Author Interview: Nick Hupton


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Hey guys!! Blog time no see, eh? I’ve been revising POVERTY ISLAND and actually visiting some of the places I describe in the book, namely the upper peninsula of Michigan! It was fantastic. I officially love it there. Which in the U.P. would sound like, “I officially love it dare.” But, that’s a blog post for another time.


Today I’m very pleased to introduce you to Nick Hupton. He’s the author of, If I Know it’s Coming, his debut novel published by North Star Press, Inc. Here’s an official blurb:

“How are kids affected when a parent goes off to war?  Especially if it’s their mom? IF I KNOW IT’S COMING is a powerful story of a young boy trying to get his adolescent feet on the ground when his mother isn’t there to help him and the rest of his family is spinning out of control.  When his mother comes back to the U. S. because she’s a war casualty, he heroically sets out to help her.  An endearing story of family and hope.”


You all know I have a special interest in books about the military and war stories, so Nick found my site and I’m glad to share part of his story about becoming published. Here is my interview with Nick Hupton:


Jody: Do you have family in the military? What sparked your idea for this book?


Nick: First, and foremost, I am not a military kid (unless you count the fact that my dad was in the army in the 1960s before I was born). I always try to make that very clear when I speak about this book. I came up with this idea for the novel while I was taking a Master’s Degree class at Hamline University in St. Paul. It was a Young Adult novel class taught by Mary Logue. One of our first activities was to create a new character. That’s when I came up with Tim Hansen, the protagonist in the book. One of his unique characteristics is that he was going through a parent separation of some sort. That is something I am very familiar with. I went through my parents’ separation as an adolescent. However, I was also very interested in writing about the war in Iraq. At that time it was in full swing and very much on my mind. So, I decided to combine those two ideas and I realized that we hear a lot about the situations soldiers face overseas, but not as much about the “wars” going on in the homes of deployed soldiers. I also thought it would be interesting to have Tim’s mother be the one deployed. This gave a feminine twist on the story.


Jody: What was the hardest part about creating this book?


Nick: There were two very difficult things about writing this book (aside from the multitude of difficulties writers are always faced with). The first issue was plot: I felt confident getting into the mind of a 13-year-old. I taught middle school for nine years (I teach high school English now) and I drew a lot from those adventurous experiences. So, I felt good about the emotional aspects of the novel- separation anxiety, day-to-day adolescent issues, etc. But how was I going to create that story arc to keep readers interested in the plot? My two advisors, Mary Logue and Pat Francisco (this was originally written as a Master’s thesis) warned me about those difficulties, so creating that adventure took some time. The second big issue was research. Because I am not a military kid, I wanted to make sure I did this story justice. I spoke to a number of kids whose parents had been deployed and listened to their stories. I also did a lot of reading about the affects of deployment on families.  Finally, my wife and I traveled to Walter Reed Medical Center (it was still in operation at the time) to speak to some administrators. That was eye-opening to say the least.  So, all of that research took some time and I was constantly going back to revise based on information I found.


Jody: How long did it take you to get it published — from ideation to publication?


Nick: I began writing this novel in 2007 during that YA novel class. It was published in June 2012.  So, about 5 years to publish or so. Many revisions took place during that time and many rejection letters came back to me from agents and publishers.  Getting published is a daunting task. The day North Star Press, Inc. sent me my contract was a pretty special day.


Jody: Describe your middle school self.


Nick: My middle school self had a little of everything I think. I had quite a few friends, but wasn’t necessarily the most popular. I got good grades and did pretty well at sports, but like Tim Hansen, I wasn’t necessarily spectacular at any of those things. I got into my share of trouble, like most adolescents, but also knew not to go too far most of the time. I would say middle school, for me, was a generally positive experience, which I realize, most adults would not say. And, oh yeah, I went through a bit of a hippie stage in 8th grade.  I remember wearing tie-dye shirts and growing my hair out. I was a drummer in a band. Pretty cool…


Jody: Grab the book nearest you, turn to page 90 and fine line 20. Recite. What book?


