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.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Spreading GOSSIP and RUMORS with Rose Cooper

When I received the ARC of GOSSIP FROM THE GIRLS' ROOM by ROSE COOPER (Random House, 2011) I was intrigued by the comment "Diary of a Wimpy Kid for girls" tag that was added to it. But let me tell you something. Rose has written a book that stands on its own and will rise above the shadow of a wimpy kid and take life of its own. In fact it already has with several printings. This Blogtastic book is hilarious! The phrase "stink-haunted" had me laughing for days. Now that I am thinking about that word again I'm laughing. I really hope that boys will overlook the pink trimmings on the black cover and pick this book up and read it. Why? Because they will find a great deal of humor that is not just "girl-centric". I couldn't read the book fast enough and I had to speak with the author that had me laughing harder at times than Wimpy Kid did. So please join me for a very entertaining interview with one of my new heroes.

Can you tell me a bit of your background and what brought you to writing for children?

Rose Cooper: I was always obsessed with reading and writing and in 6th grade I proclaimed my career as a future author. I just had no idea it would be such a long and difficult journey. I did the typical kid stuff, entering story contests, attending young writers’ conferences, and sending out my first query when I was eleven. I declared myself as my own agent because, well, anyone can do that, right? After I grew up and figured out what a query really was and traded in the typewriter and white out for a computer, I started seriously querying agents. Although I had many close calls, it took me about ten stories, a bazillion queries, and six years before writing GOSSIP and landing my fabulous agent, Rosemary Stimola. I’ve just always had a passion for writing for children. That, and being in denial about growing up, has helped.

Your debut novel is hilarious. Was it intended to be a graphic novel? If not, when did that decision come about?

RC: Thanks! I did intend for it to be a graphic novel, I just never thought in a million years that the actual images would be done by me! As soon as I started the story, it became clear that the images would have to be incorporated into the text, so I drew these to get my idea across. It wasn’t until we got the offer from Random House that I realized they would be keeping the images.

What made you decide to tell this story first and how much of it is based on you (if any)?

RC: The inspiration for the story hit me like a suitcase of bricks. I was in Starbucks studying for my Business Law class and the restroom was in my direct line of vision. WHAM! Inspiration! Actually, my original title, “Bathroom Blog” is the first thing that came to mind. From there, I wrote the story. There is quite a bit of me in Sofia. I’ve always been dramatic, clumsy, and full of those “duh” moments. Middle Grade was the most difficult years for me and I was never one of the popular kids. I always had my nose stuck in a book and quietly watched (and laughed) from afar. Although I will deny that if you tell anyone!

I know the format of writing comic book/GN scripts, but If I wanted to write a graphic novel like Gossip can you tell me what the process is? Are you writing the manuscript and making notes of what images will go where along the way?

RC: When I queried my agent, I scanned my images and inserted into them into the word doc of my actual story, just so she could get the full idea of what I was trying to do. Once she requested the full, I converted it to a PDF file. There was never an actual format that I was aware of, so I really took a chance.

Writing the second book, Rumors, I had more of an idea of what to expect. I wrote the book first and inserted illustration notes along the way. The inserted notes are copyedited along with the rest of the manuscript. I then work with an in-house designer and send her all the images in a specific format. I get all the freedom when deciding on the images, although they can send any back to me for corrections (and they do!) if they aren’t consistent with the others, or small details I might have missed from one image to the next.

Is there any rumors you can spill about the sequel to Gossip (because I'm very anxious to read it)?

RC: Rumors from the Boys Room: A Blogtastic! Novel will be released Oct.11, 2011 (holy cow!) and you will see many familiar faces, as well as new ones. Sofia Becker swears to only blog about things that she hears from a totally trustworthy source---herself! Her locker just happens to be in her direct line of vision of the boy’s room (if she peeks around the corner) , so this gives her many opportunities to spy on the boys. Of course there’s no way she could possibly get that information mixed up, right? Thrown into the mix is a FES (foreign exchange student), a Popular Pretty who has the ability to use her hair as a weapon (or jump rope), and a dirty psycho kitty. I can’t really say much more than that, but it’s already available for pre-order! Am I allowed to do shameless promoting here?

