Saturday, 8 October 2011

Author interview with mike mullin

Today I have the great honor of having an author interview from Mike Mullin.

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.

First of all I want to say a huge thank you for doing this interview, and for taking time out of your busy schedule and other blog tours to do this for me. I really appreciate it.

Now onto my questions :)

1. Did you grow up wanting to be a writer professionally? If not then what did you want to do when you were "grown up"?
No, I started out wanting to be a firefighter (natch). Later I wanted to be a pro football wide receiver like Lynn Swann. That guy was indestructible! Then I went through a ballet dancer phase. (I had a crush on a ballerina, what can I say?) In high school I thought I’d be a newspaper editor. I even tried it out for a while, publishing and editing an underground newspaper titled The Middle Finger. I thought I might like to be a politician (puke!) until I served as a Congressional Page in the sausage factory that is Washington D.C. In college I decided I’d be a marketing executive. I actually did that one—it’s as soul-sucking as it sounds. I’m really enjoying writing full time. I can do it thanks to my extraordinarily patient and well-employed wife. (Thanks, honey!) Maybe one or two of you would buy ASHFALL so I can keep writing? I love this career!

 2. What came first, the plot for your novel or the volcanoes and then you built your plot around that?
The chicken came first! Wait, was that the question?
ASHFALL was conceived in the stacks of Central Library in downtown Indianapolis. Sadly, the conception wasn’t nearly as dirty as that sounds. My wife doesn’t really go for that sort of thing.
I saw a display with Bill Bryson’s A Short History of Nearly Everything and thought, no way is that a big enough book to include nearly everything. So I checked it out, determined to discover what hubris had led Bryson’s publishers to choose that title. Instead, I learned about the Yellowstone supervolcano. And I was hooked.

I knew I wanted to write about a teenage guy who would have to face the eruption alone. I modeled my protagonist, Alex, in part on Ben Alexander, one of the instructors at my taekwondo dojang. When I met Ben, he was a scrawny, short sixteen-year-old who could kick my six-foot, well-muscled body up one side of the street and back down the other. He still can, but he’s nineteen now.
So the supervolcano idea came first, then the protagonist, and the plot flowed from those two sources.

3. Why volcanoes and not some other supernatural disaster?

There are great novels set amid floods, tornadoes, tsunamis, earthquakes, Plinian volcanic eruptions and asteroid strikes. But as far as I could determine, nobody had used a supervolcano as a setting for a novel before.
Plus there’s the geek factor—a supervolcano is Mother Nature at her brutal, civilization-destroying worst. What could be more interesting than that?

  4. Do you have a special place to sit and write or is it anywhere that the idea pops into your head?
I’m a nomadic writer. My special place to sit is in front of my laptop. Right now I’m writing in a Qdoba over the remains of my breakfast. Yesterday I wrote in my office. Sometimes I take the computer into the guest room, living room, or my wife’s office. If my writing isn’t going well, I get up and walk somewhere. Often a change of setting and walk will get me back on track.

5. Apart from the sequels to Ashfall, do you have any other plots running around that you plan to get down on paper?
I have about fifteen novels at various stages of development. Some of them are just a half-page of random notes. Others are 5-10 pages with detailed ideas about plot and character.
I also have a YA horror novel that I recently finished rewriting for the fifth time. I may work it over again and attempt to sell it.

6. If you were trapped on a volcanic island, what 3 things would you want with you and why?

I’d bring one of these, ‘cause I don’t want to stay on the island forever:  

I’d bring a reverse osmosis hand pump, ‘cause I like fresh water.
And I’d bring one of these. Mmm, sushi:

7. Which person (famous or not) do you look up to or inspires you?
Richard Peck! He started writing professionally when he was my age and he’s still going strong.  A River Between Us belongs with Huckleberry Finn and To Kill a Mockingbird as one of the greatest works of literature ever written.
I also admire him personally. He’s generous, gracious, and speaks extemporaneously in sentences better crafted than my fifth drafts.

(and just because I love cats and have 2 myself)
8. What are your cat's names

Tsornin, Marigold, and Pepper. You can see pictures of them at Genre Cats.
Thank you for interviewing me on Much Loved Books, Michelle!

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 of Ashfall are available on Mike's website:

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