Author Interview: Mike Mullins, The Ashfall Trilogy

Welcome to Kid Lit Frenzy Mike! Thank you for being willing to answer a few questions. 

My pleasure.

I have to admit that I tend to have an anxiety/panic attack when I think about or read apocalyptic type books, especially the natural disaster types.  So, I can't imagine writing about them.

Well, I guess I owe you an apology. Sorry about that.

So for my first questions - After writing three books centered around a disaster, do you find yourself checking your basement food stock or replenishing a survival bag in your trunk? Or maybe I should ask what have you done to prepare for a disaster? 

Nope. I’m well prepared for a short term disaster—three weeks or less. But if something like what I describe in my books happens, I have a simple plan: I’ll die.

If you’re a woman between 14 and 35, prepping for the end of the world as we know it makes a lot of sense. But men are far less likely to survive apocalyptic situations than women (we have more muscle mass and less body fat on average than women, so we need more fuel and have less). And people over 35 generally don’t survive in famine situations, which makes me doubly doomed. There’s an interesting study of the Donner party that makes shows who survived and why here: 

In your first book, ASHFALL, you had to create the parameters in which you would work with for subsequent books. Was there anything that you wish you hadn't written because it made something more difficult in later books? 

No, I outlined the whole trilogy before I finished ASHFALL. So I’ve been working from the same outline for five years. I did allow myself to diverge from the outline quite a bit, so what I wrote isn’t exactly what I envisioned five years ago. But it’s pretty close.

When you think back to your own teen self, do you think you would have managed as well as Alex and Darla did/have? 

No, I would have died. I had all of Alex’s impulsivity and none of his taekwondo skills. I started taking taekwondo about five years ago specifically so that I could do a better job of writing ASHFALL.

On a lighter note (or hopefully it will be lighter), if you could spend the day with any character from another author's book, who would it be and what would you spend the day doing?

I’d love to take a day of survival and combat training from Katsa, the heroine of Graceling by Kristin Cashore.

What books have you read as a teen or an adult that you consider mentor text for your later development as a writer? 

I got some feedback about ASHFALL from a literary agent who thought I wasn’t deep enough into Alex’s head—that the story wasn’t involving enough at an emotional level. So I reread The Hunger Games three or four times—it does a fabulous job getting the reader emotionally invested in Katniss. The only problem? My copy of The Hunger Games is a signed first printing. I couldn’t bear to make notes in it. Instead, I put a zillion color-coded post-it notes in the book with my observations on how Collins added emotional content to her work.

What writing routines do you have? And where do you like to write?

I’m a nomadic writer—I work anywhere my laptop happens to be. I like to intersperse my writing with walks—I’ll write a few pages, walk for a while, then plop down somewhere and write some more.

Do you have any new projects that you are working on that you can share with us? 

Sure. I’m about 30,000 words into the first draft of SURFACE TENSION, a young adult thriller. It’s about a teen who sees a group of terrorists crashing an airplane from the ground. He’s the only one who knows how they did it, and they want him dead. I haven’t sold it yet, so I don’t know when or even if it will be published. Wish me luck!

What is in your current TBR (to-be-read) pile?

I couldn’t possibly list all the books in my pile. But here’s a pic:

Thank you again Mike for stopping by Kid Lit Frenzy. 

Thanks for having me!

About Mike Mullins: 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 glad this writing thing seems to be working out.

Mike holds a black belt in Songahm Taekwondo. He lives in Indianapolis with his wife and her three cats. SUNRISE is his third novel. ASHFALL, the first novel of the trilogy, was named one of the top five young adult novels of 2011 by National Public Radio, a Best Teen Book of 2011 by Kirkus Reviews, and a New Voices selection by the American Booksellers Association.

You can find Mike: website | blog | twitter | facebook | google+ | pinterest | tumblr | booklikes

About SUNRISE: The Yellowstone supervolcano nearly wiped out the human race. Now, almost a year after the eruption, the survivors seem determined to finish the job. Communities wage war on each other, gangs of cannibals roam the countryside, and what little government survived the eruption has collapsed completely. The ham radio has gone silent. Sickness, cold, and starvation are the survivors’ constant companions.

When it becomes apparent that their home is no longer safe and adults are not facing the stark realities, Alex and Darla must create a community that can survive the ongoing disaster, an almost impossible task requiring even more guts and more smarts than ever—and unthinkable sacrifice. If they fail . . . they, their loved ones, and the few remaining survivors will perish.

This epic finale has the heart of ASHFALL, the action of ASHEN WINTER, and a depth all its own, examining questions of responsibility and bravery, civilization and society, illuminated by the story of an unshakable love that transcends a post-apocalyptic world and even life itself.

To read an except of SUNRISE:
The first two chapters are available on Mike's website at: You may reprint the first two chapters in whole or in part on your website so long as you do not charge anyone anything to access them. Warning: the sample does contain ASHFALL and ASHEN WINTER spoilers.