Sunday, December 21, 2014

2nd Annual Diversity Month Day 21:Author Interview w/ Mike Jung +Kindle Fire 6" and Book Giveaway!

So we've managed to meet this author not just once BUT TWICE and we finally convinced him(after pleading and begging and finally offering him Starbucks coffees for life) to sit down and have a chat with us about his MG Superheroes flavored Sci-Fi novel, Geeks, Girls and Secret Identities. 

Give it up for, Mike Jung everyone!
*Libertad w/ Mike Jung*

1. First off, thanks for stopping by our blog! You're a first timer on Twinja Book Reviews, so now you have to stand in front of the class and introduce yourself!

Uh...what to say...hi, I'm Mike, I'm the author of GEEKS, GIRLS, AND SECRET IDENTITIES (Arthur A. Levine Books/Scholastic), an accomplishment I'm very, very proud of. I live in Oakland, CA with my wife and two kids - I'm a writer now, but my bachelor's degree is in visual art, and I wrote and played music as a fairly serious hobby before I started writing books.

I also work in the field of academic librarianship, although I want to be clear that I'm not qualified to call myself a librarian - I may get there one day, but I lack the scholarly credentials and overall body of information science knowledge to be a librarian. My daughter has a pet ball python. It's awesome. 

This in an incredibly boring introduction.

2. If you could talk to your teenage you as you now, what might you tell him, that he needs to know about himself? 
I wrote pretty extensively about this in both my Dear Teen Me blog post and in the DTM anthology, but to sum up: I know you think a lot of people hate you, and I know you hate yourself. You're going to survive. There's reason to believe you're neuroatypical - ADHD's what we call it now - which means there's reason to believe you're actually not the loathsome creature you think you are. It'll get better. Let's talk about your novel "Geeks, Girls and Secret Identities! What inspired the idea for the book? Did you have to go through any hurdles to get it published?

I've been a fan of superheroes and comic books my whole life. When I decided to write a novel, I naturally gravitated to the idea of writing about the things I loved as a kid - giant robots, flying vigilantes in Spandex, mad scientists, and so on. I started writing it just after the birth of my daughter, which was filling my head with thoughts about being a parent, the relationship between parents and their kids, and the reasons kids want or need to keep secrets from their parents. 

I experienced the same hurdles that most aspiring authors experience - rejection, rewrites, long waits to hear back on submissions, a 6-year wait from the time I started writing my book until the time it was on bookshelves, etc. - but in some ways I was very lucky. Getting published was no walk in the park, don't get me wrong. I worked very, very hard, and had to be psychologically disciplined in a variety of ways. However, after 30+ rejections on queries sent to agents, Ammi-Joan Paquette contacted me to request pages, and I've been a happy client of hers ever since. 

I also somehow managed to draw Arthur Levine's attention at just the right time, so when he reached out to me, I had a submission-ready manuscript, I was able to seize the opportunity to meet him in person soon after (at the 2010 SCBWI Summer Conference), and his interest led directly to Joan's offer of representation, so when Arthur offered to acquire my manuscript I had an ace agent to handle that process on my behalf. 

Being a published author sometimes feels like it's all hurdles, and there are definitely ways in which it felt like I had to pay my dues. I paid them, I continue to pay them, and it's been so, so worth the effort. 

4. One of the things that stood out to us the most, was hearing you speak for the first time, at the "We Need Diverse Books" Panel at BookCon 2014. If I'm quoting correctly, you stated "I couldn't think of a reason not to make my book diverse."

We talk about multiculturalism all the time on our blog. Why do you find diversity important in your writing?

When I started writing GEEKS, the decision to make my main character, Vincent Wu, a mixed-race kid, mostly because my own kids are mixed. "Diversity" is a word we need to use, simply because we need to give structure to this dialogue, but I think it's actually more accurate to say "reality." 

I decided pretty early to set my book in a city, and the city I know best is Oakland, CA. I could have created a fictional city that isn't diverse, and in some ways I have - GEEKS falls short in representing people with disabilities, just to give you one of several valid examples. I did succeed in creating a city that reflects at least some measure of the racial and ethnic reality of the place where my wife, my children, and I live, however, and while I did think of racial/ethnic diversity in my book as important, I ultimately thought more of it as natural, unmistakable, and real. 
5. You're also a #WeNeedDiverseBooks" Team Member! How did that come about? 
I've been friends with Ellen Oh for a number of years, so I already knew how active and committed she is to fighting racism and advocating for diversity - it's one of the numerous things I admire most about her. In early 2014 I met Karen Sandler (author of the TANKBORN trilogy and WNDB Facebook & brand manager) at an SCBWI conference, and a few weeks later she sent me an email, inviting me to join the WNDB team. 

I'd been following the discussion about BookCon, of course, and when I found out Ellen was the driving force behind the campaign I had no doubts it would be a meaningful, high-impact effort. I had no idea it would become the rampaging force of nature it's become; it's been a wild, exhilarating ride, made even more special by the presence of so many like-minded souls. I'm excited to see what we'll accomplish together in the future. 

6. Lastly, where can all these fans go to get updates on twitter rants, blog posts, new releases, or everything and everything Mike Jung or "We Need Diverse Books!" 
Er, I don't spend any time online. That would be inefficient. *cough* #lying #telltaleuseofhashtags But if anyone wants to check out my very very infrequent, not-at-all-interfering-with-
my-writing social media activity, there's my sorta-website/sorta-blog, my Facebook account, and my Twitter account. And everyone should routinely check the We Need Diverse Books website!
*Guinevere w/ Mike Jung*
About the Author:
Mike Jung has trouble writing about himself in third person, which is probably why his goofy little debut MG novel Geeks, Girls & Secret Identities (forthcoming from Arthur A. Levine Books in fall 2012) is written in first person. Mike has these delusions about writing picture books (even though it makes his head hurt to try) but his wheelhouse probably is middle-grade fiction, especially when it’s about silly things like robots, superheroes, monsters and zombie squirrels. Stuff he can just make up without doing any research, in other words.
Please, please, PLEASE don't forget to check out our giveaway!
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