Local best-selling author Brandon Mull has published more than a dozen books since his first, Fablehaven, hit shelves 10 years ago. He's inspired by the likes of The Chronicles of Narnia and The Lord of the Rings. Though he writes primarily for children, in an email interview with City Weekly, Mull says kids don't outnumber adult readers at his signings very much at all. His latest novel, Five Kingdoms: Death Weavers, hits the shelves March 15. To celebrate, Mull will appear at a book signing at The King's English Bookshop (1511 S. 1500 East, 801-484-9100, KingsEnglish.com) on March 18 at 7 p.m.
You have written a number of novels, beginning with Fablehaven published almost a decade ago. What have you learned about writing over those years? There is always a better story to tell and a better way to tell it. Writing novels is sufficiently complex that there is always plenty of room to learn and improve if you stay passionate and if you try. I appreciate the value of great characters, and am always looking for ways to help the imaginary people in my stories feel interesting and alive.
Many of your novels feature fantasy elements: Your Fablehaven series has dragons, fairies, centaurs, satyrs and other magical creatures. What is it about fantasy that appeals to you?
I love the big imagination of fantasy. I love taking elements that are larger than life and helping them feel real and then searching for truths in them. I enjoy that, in fantasy, I can design a world or a race or a type of magic that serves the story I wish to tell.
Your latest, Five Kingdoms: Death Weavers, is the fourth in your Five Kingdoms series. What kind of work goes into such a project?
Among other things, it requires tons of daydreaming, planning and making connections. Figuring out meaningful setups and payoffs. Part of what made Five Kingdoms possible are the other fantasy books I've written. I borrowed from everything I have learned to design a big, complex ride. I also borrowed some of the fantasy elements I invented in my Beyonders series and gave them new life in Five Kingdoms.
As a national author who has made Utah his home, what is it like interacting with local fans? Is it different when you tour across the nation?
Not long ago, I visited Jakarta, Indonesia, where audiences of kids were singing songs about Fablehaven. Next week, I go to Singapore to speak at a bunch of schools. And I've also visited many schools here in the Salt Lake area. My local fans are amazing. Because I've done a lot of touring in Utah, I have a lot of devoted readers, young and old. But whether near or far, it is always a relief when somebody enjoys one of my stories.
My only compass is what I think is fun or cool or brave or scary or exciting or whatever. I try to write a story that appeals to me while keeping it accessible for kids. Harry Potter helped prove that if done well, books in this category can appeal to adults and kids, so whole families can enjoy them together. That is my goal, and so far so good. Judging by my signing lines, the kid readers don’t outnumber the adult readers by much—which is part of my intent!
What advice do you have for aspiring writers? Care to share any tips, tricks or pitfalls you've learned from over your career?
Pay attention to how your favorite writers build their scenes, and practice building your own scenes. Write the kind of stories you most want to read. Write what you're most passionate about—that will give you the best chance that others will care as well. Don't stress about succeeding immediately.