next five years?

    As much as I love writing three-book series, it is quite a challenge and sometimes, at the outset, can feel daunting. I would like to write a stand-alone YA novel or even a collection of short stories. I have so many ideas percolating in my head - and not all of them are as grand or far-reaching as the first two series I've written - that I would relish the opportunity to explore those ideas within a smaller framework.

    Specifically, I want to delve into more science fiction for the reasons I've already mentioned - growing up sci fi was incredibly inspiring to me and unlocked my imagination in a way that traditional literature did not. It would be a welcome challenge to try and write something in that genre.

    Whatever I write, however, I want to test my limits as a writer. I want to become better, vary my style, explore new ways of telling a story, all things that will ultimately excite both me and my readers. I've already laid solid groundwork and now it's time to grow. So the next five years - regardless of what I write - will definitely be an exciting time.

  5. If you could travel back in time and tell the teenage you one thing, what would it be?

    Again, this is one of those questions you don't really think about until asked. And I was asked this question and wrote an essay about it in an anthology - DEAR TEEN ME. Basically, I would tell my teen self to have more confidence in yourself and understand that perfection is not an attainable goal, we all must fail at times, how many times is unimportant, what's important is that we keep trying.

    I would also tell my young writer self to have more discipline. As a teenager I had some talent, but I was more concerned with having a good time and didn't focus on my writing until I was much older. The discipline I have now, quite frankly, is amazing, especially when I look back and see just how much time I wasted. Now I do believe that everyone has their own personal journey, so perhaps I would not have become the writer I am today if I had found success earlier, but I do wonder. I am, however, extremely grateful - to myself and others who forced me to take my talent and the craft of writing seriously - because the joys I've known as a writer are incomparable.

  6. What other interests do you have outside of writing?

    Since writing is a sedentary and isolating practice, I find it necessary to do things to counteract that experience. Mainly, i try to stay as active as possible - it not only helps the body, but the mind as well. I practice yoga, I ski, skate, play tennis - not all at once, but as often as I can! I also love to travel, whether it be long trips overseas or short car rides to the country as long as there's a change of scenery and a new experience.

    I also love the theatre and, in fact, direct plays and workshops with a community theatre group in my hometown. I love working with people who are interested in exploring their creative side. It's such a thrill to work with someone who is reticent or unsure about themselves and watch them grow more confident and poised. The exercise is very much like writing, but instead of shaping and helping a person achieve their potential on paper, I get to do it in person.

  7. How do you research for your books?

    Interestingly, I don't do an incredible amount of research before writing a book and that's mainly because, as I've said, I focus on character first. I may have a kernel of a plot, but it doesn't get fleshed out and fully realized until I know who my characters are and what makes them unique as individuals.

    I create a character checklist for each character, asking obvious questions such as how old are they, how much do they weigh, what color is their hair to more introspective questions like what is their favorite food, what is their political persuasion, and what are their dreams and life goals. Once I have all this information, I can begin to create nuanced characters that mimic real people and aren't just caricatures or cardboard imitations. To me, it is the only way to create the foundation of a good story.

    There are moments, however, when you need to research a particular idea or plot point. I don't want to jinx myself, but I've always found those moments to be godsends. For example, I wanted Ronan to come from the northernmost point of Ireland, I have no idea why, but that's what I wanted. I did some online research and found that place to be Inishtrahull Island. Intrigued, I did a bit more online research and found that the name also meant Island of the Bloody Beach. Since Ronan was a vampire from a vampire family, the name was perfect.

    In The Darkborn Legacy, Dominy is a werewolf so, of course she is a slave to the moon. Well, for some reason I included Orion's constellation as part of a major plot device and wouldn't you know that during my research on the moon I found out that Artemis, the Greek goddess of the moon, killed Orion. I guess the moral of this story is that when you do your research don't be rigid, let the research bring you to the answers you need. Most often, while researching a story, you'll turn an unexpected corner and find out something you never knew. And even more exciting than that, you'll uncover something you never thought you'd need to know.

