Category Archives: interview

Interview with AF Grappin (Three Questions)

(This is part  “Three Questions With Xxxx“. If you’re interested in taking part click here and fill out the form.)

I’ve been friends with and a fan of Gus for a long time. He’s multi-talented and insanely creative, so coming up with questions was easy. Let’s get to the interview!


91014051) You’re what I like to call a triple threat when it comes to creatives; crafter, voice actor/podcaster, and writer. Do you find this spreads your time thin or does it actually make the whole of your creative experience more than the sum of its parts (or both)?

Oh, man. If you happen to have a time machine, that would be great.

In some ways, I do think it spreads my time thin, but then I really think about it, and each of these individual creative endeavors (hereafter referred to as “hobbies”) have their own space in my life. I’m a morning writer, for the most part, which leaves evenings free for other hobbies. My crafting (I make chainmail, for those who don’t know) is what I do when my brain needs to do nothing but I don’t want to sit idle. My hands still need activity, if the family is at home watching TV. We have our few regular shows, and those are golden times for me to make things. Audio work (voice recording, audio editing) is mostly a night kind of thing, really, when the family’s wound down and we just kind of want to do our own thing. Sure, my cohosts and I record together, but editing is solitary, so that’s automatic alone time right there.

Having all my time spread out like that stirs my creative juices. It’s easy to get bored with a hobby and then just… be bored. But I can always switch to something else rather than languishing in ennui. In particular, my podcast and my writing feed into eac9432139h other. I’ve had a few of my own pieces featured on the podcast, but it’s also a great way for me to explore short works by different authors. There’s nothing quite like reading something aloud and making it into a whole, cohesive audio work to help learn more about the writing craft. And it’s always refreshing to have a new story to do every month.

My chainmail though… that’s my immediate gratification hobby. Writing takes time. Publishing takes time. Recording and producing audio takes time. It all takes a lot of it. But I can make a bracelet in an hour or two. I can make big wall hangings and little keychains, and working with the hands, on something I can actually touch… it’s cathartic in a whole different way than the words are.

So I guess I would say my inability to stop creating is both the whole AND the sum of its parts. If that makes sense. If it does, explain it to me, because I don’t know if I get it. I just know that if I had to give one of them up, it would be difficult to pick which one.

2) When you get a new idea – whether it’s a chainmail piece, a story, or one for your show – do you jump on it right away, or do you let it sit for a while?

Chainmail1With my podcast, I want to do new things immediately. The Melting Potcast is a variety show, so coming up with a new kind of segment is something it’s easy to follow up on. In that kind of situation, I tend to jump on it right away. Like when I came up with our madlib segment. I started pretty much the day I conceived of it. Getting new submissions… not so much. I get more concerned about producing the next episode than starting work on a brand new story. Plus, we’re at about a 4-6 month or so turnaround time from when a story is accepted to when it’s released in an episode, so that’s all an exercise in patience.

My own writing… if the idea is for something short, like a flash fiction story or even a short story, I may go ahead and do it, or at least get started, just to get the ideas down while it’s still fresh. Novels… I’m at the point right now where if I started every little novel idea I got, I’d never finish anything. It took me quite some time to learn to put new novel ideas aside, and I got a little notebook to write down the basic ideas in. Just for the future, if I ever needed them again. It’s easier to let go of new time stealers that way.


Again, the chainmail is the different story. If I see something new I want to make, or get an idea, I want to make it NOW! I want to go through the process of making it so I can hold it when it’s finished. Luckily, I usually only have one project going at a time, so it’s easy to just finish whatever thing I’m making and then pick up on the new idea. The only real holdback I get is if I don’t have the right size rings or whatever I need to make the thing in question. It takes about a week or so for me to get in new supplies when I order them, so sometimes that wait is agony. What’s worse is when I’m halfway through making something and I run out of the rings I need… and then my supplier is out of stock. But I always have something else I can make.

3) As someone who publishes works by others, what’s your favorite and least favorite part of the process?

