Author Chat with Mike Jung, Plus Giveaway!
YABC: Do you have a mantra that gets you through the drafting phase??
Mike Jung: I don’t have anything like a frequently stated mantra, but I do occasionally think of something a writer friend said to me when I was struggling to complete my first-ever attempt at a full manuscript: books take time. It’s easy to fall into the trap of wanting to produce more work, more quickly, do MORE MORE MORE, but that statement will always be true, especially for me. Books take time.
YABC: What is your favorite hobby when you're not writing?
MJ: My main creative outlet before I started writing children’s books was music. I sing, play ukulele and guitar, and write songs, and while I don’t have time to hit the open mics and coffeeshop circuit like I used to, I still play when I can. The Erin Murphy Literary Agency (of which I’m a client) has a house band called Erin Murphy’s Dog (of which I’m a member). We play a mix of covers and original tunes once a year at the annual client retreat, and it’s always one of the highlights of my literary year. I also studied art as an undergraduate (I worked with clay) and while I don’t have any more time and space for making art than I have for making music, I throw together the occasional robot, monster, or giant fish costume to wear at author events, and that’s turned out to be a very satisfying way to slake my thirst for making visible, tangible art with my hands.
YABC: Which character gave you the most trouble when writing your latest book?
MJ: ALL OF THEM, THEY WERE ALL THORNS IN MY SIDE. Okay, seriously now, it was probably Chloe, just because she’s the central character and therefore had the most depth and detail to her. She shares some characteristics with me just because her experiences with social alienation and cultural identity are very informed by mine, but in terms of personality she’s much more different from me than Vincent from Geeks, Girls, and Secret Identities is, so figuring out her actions and reactions during the events of the story took some doing. This was one of the many ways in which working with my editor, Arthur Levine, paid off in a big way, because he’s a flat-out genius when it comes to understanding and articulating a character’s emotional experiences.
YABC: Do you enjoy writing to music? If so, do you have a go-to playlist?
MJ: I actually don’t enjoy writing to music, mostly because sound distracts me in a more jarring way than other types of distraction. That’s not to say I write in pristine silence, because I don’t have much of that. Late nights are the one time when low noise is fairly common in my daily routine, but I can’t handle late hours on a regular basis anymore, so my writing time is generally spent in coffeeshops. Coffeeshops are not quiet places. So most of the time I’m surrounded by noise when I write, and while I can’t do a whole lot about it, I can choose to not add other sources of sound to the mix. Thus, no music playlists for me.
YABC: Is there an organization or cause that is close to your heart?
MJ: I’m immensely proud to be a founding member of We Need Diverse Books™, and being involved with WNDB has had a profound effect on me in both professional and personal terms. My work is better for all that I’ve learned while contributing to the work of WNDB, and I feel like I’m slowly carving my way out of a shell of ignorance and apathy that I’ve been inside for my entire life. I’m not anyone’s avatar of enlightenment; I still make so, so many mistakes. But unlike before, I’m learning from those mistakes, and feel like I’ve stopped being an unconscious part of the problem and started to become a conscious part of the solution.
YABC: What's a book that you've read recently that you would recommend to your readers?
MJ: I’m reading an advance copy of the MG novel Two Naomis by Olugbemisola Rhuday-Perkovich and Audrey Vernick, and it’s every bit as wonderful as I thought it would be. It’s an insightful, funny, and moving story about the many different ways we define family.
YABC: What would you say is your superpower?
MJ: I’m tempted to say it’s the ability to consume a nearly endless number of doughnuts without falling into a state of catastrophically ill health, but the truth is that I only talk about eating doughnuts all the time and almost never actually eat any. So I guess that makes my superpower the ability to lie about how many doughnuts I eat...
Meet Unidentified Suburban Object!
Comic and satirical, but also full of painful truths about being both a bright, sensitive middle schooler, and a so-called "model-minority" in a decidedly NOT-diverse town.
The next person who compares Chloe Cho with famous violinist Abigail Yang is going to HEAR it. Chloe has just about had it with people not knowing the difference between someone who's Chinese, Japanese, or Korean. She's had it with people thinking that everything she does well -- getting good grades, winning first chair in the orchestra, etc -- are because she's ASIAN.
Of course, her own parents don't want to have anything to DO with their Korean background. Any time Chloe asks them a question they change the subject. They seem perfectly happy to be the only Asian family in town. It's only when Chloe's with her best friend, Shelly, that she doesn't feel like a total alien.
Then a new teacher comes to town: Ms. Lee. She's Korean American, and for the first time Chloe has a person to talk to who seems to understand completely. For Ms. Lee's class, Chloe finally gets to explore her family history. But what she unearths is light-years away from what she expected.
Meet Mike Jung!
Mike Jung is the author of Geeks, Girls, and Secret Identities and proud to be a founding member of the #WeNeedDiverseBooks team. He has contributed to the anthologies Dear Teen Me, Break These Rules, and 59 Reasons to Write. Jung is a library professional by day, a writer by night and a semi-competent ukulele player during all the times in between. He lives in Oakland, California, with his wife and two children. Please visit him online at www.MikeJung.com and follow him on Twitter @Mike_Jung
Unidentified Suburban Object
By: Mike Jung
Release Date: April 26, 2016
Three winners will receive a copy of Unidentified Suburban Object (US only).
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This sounds like just the kind of quintessential diverse read I'd expect from an author with a deep-seated interest in the production of this literature. Specifically, this story explores what it means to be Other in a racial/ethnic sense, among others. I am not surprised but strengthened in my enthusiasm by quotations from the PW and Kirkus reviews commending the characterization of people as aliens in realistic rather than sci-fi fiction, as it were. Must read! Thanks so much, Kara S
This book looks incredibly promising and it is the kind of book I wish I'd had read as a young readier. Not only does it signify representation to a racial and cultural group that has often and still remains largely overlooked, but it is written for an age when the perception of "otherness" is formed and feeling alienated is at it's most pervasive.
I love the cover--the fish's face says it all! This book is exactly the kind I love to read. I'm so glad you introduced me to it. And the author--he's hilarious--so i know his funny sense of humor will be blended into his books