Today Badass welcomes author of Ashfall, Ashen Winter and Sunrise — Mike Mullin! If you haven’t picked up this series yet, then do so soon. It is young adult and post-apocalyptic in genre and both fun and intense. The subject matter is a natural disaster striking the United States and how people — namely the main character teenage Alex — are able to survive. If you like to read character centered, solid action packed and survivalist centered books, then this trilogy is for you. And you are in lucky, the trilogy is out and complete. If you like to just read, there is a strong chance this trilogy is for you as well.
So Mike has joined us before, check out his guest post here. We had quite a few questions for Mike and he was generous with his time. Thank you Mike! Keep writing and we can’t wait to read what you have next.
BABR: In Ashfall, Alex is just a normal teenager. By the time we meet Alex in Sunrise he has grown and matured so much so that the adults around him are abdicating their responsibilities to him. On one hand, it was hard for me to believe that a 16-17 year old could take on a leadership role like that, on the other hand, I could see why. What makes Alex such an effective leader?
Mike: His empathy. Those who rule by fear create both obedience and hatred. Those who lead with love create passionate followers. Good triumphs in the end—not because it’s morally superior, but because it’s a more effective way to organize and inspire groups of people.
BABR: I loved how you included a character with autism in the mix. It really shows that those with disabilities can make a contribution to society. Where did you find your inspiration for Ben’s character?
Mike: I gave a lot of thought to what kind of character would have the most difficult time in an apocalypse. Obviously I’m interested in learning how my characters react when faced with extreme challenges, so the choice of an autistic character seemed natural. One of the key features of autistic people is that they need order and routine. Nothing ruins your daily routine like an apocalypse.
BABR: A post apocalyptic society has a lot of challenges – lack of resources, anarchy, despair. While I was not particularly enthralled with this world, I loved how you showed that it was possible to rebuild, provided that people worked together. Do you think that it would be possible for people to rebuild using the tools you described – the wind turbines, etc.?
Mike: Yes. I spent a lot of time working with my brother, Paul, who is an electrical engineer (he holds about a dozen patents), making sure that the rebuilding techniques Darla and Uncle Paul employ are plausible. (And yes, my brother Paul is the inspiration for Uncle Paul in my novels.)
BABR: Where can people go to get more information on volcanic eruptions and emergency preparedness?
Mike: Check out the USGS’s volcano hazards site here: http://volcanoes.usgs.gov/. There are tons of resources, links, fact sheets, and other interesting stuff in the links at the bottom of the page.
BABR: Sunrise is a physically brutal story. Several of us a BABR had to put the story down and come back to it after a certain incident happened. The reality of a post apocalyptic or post environmental event would likely be brutal. Why did you feel it was necessary to have such harsh things happen to the characters in Sunrise?
Mike: In my outline for SUNRISE, the scene you’re referring to didn’t exist in the way it does in the final manuscript. While I was writing it, I role-played my antagonist, Red. I thought about his fascination with knives and his need to assert control over the people of Stockton, to reinforce their fear of him. Then I remembered the punishment for thievery in Franco’s Spain, and it all came together….
BABR: There is tension between certain characters in all of the books in this trilogy, in Sunrise there is a continuation of the negative feelings that Alex’s mother has toward Darla. Alex’s mother was the role model and heroine for girls at the refugee camp, why is she so hostile toward Darla?
Mike: [Spoiler Alert for ASHEN WINTER] When Alex, his father, and his mother went after Darla in ASHEN WINTER, Darla came back but Alex’s father didn’t. Alex’s mother can’t bring herself to blame Alex for his father’s death, so she blames Darla. (Anyone who has a mother-in-law may recognize this emotional displacement issue.) In addition, Alex’s mother is cracking under the strain of all her losses. I needed to have at least one character close to Alex melt down to show how mentally difficult the world is, and having his mother be that character has the additional benefit of thrusting Alex back into the forefront of the story.
BABR: Do you have any writing projects planned for the future?
Mike: Yes, I’ve started drafting what I think will be a stand-alone young adult thriller. The working title is SURFACE TENSION. It’s about a teenager who sees a group of terrorists causing a plane crash from the ground. He’s the only one who knows how they’re crashing planes, and they want him dead.
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.
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.
The first two chapters are available on my website at: http://mikemullinauthor.com/books/sunrise/. Warning: the sample does contain ASHFALL and ASHEN WINTER spoilers.
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