I love interviewing debut authors on my blog. I also feature debut authors in Writer's Digest magazine, and highlight them in both theGuide to Literary Agentsand the Children's Writer's & Illustrator's Market.
Today I'm sitting down with middle grade author Mike Jung, author of GEEKS, GIRLS, AND SECRET IDENTITIES (Arthur A. Levine Books/Scholastic, 2012). Booklist said the story has "snappy and authentic dialogue, layered plotting, full-on science, and sweet preteen romance." Kirkus said of the book: "[T]his is a genuinely new sort of superhero story, and it will surprise even people who are tired of sound effects and capital letters."
Mike Jung is an active blogger, parent, SCBWI member, and library professional. He lives in Oakland, California, with his wife and two young children.
What is the book’s genre/category?
It's a superhero book, so you could call it middle-grade spandex fantasy.
What's the book about?
GEEKS, GIRLS, AND SECRET IDENTITIES is about three 12-year-old guys who discover that the new alter ego of their hometown superhero, Captain Stupendous, is a 12-year-old girl.
Where do you write from?
What led up to this book? What were you writing before breaking out with this book?
I've dabbled in creative writing my entire life - short stories, songs, playwriting classes in college, snarky and inappropriate email at work - but I’d never attempted to publish anything before, and GEEKS was my first attempt at writing a novel.
What was the time frame for writing this book?
I first had the idea of writing a children’s book waaaaay back in 1996, then spent 10 years daydreaming about it. When my daughter was born in 2006, I realized that it was never going to happen unless I fully, unequivocally committed to making it happen. Over the next few years I wrote 26 versions of the first page, 4 rewrites of the first 50 pages, and finally a complete manuscript, which I intensely revised 3 times before signing with my agent.
How did you find your agent?
EMLA agent Ammi-Joan Paquette contacted me after reading whatever lunacy i was spouting on my blog back in 2009, and I ultimately signed with her in June of 2010. A few months earlier I'd already hurled my manuscript onto Arthur Levine's slush pile in a fit of megalomaniacal optimism, and in August 2010 I took Arthur's master class at the SCBWI summer conference. We hit it off, and shortly thereafter Joan called to tell me that Arthur wanted to publish my book. So the final offers of representation and publication happened in kind of a whirlwind.
Writing a novel for children? Literary agent
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What were your 1-2 biggest learning experience(s) or surprise(s) throughout the publishing process?
I knew less than zero about the production schedule for books, so seeing how the editing, illustrating, design, and printing processes come together has been fascinating.
I was also surprised by how reassuring the editorial process turned out to be. It wasn’t easy, by any means, but my confidence increased as I successfully completed each round of edits. I also can’t overstate the value of working with Arthur, one of the most respected and accomplished editors in the business.
Looking back, what did you do right that helped you break in?
The single biggest thing I’ve tried to do is be honest. I’ve given honest feedback to others’ work, and honest answers to questions from industry pros. I’ve been honest with myself about my goals and the work I need to do to achieve them. And I’ve tried to honestly express all my positive feelings for all the great children’s books out there and the people who create them, because the presence of that kind of positive energy is one of the best things about the kidlit community.
On that note, what would you have done differently if you could do it again?
In the past I’ve had moments when I wish that I’d started earlier, but not so much anymore. When I finally got serious about my writing career I worked extremely hard, and I was ready for the opportunities that came my way. So, at the risk of sounding arrogant, I don’t think I’d do anything differently - I feel really good about how it’s all happening!
Did/do you have a writer platform in place?
I can’t honestly say that I have an existing platform, no. I’ve been as active in social media as most people (Facebook is my timesuck of choice) and I’ll continue on with that. I plan on eventually worming my way onto the conference circuit too, because I’m one of those weirdos who actually likes public speaking.
I have a piece in the DEAR TEEN ME anthology, which will be released by Zest Books in November 2012, and I’m also a contributor for BREAK THESE RULES, an anthology edited by fellow EMLA client Luke Reynolds that’s forthcoming in fall of 2013. And of course I hope to spit in the eye of the sophomore jinx and publish a new novel with Arthur A. Levine Books as soon as I’m able.
Other writing/publishing articles & links for you:
- The Differences Between Young Adult and Middle Grade Fiction.
- "How I Got My Agent," by Middle Grade Author Allan Woodrow.
- A Young Adult Query That Worked -- See It Here.
- 6 Tips on Writing Picture Books (That Just May Warm Your Heart).
- Literary Agent Interview: Quinlan Lee of Adams Literary.
- Sell More Books by Building Your Author Platform.
- Follow Chuck Sambuchino on Twitter or find him on Facebook. Learn all about his writing guides on how to get published, how to find a literary agent, and how to write a query letter.
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