1. Please start by telling us a little bit about yourself.
I grew up in Ohio where I kicked around in a punk rock band and did stand up, while working a lot of terrible food service jobs. After I graduated from college I moved to NYC to be an intern for the Late Show with David Letterman. Afterwards I stayed in the Big Apple and worked in TV production making documentaries for Discovery Channel. I’ve also done some work in animation for Nickelodeon and co-created a series for Cartoon Network called Robotomy. Now, I’m a New York Times bestselling author of several middle-grade series, and my latest is a YA trilogy called Undertow that comes out on May 5th. It’s a story about a young woman who is caught in a clash of civilizations when 30,000 mermaid-like people crawl out of the water onto the beach of Coney Island and decide to stay.
2. You appear to have an amazingly diverse body of work: Fiction and non-fiction, Middle Grade and now Young Adult? Does something tie it all together?
I suppose a love of telling stories is the glue that connects everything I’ve worked on since people started paying me to write. Stories are very important to me. They got me through some tough times as a kid. I gravitate toward wild adventures and I like to write those as well.
3. Why Mermaids?
I spent a lot of time asking myself the same thing and the answer was that I felt I could do something new and fresh with them that I hadn’t seen. A lot of what I had read was pretty dull—just underwater versions of Twilight—that ignored their rich and bizarre mythologies. Mermaids exist in folklore from almost every culture—even Native Americans have mermaid stories, and there are still places where people routinely report seeing them. Christopher Columbus spotted one and recorded it in his logs. At the same time, I didn’t want to write a story set underwater. I don’t even swim so it’s not something I would have a lot of luck describing, but putting them on the beach, away from their home, was interesting to me. What if mermaids had to come and live with us? How would America deal with a brand new minority group—one that wasn’t even supposed to exist?
4. Undertow is touted as a blend of District 9 and The Outsiders? How accurate do you feel this assessment is?
Well, that’s certainly a nice comparison to hear. District 9 and The Outsiders are great works of art. I was very inspired by both of them and I think it comes through in the book. Undertow is about prejudice, the haves and the have-nots, and how people who are different are ostracized, feared, and even attacked. It deals with injustice and it asks if we as a people live up to our own ideals. In many ways, the Alphas are my Greasers, and humans are my Socias and as in District 9 the setting is a tent city filled with bizarre creatures. It’s a lovely comparison and I’m honored. There are a lot of worse things to be compared to, you know.
5. What do you hope that readers take away with them after reading your book?
I hope they enjoy the thrills and the love story and the bizarre creatures. I hope they fall in love with Lyric the way I did while writing her, but I’d be happy if they saw the parallels in the fantasy to real-life historical events. I did a lot of research on the Civil Rights movement as well as the Brown vs. Board of Education decision, and how both impacted our country. I’d like the reader to ask themselves if it’s fair to call this country a melting pot, if there really is “justice for all.” I don’t have the answers but I’m hoping to spark some conversations. That’s really the best you can do as a writer—get people talking.
6. What has been the toughest criticism given to you as an author? What has been the best compliment?
I had a fourth grader teacher tell me I shouldn’t be a writer because I wasn’t a good speller. It was absolute nonsense, but when a grown up tells a kid something they take it as the truth so for years I was fearful of showing anyone anything I wrote. Turns out, I don’t really have to be that good. My publisher has a whole team of editors who help me sound half-way intelligent. As for the best compliments, they come from the fan mail. I get letters from parents who tell me their kids didn’t like to read until they read one of my books. Those letters are worth their weight in gold. It’s nice to get a good review but when you get a letter that tells you your words changed a life, that’s better than any starred review.
7. What book is currently on your nightstand? And who are some of your favorite authors?
I have dozens of books on my nightstand and one night they are going to topple over and kill me in my sleep. Right now I’m reading Blue Lily, Lily Blue by Maggie Stiefvater. She’s easily in my top ten favorite writers, along with Adele Griffin, John Steinbeck, Stephen King, William Mailer, JK Rowling, Arnold Lobel, Dav Pilkey, Libba Bray—it’s a diverse group but I am in awe of them all.
8. Do any animals share your life? Please tell us about them.
I don’t have any pets but my seven-year-old son and his friends fill that gap. They’re loud, and happy, and usually filthy, so it’s like living on a farm.
This or That?
Fiction or Non-Fiction? Fiction
Novella or Tome? Tome
Cover or Synopsis? Synopsis
Bookstore or Library? Tough one. I’m a slow reader so I think the bookstore has to win out, but you can’t beat a library for selection and staff.
Pen or Pencil? Crayon
Hardcover or Paperback? Gotta go with the hardcover—they last longer.
Ebook or Audiobook? neither. I like books.
Science Fiction or Paranormal? Who can choose?! I love them both.
Stand Alone or Series? Both, as long as the author knows when to quit.
Bookmarks or Dog Ears? Dog ears—it’s like finding evidence of someone standing in the exact same spot that you are standing in now.
The BookTitle: Undertow
Series: Undertow #1
Author: Michael Buckley
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Publication date: May 5th 2015
Target Audience: Young Adult
Genres: Action, Romance, Science Fiction, Suspense
Length: 384 pages
Find It: Goodreads
Buy It: Amazon|B&N|Book Depository
Sixteen-year-old Lyric Walker’s life is forever changed when she witnesses the arrival of 30,000 Alpha, a five-nation race of ocean-dwelling warriors, on her beach in Coney Island. The world’s initial wonder and awe over the Alpha quickly turns ugly and paranoid and violent, and Lyric’s small town transforms into a military zone with humans on one side and Alpha on the other. When Lyric is recruited to help the crown prince, a boy named Fathom, assimilate, she begins to fall for him. But their love is a dangerous one, and there are forces on both sides working to keep them apart. Only, what if the Alpha are not actually the enemy? What if they are in fact humanity’s only hope of survival? Because the real enemy is coming. And it’s more terrifying than anything the world has ever seen.
Action, suspense, and romance whirlpool dangerously in this cinematic saga, a blend of District 9 and The Outsiders.
5 winners will receive a prize pack that contains an Undertow beach towel, beach bag, bookmark, a finished book. US Only.