Nick: P. 90; line 20- “The things they carried were largely determined by necessity.” The book is Writing Fiction by Janet Burroway. “The Things They Carried” by Tim O’Brien is one of the example stories in the book.  This is pretty funny actually. I was rereading some of this when I got your email. I needed to refresh my memory about some writing staples. Tim O’Brien is one of my favorite authors. Coincidence that that page came up.


Jody: If I gave you $100 buck to spend for fun, what would you buy? No books allowed.


Nick: If I had $100 to spend for fun, I would spend it on music in some way. I would either go see a good show or buy some music for my iPod. Music is one of my great passions.  It’s a release in so many ways for me.


Jody: Do you have other books planned? If so, please blurb us.


Nick: I am working on a new book as we speak. I expect to have the manuscript into the publisher by early November. It is a much different premise than If I Know It’s Coming. The working title is The Ridge: A Zach Sutton Mystery.  

Here is a quick blurb: Zach Sutton’s little brother has been missing for over a year.  His parents have divorced. The police have found no clues. But it isn’t until Zach travels to Minnesota’s north woods on a field trip that the mystery really begins.  Faced with supernatural visions and ghostly images, Zach finds himself in a scary adventure he couldn’t have dreamed.

Jody: Congratulations on both books! Very exciting. And thanks so much for stopping by Sparks and Butterflies. It was great getting to know you.

Nick: Thank you.


Book Review: Personal Effects


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I’m a little nervous to write this review because some of the plot that I loved the most could easily be spoiled. So, I’m trying to be careful here.

I really liked this book. E.M. Kokie and I have exchanged a few emails and more than a few rounds of Scrabble. We connected because we were both writing books that touched on the subject of war and military. I was ecstatic to read her book early! It will be released September 11, 2012.

Personal Effects features a boy named Matt, who is trying so hard to figure out how to be a man — how to make his father proud without going into the military, like his brother and his father before him. With his mom long gone, his brother now dead, and his severe (arguably abusive) father not talking about either of them, Matt can’t cope. When Matt looks through his beloved brother’s personal effects, he begins to discover a different person than the brother he thought he knew.

I love Matt’s struggle to find his brother and himself. Matt is as tough on the outside as he is fragile on the inside. When you first meet him, he’s barely hanging on. You think he has nothing else to lose. You think maybe you’re in for a book about a guy who just needs to slowly build his life back, and whammo. It gets worse for Matt. Kokie doesn’t let her character off the hook for even a second. With rich and wonderful details, Kokie sucked me into a rough and uncomfortable, beautiful and rare kind of story — one celebrating individuality, diversity, non-conformity and love. I can’t wait to buy the hardback edition and see it among my favorites in my personal library. For other lovers of contemporary YA fiction, this one is a must read!

Like Working in Dog Years


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I wrote a post over on my company’s blog about what it’s like to work at a startup company and why it works for me as an individual and as a type of person. I resist “typing” people, because I highly value individuality. But one of the things I’ve found in life is that I appreciate having commonalities with people as much as I love  individuality. So, I feel like I’ve found a place where there are people with similar values, who like similar work environments. Enjoy that post.

I’m not the only one that thinks it’s cool to work at Slingshot SEO. We were just voted the 9th best place to work in Indiana. As far as corporations go, I’m 100% convinced it’s the 1st best place to work. I’m putting that on record. The fact that there’s a corporation that tolerates me and lets me thrive is evidence enough to slot it as number one. We are a force of hustlers.


What I Have in Common with Moby Dick, Mr. Roper and Rachmaninof


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Much of the last few weeks I’ve been doing my research on Trigeminal Neuralgia (TN). A few interesting things I’ve learned include:

  • Norman Fell (aka Mr. Roper from Three’s Company) had TN, as did Jefferson Davis, Sergei Rachmaninof, Gloria Steinem, and Norma Zimmer.
  • A bit character in Moby Dick is noted for having it. “Didn’t that dough-boy, the steward, tell me that of a morning he always finds the old man’s hammock clothes all rumples and tumbled, and the sheets down at the foot, and coverlid almost tied into knots, and the pillow a sort of frightful hot, as though a baked brick had been on it? A hot old man! I guess he’s got what some folks ashore call a conscience; it’s a kind of Tic-Dolly-row they say — worse nor a toothache. Well, well; I don’t know what it is, but the Lord keep me from catching it.”
  • Due to the mysterious nature of the pain people over the centuries have tried a variety of things to “cure” it, including: blood-letting, exorcism, arsenic, bee and cobra venom, hemlock, tar on the face, searing the nerve with  hot iron, shock therapy, hypnotism, radiation and X-ray therapy and inhalation of trichlorethylene (now known as TCE).

