Guest Blog - Mike Jung

Veronica Rossi is circling the country on a book tour this week, so we are very happy to bring you Mike Jung as our featured blogger. I recently met Mike at the NorthCen SCBWI conference and was surprised to learn he shares my same book birthday (October 1st) and my publisher (Scholastic). He has a fresh, funny middle grade voice and we welcome him to YAMuses.

Don’t you just love the YA Muses? They’re fabulous, and if you disagree I’ll be forced to smack you upside the head. Err, yeah, anyway, they’ve asked me to blog about where I get my best ideas. I thought everybody already knew that - I get ‘em from Albert’s Idea Emporium, an independently owned boutique online retailer located in Jackson Hole, Wyoming. The ideas are handcrafted by Albert’s team of idiot savant leprechauns, who dine exclusively on a paste made from powdered unicorn horn and sun-dried pixie wing membrane—HAR DE HAR HAR, I’m just joking, of course. Nobody eats powdered unicorn horn.

The concept of my best ideas might be a stretch to discuss, considering I’ve only published one book, and therefore only have evidence for one idea that’s gone anywhere. And ideas are funny things, right? Good ideas are necessary, but they only go so far, and in the end the quality of the idea is only as good as your ability to turn it into an honest-to-goodness book. But now that I’ve got the disclaimers out of the way, my ideas come from a pretty logical place: the intersection of Other-People’s-Stories-Boulevard and Mike’s-Walter-Mittyesque-Internal-Life Avenue.
As a very young child, I remember being entranced by Leo Lionni’s books, particularly Alexander and the Wind-Up Mouse, Swimmy, and Frederick. I just loved those things – the quiet poetry of the stories, the deceptively simple artwork, and the deadpan expressions on the characters’ faces. I forced my mother to read me those books over and over and over.

After I’d learned to read we acquired a World Book Encyclopedia, back in the time when dinosaurs roamed the earth and people looked stuff up in printed encyclopedias. My increasingly weary and irritable mother prodded me into learning how to find interesting topics in them by myself, which I happily did for hours on end. Mako sharks! The cerebellum! The Tour de France! The whole damned world was in those faux-leathery brown volumes!

Then I discovered television, and my brain melted into a splatter of putrescent goo. Well okay, not really. In fact, I’m gonna be heretical and say that television introduced me to a whole new storytelling medium, with a different set of structures, conventions, and expectations. I watched far too many episodes of the flipping Brady Bunch, sure, and all that advertising has undoubtedly made me less intellectually functional than I could have been, but nonetheless, television started making a watered-down-but-genuine contribution to my grasp of storytelling.

In fifth grade my class held a reading competition – we got to tape a construction paper balloon to the lockers at the back of the classroom every time we read a book, and at the end of the year the winner got a giant bag of chocolate/tooth decay or something equally questionable. I read 100 books that year, outdistancing the kid in second place by approximately 40 books, and sealing the general perception of me as School Egghead Numero Uno.

And so on and so forth. I watched a lot of movies; I created very dramatic scenarios with talking stuffed animals (something I still do for the occasional vlog post); I raided my brother’s vast comic book collection with a nearly psychopathic degree of enthusiasm, destroying a large chunk of their collectible value along the way; and I drew, wrote, recorded, and filmed stories of my own.

So yeah, that’s my answer: I get my best ideas from a borderline psychotic ability to fully, deliriously, repeatedly immerse myself in the world of stories, each of which springs from somebody else’s idea, then use the mental groundwork laid by that immersion process to create stories of my own, incorporating elements of my own life and the lives of others.

It’s the mixing bowl approach, I suppose – take 5 parts classic children’s literature, 3 parts 1970s-era Marvel and DC comics, 3 parts Saturday morning cartoons, 3 parts post-Star Wars blockbuster-era moviemaking, 5 parts real-world observation, and 22 parts personal emotional history. Place in a large bowl and combine for approximately 36 years (I was 36 when I started writing GEEKS). When ingredients are combined but not smooth, pick out biggest, tastiest chunks, a.k.a. “ideas.” Use ideas to write books.

Mike Jung is just as bizarre as he sounds in this interview, but he’s generally harmless, so please refrain from attacking him with pitchforks and torches. He writes middle-grade fiction and semi-coherent blog posts while lurking in the corners and back alleyways of Northern California, and his debut novel Geeks, Girls, and Secret Identities is forthcoming from Arthur A. Levine Books/Scholastic on October 1, 2012.


It's funny you should mention pitchforks and torches . . .

Thanks Mike for your wonderful post! I am headed off to Jackson Hole right now...

Not fair, Mike. You stole my life! (wait, I just admitted to watching far too many episodes of The Brady Bunch). Except our World Book set was red Thanks for posting today, and I can't wait for GEEKS!

Anne Marie: no! You wouldn't dare! HELP, YA MUSES, HELP...
Talia: I hear the whole idea production industry shuts down for most of the summer, so you better hurry.
Katherine: I did not steal your life! I told you I'll give it back when I'm done with it! That'll be when I'm dead, so it may be a while...
Kimmiepoppins: *grin*

So, what is your secret identity? I realize that if you tell it would be secret any more, but somethings can' be helped.

Doh - would *not* be secret any more! :O

Thanks for this, Mike. As stimulating as ever. Now we know where you get your ideas from. Everywhere.

Thanks for the awesome post, Mike...though I happen to LOVE powdered unicorn horn. The key is to mix it with a tablespoon of puppy tears.

Ann: SHARE MY SECRET IDENTITY?? And put millions of innocent lives at risk? Never!
Mirka: Yep, pretty much everywhere. There're umpteen bazillion ideas out there, ripe for the picking.
Bret: Can you email Albert and tell him about the puppy tears? I bet the leprechauns' productivity would skyrocket...

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