In some ways, Mike Spradlin sounds like a typical modest author whose
first work of fiction has just gained a nice bit of recognition--in his
case, an Edgar nomination in the YA category. "When you work on
something like this really hard, you hope it's good," he told Shelf Awareness
"When you get independent validation like this, it's a really good
feeling." He also said it's "a little nerve-wracking" to know that on
April 27, the night of the Edgar Awards banquet in New York City, he
will be on a program with people like Michael Connelly and Carl
Hiaasen. "I will feel like some kind of imposter," he said.
Spradlin is all the more thankful because he knows more than most new
authors about the publishing process--he has been a sales rep at Avon
and HarperCollins (since Harper bought Morrow and Avon) for 16 years,
selling to Borders most of that time. "It's a blessing and a curse" to
be in the industry, he said. "I know a lot of books get published every day,
and it's hard to get attention. There is so much competition for
people's time. A lot of writers don't realize that how much you have to
really work at promoting your book and talking about it. You have to be
kind of the noisy stepchild."
Spradlin's Edgar nominee is the first in a new series and is called Spy Goddess: Live and Let Shop
published in hardcover last March and just out in paperback (Avon,
$5.99, 0060594098). Spradlin described the Spy Goddess series premise in almost telegraphic
style: "A girl gets sent to boarding school and discovers that the
headmaster is a former top secret agent who is looking for agents and
leads the students to become agents when they're old enough."
The hardcover was a critical success and did well in schools and libraries, he said. School Library Journal
wrote: "Spradlin captures the perfect teenage voice in his protagonist;
she is more than just a spoiled, fashion-conscious teen from Beverly
Hills--she is the Spy Goddess--witty and smart with an edge. Overall,
this is an intelligent, exciting mystery that will have broad appeal."
said that "boys as well as girls will be attracted" to the book.
The second book in the series, Spy Goddess: To Hawaii with Love
(HarperCollins, $15.99, 0060594101), has just been published in
hardcover. If the paperback of Live and Let Shop
takes off, Spradlin
has more titles for Harper to shop. "I have most of the third [volume of Spy Goddess] written,"
he said. "I had plotted out five or six at the very beginning. Each
book comes to a fairly satisfying ending, but they could go on for
quite a while." Like Rachel Buchanan, his protagonist, "I'm open to more adventure," he laughed.
Spradlin has had the Spy Goddess adventure in mind for a long time. He wrote a picture book, Legend of Blue Jacket
published in 2002, and "thoroughly enjoyed the experience and wanted to
do more." But the picture book market is tough, so he "started thinking
along the lines of fiction." He had sold
children's books at Avon before the HarperCollins purchase, "and for
years I'd had the idea of a school for spies, but I didn't
have the niggling details like a character or plot," he continued, laughing again. "Then one day this
character, a young girl, popped into my mind.
After that, it was as though a movie screen went on in my head."
Working at night and on weekends, he came up with a draft in four
At that point, he showed it to Elise Howard at HarperCollins Children's
Books, who had been a colleague at Avon. "She encouraged me a lot and
gave me the option that I could take it somewhere else if I wanted or
she might be interested." Although Spradlin said "there are pros and
cons of publishing where you work," he chose to publish with Howard in
large part because HarperCollins Children's "is a totally separate
division and I have tremendous
respect for her."
Spradlin had nothing but positive words for the experience, saying
"everyone at Harper has been supportive and great." And at the
children's division's sales conference, "everyone said polite things--I
A national account manager in the adult division who
sells a group of adult imprints to Borders, Spradlin doesn't have to represent
his own title. He has sold to Borders
since 1992, when the company consisted of just 17 stores. For a time,
he was familiar enough with each new Borders store to be able to
recommend some on publicity tours. "But after they grew to 65, I
couldn't do that anymore," he said with a laugh.
Spradlin is having
fun with several other book projects. Walker has signed him to do two
historical picture books. One is about the Texas Rangers--"how they
formed and their history of 175 years," Spradlin said. The other is
called Daniel Boone's Great Escape
the true story of how Boone ran 160
miles in four days after escaping from Shawnee Indians who had held him
captive for four months. The title is being illustrated by Ard
Hoyt, best known for illustrating I'm a Manatee
by John Lithgow. "Ard
and I met at a conference and hit it off," Spradlin said. "I told him
about the story and he said he'd love to illustrate it if I ever sold
It's not hard to imagine that even if he doesn't have to stand and give an
acceptance speech on April 27, Spradlin will have enjoyed the
recognition--and perhaps made a connection or two that will lead to