Author Interview: Mike Mullin

*I am very priviledged to include an interview with Mike Mullin on my blog!  Mike is the author of the acclaimed Ashfall Series, which includes Ashfall, Ashen Winter, and Sunrise.  Be sure to check out his website for more information.


How old were you when you knew you wanted to be a writer?

At four, I wanted 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 only decided to try to write and sell a novel about 8 years ago. I’m really enjoying writing full time. I can do it thanks to my extraordinarily patient and well-employed wife. She buys the health insurance. (Thanks, honey!) Maybe one or two of you would buy ASHFALL so I can keep writing? I love this career!


Who are your favorite authors? (Please limit your answer to five or ten.)

In young adult literature, my favorite authors are Richard Peck (particularly The River Between Us), Michael Grant (Gone series), Suzanne Collins, Chris Crutcher (especially Staying Fat for Sarah Byrnes), M.T. Anderson (Feed is my fave), Gary Schmidt and Jerry Spinelli.

In science fiction I love David Brin, Paolo Bacigalupi, Alan Dean Foster, David Weber’s early work, Gordon Dickson, Philip Dick and Robert Heinlein.


In fantasy I adore Cinda Williams Chima, Kristin Cashore, L.E. Modisett, Two Moon Princess by Carmen Ferreiro-Esteban, Tolkien, Lewis and Robert Jordan.


There are a zillion other authors I like—look me up on Goodreads here to see them all and talk books.


What are your greatest sources of inspiration?

Reading, sleeping and living. First, I read voraciously and omnivorously. I will literally read an old phone book if nothing better is handy. (They’re a great source for character names.) I’ve read at least a few books in nearly any genre you’d care to name. I get a lot of my reading material from the library now, in part because all the 29 bookcases in my home are packed full. Reading also directly inspired Ashfall. Reading in Krakatoa: The Day the World Exploded, August 27, 1883 about the fearsome noise that eruption made inspired the early chapters of Ashfall in which Alex contends with the earthshaking noise of the Yellowstone supervolcano.

Second, I find that sleep is very important to my creativity. For one thing, I write better when I get enough sleep. I’ve known this for years, but there’s some new research that shows that when you feel sleepy, it’s because part of your brain is sleeping. Writing is hard enough without having any brain cells out of action. For another, I’ve trained my brain to work on plot problems while I sleep. As I drift off at night, I’ll review where I’m at in my work-in-progress and think about what I’m going to write the next day. Sometimes, I’ll wake up in the morning with a great idea. Many of the twists in Ashfall started this way.


Third, to write well, you must live well. Scenes in Ashfall involving greenhouses, goats and ducks were inspired by helping my brother’s family care for their small farm. When I realized that Alex would spend much of his time cross country skiing, I went to Oregon to learn how (and to visit Mount St. Helens). When Alex picked up a jahng bong, or bō staff, I enrolled in jahng bong lessons at my dojang. (I now hold a black belt in Songahm Taekwondo.) Without real-world experience in each of these areas, I wouldn’t have been able write convincingly about them.


What genre(s) do you write?

I write for young adults, which isn’t really a genre. The ASHFALL series is speculative fiction, but my next book, SURFACE TENSION, will be a YA thriller.


Do you have any current or future projects?

Yes, my next book will be SURFACE TENSION. It’s about a teenager who sees a group of terrorists causing a plane crash from the ground. He’s the only one who knows how they’re crashing planes, and they want him dead.


Do you have an author website?

Yes, Mike Mullin


Do you have any blogs?

I don’t blog regularly, but I do occasionally post news or giveaways here: Mike Mullin Author Blog


Where can people find your work?  (to purchase or just to read)

Your local library, independent bookseller, Barnes & Noble, Amazon, and almost any other place you hunt books.


If you could just feature one title, what would it be? 


Do you have any pseudonyms?



Do you have any other hobbies besides writing?

I love lots of outdoor activities: hiking, bike riding, and canoeing, for example. I also spend a ton of time reading. I play computer games and have a weekly Dungeons and Dragons game I enjoy. (I’ve been playing D&D off and on since the early days of the second edition.) I love to cook. (And I’ve written one cookbook—it contains every recipe I mention in the ASHFALL books. You can get a free copy by visiting my website and signing up for my mailing list.) I also spend a fair bit of time volunteering as the president of my local library’s Friends of the Library group.


Tell us something interesting about yourself.

Here are 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 2011.
  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.

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