Monday, May 6, 2013

Marvelous Middle Grade Monday: Interview and giveaway with James Mihaley

I'm thrilled today to be interviewing one of my Project Mayhem mates, James Mihaley. (Project Mayhem is my group blog and, if you haven't visited it yet, you should do yourself a favor and pop on over. We're one of the best group blogs out there, and always up for a bit of middle grade mayhem.).

Anyway, James is one of our newer members. He has an awesome novel out, and the paperback edition has just been released. In honor of that wonderful event, he's going to be giving away a signed copy to one lucky commenter!!!

Here's a little something about his debut novel (which is a hoot--just as James is).... YOU CAN'T HAVE MY PLANET, BUT TAKE MY BROTHER PLEASE (Feiwel and Friends, 2012): Thirteen-year-old Giles is the last person anyone would expect to save the planet. He’s not as charming as his little sister, and not as brainy as his goody-goody older brother. But when Giles witnesses an alien realtor showing Earth to possible new tenants, he knows he’d better do something. With the help of an alien “attorney” and the maddest scientist in middle-grade fiction, Giles just might save humans from eviction from Earth. Let’s hope so. The alternatives are . . . not so hospitable.

My Interview with James:

1) Your agent sold your novel in one day. How did that happen, and how did you keep yourself from joyfully launching into outer space?

I did launch into outer space.  I was up there for a month and a half.  I spent all my advance at a night club on Jupiter.  Believe me, it was worth it.
Getting serious for a moment, (I promise just a moment, I give you my word of honor), when I wrote the book I didn’t have an agent.  Upon completion, I sent my ms to Rosemary Stimola.  Rosemary called me on a Monday, said she wanted to represent me.  She said she knew someone at Macmillan who might be interested.  She asked me if it would be all right for her to submit it. 
I said, “HELL YES!”
The next day, Tuesday, she sent the book over to Macmillan.  On Wednesday, Rosemary called me with the news that we sold it!
And check this out.  I had submitted the book to two other agents when I sent it to Rosemary.   I got rejections slips from those agents after I sold the book, telling me they didn’t think it would sell!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Therefore, if you get a rejection from an agent or two, it means absolutely nothing!!!!!  Do not be deterred!!!!!!! (Michael said I’m only allowed to use 836 exclamation points in this Q&A.  I think I’ve already reached my quota.) [That you have, James--but I have several hundred more that I'm hording for myself!!!!]

2) As well as being a writer, you're a professional hip hop dancer and choreographer. How long have you been writing and dancing?
As we all know, there is a God of Writing and there is a God of Dancing.  Some people say the two gods don’t like each other that much.  On the Mount Olympus of Creativity, there is also a third deity, the God of Writing & Dancing.  He looks like a dwarf but has very long wings.  He got his head stuck in a jar of honey one day outside a supermarket in Bakersfield, California.  I helped him get it out.  He rewarded me with a wave of his magic wand.  Presto.  I became a writer and a dancer.

3) I know that particular God too, but he only allows me to do the cha-cha with two left feet. Oh well... Back to being serious...What piece of writing advice would you have loved to have been given, starting off?

To not place so much pressure on yourself with a first draft.  When we’re starting out, I think we have a tendency to try and perfect every sentence, right from the opening paragraph.  The danger of that approach is that we may end up discarding the exquisitely chiseled opening once we get into the book and find out what it’s truly about.  With the first draft, it’s all about getting ink on paper, black on white.  Just let it rip.  Then, put it down for a week, let it breathe, pick it up and evaluate its strengths and weaknesses.
     Your ability to accurately evaluate the merits of your work increases dramatically when you put it down and let it breathe.  I wish I’d known that at the beginning.

4) I totally agree! Now for some gossip: I've heard that hummingbirds love you. Do they descend upon you, kind of like Hitchcock's The Birds? How long has this been going on?

My bond with hummingbirds is peaceful and exhilarating.
It began a few years ago when I spotted a hummingbird’s nest in a bougainvillea outside my bedroom window.  So tiny and magical.  Mother hummingbird was sitting on her eggs in the moonlight.  A month later, in another part of the Los Angeles, a hummingbird flew into my car when I was getting ready to start it up.  We hung out together in the car for a couple of minutes, me and the hummingbird.  Quite an experience.  And quite true.

5. One last thing I've been wondering about, James. In the back of your newly released paperback, there’s a Q&A.  It talks about you being a robot.  What’s all that about?

