Tuesday, April 26, 2011

My new ACCIDENTAL HERO - Matt Myklusch

Deadly robots, ninjas, and comic book madness that creates an ACCIDENTAL HERO. No, it's not my biography (don't I wish). Today, Asylum friends, marks the paperback release of book one in the series of Jack Blank stories written by Matt Myklusch. With book two THE SECRET WAR hitting the shelves in August 2011(Aladdin, Simon & Schuster) you have some time to dive head first into the incredible world and story of Jack Blank. Author Matt Myklusch has created and kicked off a series that is going to suck you right in and if you love all things middle grade and comic book and, well, awesome, then you will want to join in on the fun. To celebrate today's release we have the wonderful Mr. Myklusch - who I feel is a kindred spirit of mine - here to talk about Accidental Hero, writing, and comic book love. Let's geek out, shall we?

Can you tell us what brought you to writing for children and why you chose middle grade as your focus?

Matt Myklusch: My tastes are all over the map. I wrote screenplays before I wrote novels, mainly because I mistakenly thought they would be easier. There was a murder mystery, an action movie, and a "serious drama." They were all good ideas, poorly executed. None of them went anywhere. Over time, I realized that screenwriting wasn't really the right format for me, so a friend and I wrote a novel together. It was a comedy about pledging a fraternity. We had a lot of fun writing it, and we learned a lot too. Unfortunately, one of the things we learned was that we had written a book for twenty-something men (a demo no publisher is putting out books for).

So, it was back to the drawing board. I really enjoyed the freedom that comes with writing books as opposed to screenplays and decided to give it another go. This time around, there were two main rules: 1.) write for a genre that there was actually a market for (what a concept), and 2.) write something I was going to have fun with. It's a lot of work to write a novel, and there's no guarantee that anything will happen with it when you're done. If you don't have fun doing it, that's just a shame. Me, I love comic books and superheroes, and this idea I had about a boy who develops super powers and visits the comic book world just forced its way to the front of my brain and refused to be ignored. The Middle Grade level just felt right for THE ACCIDENTAL HERO. It's just how the voice of the story came out.

Many of us dream about getting to publication. Many of us also don't know what to expect after publication. What was the biggest surprise for you? What has been the biggest challenge for you?

MM: The biggest surprise was how the finish line keeps moving. First, getting an agent was the goal. That alone meant I was in the club. It was validation. It meant I was a "real writer." Then, once I had an agent, it was getting a book deal. Then, once the book sold to a publisher, it was hoping that it would sell in the stores to real people. The biggest challenge is getting the word out about your book and cutting through the clutter. There's no one thing that will do it. It just takes a lot of hard work and hustle.

I thought that once I achieved my dream of getting published, I could just relax and be satisfied, but I I'm not there yet. Each step leads to the next step. Each goal achieved sets up a bigger goal. That's not a bad thing, though. What do you do after your dreams come true? I say you keep dreaming.

The Jack Blank series has a smorgasbord of amazing things we need to see more of in books like robots and ninjas and wizards, to name a few. A lot of writers might have a hard time keeping focus with all this going on. How did you maintain focus during the creation process? Did it ever seem like there was too much?

MM: Absolutely. In the earlier drafts, I am sure there was too much, too. With this book, I really wanted to showcase the comic book world that fired my imagination as a kid. This is a world where it's normal to see superheroes, supervillains, robots, ninjas, and aliens all fighting in the street on a random Tuesday. The trick was giving the impression of this hero-filled world where the amazing is commonplace and the impossible happens every day, without bombarding the reader with too much information and telling them about *every* last hero and villain.

What really helped me keep it all under control was figuring out the structure of the world before I started, and filtering everything through the perspective of my main character. The story follows Jack Blank as he visits the Imagine Nation (the comic book world come to life) for the first time, so the reader learns about everything at the same time he does.

What do you think is the biggest mistake new writers make when writing genre stories? Especially when they are creating worlds?

MM: Trying to follow trends or recreate something that has already been done (and done well). I've been guilty of this myself. I love Indiana Jones, and one of the screenplays I wrote back in the day was a deliberate attempt to create "my own" Indiana Jones. Projects that start out like that can't ever achieve greatness. They're not coming from a place of creativity as much as they are a place of imitation. That's not to say you can't be inspired by another writer's work, but you have to write your story, or you're going to spend a lot of time thinking about what someone else's characters would do or say in a scene, instead of your own.

I've read that you grew up on comics and they are a major influence on your work. Can you tell us who (creators and characters) that changed the world for you? Why?

MM: The founding of Image Comics in 1992 had a huge impact on me. I'm an artist as well as a writer, and in many ways, I'm an artist first. Drawing is still the first step in my creative process. Back in 1992, my favorite artists - the top pencilers in comics - all left Marvel to form their own company. This was a revolutionary move. Up until then, there was just Marvel and DC. That was it. Now, there was a whole new universe being created. The Image universe. Its creators (Jim Lee, Todd McFarlane, Marc Silvestri, Erik Larsen, Rob Liefeld) weren't just drawing the comics now either. They were writing the stories too. They were involved in every aspect of the creative process.

Batman Europa by Jim Lee
It was a huge inspiration. Someone had opened the floodgates and all these great new comics and characters were coming out every week. It was proof positive that all the good superhero ideas weren't already taken. On top of that, Image Comics is all about creator owned properties, so reading comics from Image was like getting to look inside the brains of my favorite artists. I wasn't just enjoying their artwork anymore. I was seeing what their ideas were, and it made me want to keep coming up with my own.

Are you currently following any storylines in comics? Which ones?

MM: I read a ton of comics. Everything from straight superhero titles to pulp crime stories and fantasy. Some of my favorites right now are Grant Morrison's BATMAN INC., Joe Hill's LOCKE & KEY, Bill Willingham's FABLES, and Ed Brubaker's CRIMINAL and INCOGNITO titles.

Batman Inc.

I also like the AVENGERS, X-MEN, and SPIDER-MAN, and I'm interested to see what Marvel's FEAR ITSELF is all about. I'm a sucker for big cross-over events.

And finally - There is a giant robot invasion going on and you are trapped inside an underground bunker for a long time and you only have one book to read. What is it and why?

MM: "Escaping Underground Bunkers and Thwarting Robot Invasions: For Dummies".

Look out, Dummy!
I'm ordering my copy of that book now! You won't catch me being overtaken by loud sluggish robots. A super huge thank you to Matt for stopping by and talking shop. I plan on snagging a copy of Accidental Hero tomorrow at my local bookstore. If you haven't had the pleasure of reading it, I hope you join me in supporting what is sure to be an awesome series.

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