My Favorite Bit: Michael R. Underwood talks about ATTACK THE GEEK

My Favorite Bit iconMichael R. Underwood is joining us today with his novella Attack the Geek.  For full disclosure, I narrated the audiobook and loved the heck out of it. Ree is smart, snarky and 100% geek. This is a fast-paced adventure, that’s witty and fun.

Here’s the publisher’s description.

A side quest novella in the bestselling Geekomancy urban fantasy series–when D&D style adventures go from the tabletop to real life, look out!

Ree Reyes, urban fantasy heroine of Geekomancy, is working her regular barista/drink-slinger shift at Grognard’s when it all goes wrong. Everything.

As with Geekomancy (pop culture magic!) and its sequel Celebromancy (celebrity magic!), Attack of the Geek is perfect for anyone who wants to visit a world “where all the books and shows and movies and games [that you] love are a source of power, not only in psychological terms, but in practical, villain-pounding ones” (Marie Brennan, award-winning author of A Natural History of Dragons).

What’s Michael’s favorite bit?

Attack the Geek Full


After finishing Celebromancy, I wanted to change things up. I pitched a stand-alone novella in the Ree Reyes-verse, going off of the idea that we could do a ‘side-quest’ kind of story that would tide readers over until the next full book while I tried on a different world (The Younger Gods, coming at the end of 2014).

Since Attack the Geek was intended to be only 30-40K words (just under half the size of the other books in the series), and since I didn’t have to design as big a story, I wanted to push myself in other areas. I wanted to deliver an action-packed story that would be emotionally engaging through character relationships and to make some statements about fandom and community.

But the thing that ended up being my favorite was the fun of getting the band back together. Attack the Geek is still told from Ree’s POV, but it’s very much an ensemble piece. In addition to Ree and her constant companion-slash-occasional-love-interest , Drake Winters, Attack the Geek features Grognard (Ree’s boss), and Eastwood, her one-time mentor, as well as several regulars at Grognard’s bar (some we’ve met, like “Lieutenant” Wickham or Uncle Joe, as well as some new faces).

I went with an ensemble story because I wanted to focus on the role that Grognard and his bar played in the magical community of Pearson. And if you’re going to talk about community, you should probably actually have a community to talk about. Therefore, Attack the Geek isn’t just two or three heroes going off and having adventures, it’s really about a community of people coming together (imperfectly, and with plenty of disagreements) to fight off an external threat.

Once I decided to go with a larger cast, I thought about my favorite ensemble-driven shows and books – TV shows like Babylon 5, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Leverage, films like Marvel’s Avengers, and books like The Lies of Locke Lamora and The Dragonlance Chronicles, and tried to pull out the lessons learned from those works – characters should have their own abilities and personalities, and those should inform their priorities. I worked to make sure that each of the characters had at least slightly (and sometimes severely) different priorities and allegiances, so that even when they agreed on the big picture (let’s not get dead), that they’d constantly be in conflict about the best way to respond. A well-oiled unit or gaming party where everyone gets along perfectly is awesome to be a part of as a player, but probably isn’t as hilarious to see from the outside as a reader.

Once I’d set up the members of the ensemble to contrast and conflict with one another, the story started moving like it was on rocket fuel. The action structure I’d chosen was enhanced and driven by the character relationships. Each scene that relaxed the tension of the physical fights could ramp up the tension of the interpersonal conflicts, so that each thread of the story built on the other while varying the story so it wasn’t just all fighting or all people yelling at one another.

It’s hard to manage an ensemble cast (you have to keep talking about all of the characters in order to really make it sing, and that’s hard to justify when writing in a tight third-person POV like I do with the Ree Reyes series, but the rewards are really impressive. Writing the ensemble was My Favorite Bit of Attack the Geek, and I hope you’ll enjoy the results.






Audio (narrated by Mary Robinette Kowal):


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.

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