Monday, July 30, 2012

Mike Mullin Interview & Giveaway - All Male Review Challenge

Today, as a part of the All Male Review Challenge, I am very excited to welcome Mike Mullin author of Ashfall to the blog. I read Ashfall this year as part of the All Male Review Challenge and I must say, it was a fabulous read. If you haven't read it, I highly recommend it. Mike, thank you so much for visiting and answering my inane questions. :)

Thanks for inviting me to visit your blog!

Ashfall is told from the perspective of Alex Halprin, a 16 year old boy who is trying to find his family in the aftermath of the volcano. Why did you choose Alex as your narrator?
Before ASHFALL, I wrote a young adult horror novel in two points of view—one male and one female. Nearly every person who read that novel panned my teen girl voice. It will probably be a drawer novel forever—I only sent queries for it to three literary agents, and two of them quit the business forever. So when I started drafting ASHFALL, I decided to work in one—male—point of view.

Alex himself is inspired in part by someone I met just before I started writing ASHFALL. I knew my protagonist needed to be special, but I wanted to write an intensely realistic book one without magic, superpowers or—heaven help me—vampirism. So I decided my protagonist would be a martial artist. There are teens who are fabulous martial artists—some of them even win Olympic medals.  The only problem: I didn’t know the first thing about martial arts.

I signed up for taekwondo classes at Indianapolis ATA Black Belt Academy. There I met Ben Alexander, a third-degree black belt. He was extraordinarily patient and kind to the bumbling white-belt author who’d stumbled into his dojang.  But during Friday Night Fights—when we strap on pads and spar—he could pretty much kick the crud out of me despite the fact that I have at least 6” in height and 80 lbs. on him. So I thought, aha! Here’s the perfect model for my main character in ASHFALL, and Alex was born.
How difficult is it to write from the perspective of a 16 year old boy? 

I can tell from the question that you probably haven’t met me. I’m incredibly immature. Yeah, not nearly as hard as it should be.

Alex's martial arts training saves his butt on many occasions. I know you are also proficient. Have you ever had to use it to defend yourself in real life situations?

No, thank God. And even though I’ve now earned my black belt, my first choice in any real-life situation will be to run away. In a real fight, even the “winner” gets hurt.
So, I love Darla. She's such a strong and smart character, plus she is almost 2 years older than Alex. (hubba hubba) How did you come up with her character? Why did you make her older?

Darla is partly based on my wife, Margaret. She’s just as tough, loyal, and smart as Darla. (Although she can’t fix our cars, darn it!) I made Darla older in part because Margaret is a year and a half older than I, and in part because I knew from the beginning that Alex and Darla would become romantically linked. The whole guy-wants-to-get-into-girl’s-pants trope is kind of clichéd and boring, so I figured I’d flip it around. Darla being older than Alex makes that more plausible, I think.Darla’s mechanical abilities are based on my brother, Paul. In fact, I emailed him every time I needed Darla to do something MacGyverish. “Um, so Paul, all the power is out and you need to recharge some batteries. How would you do it?” So Darla is sort of a weird amalgam of my wife and brother. I really hope Paul doesn’t read this.

What are some of your favorite books told from a male P.O.V. or written by a male author?

Unwind by Schusterman, Holes by Sachar, Ender’s Game by Card, Charlotte’s Web by White, Where the Wild Things Are by Sendak, The Chronicles of Narnia by Lewis, The Lord of the Rings by Tolkien, The River Between Us by Peck, BZRK by Grant, You by Benoit, Epitaph Road by Patneaude, The Uplift War and Startide Rising by Brin, and Dune by Herbert. I’m sure there are more I love—those are just a few favorites off the top of my head. 

It's the Apocalypse! What three items do you want to have with you? What three items can you NOT live without?

I don’t have a go-bag or any kind of well-thought out plan for an apocalypse.  Actually, that’s not true—my plan for a supervolcano eruption like the one I depict in ASHFALL is really simple: die. My only priority is to find Margaret, my wife, and we do have a plan about where to meet if we’re separated in a disaster. In starvation situations, men tend to die off much faster than women (we have more muscle and less fat than women on average, so we need more fuel and start with less) and people over 35 die off much faster than younger people (we’re superfluous from an evolutionary standpoint). So I’m doubly doomed.

If I thought the disaster were something short term—i.e. survivable—my first priority would be water, second warmth, and third medical care. Lack of those things will kill you a lot faster than lack of food. If I had a go-bag, I’d probably put a hatchet, a pan, and a plumber’s spark lighter in it. Then I have fire and the means to boil water. The fourth thing would be all the spare medicine in my cabinet.

If post-volcanic-eruption Alex could tell his pre-volcanic eruption self only one thing, what would it be?

If you see a guy with a big target tattoo on the back of his head, run the other way. Fast!

What is Alex most afraid of in this new world he's been forced to acclimate to?

Alex’s biggest fear is himself. He’s not self-aware enough to verbalize it quite that way, just as I wasn’t at his age. But both of us struggled with an inner rage and propensity to violence. Both of us were forced to cope with the self-loathing and fear that is the aftermath of violence. What if I hadn’t stopped fighting? One of the defining moments of Alex’s childhood was when he walked away after kicking his sister’s bully in the face, rather than continuing to fight. One of the defining moments of mine was when I held another boy’s head in my hands and somehow found enough self-control not to smash it against the sidewalk. Even after a supervolcano, there are no monsters beyond us as terrifying as the monsters within.

