Today I’d like to introduce another great author I met on Twitter, Michael G. Munz. Michael’s written a few different novels and won multiple honours for his comedic fantasy novel, Zeus is Dead: A Monstrously Inconvenient Adventure.
Please give Michael a warm welcome.
- Can you tell us a bit about your book, Zeus Is Dead: A Monstrously Inconvenient Adventure?
Of course! Put simply, it’s a comedic contemporary fantasy set in a version of our world where reality TV heroes slay actual monsters and the Greek gods have their own casinos, media empires, and Twitter feeds. See, 3,000 years ago Zeus made the gods withdraw from the mortal world, a decree that comes to an end in the modern day with Zeus’s assassination by unknown culprit(s). Suddenly, the Olympian gods are back in our world as A-list celebrities, living it up and demanding their due worship. Yet not all of the gods are happy: Apollo is overwhelmed trying to cater to 7 billion mortals, and soon enlists two genre-savvy mortals into a 4th wall-busting quest to figure out who killed Zeus and how to return him to life.
Also there are bat-winged, venomous kittens, but you can tell that much from the cover art.
I’m pleased to say that Zeus Is Dead has won a bronze medal in the 2015 Readers’ Favorite Book Awards, and was a Finalist in the 2015 Independent Author Network Book of the Year Awards!
- When did you first know you wanted to pursue writing as more than a hobby?
There’s a very specific point in my life when I made this decision, and I still remember the moment. I was nineteen during the summer after my freshman year of college. I was staying at my parents’ place on the south end of Whidbey Island here in Washington State’s Puget Sound, about an hour and a ferry ride away from anyone I knew. As a result, I was feeling pretty isolated and depressed. (To be clear, this wasn’t some sort of Harry Potter-esque forced-to-live-in-a-closet sort of thing. My parents are great, and even if they had forced me to live in a closet, I’m sure it would have been a comfortable one. I was just having trouble dealing with being away from everyone that I’d gotten know that year.) Reading was one of my refuges against my early-adult angst. I was lying on my bed eating caramel corn from a giant tub while in the middle of reading Terry Brooks’s Elfstones of Shannara for the first time. When I took a moment to reflect on how much I was enjoying it, I had this epiphany of how fulfilling it would be to give others the same enjoyment via my own writing the way Brooks’s writing was giving me.
I suspect the caramel corn was incidental to the process, but one can never be sure.
- How did you come up with the idea for Zeus is Dead: A Monstrously Inconvenient Adventure?
I’ve been interested in Greek and Roman mythology since I was a little kid. I took a number of Classics courses in college as well, and that really drove home the point that to the ancient Greeks, the gods were just like us humans, only bigger. More powerful, more attractive, more egotistical, and arguably more flawed. It was then that I got the urge to create a new story with these already established characters. I loved the idea so much, however, that I should grow my writing skills for a while first in order to do it justice. In 2002, when I first wrote my short story “Playing With Hubris,”—in which a modern man meets two people in a café claiming to be Apollo and Thalia—I realized the potential that lay in putting mythological characters into our modern world. I played with the concept in a couple more short stories until, trying to decide what to write after finishing the manuscript for my second sci-fi novel (A Memory in the Black), I decided it was time to use the concept as novel fodder.
Once I realized that Apollo, who seemed to have far more things to keep track of than the other gods, would have so much more to do with so many more mortals in the world, everything just fell into place after that.
- How much planning do you usually do before starting a novel?
Quite a bit. I like to know generally where I’m going, who I’m going there with (i.e., the characters), and how we’re going to get there. A good rough outline gives me a framework on which to build the rest, and helps me to weave steady threads throughout. I always wind up straying from that. Various new paths present themselves as a book is written. But having a strong sense of direction when I’m starting out helps me to both build momentum and to have faith that the concept I’m writing is going to be worth it so that I don’t give up.
- Can you give us a brief rundown of your writing process?
