Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Author Interview - Michael R. Underwood

So, I recently read 'Shield and Crocus' & absolutely loved it. Here is the review if you are interested. So, now I have its brilliant author 'Michael R. Underwood' to answer a few of my questions.

Without further wasting time -

 1) Welcome to the blog and thanks for making time for talking to me. So, why don't you start by telling us what makes you new novel 'Shield and Crocus' unique?

MU) Thanks for having me! The most distinct thing about Shield and Crocus is probably that it’s a combination of the New Weird and Superhero action. Superhero novels are not common, but are far from unheard of. But few of them are set in a fantasy world or combine heroic action with a New Weird setting – a city built among the bones of a long-dead titan, transmogrifying storms that come and go without warning, and so on.

2) So what genre/genres would you say this book belongs to?

MU) As above, I’d call it New Weird and Superheroes. I think we could say that Heroic Fantasy is in there as the glue between the two genres. For those not familiar with New Weird, I was inspired by Perdido Street Station, The Scar, and Iron Council by China Mieville, City of Saints and Madmen by Jeff VanderMeer, and The Etched City by KJ Bishop, among others.

3) The book blurb of 'Shield and Crocus' gives a hint of superheroes, would you please divulge a bit more info on this?

MU) My superheroes in Shield and Crocus are more defined by their skills and will to fight than their incredible powers. In the world of Audec-Hal (where the book is set), each of the races has a special birthright, which let me re-create superhero archetypes:

The Pronai are my speedsters – they’re incredibly fast, but live far shorter lives.
The Freithin are bruisers/bricks – incredibly strong and tough. If they aren’t killed, Freithin never stop growing.
Qava are my mentalists – they’re all telepathic and telekinetic.

And so on. My heroes have powers, but they’re really just the most skilled members of their own race, pushing their natural powers to an incredible degree. Some of them, including my protagonist First Sentinel, have been fighting for fifty years. They’re seasoned veterans, heroes of countless battles and a decades-long campaign to free the city.

4) On the topic of superheroes, just for fun, what would be your catch-phrase if you were a superhero/super villain?

MU) Oh, nice.I think mine would have to be “For Great Awesomeness!” as I try to focus on the positive side of life, and seek to support awesome work by creative and to tell awesome stories myself. As a hero, I’d want to inspire people to be optimistic and creative.

5) Can you tell us a bit about the influences you had behind writing this novel?

MU) Shield and Crocus began at the Clarion West 2007 workshop in Seattle. A classmate wrote a powerful New Weird short story, and I was inspired to write my own New Weird story, since I was (and still am) a big fan of that sub-genre, its ambition, its inventiveness, and the powerful sense of atmosphere and sense of place that is so common in works in that sub-genre.

The specific concept came from a desire to combine the New Weird with the superhero genre, to bring the action/adventure and optimism of supers to the New Weird. The superhero stories that were a most direct influence on the heroes in Shield and Crocus would be Grant Morrison’s Justice League, The Authority, as well as years of reading The Avengers, The X-Men, and more.

6) 2014 has seen the releases of quite a lot of good books so far, can you tell us about some of your favorite novels from this year?

MU) I don’t get to read a whole lot for pleasure, as I’m constantly reading for my work with Angry Robot – which is awesome, but it’s also work.

Some of my favorite books from 2014 include:

The Goblin Emperor, by Katherine Addison. This was a great change from the recent string of grimdark epic fantasies, for me. I’m more of an optimistic fantasy reader, so this was really up my alley. Maia, the titular emperor, is totally unprepared for ruling, and his struggles with the political situation he's inherited are well-drawn. Most delightful, for me, is how much of a hero Maia is and tries to be, making amends for past wrongs, bringing people together, and making his own way without just tearing down everything that had come before.

The Martian, by Andy Weir. This book was just a whole lot of fun. It’s McGuyver on Mars, with a breezy, likeable voice, tons of science worker to dig into if you like, and impressive pacing. The book had been self-published before, but hit the bookstore shelves in a traditionally-published edition from Crown Books this February. It’s already been making some great waves, and I recommend it for anyone looking for a fun SF read.

And to do one short Angry Robot plug:

The Mirror Empire, by Kameron Hurley. Hurley is a multiple award-winning author, and The Mirror Empire starts off a new Inter-dimensional Epic Fantasy series. When we held the acquisitions meeting at Angry Robot to decide whether we were going to offer on The Mirror Empire, I told my colleagues that I would knife fight a man to get this book on our list.Having read the whole revised novel, I would have fought three.

7) Well, thanks again for talking with me about your new novel, I would like to end with asking you for some info on your upcoming projects (books & others)?

MU) I’ve got a lot going on. I’m revising Hexomancy, the third Ree Reyes novel, and I have a new project on submission with editors right now. I wrote a short story for the Tianxia RPG, which was funded via Kickstarter. The main game is available now, and the anthology with my story should be coming out later this year. My last publication of 2014 is going to be The Younger Gods, the start of a new urban fantasy series about the only moral son from a family of demon worshippers who want to kick off the apocalypse. The lead is socially awkward and was raised with a very twisted view of the world, and he was an incredibly rewarding challenge to write.

Thanks for having me by for the interview!

 About Shield and Crocus -
In a city built among the bones of a fallen giant, a small group of heroes looks to reclaim their home from the five criminal tyrants who control it.
The city of Audec-Hal sits among the bones of a Titan. For decades it has suffered under the dominance of five tyrants, all with their own agendas. Their infighting is nothing, though, compared to the mysterious "Spark-storms" that alternate between razing the land and bestowing the citizens with wild, unpredictable abilities. It was one of these storms that gave First Sentinel, leader of the revolutionaries known as the Shields of Audec-Hal, power to control the emotional connections between people'a power that cost him the love of his life.
Now, with nothing left to lose, First Sentinel and the Shields are the only resistance against the city's overlords as they strive to free themselves from the clutches of evil. The only thing they have going for them is that the crime lords are fighting each other as well--that is, until the tyrants agree to a summit that will permanently divide the city and cement their rule of Audec-Hal.
It's one thing to take a stand against oppression, but with the odds stacked against the Shields, it's another thing to actually triumph.
In this stunning, original tale of magic and revolution, Michael R. Underwood creates a cityscape that rivals Ambergris and New Crobuzon in its depth and populates it with heroes and villains that will stay with you forever.

About Michael R. Underwood -
Michael R. Underwood is the author of GEEKOMANCY, CELEBROMANCY, ATTACK THE GEEK, as well as the forthcoming SHIELD AND CROCUS and THE YOUNGER GODS. By day, he's the North American Sales & Marketing Manager for Angry Robot Books. Mike grew up devouring stories in all forms, from comics to video games, tabletop RPGs, movies, and books. Always books.

Mike lives in Baltimore with his fiance, an ever-growing library, and a super-team of dinosaur figurines & stuffed animals. In his rapidly-vanishing free time, he studies historical martial arts and makes pizzas from scratch. He is a co-host on the Hugo-nominated Skiffy and Fanty Show.

Michael R. Underwood
Ree Reyes series - Geekomancy, Celebromancy, Attack the Geek (4/7/14)
Shield and Crocus (6/10/14)
The Younger Gods (12/15/2014)
His Twitter & Goodreads.

PS: Check out my review of 'Shield and Crocus'.

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