I had the pleasure of visiting Bookmama’s Bookstore in Indianapolis this past thursday after work, where author Mike Mullin (“Ashfall” and the recently published “Ashen Winter”) was a guest speaker. I posted awhile back about the first book and in that post mentioned how Mr. Mullin was a black belt in Taekwando and how coincidental it was that the main character of Ashfall (Alex) inherited that skill. Well, Thursday – as Paul Harvey used to say – I learned “the rest… of the story.”
(below: Bookmama’s bookstore in Irvington)
Mr. Mullin first spoke a little about vulcanology (for those that don’t know or haven’t guessed, “Ashfall” is a post-apocalyptic novel that imagines the aftermath of an eruption of the Yellowstone Supervolcano). He mentioned, if I recall correctly, that the idea for the book came to him at the Indianapolis Central Library, when he viewed some material on that subject. Although I have two geologists in my family, I don’t know very much about the subject of volcanoes and was happy to learn more.
He related how, at the time of the great Krakatoa
Eruption in 1883, European colonists two-hundred miles away, hearing the explosions, thought they were under some kind of artillery attack. Pausing for dramatic effect (there were several wide-eyed kids in the small audience) he then said that the last eruption of the Yellowstone Supervolcano was hundreds of times more powerful… Our scientific education continued when Mullin described how first the use of tree-ring dating and, later, examinations of ice cores have allowed volcanologists to see further and further back into the geologic history of our planet. Fascinating stuff.
He also performed a dramatic reading of the passage near the beginning of the book where catastrophe strikes (quite literally) Alex’s house. Technically, maybe this couldn’t be called a “reading” since he didn’t have to look at his book once, so either he’s done it often enough to learn it by heart or is gifted with an impressive memory.
He then fielded fielded questions from the audience. Some were the standard variety – How long did it take you to write it? When did you start writing? Etc. (I think he said four years to the former, with over three years spent on the revision and editing process, and the sixth grade for the latter). The second book was much quicker. Why? He “already had the characters.” I asked him about the reaction of scientists and geologists with whom he consulted when they learned the premise of his book and was happy to hear that the feedback was positive and that many thought it was “cool.”
I was surprised to learn, though, that he began to study Taekwando only AFTER he had written it into the book. He said that, due to his limited schedule, it had taken a little longer than usual for him to make the progression to black belt and that, for awhile, there was some doubt as to whether or not the blurb on the back cover (already touting him as a black belt) would be truthful. Rest assured it was, as the master of his do-jang was able to help fit the final testing into his schedule in time.
He concluded his talk with a Taekwando demonstration, breaking a brick and signing the pieces for two of the younger members of the audience.
I got a hardcover copy of “Ashen Winter” signed for me and my friend, Ann Marie, got him to sign a copy of Ashfall for her daughter as a Christmas present. I asked him what HE was reading now, and he recommended two books: “Wonder” by R. J. Palacio and “Velveteen” by Daniel Marks. Subsequently looking them up, I doubt “Velveteen” would be my cup of tea, but the former sounds very good. Overall a fun time. I am always thankful when I see authors who are willing to visit smaller locations like this one and am particularly impressed when they are as gracious as Mr. Mullin was. Well, that’s about it. I’m off to start reading “Ashen Winter” now…
(below: Mr. Mullin’s “break-through performance”)