A conversation with Fort Collins author Todd Mitchell
The ability to let your imagination transport you to distant lands, filled with mysterious characters and eagerly awaited adventures, is something that many adults take for granted and often lose as they age.
For authors like Todd mitchell from Fort Collins, his vivid imagination is the fuel of his creative storytelling.
“I was very interested in stories when I was a child. I grew up in Illinois in a cornfield, like, literally our house was in a cornfield, ”Mitchell said. “When I was a kid there wasn’t much to do there, so I spent a lot of time as a kid wandering around making up stories until my head filled up. of those long, elaborate stories that I would make up.
While he loved to make up stories and fantasize about the adventures of the world, the idea of becoming a writer did not cross Mitchell’s mind until much later in his life.
Struggling with dyslexia, Mitchell was behind his classmates in reading and writing in elementary school.
“I have a kind of strained relationship with reading and writing when I was young. Becoming a writer is probably a surprise to a lot of my elementary teachers, ”Mitchell said with a laugh. “I think sometimes the things we struggle with the most are the things we are most successful at.”
With six best-selling books under his belt, it’s pretty safe to say that Mitchell overcame his struggles with reading and writing.
Mitchell’s audience is primarily middle and high school.
“All of these books are for young adults and up. I’m kind of an adult and read middle class and young adults, ”he laughs. “Over 50% of readers of young adult books are adults.”
Mitchell’s novel, “Backwards,” is an expertly crafted play about a teenager who learns suicide, healing and love while traveling backwards through time.
The book begins at the end and, well behind, ends at the beginning.
“Bright red tulips blooming – that’s the first thing I remember. Only, they weren’t tulips. Their petals were crimson drops that sank into the bathwater. It struck me that the drops were coming from somewhere. Then I saw his wrists and realized the red was blood. I felt neither repulsion nor sadness. Instead, I was struck by the boredom of the drops swirling in the water. I wanted him to move his arms so there could be more pretty flowers – an entire tub filled with tulips, flashy as spring – but he just let his arms drop below the surface, coming to rest on his legs. and make the water pink. So much for art. – Opening paragraph of Mitchell’s novel “Backwards”.
On his website biography, Mitchell explained that he wrote the book after being surrounded by suicidal events.
Nine students at the school he taught committed suicide. He also received a letter from a mother whose son committed suicide and a relative of the author attempted to kill himself.
“The more I looked in books on suicide, however, the less satisfied I was with the way a lot of fiction dealt with this problem,” he explained. “Some books seemed to glorify suicide while others were so depressing at the end of the book that I wanted to curl up and disappear.
While “Backwards” tackles a dark and morbid subject, it does so with a blackout of hope and an uplifting message.
In addition to traditional novels, Mitchell has partnered with artists to create a series of graphic novels titled “Broken Saviors” as well as the beautifully illustrated “A Flight of Angels”.
“As a writer I always think of stories that haven’t been explored yet; what stories need to be told that weren’t told and how a different form, like comics, might give us a way to tell this story that we couldn’t tell in writing, ”Mitchell said. “I think what’s going on in comics right now is really fascinating. There are so many fantastic writers and artists working in the comic book industry.
As someone who struggled to get interested in reading, Mitchell is a proponent of introducing children of all ages to graphic novels and comics in order to get them to start reading.
“Graphic novels, comics, not only are they reading, but they’re actually a very important part of reading,” he said. “What I’ve found as a university professor is that students tend to be pretty bad at interpreting graphic texts critically. So they need practice to understand how to read this picture with the written word. We are not practicing it enough and we must do it.
Mitchell’s latest projects, a young adult novel titled “The Namer of Spirits” and “Breakthrough,” a non-fiction book on creativity, are expected to be released later this year.
When not locked in his basement thinking about adventures and writing books, Mitchell stimulates the minds of students taking creative writing and literature classes at Colorado State University. .
“I have been teaching at CSU for over 20 years now. I mainly teach Literature and Fiction workshops for young adults and lead our Creative Writing Education Program for Beginners, ”Mitchell said. “I actually went to graduate school at CSU and decided to stick around.”
Mitchell lives in Fort Collins with his wife, two daughters and their family dog. He shamelessly loves squirrels and if he gets the chance, he will explain his love of furry creatures to anyone who asks.
In his spare time, Mitchell enjoys whitewater kayaking, mountain biking and surfing.
For more information on Mitchell, his books, or upcoming events, visit www.toddmitchellbooks.com.