Go ahead and be shameless! That's what we are here for. Please everyone, let's all join Rose and be shameless for a moment... 

I was fascinated by the mention in your bio that you were raised around dead people, being a mortician's (step) daughter. Can you tell me what that was like and will there be any stories coming from that era? (I can only imagine with your humor what that would be like).

RC: If you asked me back then what it was like, I would tell you it was miserable. Awful. My life was ruined and totally over. We lived only feet away from the mortuary and the cemetery was our backyard. But looking back, I can see so much humor in it. Like riding in the back of a coroners van (with a dead body. And the toes touched me!) And being picked up from school in a hearse. Or when my step-dad jumped out of a coffin (unoccupied, of course) just trying to scare me. And we won’t even go into the things I witnessed in the embalming room!

RC: The first story I ever wrote and completed was based on all these experiences. It is a humor MG, being the new girl in a tiny town where the odds are already stacked against her. Then enter the dead body stuff. Unfortunately, my editor didn’t think this one would work for the market right now. BUT, there may be a book in the future dealing with the supernatural. And it just might also have the most awesome title ever! So be sure to visit my website often, like three times a day, to stay updated. (You said yes to the shameless promoting, right?)

Yes, we love shameless promoting. Here let me help you out. OKAY People, listen up! Go buy Rose's book and pre-order the other one. You won't be sorry!

If you were trapped inside a building during a zombie apocalypse and had only one book with you to read, what would it be and why?

RC: It would have to be, the book “How to escape a building and survive during a zombie apocalypse.” Just kidding! (Unless there really is a book called that?) I have so many favorites so this is tough. I would have to say Shopaholic by Sophie Kinsella. This was the first book I read that made me spit soda through my nose. So naturally, I’d want to get my mind off the Zombiness going on and maybe get a good laugh too. And assuming I’m trapped inside a mall, it was also be very appropriate.
Speaking of shopping, have I mentioned that you can pre-order RUMORS now?

Okay, I'm dying now for Rumors. Seriously, I would take a day off work to read it. I want to thank Rose for stopping by the Asylum and hanging with us. I also want to thank her for writing an awesome middle-grade book. A big thank you to Random House for the ARC. What a wonderful surprise it was. To learn more about Rose hope over to her blogtastic blog and enjoy - http://rosecooperwriter.blogspot.com/

Monday, April 11, 2011


Walden Pond Press just launched the trailer for JUNIPER BERRY, one of my favorite books of the year. Yes, I said it, favorite! Although we are only four months into it I am raising the I LOVE THIS BOOK flag high and waving it for all to see.

Watch the wonderful and sublime trailer below (created by Mary McAveney). And stay tuned for my interview with author M.P. Kozlowsky posting on May 5th, kicking off what I'm sure is going to be a face melting blog tour.

Mucho thanks to the uber awesome Kellie at Walden Pond Press for sharing the trailer and images.

Friday, April 8, 2011

The Magic Finger - Giveaway!

There are many a days I wish I had a magic finger. Not just so I could connect to those hard to reach itches or use it to grab the toys my daughter manages to drop behind the couch. For the most part I would use that magic finger to right some wrongs in this world. We all have our beliefs and passions. This giveaway has one a few simple rules (see below).

If you have ever read the book The Magic Finger by Roald Dahl you are familiar with the story. If not, here is a brief logline of the story. The Gregg family loves hunting, but their eight-year-old neighbor can't stand it. After countless pleas for them to stop are ignored, she has no other choice -- she has to put her magic finger on them. Now the Greggs are a family of birds, and like it or not, they're going to find out how it feels to be on the other end of the gun.

Roald Dahl is one of my biggest writing influences and I love his books. I simply want to celebrate a great writer and show my appreciation to all amazing Asylum readers and followers. A thank you for sticking in there with me. 

Okay, let's get down to the rules. 1) Follow this blog (if not already following). 2) Tweet about it (if you tweet) or you can shout it out loud if you want. 3) AND the most important of all - comment on what you would do if you had a magic finger. 

This contest is limited to the US residents. Deadline is April 12th, 2011, Midnight. The winner will be picked at random by my trusty robot assistant and announced end of next week.