Basically, it sucked to have TN before about the 1950s. It was then that Dr. Dandy hypothesized that vessels were compressing the trigeminal nerve. He began performing surgeries to remove the offending vessels, and people were finally getting consistent relief.

This is still the most promising form of getting relief from TN.

Turns out, I’m a great candidate for surgery, and I’m moving forward with that option. It will be months before it’s scheduled–if it’s scheduled (several tests will happen ahead of time); it will probably be months before I even get a consult. I’ll keep you posted.

For those interested, the surgery is called Microvascular Decompression (MVD). This site has great in-depth info about the who, what, when, why, and how of it, including illustrations of the open skull–if that sort of thing bothers you, consider yourself warned. But in basic terms, it’s believed that vessels compress the trigeminal nerve, causing my wackadoo pain. The  point of the surgery is to pad the nerve with Teflon, or separate it from the offending vessels.

Is it brain surgery? No. The brain is not operated on. It’s considered cranial surgery. And obviously, it’s still quite serious. Real risks include hearing loss in my right ear (to which Eleanor said, “Cool!”) or partial numbness in my face. Each happens about 1 to 2 percent of the time. Does that scare me? No. I told my mom this: I feel like I’ve lost 35 percent of my life to TN since I’ve had it. Besides the pain and the vivid dread of an attack, it’s affected work, marriage, family, and my social life. Dicking around with meds and trying to chase the pain away while coping with side effects that made me anywhere from forgetful and unfocused to suicidal is part of that 35 percent loss. If the meds even worked! Living at 65 percent is doable. Do I want to settle for that for the rest of my life? No. So, if I go deaf in an ear or have numbness, I’ll still get some of that percentage back.

My biggest fear? That it won’t work.

Trigeminal Neuralgia: Ultimate Negative Reinforcement


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This is what my face feels like about 5 to 20 times a day depending on how fussy my trigeminal nerve is feeling. That’s not an exaggeration. You know how when you go to a doctor for some pain issue and they ask you to rate it on a scale from 1-10? Women in labor probably get this a lot. Well, I never picked 10 because no matter how bad the pain was, I’ve thought, I’m sure it could be worse. It could always be worse. This February I would have picked 10. This is not a pity post–and I’ve written my fair share. It’s an awareness piece, I suppose, about trigeminal neuralgia. Look around the Internet and you’ll find few people talking about it.

Apparently only 1 in 15,000-20,000 people are affected. The medical sites and Wikipedia say trigeminal neuralgia is thought to be one of the most painful disorders known to mankind. Some call it the suicide disease because the pain is literally unbearable.

My pain started in 2007. At random, I’d get a shocking strike to the right side of my face in my lower jaw. Maybe I’d eat something sweet, maybe I’d bend over to kiss Eleanor or Magnolia to say goodnight, maybe I’d lean over the sink to brush my teeth, maybe I’d laugh or talk or touch my teeth together wrong or maybe I’d do nothing at all. One day when I was running, I dropped to my knees with this electric strike of pain in my face I didn’t understand. It lasted about a minute and then suddenly I was pain free, and I finished my run. The more frequently it happened, the more I was convinced it was a toothache.

I saw two dentists, an oral surgeon, and an endodontist. No one could find anything wrong with my teeth. In 2008, one caring dentist and friend said he’d refill my tooth. It seemed to work. I was pain free for almost a year. In the winter of 2009, the pain was back. I did another tour of dentists and specialists who again refused to touch my teeth. My dentist friend said he’d put a crown on my tooth. It seemed to work. I was pain free for about three months. Then the strikes of pain came back. I would have asked my friend to pull my tooth, but I’d moved to Indianapolis.

