A. ASHFALL. It was my first published novel, and got my career as an author off to a great start. Check out the list of awards and honors it won at www.ashfallbook.com!
Q. Patty Campbell talks about the germ for a piece of writing being like the sand in the oyster. What is your grain of sand? Do you begin with character or setting or something else?
A. My grain of sand is almost always another book. For ASHFALL, it was Bill Bryson’s A Short History of Nearly Everything. I found it on a display at Central Library in downtown Indianapolis. Dozens of novel ideas lurk within its pages, but the one that stuck with me was the idea of a supervolcano eruption at Yellowstone. A few weeks after I read it, I woke at 3:30 am with a scene occupying my head so completely I was afraid it would start spilling out my nostrils and ears. I typed 5,500 words, finishing just before dawn. Then I put the project away and let it gestate for eight months. When I returned to it after researching volcanoes and volcanic ash, I realized the inspired scene I wrote in the middle of the night wouldn’t work, and ultimately that whole section had to be scrapped. The only word that remains from that draft? Ashfall.
Q. What do you hear from your readers?
A. My favorite letter was from a 14-year-old on Staten Island who said she hadn’t read a book in four years—until she picked up ASHFALL. I get a quite a few letters with similar stories.
Q. Why do you write for Young Adults?
A. A novel needs conflict and change to be interesting. Humans arguably change faster and experience more conflict as teenagers than at any other stage in our lives. That’s why I write young adult fiction, and part of the reason so many adults read young adult fiction. Most adults are a bit boring by comparison to teenagers.
Q. What is one thing you would like your readers to know about you?
Here are five fun facts about me:
• I keep a pet alligator in the guestroom bathtub. It’s really friendly with my wife’s three cats.
• I earned a black belt in Songahm Taekwondo in April of 2011.
• The broken arm I got in fourth grade was caused by an unfortunate run-in with a grizzly bear.
• I shelve my books in binary. You can find The Story of Edgar Sawtelle under 010110100101010.
• I’m not entirely sure what the word “fact” means, but I've got fun down to an art.
Q. In high school, where did you fall? (Prom Queen/King, Gamer Geek, Brainy/Book Nerd, Jock, Shy/Quiet Scholar, Skate Rat, Stoner, Class Clown, etc.)
A. I’m pretty sure I was the smartest guy ever to flunk out of my high school. I hated that place. I went downtown and took the G.E.D. test—the lady who graded it said it was the highest score she’d ever seen. If I’d known how easy it was to test out of high school, I totally would have done it after 8th grade.
Q. Do you have a pet (pets)? Tell us about it (them) and how they help/hinder your writing.
A. My wife has three cats. I bought a bunch of volcanic ash and kept it in a bowl on my desk while I wrote ASHFALL. That lasted until the stupid cats decided the ash was a good substitute for kitty litter. Darn cats! (Kidding, I like them, too. Usually.) This is me with Pepper:
Q. How often do you dream about the writing you are working on?
A. All the time! In fact as I go to sleep each night, I think about what I want to write the next day. It’s a technique for tricking my subconscious into working on my writing while I sleep. Sometimes I’ll wake up with a great idea the next morning.
Thanks so much for your time Mike! We look forward to seeing you at the festival.
To find out more about Mike Mullin, find him at the social media links below: