Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Interview with Michael R. Underwood, author of Geekomancy - July 11, 2012

Please welcome Michael R. Underwood to The Qwillery as part of the 2012 Debut Author Challenge. Geekomancy, Michael's debut, was published yesterday!

You may read Michael's Guest Blog - Geekomancy’s Official Unofficial Soundtrack - here.

TQ:  What would you say is your most interesting writing quirk?

Michael:  I have developed a habit of writing short stories that turn out to be the seed of a novel. Twice now, I’ve written short stories in a setting and then discovered/decided in revision that the story doesn’t work as is, because I should take the material from the story and write a novel instead. I’ve embraced this approach, and when I sit down to write a short story, I know what I’m writing may end up being the midwife for a novel idea.

TQ:  Who are some of your favorite writers? Who do you feel has influenced your writing?

Michael:  Ray Bradbury made a huge impact on me when I was younger. I read graphic novel versions of many of his stories (Marionettes, Inc., Golden Apples of the Sun, Martian Chronicles, etc.), and he shaped a lot of my early conceptions of what science fiction could mean. Ursula K. LeGuin and Octavia Butler inspired me with their sociological stories and their marvelous essays, and I try to apply those lessons in my writing when I can. China Mieville has been a huge influence, as I simply adore his ability to throw ideas in a blender along with his special sense of weird tp produce work that consistently feels different, edgy, and (often) fun. The Geekomancy series is definitely influenced by Jim Butcher, Javier Grillo-Marxuach, Kevin Smith, and the Mutant Enemy writing team.

TQ:  Are you a plotter or a pantser?

Michael:  I plead special snowflake. My process comes largely from being a tabletop RPG-er, specifically from my experience as a GM/Storyteller. When prepping campaign sessions, I have to come up with major hurdles and a general shape of the game, but leave enough space for the players to decide how to move between the hurdles and how to react to them. When prepping a story, I try to figure out what the major turns will be to get to the ending, and then I write organically between the waypoints.

TQ:  What is the most challenging thing for you about writing?

Michael:  I tend to go pretty spare on the physical description, because I’m much more excited about action and dialogue. Sometimes I have to specifically stop myself to do description to make sure that the scene and characters are easy to visualize. This definitely applies to character description. I usually come up with a couple of descriptions to hang a character on and then move on.

TQ:  Describe Geekomancy in 140 characters or less.

Michael:  Sarcastic geeky barista falls into bizarre magic underworld and wields the power of fandom to try to stop a string of teen suicides.

TQ:  What inspired you to write Geekomancy?

Michael:  It started out as a distraction. I was writing a YA epic fantasy and had this idea about a retired astral cowboy-turned-memorabilia-monger, a geeky barista, and a magic system based around props and genre emulation. Conceptually, Geekomancy draws on ideas I liked from Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Clerks, The Middleman and The Dresden Files, all thrown together and filtered through my own perspective.

TQ:  What sort of research did you do for Geekomancy?

Michael:  I didn’t really do any research specifically for the novel, because I was drawing on a (young) lifetime of experience – working in a game store, as a barista, growing up geek, and as an aspirant writer who had big dreams but was having trouble finding a solid way to achieve them. I did a lot of thinking about what geekdom meant to me, what the point of fandom was, and how the stories I grew up with shaped the way I see the world.

As far as setting research, I wanted a Pacific Northwest locale, but I haven’t spent enough time in Portland or Seattle to do them justice. So instead, I took elements from each and then filled out Pearson with places and people I thought would make for an awesome geek city.

TQ:  Who was the easiest character to write and why? Hardest and why?

Michael:  Drake Winters is the easiest to write because he’s so delightfully over-the-top. His voice comes so naturally to me – there’s a button in my brain that says ‘DRAKE WINTERS!’ and when I push it, the campy dashing heroism flows like a raging river.

Ree is the hardest to write, because as my protagonist I have to show all of her sides. Ree has some of my qualities and geeky interests, but she’s very different than the protagonists I’ve written so far. It’s fun to live in Ree’s head, but I have to be really on my game to depict a complex, driven, heroic geek girl.

TQ:  Without giving anything away, what is/are your favorite scene(s) in Geekomancy?

Michael:  My favorite scenes are the scenes of revelation – when Ree’s understanding of other characters drastically changes, setting the course for the rest of the book.

Another favorite, which I can talk about, is a dogfight with a monster through downtown Pearson. In the middle of the novel, Ree and Drake are chasing down a monster (no spoilers!) and it takes to the sky, trying to escape. Of course, being a good Magitechnician, Drake has an aerothopter, and our hero rides shotgun as they chase the creature through the skies of downtown Pearson, Ree putting her 1st person shooter and light-gun skills to the test and fighting her fear of heights.

TQ:  What's next?

Michael:  I’m making my way through the sequel to Geekomancy. Ree stumbles onto a new whacky –mancy, tries again to balance her work life with the bizarre awesomeness of the magical underground, and because she doesn’t have enough things vying for her attention, there is romance on the horizon.

TQ:  Thank you for joining us at The Qwillery.

Michael:  Thank you! It’s been great to be a part of the Debut Author Challenge, and I’m excited for Geekomancy to get out into the world.

People can find me at for updates about the series, my schedule, and all the geekiness.

About Geekomancy

Geekomancy 1
Pocket Star, July 10, 2012
eBook, 400 pages

Clerks meets Buffy the Vampire the Slayer in this original urban fantasy eBook about Geekomancers—humans that derive supernatural powers from pop culture.

Ree Reyes’s life was easier when all she had to worry about was scraping together tips from her gig as a barista and comicshop slave to pursue her ambitions as a screenwriter.

When a scruffy-looking guy storms into the shop looking for a comic like his life depends on it, Ree writes it off as just another day in the land of the geeks. Until a gigantic “BOOM!” echoes from the alley a minute later, and Ree follows the rabbit hole down into her town’s magical flip-side. Here, astral cowboy hackers fight trolls, rubber-suited werewolves, and elegant Gothic Lolita witches while wielding nostalgia-powered props.

Ree joins Eastwood (aka Scruffy Guy), investigating a mysterious string of teen suicides as she tries to recover from her own drag-your-heart-through-jagged-glass breakup. But as she digs deeper, Ree discovers Eastwood may not be the knight-in-cardboard armor she thought. Will Ree be able to stop the suicides, save Eastwood from himself, and somehow keep her job?

About Michael

Michael R. Underwood grew up devouring stories in all forms: movies, comics, TV, video games, and novels. He holds a B.A. in Creative Mythology and East Asian Studies from Indiana University and an M.A. in Folklore Studies from the University of Oregon, which have been great preparation for writing speculative fiction. Michael went straight from his M.A. to the Clarion West Writers Workshop and then landed in Bloomington, Indiana, where he remains. When not writing or selling books across the Midwest as an independent book representative, Michael dances Argentine Tango and studies renaissance martial arts.

You can find him at or @MikeRUnderwood on Twitter. Geekomancy is coming July 10th from Pocket Star. 


  1. Always fun to hear from this author and about this series.

  2. Hi Mike! *waves* You rock for visiting one of my favorite blogs, and well, you just rock in general:-D

  3. I recently bought this one and am really looking forward to the read. Thank you for sharing with us today.