The pain seemed to magically disappear in Indianapolis. Then in winter of 2010, the attacks were back. My dentist here refused to pull my tooth, and I was pissed! I would have done about anything to not feel the strikes of pain. I didn’t want to eat, speak, or move my face at all; I’d learned to fear these things deeply. I could avoid those things by doing nothing–by sitting and not moving an inch–but I’d have to stand up at some point, and just standing up might trigger a strike. I lived in fear of this and didn’t want anyone to touch me. At one of my begging sessions at the dentist, he mentioned neuralgia, but it was rare and affected mostly people over 50.

I was so convinced it was a bad tooth that I basically cursed my (very kind) dentist and lived with the pain throughout winter. When the strikes stopped happening in spring, I began to notice the pattern. Strikes in winter. Reprieve until May. Strikes for a month or two. Reprieve until winter. Right on schedule, in winter of 2011 the strikes came back.

They were worse than ever before. They could last up to ten minutes. It was paralyzing. I couldn’t believe I wasn’t dying. My lips, tongue, and even my ear would go pins and needles around the explosion of pain in my jaw, I would drool because my salivary glands were going nuts, and breathing was more like gasping. When it was over I needed to cry because of the tension I’d had waiting for the strike to happen and the ordeal of going through it. I was embarrassed for some reason, too. I think it was because when the strike was over, I was completely pain free. To the outsider, it had to look ridiculous and confusing to see me paralyzed with pain and then suddenly ready for a night out on the town. Except I was afraid of going out–afraid of having an attack in public, or while driving, or at work, or in front of the kids.

One night after an attack, Josh sat rubbing my back, and said, “Well, at least you don’t have trigeminal neuralgia. It’s so bad, they call it the suicide disease.”

I remembered my dentist saying neuralgia, and I decided it was time time to see a neurologist. Twenty minutes into the appointment, he diagnosed me with trigeminal neuralgia. I would have laughed, but I was terrified of the possible pain. I did call Josh later to inform I had the suicide disease. He didn’t laugh either.

At least there was hope for treatment. I could finally label this pain! The weird thing is, you can’t just take some Tylenol to help the pain pass. Narcotics don’t cut the pain either–don’t even lessen it. My doctor put me on an anti-convulsant, which takes some time to build up and affect my system. But, that winter the meds kicked in, and I could tell that they were working. I had a weird dull ticking in my “tooth” but it never led to an attack. I became pain-free by the end of February.

It’s now May, and the strikes are back. The meds seem to help somewhat, but not like before. They attacks don’t last as long–only a few seconds–and I can get through them, but I still look ridiculous, flinching and freezing, and fearing the next one. I hate when it happens in front of the girls. Josh has a new joke though: “Sorry about your face.” I think I need a t-shirt for him.

If you’re curious, here’s a photo of the  big trigeminal nerve; it splits into three. For me, the offender is the V3, which branches down through the lower jaw. I circled it. The arrows point to the regions where I feel the attacks.

Anyway, I’m starting to think about Microvascular Decompession surgery. It’s a tough decision because surgery is always a risk. But this one in particular requires a small part of the skull being removed and a small part of the brain and brain stem being exposed in order to place a tiny sponge around the nerve to separate it from blood vessels that may be wrapped around the nerve. Not the most inviting of treatment options. Many folks in my support group have had this procedure and have been pain free for years. Of course, there are a couple who have gone through it and found no relief. I’m still in the research stages of this treatment option. When I’m in a period of attacks, it seems worth it. When I’m not, it seems risky. Then I think about the dread of an oncoming attack and the way the fear stops me from laughing, smiling, talking, kissing my family, and sometimes driving or even going to work; and it seems like it’d be worth a try. I’ll let you know what I decide.

Book Review: Why We Broke Up


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Why We Broke Up was not on my to-read list until it became a Printz Award honor book. But the contemporary young adult nature of it appealed to me after it found my radar. I hadn’t even heard of any of the Printz books that were honored this year. I’m not sure if that’s a reflection on me getting more distant from the YA book scene, or if it’s a reflection on these books as surprise choices. But I’m disappointed I didn’t get into to the usual anticipatory hoopla I always create for myself before the announcement of the Printz Award nominees. Well, the Oscars are next week. Maybe I’ll pack in some nominees this week and finally download the ballots for Josh and me. Have a sour appletini or a lemon drop, or both. Get excited about the red carpet, and whatnot.

