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It's not hard to understand why readers of all ages love a good series. Entering a familiar fictional world like Hogwarts or 221B Baker Street or Middle-earth is the equivalent of returning to a beloved vacation spot year after year.
For some readers, a deeply imagined world can also be a sanctuary.
Take the experience Melodee Curtis recently shared with The Salt Lake Tribune about her young nephew Chase, who was born with cystic fibrosis. Unable to spend time with cousins playing outside during a family reunion, Chase began reading "Fablehaven" the first novel in the series of the same name by local author Brandon Mull. Although he had never cared much for reading, Chase was hooked. The world of Fablehaven became Chase's haven especially as his illness took its inevitable toll.
When it appeared that Chase's days were numbered, the Texas equivalent of the Make-A-Wish Foundation contacted Mull and informed him that the boy would like to know how the author planned to end the series. Mull called Chase, who was in the hospital, and shared the entire story with him before the novel was published. Later, Mull's publisher Shadow Mountain flew Chase and his mother to Utah for the book's launch. It was a dream come true for Chase, who later died.
Chase's story is a tender reminder of how much a well-told story can mean to readers especially young readers. There's something both comforting and invigorating about revisiting a familiar fictional world, which is why devoted readers often feel a real sense of dislocation when a series concludes.
Fortunately for his fans, Brandon Mull is writing a sequel series set once again in Fablehaven.
"Dragonwatch: A Fablehaven Adventure" is out March 14, with brother-sister duo Seth and Kendra back in action to keep the dragons at bay. A book launch party featuring Mull is set Friday, March 10, at Cottonwood High School. (See box for details.)
Mull recently spoke with The Tribune about his new book and his life as a New York Times best-selling author.
How do you account for the worldwide popularity of your Fablehaven series? In other words, what speaks about it to your readers?
Part of the appeal of Fablehaven is wish fulfillment. I think many of us would like to discover that the butterflies out in the garden are actually fairies. We would love to visit secret wildlife parks for magical creatures. I also think readers enjoy the humanity in the relationship between Kendra and Seth and like to see that contrasted against supernatural dangers like wrathful demons and cunning trolls. I'm excited to return to some of my favorite characters, including Kendra and Seth, in "Dragonwatch."
You do a lot of school visits. What kinds of questions do students typically ask? Is there a particularly memorable moment you can share?
I love hearing that my books were the gateway to a love of reading for somebody. Thanks in large part to many school visits promoting literacy, I hear that quite a bit. The Narnia books were the gateway for me. I also love when I hear that a whole family read my books together or that my books were a needed distraction at a hard time.
What's the hardest thing about being a writer, especially a writer who's on tour?
The hardest part about being a writer for me is the deadlines. It is sometimes a challenge to feel inspired and be creative on a schedule. That said, deadlines do help me finish books more quickly. I normally enjoy each individual day on tour. I like visiting schools and visiting readers. The tough part of a book tour is being away from my own kids for extended periods.
What's the best thing about being a writer?
I get to share my stories. For a long time I believed that the best part of me might be the stories in my mind, and I worried that I would never get to share them.
Are your own children impressed with your popularity as a writer? Do they read your books? Are their opinions and/or experiences involved in the writing process?
My four kids grew up with me being a writer. "Fablehaven" was published when my oldest, now 13, was 2. My kids think it is cool that their friends like my books. More important to me, they genuinely like my books. They read and listen to them over and over. I find a lot of joy bonding with my kids over my stories. As they get older, my kids are getting more opinionated about my stories and influence me more. I always hope to write books they will enjoy.
How do you manage to find time to read yourself? Are there any recent books or authors you'd like to recommend?
I don't read as much as I would like lately. That is a complication of being a dad and having an aggressive publishing schedule. I still sneak in books from time to time Terry Pratchett, lately.
Speaking of authors, if you could have dinner (and a conversation) with three authors, living or dead, who would those authors be and why?
I would pick J.R.R. Tolkien, C.S. Lewis and J.K. Rowling and not just because their first names are represented by initials. These three authors influenced me more than any others. Lewis showed me how imaginative books could be, Tolkien taught how deeply imagined and realistically rendered a fantasy world could be, and Rowling demonstrated that an author could write a story with young main characters but make it so smart and involving that adults would like it, too. Plus, I'd be excited to talk to a pair of dead writers and a woman who is almost as difficult to corner.
Finally, what advice would you give to that young reader who wants to be YOU when she or he grows up?
You should read a lot and write a lot. You should make the kind of stories you are most passionate about reading and imagining. Over time you should learn what you sound like when writing a story and then share some of the music that only you can hear. Launch party
A book launch party for "Dragonwatch" with Brandon Mull, also featuring Tyler Whitesides and D.C. Comedy, with games, prizes, characters and more. Mull will speak and sign books after a brief comedy sketch. Books will be available to purchase and attendees will be given a ticket for a place in the signing line.
When • Friday, March 10, 6:30 p.m., doors at 6 p.m.
Where • Cottonwood High School, 5715 S. 1300 East, Murray
Tickets • Free admission
More information • For more information about "Dragonwatch," visit http://www.brandonmull.com.