Today Mike Mullin has stopped by The Book Cellar for an interview, welcome Mike!
Who was your favorite character to write in Ashfall?
Wow, that’s a tough question. I feel sort of like parents must when asked which child is their favorite. I guess I’ll have to say Alex. He’s partially based on myself as a teenager and partially based on Ben Alexander. I met Ben when I enrolled in taekwondo about three years ago. He was a fairly short, slim, sixteen-year-old who could kick my much larger frame up one side of Pendleton Pike and back down the other. (He still can, but he’s nineteen now.)
I loved writing Darla, too, especially when she’s feisty with Alex. And Mr. Barslow—I met several crusty old guys like him when I was touring Iowa to research ASHFALL. And Rita Mae—she’s kind of like the librarian who used to put stars on my summer reading program card. Although as far as I know, the librarian I knew didn’t have a shotgun behind her desk. I could go on and on here—you get the idea.
Did you have a favorite site or book or anything like that that you used while doing research for Ashfall?
My most useful research was the boots on the ground variety—hiking on Mount St. Helens, cross-country skiing on Mount Hood, driving the back roads of Iowa and Illinois, and taking jahng bong (bō staff) classes at my taekwondo dojang.
But lots of books helped, too. I particularly loved Winchester’s Krakatoa: The Day the World Exploded, August 27, 1883 for its beautiful writing and exhaustive coverage of the biggest modern Plinian eruption. Supervolcano: The Catastrophic Event that Changed the Course of Human History by Savino and Jones was also helpful—particularly chapter 10 which is a fictional account of an eruption of the Long Valley supervolcano in California. There are many, many more resources I found useful—I’ve listed some of them on my website.
Is there a book you’ve read recently and loved?
I’m reading Patrick Ness’s Chaos Walking series this week—I’m about halfway through Monsters of Men. I love these books! They’re exceptionally creative and unusual. One of the many amazing things about them is that Ness makes each book distinct, yet part of the overall story arc. I don’t want to give away any spoilers, but if you enjoy science fiction, dystopian adventures, or inventive writing, you owe it to yourself to try these books. The first one in the series is The Knife of Never Letting Go.
If you could be any mythological creature, what would you be?
I’d love to be a shifter, à la Sam in Charlaine Harris’s Southern Vampire/True Blood series. The opportunities would be amazing: to turn into an eagle and soar on the warm updrafts, explore the depths of the ocean as a shark, or even just to experience the world as a dog, with a sense of smell 100 million times as acute as my own.
Would you say Ashfall had a theme song at all? If so, what is it?
Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture played in reverse. 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.
Which is harder for you to write: The first line? or the last line?
The last line. When I got “The Call” from Tanglewood Press, it basically went like this: “Mike, I love ASHFALL, I want to buy it, but you’ve got to rewrite the ending.” So I did . . . six times. That was pretty harrowing while I was in the middle of it, but now I’m grateful that my editor had the persistence to drag the final ending out of me. She seemed to know I had something better within, struggling to find its way onto the page. I tweaked and rewrote the first line numerous times, but as best I can recall, it didn’t change at all after Tanglewood acquired ASHFALL. So the last line was definitely tougher.
Thanks so much for stopping by Mike!
Here’s a bit about Ashfall, in case you haven’t heard.