I’d say my favorite part of the process is finally being finished! While I love casting and recording the stories and characters, and putting it all together can be a great creative blast, the best part is finally having the whole picture completed and being able to listen to it.

That and maybe adding sound effects when they’re warranted.

My least favorite part is definitely reading through submissions. I tend to fall behind on that. And it’s not that I don’t want to do it or that I’m afraid everything we get is crap. It’s not. I love to read. But there’s that lingering fear that I’m going to have to reject something because it doesn’t fit with us. I would rather be producing episodes than going through the logistics of picking what stories we do. I’ve actually been really lucky so far. What we’ve had submitted to us is great. Also… I’m not a huge fan of the grunt work of initial audio editing, weeding out the bad takes of readings so Chainmail2I’ve got usable audio. That’s tedious. But then I get to sift for bloopers, so there is an upside.

So if you submit to us and don’t hear anything for a while, it’s nothing against you. I just get lazy, let them build up, and then binge read submissions.

Amazon Page
The Chain Nerd Chainmail
The Meltingpotcast

Interview With Michael Underwood (Three Questions)

(This is part  “Three Questions With Xxxx“. If you’re interested in taking part click here and fill out the form.)

Headshot FountainI became aware of Michael and his talent through podcasting and mutual friends. When I saw the concept behind his series Genrenauts and learned about the Kickstarter he’s running to fund it, I immediately wanted to ask him some questions.

1) I love shorter fiction. Doorstops turn me off, so short stories and novellas are my cup of tea. I’m starting to see more and more shorter works published, perhaps at least in part because of the ease of publication these days. What is it about this length/format that appeals to you as a writer (and perhaps as a reader)?

MU: Like many writers, I started with short fiction before I tried my hand at writing a novel. Once I got into long form, I mostly stayed there, since most of what I read growing up and most of what I read now is longer-form. I got into novellas through my first series, the Ree Reyes urban fantasies, when my publisher asked me to write a novella to tide the series over while I tried out another idea. It was really fun for me to investigate that middle format, with some of the density and focus I associate with short fiction while still having the space to develop a longer plot, to include action sequences, and other aspects that I hadn’t really been able to do in short fiction.

Genrenauts 2.5 - There Will Always Be a MaxAs a reader, I’ve become more and more fond of novellas as I’ve been reading other works from my fellow Publishing authors – it’s really fun to see how much variation there is even within the constraints of the novella format – a one-POV novella of just between 18K and 20K words (like Binti by Nnedi Okorafor or Domnall and the Borrowed Child by Sylvia Sprunk Wrigley) is a very different beast from an almost-40,000-ish word work that’s as much short novel as long novella (like The Sorcerer of the Wildeeps by Kai Ashante Wilson). The novella is an incredibly flexible format, and every one I read, I come to appreciate it more, and agree even more with scholars and legends who hold it up as the perfect length for speculative fiction.

In addition to appreciating that variation, I love novellas as a palate cleanser. I can read a 120,000 word serious, deliberate book, then breeze through a 25,000-word adventure to clear my head, to round out my emotional landscape. Or I can set up a stack of three novellas and read them all over a long weekend without that being all I do over those three days.

In a world where there are an infinite number of shiny things vying for our attention, novellas are even more appealing as a form of written storytelling – they’re the Goldilocks planet of fiction – not too long, not too short – they’re just right.

2) Serial fiction is nothing new. This approach to writing and releasing prose is likely as old as writing itself. Then, as you pointed out on your Kickstarter page, is also thanks in part to television. What challenges do you face in putting out serial fiction and how have you overcome them in this series?

Genrenauts 1 - The Shootout SolutionMU: The Kickstarter is in no small part a direct response to the challenges of serial fiction – I had a serial work that I wasn’t able to publish fast enough to operate the way I felt it needed to. invested a lot of resources and gave me support, but they weren’t in a position to publish all six novellas of season one in rapid succession. The Kickstarter, if successful, will give me the means to publish episodes 3 through six in rapid succession.