First, I get my premise, which can often take a long while as I search for an idea that excites me enough to keep me interested the entire time it will take me to write a novel.
Next, I sketch the main characters, create a “step sheet” or outline that shows the flow of both character arcs and plot progression, and a make a bunch of notes about the setting itself to help inform the writing.
Finally, I’ll actually get to the writing, using the step sheet and character sketches as a guide. Like I touched on before, this doesn’t such things are inviolate. On multiple occasions I might come up with new ideas as I go (and certain parts of my outline might simply say “whatever seems to make sense for the characters at this point”), change directions, or even discover that the characters themselves have tapped me on the shoulder (or punched me in the face) to say they’d do things differently.
And then of course after that comes editing, revising, agonizing, improvising, and probably eating some pizza.
- What is the most difficult part of your writing process and how do you make it easier for yourself?
It’s a toss-up between finding an idea I like enough to devote the time it takes to write an entire book, and actually finding time to write, since—for the moment—I also have a day job. Making the first part easier involves a lot of brainstorming, daydreaming, and trying to turn off the part of my brain that prematurely vetoes ideas before I can really explore them. Also: caffeine. Making the second part easier just takes a lot of discipline and practice. I have a normal routine (writing immediately after work during the week, and getting up at a certain time to go a certain place to write on weekends), and word-count goals that I don’t always succeed at. Also (again): caffeine.
- Can you give some tips to aspiring authors working on a submission package for their novel?
Scour the Internet for blogs and websites offering tips to aspiring authors. There are so many good resources out there now that we’ve got this funky online world to refer to. Take a look at what agents are saying, look for articles on how to write a query letter (and how NOT to write one). Your submission is your first impression, so polish the heck out of it, even if it’s just a single letter with your pitch. (And never submit more than is asked for in submission guidelines.)
- What have you found to be the most effective forms of marketing your books?
I maintain a strong presence on Twitter, which I think attracts some readers, but in my experience, the most effective forms seem to be Facebook ads targeted to readers of books like yours, and—if you can manage it—winning or placing in some contests. If those Facebook ads get noticed by readers of those other books (and they like your book enough to buy it), then Amazon will start to take notice and associate your book with other authors, and that gains you more exposure. As for contests, sometimes entering them may feel like more of a bet than an investment, but if you really believe in your book, have some confidence in yourself. Winning—or even placing—gains you a lot of exposure.
- If you could give an aspiring writer only one piece of advice what would it be?
Eat caramel corn! Well, no, not really. (But don’t let that stop you from eating it either, if you would like.) My advice: Don’t give up. Unless one of your relatives owns a publishing empire, or you’re a Kardashian, it’s going to be a long road. Keep writing, keep submitting, keep creating, keep learning. If people say you’re not good enough, then work hard to get better, and never stop moving forward. Things take time to snowball in a writing career. Give things time to get to that point, and don’t stop.
- What are you working on now that readers can look forward to?
I’m finishing up the third and final book in my cyberpunk series, The New Aeneid Cycle, which at the moment is called A Dragon at the Gate. Assuming I’m not devoured by badgers or something, it should be out from my publisher (Booktrope) sometime in early 2016. After that, I’ll be moving back to comedic fantasy with the sequel to Zeus Is Dead. I’ve already begun brainstorming on that one, and at the moment the working title is Zeus Is Undead. So we’ll see how that goes.
An award-winning writer of speculative fiction, Michael G. Munz is also fascinated with Greek mythology. He also possesses what most “normal” people would likely deem far too much familiarity with a wide range of geek culture, though he prefers the term geek-bard: a jack of all geek-trades, but master of none. Or mostly none. There are exceptions. Michael dwells in Seattle where he continues his quest to write the most entertaining novel known to humankind and find a really fantastic clam linguini. Follow him on Facebook, Twitter, and on his website at michaelgmunz.com.
You can purchase a copy of Zeus is Dead: A Monstrously Inconvenient Adventure here.