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.
What are FIVE adjectives that you would use to describe your novel, ASHFALL?
Realistic, Grim, Violent, Touching, and (ultimately) Hopeful
ASHFALL is your debut novel. In the process of writing it and having it published, what are FOUR things you've learned?
- I hate querying literary agents.
- Letting go of my novel—watching it move from a file on my computer that I can edit any time I want, to a printed book—was a lot more difficult emotionally than I thought it would be.
- There is a large community of wonderfully supportive writers, bloggers, and booksellers out there. I’ve been humbled by their help and support.
- The second book isn’t easier to write than the first. I thought it would be. Oh well.
Most writers are inspired by something--other writers, other books, specific people, things they see... What are THREE things that inspired you to write ASHFALL?
A few years ago one of my friends was attacked on the Monon Trail. A group of five guys decided they wanted his $10 garage-sale bicycle, so they hit him over the back of the head with a 2x4 and kicked him more than 20 times, breaking his skull and numerous other bones. The attackers thought they’d killed him, so they dragged him into some bushes to hide his body.
My friend lived and mostly recovered, but the event had a profound impact on me. I became unreasonably fearful, not wanting to leave my home, even though the attack didn’t happen in my neighborhood.
Instead of becoming a shut in, I took up taekwondo. There I met a 15-year-old third-degree black belt, Ben Alexander, who became the main inspiration for Alex.
So three things that inspired ASHFALL: living with and overcoming a visceral sense of fear, learning taekwondo, and meeting Ben Alexander.
These days, it's hard for an author to push his or her work if s/he is not using social media in some way. What are TWO ways in which you are using social media to promote ASHFALL?
Right now I’m way behind on social media. Writing ASHEN WINTER (the sequel to ASHFALL) and touring for ASHFALL is taking almost all my time. But I still reply to all the @ messages I get on Twitter, and stay engaged to a limited extent on Goodreads, Facebook, and Google+.
Social media has been particularly valuable for reaching teachers, librarians, and bloggers. I’m not sure I’m doing a good job reaching my target audience, teens, though. I hope to launch a new effort shortly—the “Could You Survive a Supervolcano” quiz. You’ll be able to answer 15 questions, find out whether you’re ready for Yellowstone, and share your results on social media. So I’m hoping that will reach more teens.
Was that two ways? Close enough.
Although we as authors ultimately hope a reader loves our book and will continue to read our future works, what is ONE thing you hope readers will also come away with having read ASHFALL?
A sense of the impermanence of life. We don’t know how long we’ll be here, either as individuals or as a civilization, so it behooves us to make the best of the time we’ve got.