Utah author Brandon Mull on his writing tips and literary success after divorce

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Five years ago, Brandon Mull divorced.

The bestselling Utah author was supposed to start work on his “Dragonwatch” series, a continuation of his successful “Fablehaven” series. Shadow Mountain Publishing and millions of readers eagerly awaited the next volume.

But Mull, then an author of nearly 20 books and a regular visitor to the New York Times bestseller list, had a problem:

He did not know how to write.

“He didn’t want a life without his family. They were dark days for him and I was worried about his well-being, ”said Chris Schoebinger, Publishing Director of Shadow Mountain. “I told him not to worry about the deadline for his book. He had lost his muse and frankly was unable to write.

What do you do when your life feels shattered? The fantasy writer who had started so many characters in Hero Travels was now faced with his own difficult quest, and it was no fantasy. People were counting on him. How was he going to navigate and overcome this adversity?

“Sometimes things we don’t want happen anyway. I was really crushed, ”said Mull. “For me it was about figuring out how to move forward.” Call it writing a new chapter with no idea where the story ends.

The Journey Begins: The Brandon Mull Story

Mull credited the works of three authors for inspiring his imagination when he was young.

The first was “Chronicles of Narnia,” through Cs lewis.

“The book that made me read was ‘Narnia’. It changed the whole trajectory of my life, ”he said.

Next come books like “The Hobbit” and “The Lord of the Rings,” through JRR Tolkien, which made the fantasy real and genuine.

The third influential author was Jk rowling with her “Harry potter”, which Mull said he read in college. It was a turning point.

“Oh, you can write a story with a young lead character, make it smart and curvy in a cool world, and you can have parents, kids, adults – the whole family,” he said. “It helped define the kind of books I wanted to write.”

Brandon Mull, author of “Dragonwatch” and “Fablehaven,” front left, chats with fans during a signing session at Barnes & Noble in Sandy on Wednesday, November 3, 2021.
Scott G Winterton, Deseret News

Mull practiced writing short fiction films in high school and college. He served a mission in Chile for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. While practicing and learning his craft, Mull worked as a comedian, filing clerk, piano installer, film promoter and marketing copywriter. He also has fond memories of stacking frozen chickens.

“One of those odd jobs that build character,” he laughs now.

As a marketing copywriter for entertainment products, Mull wrote the brief description for book and movie covers intended to capture the interest of customers.

“It was frustrating,” he said. “I wrote the blurbs for the spine of the book when I wanted to be the guy who wrote the book.”

Brandon Mull, author of

Brandon Mull, author of “Dragonwatch” and “Fablehaven,” signs a book as he chats with fans during a signing session at Barnes & Noble in Sandy on Wednesday, November 3, 2021.
Scott G Winterton, Deseret News

Brandon Mull’s first published novel

Mull began work on his first full length novel after graduating from Brigham Young University in 2000.

His manuscript, originally titled “The Other End of the Hippo”, was rejected by many agents and editors before landing on the desk of Chris Schoebinger, Publishing Director of Shadow Mountain editions, an imprint of Deseret Book.

Schoebinger ultimately rejected the “Hippo” manuscript, which was later rewritten and became the “” of MullBeyond“, but liked his writing style and asked if he had anything else to offer?

“Brandon mentioned a story about a stash of mythical and magical creatures,” Schoebinger said. “I liked the premise and five months later he sent me ‘Fablehaven’.”

The first book of the “FablehavenThe series was released in 2006. Mull even wrote the blurb.

In the story, there are magical reserves scattered around the world where mythical creatures have gathered in order to avoid disappearing. Kendra and Seth, the two young protagonists, are stunned to learn that their grandfather runs one of these reserves, which they soon discover is threatened by the growing forces of evil.

Mull’s debut novel immediately generated a buzz among fantasy readers. The paperback version of “Fablehaven” was Mull’s first bestseller and was so popular internationally that it became required reading for schools in Poland. The author with a new career was surprised at how quickly “Fablehaven” found an audience.

“Stuff like that that you don’t see coming,” he said.

Brandon Mull, author of

Brandon Mull, author of “Dragonwatch” and “Fablehaven,” reacts as he speaks with fans during a signing session at Barnes & Noble in Sandy on Wednesday, November 3, 2021.
Scott G Winterton, Deseret News

Mr. Best Seller List

More than 15 years after the publication of the first book in the “Fablehaven” series, Mull placed four series – 18 books – on the New York Times bestseller list, including:

His latest book, “Return of the dragon slayers“was released on October 26 and is the fifth and final book in its”Dragon watch“Series, which is the continuation of his series of five books”Fablehaven. “The combined series has sold over two million copies and has been published in over 30 languages.

