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May 13, 2011 / Chersti Nieveen

Interview with author Brandon Mull

I met Brandon Mull at the Writing and Illustrating for Young Readers last year, where he was my writing instructor for the week, and now he has become one of my top writing heroes. Which is kind of funny, because his latest book BEYONDERS, is about a world without heroes. (You can see a book review done by my friend, Karen M. Krueger, here.)

What drew you to writing for middle grade?

My biggest influence in writing middle grade books was the Harry Potter series.  I enjoyed those books.  So did kids.  So did my mom.  Those books proved to me that if you write a smart fantasy with young main characters and cool adventures, you could please a really wide range of readers.

The brisk pace and big imagination needed for middle grade fantasy really appeals to me and fits the type of stories I have always daydreamed about.  My goal is to write fun adventures that a whole family can read and enjoy together, adults and kids alike.

Your characters are definitely feel their age. What’s your secret to writing believable middle-grade characters?

I believe the key to writing any character is knowing them.  If you understand who the character is and how they think, it becomes much easier to anticipate how they will react and what they will say.  I spend a lot of time daydreaming about my stories before I write them, sometimes for many years (an example would be my new Beyonders series).  I try to use that time to get to know my characters so that I can bring them to life as authentically as possible.

When I write young characters, it helps that my inner ten-year-old remains alive and well.

How did becoming a New York Times best-selling author change your life?

It provided an extra line for my tombstone.

Also, the popularity of Fablehaven meant that I could write full time, which had been my dream for years.  And now that I get to live my dream, I’m happy to say that I still love what I do.

What is the craziest thing that happened while you were touring schools?

Once in the middle of a busy week of touring I completely lost my voice.  So I was going from school to school doing large assemblies, whispering hoarsely into a microphone.  I felt ridiculous.  I managed to get by, but just barely.  The kids were pretty understanding.  Because of my condition, they were extra quiet.  They treated me with the courtesy owed to a diseased person.

How do you handle meeting writing deadlines?

First off, I take my deadlines seriously.  I figure that if I take my deadlines seriously, it might help my publishers take me seriously.

I try to start early enough to get each project done on time.  Almost inevitably I spend the last couple of weeks prior to a deadline working extra long hours, sometimes from 9 a.m. till after midnight.  If I’m going to be a little late turning something in, I give my publisher advance notice so they can plan for it.  I’ve never let myself be more than a little bit late.

Deadlines can be the most stressful part of my job, but they also help motivate me to keep writing and to get more done faster.

      

More about Beyonders:

Jason Walker has often wished his life could be less predictable—until a routine day at the zoo ends with Jason suddenly transporting from the hippo tank into a strange, imperiled world. Lyrian holds dangers and challenges unlike anyplace Jason has ever known. The people all live in fear of their malicious wizard emperor, Maldor. The brave resistors who once opposed the emperor have been bought off or broken, leaving a realm where fear and suspicion prevail.

In his search for a way home, Jason meets Rachel, who was also mysteriously drawn to Lyrian from our world. With the help of a few scattered rebels, Jason and Rachel become entangled in a quest to piece together the word of power that can destroy the emperor and learn that their best hope to find a way home will be to save this world without heroes.

More about Brandon:

Brandon Mull resides in a happy little valley near the mouth of a canyon with his wife and three children. He spent two years living in the Atacama Desert of Northern Chile where he learned Spanish and juggling. He once won a pudding eating contest in the park behind his grandma’s house, earning a gold medal. Brandon is the author of the New York Times bestselling Fablehaven series and The Candy Shop War. You can find out more about Brandon at his website: http://brandonmull.com

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7 Comments

  1. Kelly Bryson / May 13 2011 9:30 am

    Thanks Chersti and Brandon!
    I love how clear that goal is- to write books that families can read together. There’s nothing like a good read-aloud book, esp on a long road trip. Good times! And my son loves Fablehaven:)

  2. Liesl / May 13 2011 11:34 am

    Great interview! I think M.T. Anderson said that in order to write for kids you either have to be around kids a lot or be a kid. And I think we saw at WIFYR that Brandon’s inner-ten-year old does indeed remain alive and well. It’s no wonder he can write the way he does!

    • Chersti Nieveen / May 13 2011 3:39 pm

      Definitely! I think that’s why I love writing teen, because I am such an angsty teen at heart.

  3. Joel Smith / May 13 2011 12:07 pm

    I have great respect for Brandon, both for how he writes and his positive attitude towards getting kids to read. He doesn’t do any outlining (or at least very little) and usually day dreams until he has a full story ready in his head. His inner-child is indeed live and well!

    • Chersti Nieveen / May 13 2011 3:43 pm

      I’ve heard that with a lot of writers that they will plot out a story in their head the whole way through before they start to write it, and with others they just know a small part. Every writer is so different 🙂

  4. Julie Daines / May 20 2011 8:24 am

    Brandon Mull is amazing. My son loves his books and has every one he wrote signed by him. Once he spoke at a fireside in our area and he was wonderful. Thanks for this fun interview!

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