Hundred of teens in LaGrange County, Indiana were treated last Friday to a visit by break-out YA author Mike Mullin. Mike’s debut novel, Ashfall, has received high reviews and been included on YALSA’s 2012 Best Fiction for Young Adults list as well as being nominated to the 2012 Quick Picks list. Ashfall is an apocalyptic novel that chronicles the journey of 15-year-old Alex as he tries to reach his family after the eruption of the Yellowstone Supervolcano. It’s a gritty and edgy thrill ride that had me holding my breath, crying, cheering, and feeling exhausted at times.
In preparation for Mike’s visit he graciously granted me a phone interview, in which I asked why he chose to write YA. He answered, “A great novel is about conflict, and when is there more conflict than in the teen years?” Though this interview was wonderful, the personal appearance was even better.
During the presentations Mike shared the difference between a wanna-be and an expert at anything, including writing. The answer: about 10,000 hours of practice. This stuck with many of the students. He also explained to the teens that writing is a great job, as he gets paid to write lies! His humor and energy captured the attention of the teens while his details about the research behind Ashfall enlightened many. He shared with the students that the idea for writing about a super volcano was initially sparked from a book about the geological history of the world. To gain more information, he talked with experts in many fields, including geology and electronics; read voraciously (a word he learned from reading); and even enrolled in tae kwon do classes (he’s now a black belt). Mike shared much of this research during his presentations, and at the end of each he broke a cement block for the audience and autographed the pieces for lucky students. We ended the day with a workshop for aspiring writers where each writer left armed with tips and techniques about writing and publishing.
This was a long day well spent, as Mike presented six times! By the time he headed back to Indianapolis, he looked happily worn out, but the students were pumped about their writing in a way that no Skype visit or phone interview could have done. A huge thanks to Mike Mullin and Tanglewood Press.
So what’s next for Mike Mullin? His second book, Ashen Winter, comes out in October 2012, and the final book of the Ashfall trilogy is in the works.
— Michelle Blank, currently reading Ashen Winter by Mike Mullin and Blink & Caution by Tim Wynne-Jones