Teen Librarian Toolbox
Inside Teen Librarian Toolbox

Ashfall with Mike Mullin, Q&A and Ashen Winter ARC contest

April showers bring May flowers – unless you live in a post apocalyptic world covered by volcanic ash.  Then, not so much.  Ashfall by Mike Mullin is just such a novel; it tells the story of a US after a major volcano eruption in Yellowstone.  Ashfall was also the subject of one of the photographs of The Real Fauxtographer, Margot Wood.  We may have mentioned her before (here and here to be exact).  Today, author Mike Mullin discusses Ashfall, his response to Margot Wood’s photograph inspired by his book, and the upcoming sequel Ashen Winter.  Be sure to read through the whole post because at the end we have an awesome surprise for you all.  You want to win a signed ARC of Ashen Winter, right?

Tell us a little bit about your novel Ashfall and how you came to write it.


Ashfall is about a teen struggling to survive and find his family after the cataclysmic eruption of the Yellowstone supervolcano. My book was born in a library—Central Library in downtown Indianapolis. I saw a display that included Bill Bryson’s A Short History of Nearly Everything, and borrowed it. Dozens of novel ideas lurk within its pages, but the one that stuck with me was the idea of a supervolcano eruption. A few weeks after I read it, 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 word that remains from that draft? The title, Ashfall.

How did you come across Margot Wood’s picture inspired by Ashfall?

Someone tweeted it to me. I read and attempt to respond to all @Mike_Mullin messages I get on Twitter (except the obvious spam, of course).

What does it mean to you as an author to inspire other artists in this way?  What kind of response do you have to something like this?

I love it. It feels recursive, in a way. Ashfall was partly inspired by photography—I taped about a dozen photos of the aftermath of volcanic eruptions to the wall above my desk while I was writing it, to help keep my head in the post-apocalyptic landscape. Perhaps someone will write a novel inspired by Margot’s photography, continuing the cycle.

Do you feel like her picture captures the essence of Ashfall?  How do you think it speaks about your novel?

It certainly captures the essence of Darla. She’s covered in ash and looks a bit haunted, almost ghost-like to me. But there’s determination in the thrust of her chin and the corners of her mouth. I get the sense of a young woman who has seen horrible things and been forced to grow up far faster than she should. Yet her gaze is upward—hopeful. That’s exactly how I picture Darla.
Photo by Margot Wood at The Real Fauxtographer

5.  What other types of feedback have you received about Ashfall?

Other artists have used Ashfallas inspiration for their work—here’s a drawing that St. Louis student Abigail Lee did in response to my book:

Image found at http://pinterest.com/pin/32510428529998822/

I think she did a lovely job capturing the feel of the post-apocalyptic landscape. And there have been hundreds of reviews and written reactions—some of them are linked at www.ashfallbook.com.

6.  Ashfallis going to have a sequel, Ashen Winter.  Can you tell us a little bit about what we can expect to happen and when to look for it in stores and libraries?

Ashen Winter will hit stores by October 8th. There’s a big launch party at Kids Ink Children’s Bookstore in Indianapolis on October 7th, and you’re all invited! There’s more info at www.ashenwinter.com.

Here’s the jacket copy for Ashen Winter (Warning: contains Ashfallspoiler):

It’s been over six months since the eruption of the Yellowstone supervolcano. Alex and Darla have been staying with Alex’s relatives, trying to cope with the new reality of the primitive world so vividly portrayed in Ashfall, the first book in this series. It’s also been six months of waiting for Alex’s parents to return from Iowa. Alex and Darla decide they can wait no longer and must retrace their journey into Iowa to find and bring back Alex’s parents to the tenuous safety of Illinois. But the landscape they cross is even more perilous than before, with life-and-death battles for food and power between the remaining communities. When the unthinkable happens, Alex must find new reserves of strength and determination to survive.

Win it! As we wait in anticipation for Ashen Winter, you can enter to win an awesome prize package: 1 signed ARC of Ashen Winter by Mike Mullin and 1 8×10 of the Ashfall inspired photo by The Real Fauxtographer, Margot Wood.  To enter, simply leave a comment between now and May 21st.  The winner will be posted here on May 22nd and will have 1 week to contact me at kjensenmls@yahoo.com so that we can get their awesome prize to them.  Conest is open to US residents only please (although all comments are welcome regarding the content of the post). TLT would like to extend a sincere thank you to Mike Mullin and Margot Wood for this post and generous prize donation – and for their amazing art.

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.  Connect with Mike on Twitter, Facebook and Goodreads. You can also follow his blog or follow him on Pinterest. For more information, including contact information, check out his official webpage at mikemullinauthor.com.

About ASHFALL

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 of Ashfall and Ashen Winter are available on Mike’s website: www.mikemullinauthor.com.