This is day 3 of Ashfall madness
Mike Mullin author of Ashfall release date 10/11/2011
I want to say a big hello and thank you for Mike Mullin for taking the time to do this interview for best books.
You’re most welcome. Thanks for having me on your blog.
1. Five fun facts about yourself?
- 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 Songham Taekwondo in April.
- 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.
2. What most people on best books like to know is what got you into writing?
Until I was eleven, I attended a brick box of a school, antiseptically clean and emotionally sterile. The children marched in files down the halls, mumbled math facts in unison, and occasionally did a craft project about a book.
When I turned twelve, I escaped from that intellectual prison camp and went to a noisy, dirty, chaotic school where I was—gasp—expected to write. Every day. And—double gasp—read. I wrote my first novel in sixth grade—Captain Poopy’s Sewer Adventures. Sadly, Dav Pilkey beat me to publication with Captain Underpants, although I still spell better than him. (You don’t see me typing Mik Mullin, do you?) I’ve been writing ever since.
3. Where did the idea for your first book Ashfall come from?
Ashfall was conceived in the stacks of Central Library in downtown Indianapolis. Sadly, that’s not nearly as dirty as it sounds. I can’t convince my wife to try that particular trick—she’s smarter than me, as you can no doubt discern.
Anyway, I found Bill Bryson’s A Short History of Nearly Everything and checked it out because it’s way too small a book to be a history of nearly everything. I read the section on the Yellowstone supervolcano and was hooked.
4. Did you have to do lots of research for your book?
Yes, had a team of 100 monkeys with laptops (they won’t work on typewriters anymore) researching ASHFALL for more than two days. Then I had to fire them because they changed the ash to monkey poo. And flung it all over the manuscript.
So, I spent almost a year researching ASHFALL the old fashioned way. I read every book, website, and journal article on supervolcanoes I could locate. I even consulted with two geologists near the end of the process. If you’d like to know more about the science and research process behind ASHFALL, check out this blog post.
5. Are any of the characters in the book based on anyone?
Yes, they are all based on the monkeys. Except Target. He’s based on the gorilla I hired to chase the monkeys out after I fired them.
Actually, I had real people in mind when writing most of my characters. Alex, for example, is very loosely based on Ben Alexander, a teenager who trains at my dojang. He can kick my butt up and down Pendleton Pike while sipping a Chai Mocha Latte.
Uncle Paul, Aunt Caroline, Max, and Anna are based on my brother’s real family. They have a small farm near Dayton, Ohio where they raise goats, ducks and kale, just like in the book. My brother taught me everything I know about greenhouse farming. If it’s all wrong in ASHFALL, blame him.
6. You plain to make Ashfall a series do you have any new shocks and surprises in book two?
Um, yes. I just finished the third draft of ASHEN WINTER, which is the sequel to ASHFALL. It’ll be published by Tanglewood Press in October 2012.
One important character dies. It’s a disaster—if everyone survived it wouldn’t be realistic. Some people are going to hate the huge plot twist about a third of the way into ASHEN WINTER. What can I say, I learned everything I know about writing from Nick Lowe, of “Cruel to be Kind” fame.
7. How long did it take you to write Ashfall? And was there every a time where you thought you would never make it to the end?
I wrote 5,500 words in the middle of one insomniac night, and then spent about eight months on reading and research before resuming the draft. The drafting process took another six months and then I spent another six months rewriting, editing and submitting the manuscript.
I got badly stuck at one point in the drafting process. Instead of moping, I jumped in the car and took a road trip. I drove every mile of Alex’s route through northern Iowa and Illinois. That provided the inspiration I needed to power through to the end.
8. I don’t want to give too much away about the book but what I loved most about the book was Alex’s will power to keep going. As the author do you have any favourite parts in the book?
Chapters 37 and 38. They were never part of any outline for ASHFALL. I added those two chapters spontaneously as I was visiting my Uncle Chuck, who was in the final stages of his battle with cancer. The first time my wife read those chapters, we were driving. (Well, I was driving. She was riding along. It’s safer if you don’t read and drive.) I looked over at her and tears were streaming down her cheeks. I thought, yes! Those chapters work! (I’m a really terrible husband.)
9. Do you have any favourite authors?
Richard Peck, Neal Shusterman, Cinda Williams Chima, M.T. Anderson, Michael Grant, Suzanne Collins, Francisco X. Stork, Kristin Cashore, Cormac McCarthy, E.B. White, Jandy Nelson…. Oh, heck, who am I kidding? I could turn this into a list so long that I’d still be typing the end while you were reading the beginning. Become my friend on Goodreads to see everything I’m reading and talk books.
10. Do you have any advice for people that want to be authors?
Read. Read more. No, read more than that. You read to learn your craft and to learn whether you’re doing original work or not. Read everything you can in your genre, then read some work outside your genre. Carry a book or e-reader everywhere. The minutes spend waiting here and there during the course of a day add up to a lot of reading time. Unless you’re writing television scripts, turn off the boob tube. Better yet, throw a brick at it. It’s cathartic.
Just to give you an idea, here’s a shot of my to-be-read pile on August 19th:
Thanks so much for hosting me here, and for all that so many of you have done to support me and my debut novel, ASHFALL. I’m humbled and deeply grateful.
Thank you so much for letting me interview you and I can’t wait to read the next book.
Mike Mullin’s first job was scraping the gum off the undersides of desks at his high school. From there, things went steadily downhill. He almost got fired by the owner of a bookstore due to his poor taste in earrings. He worked at a place that showed slides of poopy diapers during lunch (it did cut down on the cafeteria budget). The hazing process at the next company included eating live termites raised by the resident entomologist, so that didn’t last long either. For a while Mike juggled bottles at a wine shop, sometimes to disastrous effect. Oh, and then there was the job where swarms of wasps occasionally tried to chase him off ladders. So he’s really hoping this writing thing works out.
Mike holds a black belt in Songahm Taekwondo. He lives in Indianapolis with his wife and her three cats. ASHFALL is his first novel.
Many visitors to Yellowstone National Park don’t realize that the boiling hot springs and spraying geysers are caused by an underlying supervolcano. It has erupted three times in the last 2.1 million years, and it will erupt again, changing the Earth forever.
Fifteen-year-old Alex is home alone when the supervolcano erupts. His town collapses into a nightmare of darkness, ash, and violence, forcing him to flee. He begins a harrowing trek in search of his parents and sister, who were visiting relatives 140 miles away.
Along the way, Alex struggles through a landscape transformed by more than a foot of ash. The disaster brings out the best and worst in people desperate for food, clean water, and shelter. When an escaped convict injures Alex, he searches for a sheltered place where he can wait—to heal or to die. Instead, he finds Darla. Together, they fight to achieve a nearly impossible goal: surviving the supervolcano
The first two chapters are available on my website: www.mikemullinauthor.com. ((read the first two chapters online))
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