But back to the book. Here are my thoughts.

First: This is the heaviest book I own. It weighs, I’m guessing, the same as my social studies text did in 11th grade. Official weight: 3.6 pounds. The paper is thick and glossy, very cool to the touch. The illustrations bright, something I’m convinced would be lesser if viewed on an e-reader. (I’m still an e-reader virgin.)I loved carrying this book around.

Second: It took me about five minutes of relishing all nooks and crannies of the book before I remembered that Daniel Handler is Lemony Snicket. That was cool. He’s a versatile writer; this book felt very very YA in voice, language, and circumstance. Oh so different from those series of unfortunate events.

Third: Voice, I said was very very YA. It also broke every rule I’ve ever tried to get away with, which pissed me off. Jealousy. I want to write that repetitively with my “OKs” and my “verys” and my “ums” and my “‘I sighed’s” and I want to revel in writing paragraphs of descriptions that go on for 2+ pages and sentences that go on and on and on, commas strung from confession on top of confession to “I love yous” to repetitions of “that’s why we broke up.” I want to make up that many words and misuse just as many. I could NEVER get away with it. I’ve tried, like I said. So, congrats on that, Daniel Handler. Though honestly–and I don’t think this is just the jealousy talking–it did get a little exhausting. And it was clunky in a way that I had to repeat-read sentences and paragraphs. But I did manage to get past it. Why? Because I could relate to Min.

Fourth: Story. Poor Min. You know from the beginning that Min gets hurt. And even in her bitterness and anger you see her love lingers. She had hope and happiness so big she couldn’t see beyond it, and I really loved her for it. That blindness is so relate-able. Beyond that I loved the struggle of the popular jock dating the “different” girl because in this story it played the cliches in a way that weren’t tired or bratty or overused as they are in so many YA books. Min’s and Ed’s struggle felt just as new to me as it did for Min. God, poor Min, making every tiny piece of their relationship into the biggest somethings in her life. But, somehow through it all you know she’ll be okay. Because we all go through it. And we all somehow end up okay.

39 Bookshelves You Should See


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This is a peek into my library. My books  are mostly young adult novels, which happen to come with FANTASTIC colorful covers. So, I ordered them by color, which makes the shelves pretty to look at. I LOVE my bookshelves for being filled with wonderful books like the autographed copy of Stargirl. It also holds Rackety Boom, the book I loved the most as a child–the one my mom would read me right before nap time. These shelves also hold a copy of the book Josh and read together on our first date way back in 1995.

I’m not the only one that loves the library. Phillip Marlowe loves napping in my chair. I’ve even named the chair. Colonel Mustard. Note the candlestick in the background.

The point is I love my library. And I started poking around the Internet to find unique bookshelves because I just got curious about unique ways to display books or other treasures. And possibly I was dreaming of seeing my book on them someday.

Here are 39 bookshelves that I think are interesting–40 if you count mine, which seriously I’m not sure how it ended up in the slide show, but whatever. Enjoy!

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Self-Deprecating Sunday (27) – Mike Mullin


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In which young adult author, Mike Mullin, gives us a look into his teenage self! We all had our share of Awkward, and most of us go on to have beautiful lives. Some of us even get to be published authors! So, as promised, here is some pre-Super Bowl fun for all my fellow Indianapolis friends and family, as well as those gearing up for the game elsewhere. In his young adult novel, there would be no Super Bowl, which makes it seem right that he’s here to today on the blog. Appreciate what we have and all that, right? Take it away, Mike.

This is me at thirteen.

The haircut is my mother’s fault. From it you can deduce three things:

1)    We were too poor to get haircuts at a salon like normal people,

2)    My mother was a much better librarian than hairdresser, and

3)    I was still a year away from the massive rebellion after which I refused to get my hair cut at all for a while.

At this point I had just gotten my braces off, to my tremendous relief, but I was still wearing a retainer, as you can see from the wire.

