Monday, September 8, 2014

I'm proud to introduce Michael La Ronn, author of "Eaten" and other fantasy novels!

1. Hello, and welcome to my blog! To start off, what made you decide to take the plunge into the world of publishing?

Thanks for having me, K.J.! I like to say that I was pushed into the world of publishing. In 2012, I ate some contaminated food and was hospitalized. I had a very serious illness, and it could have been fatal.

Until that point, I had written a few things, but I was aimless and didn’t know what I wanted from life. Lying on the hospital bed made me realize that I didn’t want to die without having pursued my true passion in life, and that passion was writing. The entire hospital experience was a low-point, but it was also a moment of clarity. When I got out of the hospital, I was a completely different person, and I was determined to publish and succeed as a writer, regardless of anything or anyone that stood in my way.

2. Tell me about your book.

My new book, Eaten, is a sci-fi fantasy series about a group of vegetable terrorists attempting to take down an empire of processed foods. It was inspired by my hospital visit, when I had to learn to start eating healthy.
The world of Eaten isn’t that different from our own, except that all the characters are foods, and they’re locked in a political struggle. There are the vegetables, who are second-class citizens, and the processed foods, who are the ruling class, hell-bent on world domination. Each is fighting for their right to live in this strange world, and the stakes couldn’t be higher.

Eaten is quirky, funny, serious, and dramatic—sometimes all at once. It’s definitely the most fun I’ve ever had writing a novel. There were many times I would fall over laughing because the plot and characters were so utterly ridiculous. For example, one of the main characters is a milk shake scientist trying to reconcile science with reality. My main villain is an evil cloud of salt, and his right-hand man is a mercenary hot dog with a penchant for ruthlessness. A novel like this shouldn’t work, but I believe I’ve created a memorable cast of characters. I love taking unusual things and giving them human characteristics—it makes for good storytelling.

3. I see you write Decision Select novels (or as I remember them, Choose Your Own Adventure Novels!). That's very unique! What made you decide to pursue this idea?
I loved Choose Your Own Adventures as a kid. A few years ago, I decided to reread one. They were just as fun as I remember, but I found myself wanting a similar type experience for grown-ups, with grown-up characters and stories. I couldn’t find anything quite like this on the market, so I decided to create Decision Select Novels. Instead of formatting them for paperbacks, I formatted them instead for ereaders and tablets, which opened up all kinds of new possibilities for the genre.

4. Who/what inspired you to write?

The fear of death inspires me to write. My hospital visit taught me that nothing is promised. I want to leave behind a body of work and characters that people remember fondly. Most importantly, I want to make people feel when they read, just like my favorite authors did for me.

5. Do you find Decision Select novels easier or harder than other pieces of fiction?

They’re not easier or harder—just different.

The hardest (and most fun) part of writing Decision Select Novels is creating the decisions. In addition to writing an engaging novel, you also have to create an underlying logic behind the decisions. For example, in my novel, How to Be Bad, I replicated an actual game show. The entire experience is engineered to make the reader feel like they’re really participating. There are rival contestants, and their choices change depending on what the reader decides. You can win or lose. There are even prizes. This takes a lot of planning and work to pull off.

My readers love the decision elements, but story always comes first. There’s always a context. The novels are character-driven, so every decision has to reveal character and escalate tension. In some ways, Decision Select Novels are easier to plot because I don’t have to cut the ideas that don’t work. A regular novel can only begin and end in one way. A Decision Select Novel can develop in different and conflicting ways, which is liberating for me as a writer.

6. What do you do when you're not writing?

I have a full-time job, and my wife and I are expecting a daughter next month, so I’m a busy guy. But when I’m not at work and NOT writing, I’m usually doing something writing-related, such as listening to writing podcasts, reading, or studying the craft.

I gave up television, video games, and anything that would resemble a social life several years ago. I spend every day writing until I fall asleep at the keyboard. This is my dream and my true passion, so I focus all of my energy on things that will help me become a faster and more effective storyteller. Sacrificing all those other things was worth it.

7. Can we expect more quirky works from you?

Absolutely! I’m currently working on the next entry in the Eaten series, as well as plotting a new series that re-envisions characters from classic literature.

Off-beat questions

1. Did you have a favorite choose your own adventure series as a child?

I loved the Give Yourself Goosebumps series. Out of all the Choose Your Own Adventure-esque books I read, those were the most memorable (and scary).

2. You're latest work follows a broccoli terrorist fighting the empire of processed foods. If you were a vegetable, would you fight for his cause?

Absolutely. Brocc is a cool guy, and he’s not as bad as he seems! 

He writes novels, short stories, and poetry. His signature works are Decision Select Novels, which are a new twist on Choose Your Own Adventures, but for grown-ups and formatted specifically for ereaders.

He lives with his wife in Des Moines, Iowa. He reads an inordinate amount of books every year and also co-hosts the To Be Read Podcast, where he talks about the books he reads. He also blogs about his life as a part-time writer.

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