Dare to Read

February 23, 2012

My Road to Publication : Mike Mulin

Interview by Carmen Ferreiro-Esteban

Today Mike Mulin, my fellow author at Tanglewood Press is here to tell us how he came to write and publish his debut novel Ashfall, a thrilling YA dystopian story you don’t want to miss.

Q. Ashfall tells the story of two young people trying to survive in the barren landscape of a United States covered in ashes. How did this story came to be?

A. I wrote ASHFALL because the idea—a teen struggling to survive and find his family after the Yellowstone supervolcano erupts—seized me in its jaws and wouldn’t let go. The idea started with another book—Bill Bryson’s A Short History of Nearly Everything. Dozens of novel ideas lurk within its pages, but the one that stuck with me was the supervolcano. A few weeks after I read Bryson’s book, I woke at 3:30 am with a scene occupying my head so completely I was afraid it would start spilling out my ears. I typed 5,500 words, finishing just before dawn. Then I put the project away and let it gestate for eight months. When I returned to it after researching volcanoes and volcanic ash, I realized the inspired scene I wrote in the middle of the night wouldn’t work, and ultimately that whole section had to be scrapped. The only three words that remain from that draft? Ashfall, Alex, and Darla.

Q. What genre is it?

A. Young Adult Science Fiction. It’s an apocalyptic novel with dystopian elements.

Q. Who is the expected audience?

A. Teens and adults who love dystopian fiction and disaster stories. If Susan Beth Pfeffer’s Life as We Knew It had a baby with Cormac McCarthy’s The Road, and Gary Paulsen’s Hatchet were the godfather, the baby would be something like ASHFALL.

Now tell us a little abut the book as product:

Q. Who designed your cover?

A. Ana Correal. I love her work! She’s a Columbian artist whose medium is digitally-modified photography. You can see more of her work on Facebook and Flickr.

Q. How does the cover reflect your story?

A. The idea for the cover came from my editor, Peggy Tierney. I thought it captured the emotional tone ASHFALL beautifully, so I added a scene to the manuscript that roughly mirrors (bad pun totally intended!) the cover art.

Q. In which formats is your book available? e-book, hardcover, paperback?

A. ASHFALL is available in hardback and all major ebook formats. The paperback will come out at the same time as the sequel, ASHEN WINTER, October 8th of 2012.

And finally we would like to know about your journey to publication:

Q. How did your book get published?

A. ASHFALL was rejected at some stage—query, partial, or full—by 24 literary agents. (If you’re struggling to get published, take heart from this. Yes, your work might not be ready. But it might also be great work that simply hasn’t found a champion. Take a look at the list of awards and blurbs at http://www.mikemullinauthor.com, including a starred review from Kirkus and a listing among NPR’s top 5 YA novels of 2011. I’m pretty confident that ASHFALL wasn’t garnering rejections due to its quality.)

Two editors requested ASHFALL after hearing about it from my mother. (She owns Kids Ink Children’s Bookstore in Indianapolis) I haven’t heard back from one of them yet. The other was Peggy Tierney of Tanglewood Press.

Q. What is your marketing plan?

A. You would think that a guy who has an MBA with a concentration in marketing would have a big formal marketing plan, wouldn’t you? Well, not so much. My plan is more or less to meet as many people who love books as possible, both online and in person, learn from them, and tell them a little bit about ASHFALL. I did a whole seminar and series of blog posts about book marketing for NiNoCon—for those of you who are interested, it’s archived here.

Q. Any advice you want to share with our readers who have a manuscript ready?

A. Find mean critique partners and beta readers. If you give a manuscript to someone and they love it, never show them any of your work again. The meanest readers you can find will be patsies compared to agents, editors, and reviewers.

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.

He holds a black belt in Songahm Taekwondo. He lives in Indianapolis, Indiana with his wife and her three cats. ASHFALL is his first novel.

Mike has agreed to share with us the first two chapters of Ashfall.

You can access them by clicking this link, then scroll to the bottom of the page:  www.mikemullinauthor.com.


  1. Three “good” words from an original 5500 – there’s something I can relate to. I also agree with your advice to find mean readers to critique your ms. Good luck with this book.

    Comment by Sandra Carey Cody — February 23, 2012 @ 10:04 am | Reply

  2. […] from published authors detailing their road to publication. Nice, right? On of my favs is the interview with Mike Mullin, author of the dystopian YA novel Ashfall. Be sure to click this link to […]

    Pingback by Some Words from the Pros | — March 11, 2012 @ 4:14 am | Reply

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