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Utah author Brandon Mull on writing advice, literary success after divorce

Five years ago, Brandon Mole got divorced.

The best-selling author from Utah was supposed to start work on the “Dragonwatch” series, a continuation of the successful “Fablehaven” series. Shadow Mountain Publishing and millions of readers are eagerly anticipating the next volume.

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

He couldn’t write.

“He didn’t want a life without his family. These were dark days for him and I was worried for his safety,” said Chris Schwebinger, Shadow Mountain’s publishing director. “I told him not to worry about his book deadline. He lost his inspiration and frankly wasn’t in a position to write.”

What do you do when you feel that your life is broken? The fictional writer who had started many characters on Hero’s Journeys was now facing his difficult quest, and this was no fiction. People were counting on him. How will he overcome this ordeal?

“Sometimes things we don’t want can still happen. For me, I had to figure out how to move forward.” He called it writing a new chapter without any idea how the story would end.

The Journey Begins: The Backstory of Brandon Mull

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

The first was “The Chronicles of Narnia” by CS Lewis.

“The book that made me read is Narnia. It changed the whole course of my life,” he said.

Then came books such as “The Hobbit” and “The Lord of the Rings” by JRR Tolkien, which made the fantasy seem real and original.

The influential third writer was J.K. Rowling with the “Harry Potter” series, which Moll said he read in college. That was a turning point.

“Oh,” he said, “you can write a story with a young main character, and have her smart and curvy in a wonderful world, and you can have parents and children and adults—the whole family.” “It helped decide what kind of books I wanted to write.”

Brandon Mull, author of “Dragonwatch” and “Fablehaven,” front left, talks with fans during the book signing at Barnes & Noble in Sandy on Wednesday, November 3, 2021.
Scott J Winterton, The Desert News

Mole trained to write short novels during 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 profession, Mull worked as a comedian, file writer, piano fixer, film promoter, and marketing copywriter. He also has fond memories of stacking frozen chicken.

“One of those odd jobs of character building,” he now says with a laugh.

As the author of marketing for entertainment products, Mull has written brief descriptions for book and movie covers intended to capture the interest of customers.

“It was frustrating,” he said. “I was writing the hype in the back of the book when I wanted to be the guy writing the book.”

Brandon Mull, author of my book

Brandon Mull, author of Dragonwatch and Fablehaven, signs a book while speaking with fans at the book signing party at Barnes & Noble on Sunday, November 3, 2021.
Scott J Winterton, The Desert News

Brandon Mull’s first published novel

Moll began working on his first full-length novel after graduating from Brigham Young University in 2000.

His manuscript, originally titled “The Other End of the Hippo,” before it reached the desk of Chris Schwebinger, publishing director at Shadow Mountain Publishing, an imprint of Deseret’s book, was rejected by several agents and publishers.

Schwebinger eventually rejected the “Hippo” manuscript, which was later rewritten and became the Mull’s Beyonders series, but he liked its writing style and asked if he had anything else to offer?

“Brandon told a story about a reserve for mythical and magical creatures,” Schwebinger said. “I loved the introduction and five months later he sent me ‘Fablehaven.'”

The first book in the “Fablehaven” series was published in 2006. It even financed the false advertising books.

In the story, there are magical sanctuaries scattered all over the world where legendary creatures have gathered to avoid extinction. Kendra and Seth, the two young heroes, are astonished to learn that their grandfather runs one of this reserve, which they soon discover, threatened by a growing evil force.

Moll’s first novel immediately caused a sensation among readers of fiction. The paperback version of “Fablehaven” was Mull’s first bestseller and was so popular internationally that it became a requirement for reading in schools in Poland. The author with a new career was surprised by how quickly Fabelhaven reached the public.

“Things like this you don’t expect are coming,” he said.

Brandon Mull, author of my book

Brandon Mull, author of “Dragonwatch” and “Fablehaven” interacts as he talks to fans during a book signing at Barnes & Noble in Sandy on Wednesday, November 3, 2021.
Scott J Winterton, The Desert News

Mr. Bestseller List

More than 15 years after the first book in the “Fablehaven” series was published, Mull has placed four series — 18 books — on the New York Times bestseller list, including:

His latest book “The Return of the Dragon Slayers” was released on October 26 and is the fifth and final book in the “Dragonwatch” series, which is a continuation of his five book series “Fablehaven”. Collectively, the series has sold more than two million copies and has been published in more than 30 languages.