In Ashfall, Alex confronts a world in which he must use violence to survive.  One of the pivotal moments in the story comes when Alex has an opportunity to kill a man who has severely wounded him. Alex chooses to flee instead, searching for a place where he can die in peace.  When given a stark choice between survival and retaining his humanity, Alex chooses his humanity.  But instead of dying, Alex meets Darla and discovers a new reason to value survival.

I love seeing similarities between authors and their characters. What do you and Alex have in common? What about you and Darla?

Alex is Ben Alexander on the outside and my teenage self on the inside. I’m not much like Darla—she’s based on my wife and brother.

Quickie Q&A

Favorite ice cream?

Häagen-Dazs Pineapple-Coconut.

Place you'd most like to see/visit

I’d love to go back to northeast Brazil—Recife, Fortaleza, and Natal.

Weirdest thing you've done?

I taught my niece some taekwondo once. Not weird, you say? The impromptu class was conducted on the roof of my 2-story Victorian house.

Favorite words?

The End (I finally finished a draft!)

Thanks again Mike, for doing this!! I appreciate it very much. :)

Thanks again for hosting me, it was a pleasure!

Loved Ashfall! Looking forward to Ashen Winter.

Hope you enjoy ASHEN WINTER—it’s available to bloggers on NetGalley now, and it’ll be out October 8th. There’s a big party in Indianapolis on October 7th and you’re all invited!

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, Indiana 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.
The first two chapters are available on my website:

I have ONE hardback copy of Ashfall to giveaway! 
  • If you’d like to enter this giveaway, fill out the rafflecopter below
  • Open to anywhere The Book Depository ships. Before you enter, make sure TBD ships to your country!
  • Ends 08/06 at 11:59 pm PST.
  • You do not have to follow to enter, but it is much appreciated. 
  • There will be one winner. Winners will be selected using Rafflecopter
a Rafflecopter giveaway


  1. Such a fantastic book--I can't wait to read the second one! Love that you took your research to another level by signing up for classes. Very cool (and healthy, too!). Great interview!

  2. Oh I so need to win this one. Love the action pose and the admission about the 16 yr old stance. LOL

    What 3 things...
    1. someone who knows what they are doing
    2. food
    3. shelter :D

  3. Three things:
    - First-aid kit
    - Roll-up tent with blanket
    - Food

  4. I LOVED this book!!! Mine was from the library so I had to give it back...BOOOOOOO.....So I want to win this!!

    1.Weapon (A Bow and Arrow for sure)

  5. My List=)
    1 My Family
    2 Water
    3 Weapon

    Thanks so much for a chance!

    luvdaylilies at bellsouth dot net

  6. Great interview!

    I think I would bring a shotgun, a how to guide of surviving the Apocalypse, and a very dashing man to save me :-)


  7. Let's see:
    A Knife.


  8. My Laptop with Charger

    Thanks for the giveaway!

  9. I need food, book guide on Apocalypse, and a weapon.

  10. a knife (handy for 'getting' food and shelter)
    my family (everyone needs someone to help with these things)
    a good book

  11. Dagger, water and courage! :D
    Thanks! :)


  12. I'd need some type of weapon that's unbeatable, food that's edible and has no expiration date (it'd be awesome if it actually tasted good too lol) and an unlimited source of water that isn't polluted!

  13. I'd want something to help start fire (hopefully something that doesn't involve rubbing sticks together as I don't see myself being good at that...), some kind of water purifier, and a weapon of some kind!

    Great interview. :)

  14. I would want some sort of weapon (preferably a good gun with lots of ammo), food & water supplies, and as many books as I could bring with me.

    Thanks for the giveaway!

  15. Let's see...

    A generator (to create electricity)
    Food and Water
    A fan.

  16. Well, thank goodness that I'm under 35 and female, though I really don't think being those things would help me survive at all ICOA (In Case of Apocalypse). And way to get into research mode! That is what I call author dedication.

    P.S. I'm sure your brother would be flattered to know that he was the inspiration for a 18 year old girl. :)

    Thanks for the awesome interview!

  17. Weapon, food rations, and a guy who's good at survival? I wish.

    Thanks for the giveaway

  18. A book about edible plants, a very sharp machete, and water purification tables. Hey, I'm practical!

  19. I feel like if I had my dogs, my books, and my garden, I'd be fairly happy...

  20. Logically I'd pick food rations, first aid kit and weapons.
    Though I'd probably try to haul my books with me...

  21. Water, weapons and someone who knows how to use those weapons hehe. Thank you for the giveaway!

  22. solar panel power generator, my laptop and it's charger, and first aid kit

  23. I would have to have my iphone & it's charger, some kind of weapon, and food/water : )

  24. Well, this is hard.
    I would say.
    Food & water


I always love comments, and I read every single one!

Also, this is now designated an award free zone. Although I love awards and I love everyone for thinking of me, I just don't have the time to honor them like they need to be honored. Thank you though for your consideration!

XOXO Jen the Bibliophile

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