MUF Contributor Books

Interview with Middle Grade Author Beth McMullen

It’s a special day here at The Mixed Up Files when one of our own has a new book coming out. Yay! Time to celebrate Beth McMullen’s latest novel SECRET OF THE STORM: LAND OF DRAGONS—Out tomorrow!

Lisa: Tell us about Secret of The Storm: Land of Dragons

Beth: I find writing sequels a challenge, sometimes in a good way and sometimes not! But I love these characters so much, especially the relationship between Cassie and Albert, that I was excited to go back to their world. The way we love our animal companions is uncomplicated and beautiful and wanted to grow that in the second book. I also gave it an ending that is shocking even to me!

Lisa: Did you hide any Easter Eggs that only a few people will find?

Beth: If you’ve read my other middle grade series you were certainly see some cross over. As a reader, I love being rewarded by easter eggs (Stephen King is a master at this!) because it makes me feel like I’m in on a private joke. And that’s pretty fun.

Lisa: What is your writing Kryptonite?

Beth: Oh boy, just one??? Fatigue is probably the big one. If I’m exhausted my attention turns into a cloud that just floats right away at the slightest breeze. But knowing this helps me turn off the light and go to sleep at a reasonable hour because I hate losing a day because I can’t keep my eyes open.

Lisa: If you could tell your younger writing self, anything, what would it be?

Beth: It’s a marathon, not a sprint! Honestly, people who make it in this profession (and ‘making it’ has many definitions) are the ones who stay and don’t quit and persevere. If you can’t take the occasional kick in the teeth, this might not be the profession for you.

Lisa: Which scene was the hardest to write, and why?

Beth: The shocking ending that I talked about in question one! I wrote it and then thought ‘no way.’ It was too much. So I rewrote it a few times but none of those drafts worked and I ended up where I began.

Lisa: Which of the characters do you relate to the most and why?

Beth: The dragon. Kidding. I love how Cassie faces the challenges in her life and doesn’t completely go to pieces. And I was really happy with the angles in Cassie and Joe’s friendship. They are not the obvious choice for each other but it works.

Lisa: If you could spend a day with another author, dead or alive, who would you choose?

Beth: Stephen King. Yeah. Huge fan. I don’t think he gets enough credit for creating regular relatable people with such apparent ease. I’d love to wander around in his head for bit.

Lisa: What are you working on now?

Beth: I’m working on a novel for adult readers that I absolutely love. I’m having way too much fun!

Lisa: Last, but most important-What is your favorite podcast?

Beth: Writers with Wrinkles. Those ladies are so funny and informative! If you haven’t listened, download it right away. You don’t want to miss out on this one!

Beth McMullen is the author of the Mrs. Smith’s Spy School for Girls (Aladdin/S&S) series as well as the Lola Benko, Treasure Hunter (Aladdin/S&S) series. Her third middle grade series, Secret Of The Storm arrived in March 2021 with the second installment out March 7th, 2023.  Beth lives in Northern California with her husband, kids, cats and a very tolerant parakeet named Zeus.

You can reach her on FaceBook/Instagram @BethMcMullenBooks and on Twitter at @bvam.  Visit to email or for more information.

Cover Reveal: A Horse Named Sky

I’ve been hard at work on a new animal-narrated MG novel. It’s a companion book to A Wolf Called Wander and A Whale of the Wild. I’m thrilled to be working with the team at Greenwillow once again. And I’m even more excited to be paired with the brilliant illustrator Kirbi Fagin. Here is her gorgeous art work on the cover for A Horse Named cover A Horse Named Sky

Sky will be galloping into young hearts and minds on September 5th 2023. I will be signing and personalizing pre-orders at Annie Blooms Books in Portland. But you can pre-order it at your neighborhood bookstore too.

A Horse Named Sky is the story of a mustang born in the Nevada wilderness who never wanted to leave home and never meant to become a leader, but learned how to find his way and fight for a family so much bigger than his own. The story is set in 1860, when our nation, like this young horse, was grappling with what it means to be free.