Another challenge for serial fiction, I think, is binge watching culture. Thanks to Netflix and to some notoriously unfinished prose series, a lot of people prefer to consume an entire series all at once, or at least a large portion of narrative all at once. Reading 150 pages per chunk is outside the normal reading habit for a lot of people, so working in a serial fiction space carries some effort to reorient readers into this older form of reading (though it is the dominant way a lot of the first, truly broadly English-language commercial fiction was consumed). I’ve tried to plan for that inclination to want to read in big chunks by balancing my stories between the serial and episodic modes. The episodes all feed in together to larger stories, but each episode has its own internal arcs, largely framed by the ‘case of the week’ structure of the Genrenauts’ field missions.

Genrenauts 2 - The Absconded Ambassador3) This series was originally being published by Tor. Due in part to a desire to release these with greater frequency, you’re publishing the next several “episodes” independently. As you’ve said, Tor was okay with that. Did that reaction surprise you and what challenges do you think you’ll face as a result of this change?

The possibility of continuing the series on my own was a part of the conversation with from the beginning. Being a publishing professional in my day job, and having worked with my editor previously as a colleague, it was easier for my agent and I to talk very frankly about the different possibilities of what might happen down the road with the series. The permission to republish the episodes in a collected edition was in the contract from the very beginning, which has made this transition much easier (it wasn’t a surprise, it was option #2 on a list of several options, all of which were discussed before I signed the contract for Episodes 1 & 2.)

There are, however, still challenges. From what I’ve learned about indie/author-publishing, not having direct control of every story in a series makes some strategies and tactics that have worked well for other authors more difficult for me – I have to work with the model and make what they’re doing into strengths for the series. The business model is digital-leaning, which lines up well with the also digital-leaning indie publishing. The first two episodes got much more of a buy-in to libraries thanks to Macmillan’s strength in that field, so I know that I can and should be on the lookout for ways to support and reach out to libraries. Since I work in publishing, I feel fairly confident that I’ll be able to build my indie-published episodes and collections on top of the platform for the series that and I built together with the first episodes, especially as they continue to support them and the series writ large.

BONUS QUESTION – Since this is an effort to crowdsource the rest of the series, I wanted to know if this is successful (and I hope it is), whether you intend to do more independent publishing as a result and what you think about the future of “hybrid” authors (those that have been published both traditionally and independently).

MU: I definitely plan to continue publishing some of my work independently. I have tried to approach my writing career using a hybrid author mentality for most of two years now, though this is my first independent publishing project (I self-pubbed a short story to my mailing list a while back, but that was a very small, ‘thanks for being awesome gift’ kind of affair). I wholeheartedly agree with the hybrid publishing pioneers who have called for authors to broaden our perspective, to take control of our publishing careers and destinies, in order to better weather the tides of publishing.

For me, more hybrid authors means more authors thinking about the business side of their careers. Which then means means more authors confident to push back on bad clauses in publishing contracts, more authors who know there are other options if a deal falls through. It means more careers that survive a dip due to one poorly-selling book or shift in the market. It means more independently-published authors making smart choices on when and why they might want to sign a traditional contract in order to gain the reach and support that traditional houses can offer. Add in crowdfunding tools like Patreon and Kickstarter and there are really enough option to build a publishing career in a very deliberate, efficient way, and I hope that we see it continue to pay off for a lot of writers. There are always going to be writers that aren’t interested in the entrepreneurial mindset that helps make selling indie more viable, but those who have the flexibility and patience to use each path for its advantages to weave together a diverse publishing portfolio will, I think, find a lot of opportunities and more chances to make a sustainable career.

Michael R. Underwood is the author of seven books, including the Ree Reyes Geekomancy series, superhero fantasy Shield and Crocus, and Genrenauts, a sdience fiction adventure series in novellas. 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 wife and their ever-growing library. In his rapidly-vanishing free time, he geeks out on comics and games and makes pizzas from scratch. He is also a co-host on the Hugo-nominated Skiffy and Fanty Show and Speculate! The Podcast for Writers, Readers, and Fans.

Amazon Page
Kickstarter Page for Genrenauts