SALT LAKE CITY — When Auri Parr, who is now in the third grade, met author Brandon Mull for the first time, "I was starstruck," he says. "I was speechless. Brandon Mull is pretty much my hero." Auri is finishing up the last Fablehaven book and is looking forward to starting the Beyonders series, both of which Mull wrote. "I really like all his characters. I have a friend named Seth, and he's a duplicate of Seth in Fablehaven."
Kiley Fisk and Emilee Spencer were fifth graders three years ago, when their teacher read the first Fablehaven book to them. "We've been hooked ever since," says Kiley. "I love his books. They're good, imaginative. You want to know what's going to happen next."
"They draw you in. They make you feel like you are right there watching," adds Emilee.
Caleb Collier appreciates the fact that "they never get boring. The story lines are consistent, and I can kind of relate to some of the imaginative things, the descriptions are so good." Noah Ostergar thinks Mull is "a good author. He has good morals and he's really funny. That's important."
These young fans were just a few of the hundreds who gathered at Cottonwood High School Tuesday night for the launch party for Mull's new series, which kicks off with "Beyonders: A World Without Heroes."
The party was sponsored by Simon and Schuster, Mull's publisher for the new trilogy (Fablehaven books were published by Shadow Mountain), "and we are thrilled to be here," said Anna McKean, a spokesperson for Simon and Schuster. "We've waited five years for Brandon. We've published the paperback versions of Fablehaven. Now we're very excited to have the Beyonders series." She was amazed by the turnout for the launch party. "We were expecting a lot of people, but this is overwhelming," she said.
The festive program featured skits by D.C. Comedy, parodying everything from Fablehaven to Harry Potter, the Hunger Games series, the Twilight series and musician Justin Bieber. Local award-winning author Shannon Hale was the hostess; there were also appearances by local favorites Jessica Day George and James Dashner.
During an interactive Q and A session, Mull revealed some of his inner secrets: He once won a medal for eating pudding; his favorite magical creature is the dragon; his favorite dog name is Mutt; he once thought of growing a mustache; his favorite flavor of gum is Beluga Whale.
On a more serious note, Mull talked briefly about where imagination can take you; the heroes of our world; his own personal hero, his grandfather Cyclone Davis, who was a World War II pilot. His grandfather was in the audience and Mull paid him an emotional tribute. The grandparents played a big role in the Fablehaven books because of his own grandparents, Mull said. And they have influenced Beyonders.
"I wanted to explore what it takes to be a hero," Mull said. "I wanted to explore what it would be like if the world got so cynical there were no heroes."
Mull had other good news for his fans: "I plan to write a lot of books for a long time." There will be two more Beyonders books. Already there are plans for another Candy Shop Wars book. He doesn't rule out returning to Fablehaven someday. "It won't be a Book 6," he said, "but there might be another series with some of the same characters."
But for now there's a world Beyond, and one that is already intriguing his fans. James Ostergar, who was at Cottonwood High, finds it "very different, but very good." He was the same age as the characters in Fablehaven when he started reading them, so he has enjoyed following the series through and loves starting a new one.
Eight-year-old David Mortensen "read a bit while we where standing in line, and it looks interesting." His friend Owen Reynolds plans to hurry and read it before his mother does. But, said that mother, Kelly, "I love that they are books we can read together as a family."
Auri Parr's father, Aaron, agrees. "We read them together. It's easy to get lost in them." And he's happy that his son looks up to Mull. "He is one of the most compassionate people I've ever met. He's a very, very nice guy."
Before going on a month-long book tour, Brandon Mull will be doing a book signing on Saturday at 11 a.m. at Costco Wholesale, 11100 S. Auto Mall Drive, Sandy.