“Dragonwatch” spent a few weeks this month at The New York Times Bestselling Children’s Series List In third place, below are “Diary of a Wimpy Kid” and “Harry Potter”.

Schoebinger attributes Mull’s success to several factors, but it is primarily the fruit of hard work. When the author isn’t writing, he visits hundreds of schools annually to get kids excited about reading. Moll traveled to Russia, China and Singapore to promote his books.

Few, if any, authors have visited more schools nationwide,” Schwebinger said. “Success does not happen overnight. I think it is important for readers and writers to appreciate that Brandon Moll, or any successful writer, has worked hard and made many sacrifices to get where they are.”

Schwebinger believes that Maul’s greatest strength as a writer is his “blazing process” – his ability to imagine, nurture, and craft a story over time, sometimes years.

“He’s somehow able to slice up many stories in his brain, bouncing back and forth, always simmering,” the publishing director said. “I think the best stories are those that have had the time to age and mature until they are ready to be picked or hatched.”

Christopher Paolini, author of “Eragon,” is a fan of Mol. One of Mull’s books endorsed it like this: “It made me turn the pages until 4:40 a.m….deep, intriguing, charming…one of the most enjoyable fantasies I’ve read.”

Given his literary success, Mole is more than satisfied with it.

“I needed to at least be successful because that’s what saves the family,” he said. “As I finish ‘Dragonwatch’ and look at it all, it’s such a relief that I’ve accomplished it.”

Fans line up to speak to Brandon Mull, author of my book

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

back to life

Shortly after Mull launched “Dragonwatch,” Shadow Mountain discontinued the series as the author struggled to deal with his pending divorce.

How did he come to terms with the pain and find a way forward?

Maul said that prayer and his belief in God commanded him.

It (the divorce) felt like it broke me spiritually. …There was a moment 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 come back and keep trying,” Moll said. “Because of this help, I’m still writing books.”

Then a new friend entered his life.

Moll resumed writing and met Erlene, a student majoring in English at Brigham Young University, who is also divorced. He said he was a little scared when he found out she had seven children, but also found out that she was “a wonderful, fun person.” Her emotional support and editorial insight helped Mull continue the “Dragonwatch” series. He said the last book, which is 600 pages thick, is his best work to date.

Brandon and Earlene fell in love and married in the summer of 2020. With Mol’s four children, the new couple suddenly had a home with 11 children.

“It’s a Brady collection of biblical proportions,” Moll said. “Blending families is a challenge every day, but it is also a wonderful adventure. Probably the craziest adventure ever.”

Like the heroes in his books, Mole emerged from 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.” “I can say that I am happy to be alive. I’m glad I have my job. I feel like life sometimes is really hard, and it’s good too.”

Brandon Mull, author of my book

Brandon Mull, author of “Dragonwatch” and “Fablehaven,” laughs as he talks with Alayna Brovont during a book signing at Barnes & Noble on Sunday Wednesday, November 3, 2021.
Scott J Winterton, The Desert News

Continuing the hero’s journey

After the COVID-19 pandemic paused, Mull has resumed visiting schools, particularly in Idaho, Arizona, and Utah, to present his books, enlighten young people’s imaginations, and inspire a love of reading.

Children who come across the book autograph line often tell Mull that his books have prompted them or their entire family to read together.

“These two are my Grand Slams,” Moll said.

His performances recently included a new message. Mole has spoken about his divorce and wants the students to know that although life can be full of trials at times, there is always a reason to keep going.

“I think we all live hero’s journeys, that’s life,” he said. “We leave comfortable conditions and go on these journeys where we learn and grow, where we face challenges. Sometimes we rise to face it and sometimes we collapse or we really destroy it. We learn and come back from it changed. Sometimes these are the most interesting stories – if someone could pick themselves up And try again.”

Mull continued: “In my life, I have tasted a lot of aspects of challenging journeys and I expect we will have more in the future. Our country is facing uniquely difficult times, things we have not faced before. … Champions will be needed.”

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