Nov. 25—NEW ALBANY — Since releasing his first children's book in 2020, New Albany author Tahj Jacobi Mullins has sold hundreds of his colorful books following the adventures of a blue moose named Azul.
Mullins, 29, is the writer and illustrator of "There's A Moose On The Loose" and the "Azul Sees a Ghoul." He is new to this career path, and he has been inspired by the response from the community as he makes connections with local residents and readers.
He self-published "There's a Moose on the Loose" in 2020, and without marketing behind it, he was able to sell more than 600 copies, he said. "Azul Sees a Ghoul" is a Halloween-themed book that published this year, and he is preparing to release a Christmas-themed book, "How Not To Be a Naughty Moose," in time for the holiday season.
"It's humbling — it makes me realize that the best thing I have in life is the ability to create and connect with other people," he said. "That's something I want to take advantage of but I don't want to take for granted. The response of people is helping drive me as an author to create more."
Mullins works full-time as an author, illustrator and graphic designer, and he is now working with a local marketing company called Quilted Media.
Mullins, a graduate of New Albany High School, has enjoyed drawing since he was 8 years old, if not earlier, and he has pursued a variety of creative endeavors. In the past, Mullins has worked as a singer-songwriter, but he eventually started focusing more on his art. He created album covers and logo designs for other artists.
Mullins, nicknamed "The Wizard of Art," said he has always wanted to create his own book and he first drew the character Azul in 2019. He was inspired by work such as the books of Dr. Seuss and the animation of Tim Burton.
"My favorite books are like weird animal-based books like "The Cat in the Hat" and stuff like that, so I was like, what animal is kind of off the wall, and I thought of a moose," he said. "I've always loved children's books. I've always loved fantasy and cartoons. I guess I got to a certain point where it's like, I can do this, because I'm not working on music."
He is a digital artist who creates the illustrations using an app on his iPad. His writing is a "rhythmic poetry style" that comes from his experience as a musician, he said.
For Mullins, fostering connections with the local community has been an integral part of his work as an author, and he has partnered with businesses such as the New Albany Sugar Shoppe to get the word out, sign books and sell copies.
He recently participated in a fair for local authors at the Floyd County Library and is a member of the On-Ramp Professional Development program for creative entrepreneurs, which was presented this year at the Carnegie Center for Art and History.
"I feel like the whole Azul campaign or movement — whatever you want to call it — is one that doesn't take itself too seriously," he said. "We get in where we fit in, and we love the people who love us. I grew up in New Albany, so of course I love the library and love small businesses and stuff like that. Instead of reaching out via email, I try to go in and support all these places."
Mullins said he sees Azul as an extension of himself.
"He's kind of messy, forgetful — he doesn't try to be rude, but he's so on the go all the time, that he forgets to stop and think, and that's kind of how I am," he said. "I have a lot of energy, and Azul is sort of like a manifestation of my energy as a person."
He draws the illustrations and writes as he goes instead of mapping out a story beforehand, Mullins said. All of the books feature different lessons Azul learns through his experiences.
The books are meant to inspire people "to just have fun and be yourself," Mullins said.
"There's not necessarily a message that I'm trying to force down anyone's throats or anyone's ears — it's just have fun, be yourself, and as long as you can help others and be a good person, it's all good," he said. "I just really want to entertain people and put something in the world that makes it just a little bit better."
He appreciates the reactions he has received from the community, including the children who have enjoyed his books.
"My favorite is my neighbor's kid, who calls me the moose man," Mullins said. "That's what I love. She's like, 'hey, moose man.' It's a cool thing."
Mullins plans to continue writing about Azul, including a future book focused on the character's background.
"I think next year I'm going to build more on Azul's world," he said. "It's going to be kind of like a fresh start on where is he from and who are his friends instead of him running wild."
He also plans to produce a video series called "Azul's Dance Party" featuring music and read-alongs for children.
Since releasing his first two books, he has received "nothing but great responses," Mullins said.
"It's still weird to me, because it's like, I wrote something that people like?" he said. "It's surprising, but that was kind of the goal. Every time someone is like hey, I read my niece or nephew or son your book, and they really liked it — that's something that drives me as a creator. It's been a very, very good response."
"I've made more connections — personal and business — than I have even just being a singer-songwriter or any other thing I've tried to do," he said. "So I'm like, this must be my calling, I'm going to stick to it."
The connections he has formed have helped him "level up" as an artist and person and become a "more well-rounded businessman."
"I guess the best tool you can have as a businessman is to connect with people, and that's what it's helped me do," Mullins said.
Mullins' books can be found at local businesses such as the New Albany Sugar Shoppe, and they can sometimes be found at Mickey's bookstore and the New Albany Farmer's Market. They are also available on his online store, which can be found on the "There's A Moose On The Loose" Facebook page.