Author Interview: Mike Mullin

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Mike Mullin
Website / Blog / Twitter 

  • Ashfall
Under the bubbling hot springs and geysers of Yellowstone National Park is a supervolcano. Most people don't know it's there. The caldera is so large that it can only be seen from a plane or satellite. It just could be overdue for an eruption, which would change the landscape and climate of our planet.

Ashfall is the story of Alex, a teenage boy left alone for the weekend while his parents visit relatives. When the Yellowstone supervolcano erupts unexpectedly, Alex is determined to reach his parents. He must travel over a hundred miles in a landscape transformed by a foot of ash and the destruction of every modern convenience that he has ever known, and through a new world in which disaster has brought out both the best and worst in people desperate for food, water, and warmth. With a combination of nonstop action, a little romance, and very real science, this is a story that is difficult to stop reading and even more difficult to forget.

Describe your book in 5 words or less.

Alex seeks family after supervolcano.

What's the best piece of advice you've ever been given about your writing?

The most helpful advice I’ve received accompanied an agent’s rejection of ASHFALL. Here’s a taste, “The tone of the book doesn’t seem to match the horror of the details you’re conveying. Even when things are at their bleakest, the tension doesn’t seem to fully ratchet up,” Jim McCarthy, Dystel & Goderich. Literary agents don’t owe unpublished writers anything. There’s no upside to offering this kind of useful criticism and a lot of downside. I’m still grateful to Jim for his generous advice—so much so that I mention him in the acknowledgements, and I named a (nice) character in his honor. If you’ve got an awesome manuscript, I recommend putting him at the top of your query list.

If Ashfall had a theme song, what would it be?

Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture played in reverse through a mixer that changes the tempo randomly throughout. It starts with a bang, ends in a sorrowful dirge (but with a note of hope), and in between it’s chaotic, scary, and sublime.

What do you hope to accomplish during your time as a writer?

I’d like to give my readers the gift that Heinlein, Asimov, Cormier, Blume, and Peck gave me: A few hours of diversion in a childhood that was sometimes kind of shitty. The opportunity to live other lives vicariously through their writing. A few new thoughts, and lots of familiar feelings.

Quick! Can you share 5 random things about yourself?

Five fun facts about me:
1. I keep a pet alligator in the guestroom bathtub. It’s really friendly with my wife’s three cats.
2. I earned a black belt in Songahm Taekwondo in April.
3. The broken arm I got in fourth grade was caused by an unfortunate run-in with a grizzly bear.
4. I shelve my books in binary. You can find The Story of Edgar Sawtelle under 010110100101010.
5. I’m not entirely sure what the word “fact” means, but I’ve got fun down to an art.

If you could travel back in time, what time and place would you choose? And if you can only take 3 things with you, what would you take?

Do I dare go all the way back to the Cretaceous Period? I guess I’d have to. The opportunity to see live dinosaurs, even if only briefly, would be too tempting to pass up.

What would I bring?
1. My brother-in-law. He’s a Sergeant Major, 3rd degree karate black belt, and explosives expert.
2. My father-in-law. I’m pretty sure I could outrun him, so he’d get eaten first.
3. A survival kit. Yep, I cheated there. Neener-neener.

If you have the chance to give one piece of valuable advice to your readers, what would it be?

Everything is temporary. If you’re feeling depressed, it will pass. If you’re feeling on-top-of-the-world, that will pass too. Live like you mean it.

Thanks Mike!!



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.

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1 comment:

caroline hanson said...

Nice interview, plus he had some good and charming things to say. Thanks!

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