Globe-trotting fantasy author Robert Mullin made quite a splash with his debut epic Bid the Gods Arise. He was kind enough to give us some insights into his writing and his imagination. Be sure to check out his book - it's intense!
Tell us a little about yourself.
Well, I'm a Westerner transplanted to the East on a temporary basis. I met my wife on an online discussion board for writers, having pounced upon a post she made relating to her own book. I mistakenly thought that the question she was asking had to do with a similar type of story to the one I was writing, and the rest is history. I was featured on the History Channel show, MonsterQuest, and have been to Africa three times in search of an unclassified animal called Mokele-mbembe, which fits the description of a living dinosaur.
Tell us about your writing. What genre(s) do you specialize in?
I guess you could call it Fantascience Fiction; my "genre" at the moment appears to be "mash-up." People have commented on the unusual melange of science-fiction, fantasy, and paranormal in Bid the Gods Arise. I do tend to prefer fantasy as a genre due to its spiritual quality and overall moral themes; no matter how dark the tunnel, fantasy generally has a light at the end (though that is less the case in modern writing, traditionally that has been the case, and one of its defining qualities). And while I may disagree with how some define light and dark (frequently it is the inverse of how I might define it), I like the fact that authors of fantasy at least acknowledge that such a struggle exists. Much science fiction tends to be nihilistic by nature, so while I love it as a genre, I don't tend to read as much of it.
What was your writing process for Bid the Gods Arise?
I began Bid the Gods Arise mostly as a fun experiment back in college. In my introductory English class, I had an assignment I didn't want to do, but when I finally put the nose to the proverbial grindstone, my teacher said something pretty compelling. She told me, "You may not know it yet, but you will be a writer." It was something that had never really occurred to me, but turned out to be somewhat prophetic. Coincidentally, my cousin and I, who were best friends and kept up a correspondence the whole time I was at college, had an idea for a fantasy novel. We came up with the bones of the story that would ultimately become the series, The Wells of the Worlds. As a sort of homage to the relationship I enjoyed with my own cousin, I made the protagonists of the novel cousins, but the characters, while somewhat reminiscent of us, were also markedly different. During the decade-and-a-half that followed, the book went through a number of permutations while I went through a number of life changes. My cousin died in an amusement park accident, and I almost scrapped the project. However, I was encouraged and inspired by another friend to finish the book. After it was done, I had to rewrite it a number of times (I didn't know much about writing when I first set out; I had the rudimentary talent, but no real discipline or structure to my storytelling). Ultimately, after learning enough about writing to put me off as a reader for life, I ultimately came full-circle back to a concept that was pretty close to what we had originally envisioned, but was much better written than any of the drafts that had come before it. I have been blessed to have a number of people giving me input into this novel, keeping me accountable and getting me to accept nothing but the best from my writing. The latest would be my wife, who is an author and a professional editor. She has taught me more about writing in the last few years than I knew in my entire life.
What books/authors have really inspired you?
Jules Verne, for introducing me to the idea of scientists as pioneering heroes. His novel, Journey to the Center of the Earth, has been foundational to my concept of high adventure. C.S. Lewis for introducing the world to Aslan. Tolkien for showing us all how to build worlds. Timothy Zahn for still managing to surprise me with his twists after all these years. In the world of film, prior to The Lord of the Rings (which was as revolutionary for fantasy fans as Star Wars was in its day, and I believe has ushered in a whole new era in film-making), David Cronenberg's remake of The Fly was a bit of a paradigm shift for me. I grew up on monster movies, but it wasn't until that film, viewed in my teens, that I realized that ultimately the most terrifying monster movies were mostly about people. To see a tragic horror story like that focus intimately on the characters and the repercussions of their actions was much more enlightening to me than any number of giant lizards destroying countless thousands in faraway cities and foreign lands. From that one movie with its tiny cast I extrapolated the notion that even epic stories are uninteresting if you don't care about the people involved. I had seen it demonstrated before in literature, but I don't think that I made the conscious connection or articulated the thought until I saw that film.
Any upcoming projects?
Well, the biggest one right now is the sequel to Bid the Gods Arise. Worlds Beyond the Well is the second novel in The Wells of the Worlds, and while I am not yet certain how many books will be in the series, it is leading to a very specific end. Most of the seeds for the series are planted in the first novel, and I hope that once people have read it through, they will eventually pick it up again and see just how many things are hinted at in Bid the Gods Arise. I do have a cryptozoologically-based novel that has been on the back burner for years, but as it is about the search for Mokele-mbembe, I realized that it was more important to me to write the non-fiction book of the animal's discovery than it was for me to write a novel on the same subject. So while it may eventually happen, it's not as high on my priority list as it once was. I also have a non-fiction book that features dragons, but I'm staying hush-hush about that one for the moment.
Where can readers find you online?