  8. What would you like young readers to take away from your novels?

    It would be an incredible compliment if young readers, who finished reading my novels, were left with the thought that yes, those characters do exist. Now, that might seem odd because my characters are vampires, witches, werewolves, efemeras, and all other kinds of supernatural creatures, but I'm hoping that readers can look beyond the physical characteristics of my characters and into their emotional make-up to find that they are really just normal teenagers.

    My hope is that they can relate to Michael, Ronan, Dominy, Jess, and all the other teenage characters and personally identify with their struggles. Of course readers will never have to deal with the ramifications of becoming a vampire or a werewolf, but maybe they can learn how to overcome personal struggles -- peer pressure, loss of a parent, isolation -- and understand the importance of self-worth and friendship. I believe I have created characters who are strong - emotionally as well as physically - who learn to rely on their own inner-strength during difficult times, but who also come to understand that it's just as important to reach out to others and surround themselves with equally strong and supportive family members and friends. Some young adults have a tendency to drift toward isolation so maybe, in some small way, the characters in my novels might teach them that there is another, more fulfilling, road to take.

    Beyond that, I just hope young readers enjoy the wild journeys each of my characters takes and that they want to come back to read more and more!

Now Available from Michael Griffo:

Unnatural (Archangel Academy, Book One) Michael Howard and Ronan Glynn-Rowley meet at Archangel Academy, an all-boys school in Eden, a rural town in north western England. Both are outcasts and decried as unnatural, Michael because he's gay, and Ronan because he's a hybrid vampire.

Unwelcome (Archangel Academy, Book One) Griffo establishes a fresh spin for young adult vampire novels in the second installment of his Archangel Academy series, set in a mysterious English boarding school filled with secrets.

Unafraid (Archangel Academy, Book Three) The boarding school known as Archangel Academy possesses a legacy of secrets known only to a privileged few. For in this peaceful, charming part of England lives a population of vampires at war with one another--and Michael Howard is caught in the middle of it all. . .When Michael left his small Nebraska hometown to enroll at Archangel Academy, he couldn't have imagined how much the experience would change him. Once mortal, Michael is now a vampire with a destiny that was foretold long ago, and a group of friends with their own mysterious abilities.

But there are enemies too, some of them hiding in plain sight. Being strong enough to defend himself isn't enough. Michael must find a way to protect his entire race of vampires. Dark forces within the school will drive everyone to take sides in the escalating violence. And for all his new powers, Michael will discover that love, jealousy, and vengeance have a danger all their own. . .

Also Available from Michael Griffo:

Moonglow (The Darkborn Legacy, Book One) From the author of the acclaimed Archangel Academy vampire trilogy comes a stunning new series about a girl determined to defy her fate—and reclaim her future…

Something strange is going on with Dominy Robineau. All her friends in Weeping Water, Nebraska, have noticed—and it’s way beyond teenage blues. As weeks pass, Dom grows consumed by anger, aggression, and violence, and she seems powerless to stop it. Then she turns sixteen, and things get really dangerous.

When her best friend is murdered, Dominy’s father is compelled to reveal the truth behind the darkness that threatens to both overtake and empower her. Her boyfriend, Caleb, swears they’ll find a way to change her destiny. But others are hiding secrets too, and gifts that are far more terrifying than hers. And even as she struggles to control her new abilities, Dom must contend with an enemy who wants her to use the beast within to destroy all those she loves, before she destroys herself…

Sunblind (The Darkborn Legacy, Book Two) In the latest book in Michael Griffo’s spellbinding Darkborn Legacy series, Dominy Robineau must choose whether to fight the werewolf inside—or the darkness all around…

Dominy had no choice in becoming a werewolf. The day she turned sixteen, a witch’s curse erased every trace of normal from her life and ignited a wild hunger that’s already cost Dominy her best friend. And though she’s still got her boyfriend, Caleb, and other allies who promise to help her find a cure, Dom feels completely alone. Yet she isn’t alone…

Throughout her hometown of Weeping Water, Nebraska, a legacy of evil is slowly coming to light, pitting friend against friend in an unfolding battle. Dom was sure her only hope was to fight what she’s become. But with an enemy threatening her family, she’ll have to harness the power she fears and gather all the strength she’s got…

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