Lectures & Speaking Topics

The Last Town on Earth, Moral Dilemmas, and post-9/11 America
In Mullen’s award-winning debut novel, residents of an isolated town post armed guards to block all the roads, hoping to keep the 1918 flu away. When they’re confronted by a lost, hungry traveler, they face an agonizing moral dilemma—and one that parallels our nation’s toughest choices during the two World Wars, the Civil War, and the post-9/11 years.
The 1918 Flu Epidemic and the Erasure of History
The 1918 flu epidemic killed as many as 50 million people worldwide, but when Mullen began researching this event for his first novel in 2004, he could find little information about it. How did such a horrible and massive event vanish from historical memory, and what do our more recent flu scares tell us about how America has – and hasn’t – changed?
The Great Depression, Our Great Recession, and the Role of Literature in Hard Times
Most contemporary literary fiction focuses on the travails of the upper-middle class, and novels that focus on the poor are often deemed “too political” or are considered “crime fiction.” The author of the Depression-era novel The Many Deaths of the Firefly Brothers traces the roots of this literary debate and argues for writers’ need to engage with overlooked issues of class and hardship in America.
Rewriting History and Reading the Lies: Why Historical Fiction Breaks All the Rules
What are fiction writers allowed to change when they set their stories in the past? What happens when readers’ historical knowledge is based on possibly-false things they “learned” from a novel? A fan and practitioner of historical fiction shares his reasons for reinventing the past and his enthusiasm for this hybrid art form.
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