From going on adventures with imaginary friends to solving a magical mystery in an arcade, the creativity found in Utah author Brandon Mull's two new books coming out this month are sure to keep his audience entertained.
Both of Mull's new books are second volumes. The first is "Pingo and the Playground Bully" (Shadow Mountain, $17.99), released Oct. 9. This children's picture book tells the story of playground friends having a contest to determine who has the best imaginary friend while trying to avoid the playground bully.
Telling stories about a boy with an imaginary friend comes naturally to Mull.
"I had lots of imaginary friends growing up. I would turn my stuffed animals into imaginary friends, I'd go on adventures with imaginary comrades and I had a certain imaginary friend who was an invisible boy," Mull said.
The second book, being released on Oct. 23, is the long-awaited second volume of the Candy Shop War series, titled "Arcade Catastrophe" (Shadow Mountain, $18.99) and is targeted at middle readers 8 and older. Main character Nate and his friends are asked to investigate Arcadeland when two of their other friends mysteriously disappear. Unlike the first book, Nate and his friends will need more than magical candy to figure out the secrets Arcadeland holds.
Originally, Mull had planned to release only one book in the Candy Shop War.
"After 'The Candy Shop War' came out in 2007, a funny thing happened. When I was out visiting schools and signing books, I kept getting asked to do another one. Kids and adults kept asking for years. Knowing people wanted more got my wheels turning and I became excited about some new stories I could tell with those characters. So here I am, releasing another one," Mull said.
Mull said that some of his characters were inspired by real people.
"Of all my characters in any of my books, Nate in 'The Candy Shop War' is most like me. He isn't exactly me as a kid, but he's pretty close. The character Summer was enough inspired by my sister Summer that they share the same name. I try not to take an entire person and make him or her a character. I prefer to mix and match attributes and create my own people."
More real-life elements are described when Mull calls the Candy Shop War an "autobiographical fantasy adventure."
I know that sounds impossible, but I took many elements of my life when I was in fifth grade and then added fantasy elements to create the story," Mull said. "Clayton in California, the town where I grew up, is much like the town Colson in the book, and most of the Bay Area landmarks in the second book of 'The Candy Shop War' are places I have been."
Growing up, Mull was intrigued by book series such as the Chronicles of Narnia, the Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter. These books made him fall in love with fantasy and led him to start imagining his own adventures.
"I live my life with one foot in reality and the other in fantasy. That is how I cope. So I guess it makes sense that to create my books, I draw elements from my real life then add in lots of fantasy."
Mull does plan on writing third volumes for both Pingo and the Candy Shop War series within the next couple of years. Mull also has plans for some brand new series in the not-too-distant future with a major publisher with whom he has not worked with before and hasn't announced yet.
As a passionate writer, Mull gives credit to his fans for continuing to read his books.
"I've always thought my stories were worth sharing. I never get tired of hearing that people have enjoyed my books. It validates the fact that I am spending my life writing."
If you go ...
What: Brandon Mull book signing
When: Tuesday, Oct. 23, 6:30-8:30 p.m.
Where: Deseret Book — University Village, 1076 S. 750 East, Orem
When: Wednesday, Oct. 24, 6:30-8:30 p.m.
Where: Deseret Book, 468 N. 990 West B2, American Fork
When: Thursday, Oct. 25, 6:30 p.m.
Where: Barnes and Noble — Jordan Landing, 7157 Plaza Center Drive West Jordan
What: "The Candy Shop War, Vol. 2: Arcade Catastrophe" launch party
Where: Thanksgiving Point Gardens, 3900 N. Garden Drive, Lehi
When: Friday, Oct. 26, 4-7:30 p.m.
Notes: Includes booth activities, a marshmallow war and book signing