Michael La Ronn is an author, poet, public speaker, and entrepreneur. He writes fearless fantasy and Decision Select Novels, and he is known for his quirky, imaginative writing style. He also writes nonfiction about writing and indie publishing.
In 2012, a life-threatening illness put him in the hospital. Realizing that life was too short, he devoted himself to self-publishing, entrepreneurship, and all the other punishments that indie authors love to bring upon themselves. And he loves every moment of it.
Justin Sloan: Thanks for agreeing to share your story, Michael. You’ve got a lot going on, with your novels and the podcast, and of course life. To get us started, what got you into writing?
Michael La Ronn: A near-death experience, actually. I was hospitalized in 2012 with a deadly infection, and looking back on it, it could have been the end for me. I decided right then and there that I would be a professional writer, and that no matter what happened or how hard it got, I would never have more to lose than I did when I was on that hospital bed. And man did my life transform rapidly after that.
JS: We have some similarities there, that we should discuss over a drink sometime. What was the process for you, from writing your first novel to deciding when to publish and how to focus your writing?
MLR: I’ve never been asked that question before! Honestly, it was all one big blur. I just jumped into my first novel and found my way through the writing, editing, formatting and all that. The biggest challenge was managing my time. I have a full-time job in the insurance industry and a wife and an infant daughter, so my time is limited. There were many, many sleepless nights where I dragged myself to the desk to write and wrote until I fell asleep at the keyboard, only to wake up at 4:30AM to get more writing in before work. But I devoted myself to this profession, and there’s nothing else I’d rather be doing with my life.
JS: For those readers out there not familiar with your work, what would be your elevator pitch about your writing?
MLR: I write science fiction & fantasy with nontraditional characters as the heroes: teddy bears, vegetables, androids, etc. My worlds are quirky and draw heavily on inspirations from video games and graphic novels.
JS: I was pretty excited to see that you have a novel with a very similar concept to one of my own, a teddy bear saving a child. Where did this originate and what draws you to these crazy fantasy concepts?
MLR: Great minds think alike! I came across an image on the Internet of a little teddy bear fighting a giant monster while his owner was sleeping. I immediately knew I wanted to tell this story. I started writing Festival of Shadows shortly after that.
JS: Do you have a favorite novel of your own? One you would point people to as their first read to get them hooked?
MLR: For readers new to my work, I would recommend Android Paradox (Book 1 in the Android X series). It’s my newest series at the moment. It’s fast-paced with tons of action. Plus, the audiobook narration by Erik Johnson rocks.
JS: What authors inspired you, and what authors are keeping you excited now?
MLR: Here’s a shortish list of my favorite authors: Ray Bradbury, John Collier, Elizabeth Bowen, Michael Crichton, Nora Roberts, Eudora Welty, Neil Gaiman, and Robert Louis Stevenson, to name a handful. As far as authors who I’m most excited about right now, I tend to lean toward indie fiction these days. Johnny B. Truant, Sean Platt, David Wright, and Kristine Kathryn Rusch are the first authors I usually turn to when I’m looking for something new. I also love nonfiction by Malcolm Gladwell, Michio Kaku and Michael Pollan—their books always expand the heck out of my mind.
JS: Since your podcast relates to the previous question, let’s delve into your podcast here. Please share with our readers the quick version of what your podcast is about.
MLR: I co-host the To Be Read Podcast with my friends Patrick Stemp and Jamie Maltman. We broadcast every week on YouTube. We talk about the books we’re currently reading and we also do weekly topics on things related to reading, with special guests from time to time. We did one show where we talked about sub-genres of science fiction. Another show we talked about the future of bookstores. The cool thing about being a voracious reader is that there is always something book-related to talk about, so we never run out of topics.
JS: How did the podcast get started? Is there an objective in there, or are you just doing it for fun?
MLR: Patrick, Jamie and I are indie authors, and we believe that reading regularly and voraciously is essential to being a successful author. Yet for many authors, reading falls by the wayside in the scramble to write more books. Doing the show not only helps us stay accountable to our reading habit, but it also helps us build a community of readers who might check out our books some day.
JS: For anyone considering starting a podcast, what advice do you have? Were there any major hurdles you all overcame early on that you can help us to avoid?
MLR: Don’t start a podcast unless you are crystal clear on your value proposition. Don’t do a podcast because everyone else is doing it—do it around a passion. Time is limited and listeners will dump you in a heartbeat if you’re not (1) entertaining, and (2) informative. If you can’t do that, either wait until you can find the right angle, or spend your time writing the next book.
We just celebrated our first year of the TBR Podcast, and honestly, the reason we lasted the first year (and are still going strong) is because we picked the right niche—big enough to capture a lot of people, but narrow enough to make the content relevant to our target audience. If we had started a writing or business podcast, I doubt we would have made it very far.
JS: You all have had some amazing guests on the podcast. Was there one or two that especially inspired you? Any main takeaways that you can share with us?
MLR: We have had some amazing guests. But two immediately spring to mind. First is Andy Weir, author of the bestselling book, The Martian. He was a ton of fun. And we have had Mark Leslie from Kobo on twice now. Whenever we have a guest, I always feel smarter when the show is over. That’s another benefit to podcasting.
JS: As for your writing, what is your process? Do you outline or are you a discovery writer?
MLR: I’ve done it both ways. The more I write, the more I subscribe to Dean Wesley Smith’s “Writing into the Dark” model. But every story is different, so I change my writing process to suit each one.
JS: What’s next for you? I know you are writing like a madman, so what do we have to look forward to?
MLR: I’ve just finished my Android X series, and I’ll be finishing up my Eaten series soon. After that, we’ll see what happens, though you can definitely expect crazy characters and underdogs!
JS: Thank you, Michael. Before signing off, can you leave us with one last piece of advice on either writing or the broader topic of pursuing your passions?
MLR: Learn to be fearless in everything you do and don’t be afraid to take risks, as I have done. Focus foremost on your products and packaging, and then on your education—books, courses, and seminars from successful creatives, not internet marketers. Everything else (including marketing) won’t help you until you have a good product and perform on a professional level in every area of the writing craft and business.
For other interviews like this, see my book Creative Writing Career: Becoming a Writer of Movies, Video Games, and Books. (now in Audiobook!)