I am a robot.  Just kidding.  Not really.  The truth of the matter is that my skills as a dancer enable me to move exactly like a robot.  I decided to use that to create a movie to help promote ‘You Can’t Have My Planet But Take My Brother, Please’.  The movie will be coming out this summer on You Tube.  It’s called ‘The JimBot’.

Here’s the premise of the film: What if it turns out that ‘You Can’t Have My Planet’ was the first book in history written by a robot?  What if children’s author, James Mihaley, is actually a robot in disguise?  In the movie there’s an investigative journalist who wants to reveal to the world that I’m a robot and win a Pulitzer prize.  I have a nosy neighbor (MGM: not me, I swear!) who has proof that I spark in the rain.
The film is hilarious.  Plus it has a beautiful theme promoting non-violence.

It was directed by Mike Pedraza, who is an editor on the 150 million dollar Matt Damon movie coming out this summer.  Mike’s wife, Donna Pedraza, produced it.

Here is an illustration from the movie done by Austin Jones.  It’s me as a baby robot.
When the JimBot comes out this summer, I’ll be sure to let you know!
Thanks so much for the great interview, James. If you're ever in MG Mafioso land, look us up. The Don loves dancing (and accordion-playing!), so it might be quite a party.

Once again, guys, leave a comment to be eligible for a signed copy of YOU CAN'T HAVE MY PLANET, BUT TAKE MY BROTHER PLEASE. And happy reading!!


  1. Hi, Im Bryann and Im from the Philippines. I really love to read those kinds of book. and the interview was hilarious haha

  2. I've been trying to get a copy of this from my local library, but it is always out. Perhaps I should take the Don's advice and just order a copy and read it when it comes!

  3. Hah! So awesome. James' book sounds so good.

  4. Looks like a book my students will really enjoy!

  5. You had me at "Rosemary Stimola sold my manuscript overnight" but the rest of the interview is also delightful (and hilarious). I love the book's premise and super awesome title!

  6. Sounds like an awesome book. And I LOVE that he got two rejections saying it wouldn't sell after it did! :)

  7. Oh my gosh, this book sounds wonderful! I've heard of it prior to this post and have eagerly been awaiting it. My very own (signed) copy would be amazing!
    Fantastic interview. The author seems just as the fun as the book appears to be :)

    Jill A.
    (canadian...hope that's okay?)

  8. Great interview! Whether or not James is a robot, his sense of humor is rather evident (as his interview answers exemplify). One can then surmise that his fiction is equally as funny. Sounds like a great book and I look forward to reading it. Wow, this response was very logical and stiff, not all suggesting that I am also a robot....Ahem, these are NOT the droids you're looking for. Now, if you'll excuse me, James, Michael, I have to go repair my conversational reply circuit. Good day.

  9. FABULOUS!! It was awesome getting to know James better. Thanks for the interview Michael! :)

  10. This interview is hilarious and the book looks good as well. Thanks for sharing Mafioso!

  11. What a story! Both yours and the one in the book, that is. I'd be honored to win this signed copy. Thanks for the chance at it.

  12. Fun interview and looks like a fun book. Thanks for doing this.

  13. I saw the robot on twitter and I've been wondering about it. Now I know. :)
    Thanks a lot for such a fun, fun, interview.


  14. Wow, wow, wow -- an agent in a book sale within, what, 48 hours?? Less?? You are a rock star and an inspiration!

    Off to Tweet this interview ...

  15. Love the advice for writing! I try to tell that to my students but they won't always listen. And I love when I make they go back to something they wrote a few weeks ago. They really see the possibilities then!

  16. This was SO beyond fabulous. Talk about a whirlwind romance with agents and publishing houses. The book looks fantastic can't wait to grab a copy!

  17. I'm still laughing about James being a robot! And the God of Writing and Dancing. Hee hee!

  18. Awesome interview! Made me laugh. :)

  19. Because their metabolism is so fast, hummingbirds (I've heard) will starve if they don't eat every five minutes. Sounds like James is using that kind of energy!!! VERY excited for PLANET!!! Thanks, guys!

  20. Lol I can't wait to read it! Awesome!!

  21. Lol awesome interview James :) I can't to read your book! I wonder if they'd be interested in taking my brother ..

  22. This book sounds so fun! I loved the interview. I think it is amazing that his agent was able to sell the book in one day. WOW! I think that the advice about not giving up if our ms is rejected is excellent. His story proves that! :)

    Thanks for sharing and for the giveaway.


Youse got something to say? Well, say it then. (The Don and I will shoot you... a personal reply, that is. But if we can't find your e-mail, we'll just reply in the comment box.)