When a project is finally complete: some thoughts on the imminent release of my debut novel

Started knitting this sweater July 2021, completed July 2022. It fits perfectly 👌(Which never happens when you’re short, so yay! 😀)

My sweater

Sometimes it feels like everything takes me a long time to accomplish. Knitting this sweater-jacket took me a year! A story I often tell myself is that things take me longer than other people. But when I’m being more honest I know that often within this are choices that I’ve made. During the year I was knitting this sweater I also crocheted a kippa, knit a cardigan for my daughter, learned how to darn, continued to work on an ongoing not-yet-completed needlepoint project, started knitting a hat and started crocheting a toy giraffe.


Sure it would have gone faster if I’d just concentrated on this one thing. But it suited me to complete several smaller projects while I was working on this larger one. There are several reasons for this:

1. It’s very satisfying to finish something. It makes me feel in control and that I’ve accomplished something.

2. It’s fun to start something new! Choosing colors and patterns for a small project that I know won’t take me too long offers a break from the longer project.

3. Starting and completing a smaller project deliberately prolongs the longer one; it can be bittersweet to say goodbye to something I’ve been working on for a long time.



My book

I wish I could say this is an exact metaphor for the journey of my debut novel, Honey and Me, which I wrote the first draft of 10 summers ago! It has been a long journey with this novel. And unlike knitting a sweater, it hasn’t always been a matter of how much I worked on it or if I put it aside for a little while to work on something else, or that I worked on it alongside other writing projects. Yes, I have been working on other projects which I hope I get to share with readers at some point, but Honey and Me’s journey was mostly not a question of choices of what to focus on, and many aspects of it were far beyond my control.

Which is comforting in the sense of thinking about a writers journey: no matter how much you will it or want it, it is not under your control how long it might take an agent to read your query letter, and if they decide they want to read your whole manuscript, you don’t have control over how long that takes them. When you do get an agent you can do your best to take their suggestions to get it ready for submission to editors, but you have zero control after that in terms of if/when an editor reads your work, sends it to the editorial committee, makes an offer… And even once you get the magic offer, a whole journey begins anew, again with many aspects beyond one’s control.

What you do have control over

But what you do have is control over the quality of your work. Barring life circumstances that might get in your way—health, other jobs (in which I include running a home, raising children, caring for elderly parents…)—when it’s in your lap you have control over when and how long it takes to write, rewrite, revise, incorporate editorial notes. You have control over what you put into it. You also have control over how you try to get it out into the world. No one can see it if it stays as a file on your computer. Sure, you can’t be rejected if you never give anyone the opportunity to reject it. But then of course you can’t have the opportunity for someone to say, ‘wow I love this so much, let’s go on this journey together!’

Belief in your work

Even when I just couldn’t quite get to where I was trying to go in the journey of Honey and Me, even when there were roadblocks, stumbling blocks, dead ends, and scenic routes, I believed wholeheartedly in my story, my setting, and my characters, Milla and Honey. If I hadn’t, I don’t think I would have had the capacity for perseverance and tenacity that finally getting to see my book about to be published required.

What happens when the sweater is finished?

Now I get to wear it! I can’t wait. What happens when my book is published on October 18th and it goes out into the world—into readers hands? I don’t know!
I can’t wait for readers to read it. I can’t wait to talk about it with people. I can’t wait to go into schools and do author visits and presentations (but oh my god am I nervous about that. Excited! But nervous.)

Will they like it?

My sweater is for me. Someone might see it and compliment it. But basically if I like it and get use out of it, I’ll be happy with it. My book is a different beast altogether. Actually, it’s not a beast, and it’s not a garment either. It’s very much itself: a book.
Making art and specifically writing a book is a complicated enterprise: yes, we write for ourselves, because we have a story to tell, because we have art to make. But we write with an audience in mind. We want an audience. We write to tell readers a story. We write to give readers something.

What if they don’t like it?

What if reviewers say it sucks?* What if no one finds out about it? What if the tree falls in the forest and no one hears?

I don’t have the answers. I don’t know if seasoned published authors have the answers either. For me right now there’s this interplay going on between wanting to be seen, and wanting to hide. Wanting to talk to tons of kids and have public speaking opportunities (both of which I LOVE to do), is fighting with the feeling of wanting to pull a hoodie up over my head.

So all I can say is wish me luck and stay tuned! Honey and Me comes out with Scholastic on October 18th 2022 and is available for preorder wherever fine books can be found.

* but OMG, Kirkus has given it a starred review!!!! ⭐️