I was in eighth grade, attending to a modified Montessori school at the time this picture was taken. There were a total of 60 kids in the school, about eight of whom were my age.

My parents, foolishly, let me choose where to go to high school. I selected one of the two expensive, private schools attended by all the richest kids in Indianapolis. I’m guessing you can imagine exactly how well I fit in with that haircut and those glasses, right? Yeah, whatever you’re thinking, it was worse.

I finally figured out haircuts about the time I turned sixteen and spent a semester in Washington D.C. as a Congressional Page. I got better glasses around that time, too, but I never really fit into any group socially until I escaped to Brazil as a junior. But that’s another story.

Mike, this is priceless. Thanks so much for making my day! My blog thanks you with all it’s heart. Here’s Mike now, if you’re curious.

If you missed our interview together, check it out. Or, stop by his blog to learn more about Mike or read the first two chapters of his novel. And make sure to buy Mike’s book, Ashfall, from one of these locations:

Autographed Copies


Barnes & Noble

If you’re a YA writer and wish to be featured on Self-Deprecating Sunday, please contact me at jody(dot)mugele(at)gmail(dot)com, or leave a comment and I’ll be in touch. It’s more fun than church.

New York Times: Your Writer is a Douche Canoe



My participation in the Superbowl festivities is lame. I drove around the night before the Superbowl Village opened for business. I scanned a few photos of my Facebook friends while they walked around and partied. I probably won’t even watch the game. But I’m glad the Superbowl is here because it’s great for the city. Today I drove the edges of Downtown Indianapolis, and thought, nice zoo, nice park, nice canal, nice museum. I’ve always been lukewarm on the city. At 18, I couldn’t wait to leave. I didn’t apply to any colleges in-state. And I never thought I’d be back. Now that I am, its been easy to find things to complain about. I’ll look forward to leaving this town again, even though I have a good job, a great critique group and family close by. I don’t want to die in Indiana. Sorry, Hoosiers. I made a pact with Erin not to join the granfalloon. I’ve given my word.

Then I read this douche canoe article. John Branch, I can talk shit about my city. But, you can’t. Not without a bit of blogger backlash. If you’re going to write for the New York Times, at least do your fucking research. If you’re going to complain about Indianapolis, act like a journalist and do some digging. You picked the most surface-level bullshit to paint your picture of the city. Grandmas and prison inmates knitting? Really? Eighth graders who want to have a voice? That’s who you pick on?

Pick on the fact that people won’t be allowed to buy alcohol on Superbowl Sunday. Pick on the fact that our public school system found kids that could actually spell. How about how most people will choose Red Lobster over Room Four? We have our faults. You just didn’t manage to actually find them.

Call me defensive. I’ve resisted being a Hoosier my whole life. But, damn, New York Times, you made me want to step in front of my city while you throw stones, and say hey, Fuck you. We’re okay.

YA Author Interview: Mike Mullin


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While many in our community have merged themselves into the mayhem of Superbowl festivities, I’m hunkering down, calling it a Jammies day, and just maybe I’ll get the first-chapter rewrite polished up enough to send to my critique group. Where they’ll destruct it and I’ll say thank you. We call ourselves the cannibals for a couple of reasons. We are ruthless in our critiques. And Mike likes things that are gross. Not the taste of people, but read his book, Ashfall, and you’ll know what I mean.

But, just because he’s into the gross and violent, doesn’t mean he’s that way. He’s very nice. He even let me interview him here on Sparks and Butterflies. His debut, young adult novel is selling like hotcakes and was picked as one of the top 5 young adult novels in 2011, by NPR.

Here’s a synopsis:

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.

Awesome premise. Fast-paced read. Mike knows what dudes want in a book! Here’s what I had to know about him and his book:

Jody: How long do you think you’d survive the ashfall? Be honest. I’d make it to chapter 7 (which for the main character is next door) and die of fear.

Mike: I’d probably make it past chapter 7. I’ve never witnessed anything quite as horrible as what I write about in Chapter 7, but I’ve been in violent situations before—seen my own blood and bones—and I’ve been able to stay calm and continue thinking. I’d probably die during the trek out of Cedar Falls. People older than 35 don’t fare well in disaster situations. We’re not essential to the preservation of the species, after all. I’d probably get sick, or my lack of aerobic conditioning would catch up to me, and I’d die a hacking, wheezy, death of pneumonia or something similar.

