Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Apocalypse Now: An interview with GEEKS, GIRLS AND SECRET IDENTITIES author Mike Jung

Hi Mike, and thanks for chatting with us today! 
You seem to have found a perfect match in your editor. Can you talk
for a moment about working with Arthur A. Levine and the team at

Oh geez, I think it's probably impossible to overstate my happiness about working with Arthur. I knew about his peerless credentials and titanic stature in the publishing world before he acquired my book, of course, so my expectations for working with him were ridiculously high, but he managed to exceed them with room to spare. His obvious editorial brilliance improved my story in all the ways I hoped it would. However, it's been equally important and meaningful to discover that Arthur's a kind, funny, generous, and warm human being - my awe of his professional accomplishments is matched by my affection for him as a person.  It's been everything I ever wanted in an author/editor relationship.

Scholastic has been great to me on the whole. Of course Arthur's staff have been wonderful (Emily Clement's on the fast track to editorial greatness) and I feel very supported by the event coordinators, marketing team, and sales force. Roz Hilden, my region's Scholastic sales rep, is a flipping force of nature. I now know why authors are so eager to be published by Scholastic - when those Scholastic rocket boosters are turned on, the acceleration just flattens you against the back of your seat.

I've only seen preliminary sketches, but the illustrations seem like a great fit for your story and characters. How much input did you have in the illustrations?

I was shown the entire batch of sketches all at once and asked for feedback on them, and in all honesty I was too googly-eyed and delighted to say much more than Dude, theyre AWESOME! So yeah, I suppose I could have been more analytical about the whole thing, but nothing problematic jumped out at me, and one thing I learned is that the whole Scholastic editorial team, from Arthur all the way down to the copyeditors, looked at the artwork with a much more critical eye than I did. So I did have a couple of detailed conversations about a handful of the sketches, mostly continuity-related things. I honestly didnt know how much involvement I should expect to have, but I felt good about the amount I did, and my trust in the editorial team at AALB is unshakable.

GEEKS, GIRLS & SECRET IDENTITIES is mostly just plain fun, but it also deals with issues like bullying and self-image, divorce and the uncharted territory when parents start dating. How did you manage to treat those serious themes in the context of a humorous adventure story, and why was it important to you to do so?

I suppose Ive developed a bit of a reputation as a humor writer, which is gratifying since I love humorous books, but from the very beginning Ive also wanted to write books with real psychological resonance. One of the biggest reasons I wanted to work with Arthur Levine is because he has such a stellar track record of editing and publishing books that are fun, humorous, exciting, and entertaining, but also sweet, moving, and emotionally powerful. Arthurs collaboration really helped me define and deepen the emotional lives of my characters by exploring the complexities of their lives, which I think also enhances the humor and action in the story by strengthening the bond between reader and character.

In a post for our Ello's What Diversity Means to Me series, you said,

"My own children will always be able to look at my book and find characters with an ancestry similar to theirs, and Im grateful that Arthur A. Levine Books put that half-Korean boy right there on the cover for everyone to see. GEEKS, GIRLS, AND SECRET IDENTITIES wonchange the world for anyone, but it might introduce a hint of needed complexity for someone." 

I can't wait to get this book into my students' hands for that exact reason. Is there a specific reader you hope will find their way GEEKS?

I love Ellen and I really want her daughters to read the book theyre the co-presidents of MY fan club, you know. I dont know that I want any one specific kind of reader to find my book, because I have the possibly delusional hope that all kinds of readers will enjoy it. But if I had to pick one specific reader, it would be a reader who fits the overarching theme of the book, which my editor clarified for me in his usual brilliant way. GEEKS, GIRLS, AND SECRET IDENTITIES is the story of Vincent Wu, a boy who feels unneeded, incapable, and unlovable, but ultimately realizes that hes badly needed, fully capable, and very lovable. Id be astonished and moved if my silly little book could spark a moment of pleasure or hope in a reader who struggles with those same issues of self-perception.

You seem to have left yourself plenty of room for a second book. Can we hope for another Captain Stupendous adventure?

I hope so! The manuscript Im currently working on is an entirely new, unrelated story, but at some point in the future I hope to revisit Copperplate City and spend some more time with Vincent, Polly, Max, and George.

Thanks so much for chatting with us today, Mike! 
One last question: Is the Captain Stupendous fan club accepting new members?

Thanks so much to you and all the Lucky Thirteens for hosting me, Melanie, and yes, the Captain Stupendous Fan Club is absolutely open to new members!

You can purchase a copy of GEEKS, GIRLS AND SECRET IDENTITIES here:

...and visit Mike online here:

This interview was conducted by Lucky 13s member Melanie Crowder, author of the middle grade novel PARCHED coming in June 2013 from Harcourt Children's Books. The interview is part of an ongoing series of interviews with The Apocalypsies -- YA, MG, and children's book authors debuting in 2012.


  1. Terrific interview, Melanie and Mike.

  2. Mike, I've watched your writing journey over the last few years, and have seen you root for others while still pursuing the dream. You are a true hero to all of us, and I'm so thrilled you've found such a fab home for your book!

    1. Hi Michelle, I'm tempted to say "oh lord you should have better taste in heroes than that," but I'll resist the...actually I just said it, didn't I? Huh...

      Thanks for the kind words! I'm pretty thrilled myself. :)

  3. Mike, I've watched your writing journey over the last few years, and have seen you root for others while still pursuing the dream. You are a true hero to all of us, and I'm so thrilled you've found such a fab home for your book!