For my first author interview of this year, I bring to you Mike Jung, who wrote GEEKS, GIRLS, AND SECRET IDENTITIES (Arthur A. Levine). Illustrations were by Mike Maihack. This MG book is a science-fiction and superhero story with a superhero fan club, robots, and a middle school crush. The story is told from the perspective of Vincent Wu, the president of the Official Captain Stupendous Fan Club. Vincent and his friends live for sightings of their local superhero. My page turning sped up when Vincent learns the identity of his beloved superhero and when someone close to him is threatened by the evil Professor Mayhem. The book had the right amount of heart and humor, as well as action and suspense.
I recently interviewed Mike. He currently lives in Oakland, CA and works as a library professional for a liberal arts college in the East Bay.
What did you study at U.C. Irvine?
I was one of the more dysfunctional students in the UCI Department of Fine Arts. My specialty was ceramic sculpture - earthenware, to be more specific. I conducted one incredibly brief experiment with throwing vessels on a wheel, but the other 99.9% of my time there was spent making handbuilt forms. People described my work (such as it was) with terms like biomorphic abstraction, but I'm afraid I was not the most scholarly art student in the world, so that was more credit than I truly deserved. Despite my unhappiness during those years, however, I did genuinely love working in clay, and I miss it - it's much easier to work in clay when you have free rein in a university's ceramics lab than when you're trying to make space in your kitchen.
GEEKS, GIRLS, AND SECRET IDENTITIES is refreshingly funny. How do you weave humor into fiction writing?
I wouldn't say that I deliberately try to weave humor into my writing, at least not anymore - it's more that over time I've developed a voice that naturally skews toward irreverence. I've always been more comfortable and effective with written communication than verbal communication, but high school and college were the years when I made more conscious efforts to write fiction - I took a bunch of fiction and playwriting classes at UC Irvine, for example - and those were probably the years when I was most deliberate about TRYING to write in a way that I thought was funny. That very self-aware effort to be humorous became more organic and internalized with practice, however, and eventually became an integrated part of my writing sensibility.
I was (and remain) a devoted fan of fantasy and science fiction, so authors like Tolkien, Anne McCaffrey, Piers Anthony, Madeleine L'Engle, T.H. White, Larry Niven, Arthur C. Clarke, and Orson Scott Card were very important to me. I'm so sad and horrified by what I've learned about Orson Scott Card's beliefs in recent years - I couldn't disagree with him more strongly than I do - but ENDER'S GAME hit me with the force of a hurricane. In middle school and high school, I became a fanatical reader of Stephen King - this was back in what I consider his true heyday, when I was able to procure books like CUJO, FIRESTARTER, and PET SEMATARY at their original publication dates. I sometimes feel surprised by the fact that I haven't tried to write a horror novel yet, but I suspect that day will eventually arrive.
You’re welcome, Mike!