Please welcome to The Z-Axis Michael La Ronn, an innovative indie author with a different approach to writing. I sincerely hope you’ll all read his interview, as Michael’s unique perspectives on writing and narration are fascinating and something that we can all learn from. Michael is a novelist, poet, and publisher who believes that writing is a journey that should take the reader and the writer both to unexpected places.
Michael, Your new novel, How To Be Bad, is a work of interactive fiction. Tell us what that means and what drove you to write fiction of this kind.
Here’s my definition of interactive fiction: it is a genre where, at certain intervals in the book, the reader is presented with decisions that affect the course of the story and its ending. The book’s world and characters adapt to each decision, creating an interactive experience.
I was inspired to write How to Be Bad after rereading a Choose Your Own Adventure novel. I was surprised that this type of book hadn’t been done for grown-ups. How to Be Bad started as a challenge to myself to see if I could make a serious work of interactive fiction for adults—one that could compete with a traditional novel. As I wrote it, I fell in love with the genre because it let me push the boundaries of storytelling in ways that I couldn’t in traditional novels.
Why do you think readers and writers are drawn to the idea of creating their own endings to a story?
Books are deceiving. You can only see the final draft, but what’s on the page is the result of hours of writing and rewriting, most of it invisible to readers. But sometimes, what gets ‘cut’ during the writing process isn’t always bad; sometimes it’s just as interesting as what is in the final draft. I suspect that this is why readers are endlessly fascinated with how writers create their books. Letting readers experience different paths and endings fuels their curiosity.
For writers, the ability to create different paths and endings liberates them because they don’t have to cut everything—just the bad stuff. They can develop a story in different and conflicting ways, and that’s okay.
You’re a poet as well as an author of prose. How do these two different aspects of writing play into each other in your work?
Poetry taught me how to focus on details, and how to make them vivid and memorable. So much time in a fiction writer’s career is spent working on the big picture—plot, character, scene, etc—but so little of it is spent on the words themselves. Poets, on the other hand, can spend days on a single word and weeks on an entire sentence, but sometimes they’re so focused on the details that readers don’t understand the poems. So in my own work, I use my poetic skills to vivify my prose, and I use my prose skills to ground my poems and make them relevant to the reader.
On your website, you talk about experiencing a life-threatening illness and the revelation that inspired in you to pursue your passion of writing. I don’t want to get too personal, but can you tell us more about this experience?
I don’t mind sharing at all! In 2012, I ate some bad strawberries and ended up in the hospital with colitis. While I was in the hospital, I picked up a dangerous bacteria called C. Diff. It wasn’t scary at that time because I was so saturated with painkillers that I was seeing hallucinations. But looking back on it all, I could have died because the infection went unnoticed for longer than it should have.
The health scare jolted me into action, mostly out of fear of failure. Until then, I had been an aspiring writer with a full-time job and little time to write. I hadn’t created anything that I felt good about. But the experience taught me first-hand that nothing is guaranteed, so I decided to stop waiting for the time to write, to stop waiting for a publisher to accept me, and to stop worrying about what people thought about my ideas. I became an indie.
What are you working on now, and why are you excited about it?
I’m working on the next Decision Select Novel, a fantasy called Festival of Shadows. It is about a teddy bear named Theo whose owner is abducted by the boogie man. Theo travels to a strange dimension where the citizens are abandoned toys, and nothing is what it seems. If he doesn’t save his owner by sunrise, they will both be trapped there forever. It excites me because it couldn’t be more different from How to Be Bad. I like to reinvent myself with every book that I write.
Last, but not least, what is the absolute WORST advice you would give to any aspiring author?
Wait for the muse to strike. NOT! The truth is that the muse is too busy inspiring other people. When she’s not around, which is most of the time, you’ve got to do the work.
I’ve mentioned in the past that I won’t be conducting too many more of these interviews for lack of time and ability. I’d promised Michael I’d do an interview, though, and I keep my promises – and good thing I did, as I had a blast with this one. I hope to do more sporadically when my schedule allows, as I really love doing these interviews! So, if you believe that you would be a good fit for an interview with The Z-Axis (which means you’re interested in connecting with readers rather than selling a product) please send me an email at amira.k.mak AT gmail.com with a bit of background information about yourself and your latest releases and I’d be happy to consider an author interview.