Jody: In high school, what grade did you get in weather?

Mike: Um.

Jody: That’s not a class?

Mike: No.

Jody: How about Geography? Social Studies? Science?

Mike: My high school grades are easy for me to remember. Every subject. Freshman and Sophomore year, I got ‘A’s in everything. Junior year, I flunked out. I’m pretty sure I took Biology, Physics, and Chemistry during my first two years and aced them. If I remember correctly, I flunked out of Organic Chemistry and Physics II. It wasn’t that I couldn’t do the work: I just didn’t care.

Jody: Describe your teenage self.

Mike: Incredibly maladjusted and incurably nerdy. My peers were a foreign country to me, one whose shoreline promised both riches and headhunting cannibals. I coasted along that beach for two years without landing or learning anything useful, and then I gave up. I spent a year in Brazil as a youth exchange student, and rather than returning to high school when I came back, I took the G.E.D. and went straight to college.

Jody: See? Cannibals. Sounds like you need to participate in Self-Deprecating Sunday. Yeah?

Mike: Sure. Why not?

Jody: Awesome! See you back in two days. Now on with the interview. What would you miss most during an ashfall?

Mike: The toilet.

Jody: That’s not a luxury.

Mike: Ha! I take it you’ve never dug a pit toilet. Or trudged to an outhouse when it’s below zero outside.

Jody: That is true.

Mike: If the plumbing quits working, we have two choices: 1) Defecate wherever and suffer the disease that will result, or 2) Dig pit toilets, trenches, etc. and tend them: digging new ones as necessary, adding layers of dirt and lime, etc.

Some readers have wondered why ASHFALL spends considerable time on bathroom issues—a subject most novels avoid. I wrote those scenes specifically to help readers internalize how different the world would be after this kind of disaster—even something we take for granted, like a decent place to urinate—becomes a challenge.

Jody: That’s another reason I wouldn’t make it past Chapter 7. Okay, random question pulled from the Internet: Grab the book nearest you, turn to page 18 and find line four. Recite it. What book is it from?

Mike: “He could go without breakfast, graze at lunch, and barely touch dinner, all while working twelve-hour days of constant activity, and still his weight never fluctuated.” Zeitoun by Dave Eggers

Jody: I wish my weight and I were both that disciplined! Now, if I gave you $50 and told you to go have fun spending it, what would you buy? NO BOOKS!

Mike: I’d take Margaret (my wife) to lunch at Fogo de Chao. Fifty bucks wouldn’t quite cover it, but it’s worth the splurge.

Jody: That’s on my list of places to eat in Indianapolis! I’ll try it after the Superbowl maybe. What’s the best or most interesting thing someone’s said about Ashfall?

Mike: “Mullin never shies away from the truth, not once, in this book.”  Intergalactic Academy.

Jody: When’s the sequel come out?

Mike: October 8th! There’ll be a big party on October 7th at Kids Ink Children’s Bookstore. Hope you can make it!

Jody: Will there be a third book?

Mike: The third book is a few pages of random notes right now. I plan to produce a proposal and sell it to Tanglewood Press sometime next month. ASHFALL has sold so well that I don’t foresee any problems with that. I’d like to get it written in time for a 2013 release, but my top priority is to write the best book I can, not just to get it out by 2013. If it slips to 2014, I’m okay with that.

Jody: Sounds great!

Mike: By the way, it’s wonderful to work with a small publisher that shares my values in this regard. I already know that Tanglewood wants to publish the third book and is willing to give me however much time I need to write it. Many of my author friends write to very tight deadlines, so I’m well aware what a luxury it is to be published by Tanglewood.

Jody: Congratulations on getting published and having a great experience with your publisher. Thanks for stopping by, Mike. It was fun.

Mike: Thank you.

If you want to buy a copy of Ashfall, click on any of the links below. And, don’t forget to stop back by on Sunday to see this young adult author as a young adult.

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