“Dragonwatch” spent a few weeks this month on The New York Times best-selling children’s series list at n ° 3, just below “Diary of a Wimpy Child” and “Harry potter. “

Schoebinger attributes Mull’s success to several factors, but above all it is the result of hard work. When the author is not writing, he visits hundreds of schools a year to encourage children to read. Mull has traveled to Russia, China and Singapore to promote his books.

“Few, if any, authors have visited more schools nationwide,” Schoebinger said. “Success doesn’t happen overnight. I think it’s important for readers and writers to understand that Brandon Mull, or any successful writer, has worked really hard and made a lot of sacrifices to get where they are.

Schoebinger believes that Mull’s greatest strength as a writer is his “simmering process” – his ability to imagine, nurture, and formulate a story over time, sometimes years.

“He’s able to somehow compartmentalize multiple stories in his brain, bouncing back and forth, still simmering,” the editor said. “I think the best stories are the ones that have had time to age and mature until they’re ready to be picked or hatched.”

Christophe Paolini, author of “Eragon“, is a fan of Mull. He endorsed one of Mull’s books like this:” Made me turn the pages until 4:40 in the morning … deep, intriguing, magical … one of most pleasurable fantasies I have ever read. “

Reflecting on his literary success, Mull is more relieved than anything else.

“I needed it to at least be successful because that’s what sustains the family,” he said. “As I finish ‘Dragonwatch’ and think about it all, it’s a great relief to have done it.”

Fans line up to speak to Brandon Mull, author of

Fans line up to speak to Brandon Mull, author of “Dragonwatch” and “Fablehaven,” during a signing session at Barnes & Noble in Sandy on Wednesday, November 3, 2021.
Scott G Winterton, Deseret News

“Brought back to life”

Shortly after Mull began “Dragonwatch,” Shadow Mountain put the series on hold as the author struggled to cope with his pending divorce.

How did he reconcile the pain and find a way forward?

Mull said the prayer and his faith in God carried him through.

“(The divorce) felt like it crushed me spiritually. … There was a time when I received specific help from God that confirmed my faith and kind of brought me back to life. After that day I had the energy to go back and keep trying, ”said Mull. “Thanks to this help, I am still writing books.”

Then a new friend came into her life.

Mull resumed writing and met Erlyn, an English major at BYU, and herself, also divorced. He said he was a little intimidated to learn that she had seven children, but he also discovered that she was a “bright and interesting person”. His emotional support and editorial insight helped Mull continue his “Dragonwatch” series. He said the latest book, 600 pages thick, is his best work to date.

Brandon and Erlyn fell in love and got married in the summer of 2020. Along with Mull’s four children, the new couple suddenly had a home with 11 children.

“He’s a Brady Bunch of biblical proportions,” said Mull. “Mixing families together is a daily challenge, but it’s also an incredible adventure. It is probably the craziest adventure I have ever undertaken.

Like the heroes of his books, Mull came out of his journey as a changed man with a new perspective.

“It was a real journey through pain that brought me closer to God. It also deepened my appreciation and awareness of my family, ”said Mull. “I can say I’m happy to be alive. I’m happy to have my job. I feel like life is sometimes so brutally hard, and that’s just as good.

Brandon Mull, author of

Brandon Mull, author of “Dragonwatch” and “Fablehaven,” center, laughs while chatting with Alayna Brovont during a book signing at Barnes & Noble in Sandy on Wednesday, November 3, 2021.
Scott G Winterton, Deseret News

Continue the “hero’s journey”

After a break for the COVID-19 pandemic, Mull resumed his visits to schools, especially in Idaho, Arizona and Utah, to showcase his books, spark the imagination of young people and inspire the love of reading.

Children crossing the dedication line will often tell Mull that his books have led them or their whole families to read together.

“These are my two Grand Slam tournaments,” said Mull.

Lately, his presentations have included a new post. Mull has opened up about his divorce and wants the students to know that while life can be full of trials at times, there is always a reason to continue.

“I think we all experience hero journeys, that’s what life is about,” he said. “We leave comfortable circumstances and continue on these journeys where we learn and grow, where we are challenged. Sometimes we get up to meet him and sometimes we fall apart or really fade away. We learn and we come back changed. Sometimes these are the most interesting stories – if someone can get up and try again. “

Mull continued, “In my life I have tasted many aspects of difficult travel and I expect we will have more to come. Our country is facing particularly difficult times, things that we have never encountered before. … Heroes will be needed.

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