For the first quarter of 2020, my Wednesday interviews will be with authors who are part of When Valor Must Hold, the upcoming anthology of fantasy stories published by Chris Kennedy Publishing.
Today’s interview is with RJ Ladon. Her story in When Valor Must Hold is called “Ogre’s Brownies” and it too is a story that isn’t in one of my normal subgenres. Again, though, the story was so good I had to take it.
Interview RJ Ladon
Why are you here?
- What are your influences? Gary Gygax was a huge influence. He bought our horse ranch when I was nine and introduced my siblings and I to Dungeons & Dragons. I didn’t understand who he was, it was the idea of playing/acting out stories. Not just any stories, but my or my brother’s stories, that was the influence.
- Who are some favorite other creators? Terry Pratchett, Neil Giaman, Larry Niven, Isaac Asimov, Walter Farley, Octavia Butler, and so many more. My bus ride to and from school was 60-70 minutes, I read both ways, going through 2-3 novels in one week. I started on non-fiction in my senior year (no car).
- What made you a creator in the first place? See the first question in this series. Plus, my family tends to be on the creative side of things – art stained glass, sewing, painting, sculpture, carpentry, etc. My day job is on the creative side of things -computer aided design.
- Why did you choose to create what you create? Sometimes it is love – love of a character or location. Other times it is a challenge. My first acceptance into an anthology was for Sha’Daa Toys. I had never written horror before. Challenge Accepted! I would like to try my hand at romance, this is a bit scary for me. Another challenge to conquer!
Describe your great Lab of Creation?
- Where do you work? My middle son, graduated, joined the Navy, quit, and came back home. Joke’s on him – I turned his bedroom into a writing and design studio, and I’m not about to give it up! A friend gave me a rolltop desk and, as of this Black Friday, I have a brand-new gaming computer to write and draw. I’ve been putting in 2-3 hours of writing everyday – some days more, some less.
- Do you listen to music? Sometimes If I do, it will be Audio Machine or Two Steps from Hell. Both are known for their movie and videogame soundtracks.
What other things exist in your productive environment? Lots of reference books on mythology and science. ART created by others or myself. Sketchpads and drawing utensils including electronic drawing, sketching, photoshop and map making. Thank you, to Worth1000 and this mouse picture to inspire a scene in The Ogres Brownies – found in When Valor Must Hold.
- What things have you tried that haven’t worked? Writing in front of TV. Helping my daughter with homework and trying to write – no good. Trying to keep cats out of the room or off my desk, etc – they are noisy, just let them in and let them sleep in your lap.
What are your superpowers?
- What kinds of things do you like in your creations? I’m a nature nut. So, I add anything animal, vegetable, or mineral and hopefully it will be educational to boot. I also enjoy mythology, as my pen name can attest – RJ Ladon. Ladon is the name of the dragon/hydra Hercules had to defeat to obtain the apple from the tree of wisdom.
- What are specific techniques you do well? I don’t know – I suppose I have thick skin and take critique quite well. (probably not what you meant.) I’ve been told I weave backstory in smoothly without disruption of the narrative.
- What are some favorite successes you’ve achieved, especially things you had to struggle to overcome? My biggest struggle is against myself. Self-doubt is a bitch. My biggest success is due to the persistence of others. Friends told me they would drag me kicking and screaming to the writer’s conventions and get me published. And they did.
What will Lex Luthor use to defeat you?
- What are some of the challenges you have faced that frustrated you? When I first joined a writer’s group, there was no direction for improvement, only vague comments like “this is bad” or “doesn’t make sense”. Eventually I went to a different group and that one was better, more instructive. Some friends have encouraged me to start my own group – now the mentor. Some things have stayed the same – I still have a lot to learn.
- Do you have any creative failures which taught you something? My day job is computer aided design. I come up with designs, show them to engineers, and customers and within minutes I am told my design is wrong. While this sounds like a failure, the design is only wrong because “they” imagined it another way. Most of the time my design would work fine. Other times, I missed an important specification or component within a requirement, that is a failure. When a mistake is pointed out, it is not a failure it is a learning opportunity that will improve your design, (or book) next time.
- How do you overcome normal slow points like writer’s block? I draw. I create a map of the area I’m writing about. Or draw the character. If you can’t draw use models. Pinterest is quite helpful in that arena. I will “become” the character mentally and imagine how I would react, what would I do or say if I was that person/animal/rock/vegetable…
- Which mistake would you try to keep other creators from making? Don’t give up. The beginning is always the hardest. This piece of wisdom came from a fortune cookie – but it is so true. Also – It is only too late to start when you are on the other side of the grass.
- If you could go back and tell yourself anything about writing, what would it be? My mother was negative about anything I did. She told me I’d never get published. I would tell my 20-year-old self “Don’t listen to your mother – or anyone else who is negative!”
- Favorite Muppet? Sweetums.
- Favorite Musical Performer We’ve Never Heard Of? Pretty much anyone at the Bristol Renaissance Faire.
- Favorite Superhero? Today? Megan, Daughter of the Wolf
- Favorite 1970s TV show? Ya, know I revisited some 70’s shows and they were horrible. Plot line? What plot line? I suppose I’ll go with The Muppets – Alice Cooper 😊 or Steve Martin.
- Favorite Weird Color? All of them but not all at once.
- Favorite Sports Team? SCA Heavy Weapons – no specific kingdom though.
- Best Game Ever? Life!
- Winter, Spring, Summer, or Fall? All of them for different reasons.
- Best Present You’ve Ever Received? Someone believing in me – Looking at you Scott, You Jerk! (Kicking and Screaming)
- What Cartoon Character Are You? Courage the Cowardly Dog.
- Your Wrestler Name? Broadzilla – my husband gave me the name.
- Your Signature Wrestling Move? You see that? I can break it, without trying. If I can’t break it – I will probably hurt myself in the process. I am stronger and klutzier than anyone has a right to be. Couch, broke it. Window, nods affirmative, foot, yup that too, Torque the head off a bolt? Sigh, do I have to answer that one?
- What Do You Secretly Plot? Ways to make the world better.
- How Will You Conquer the World? One soul at a time.
- Best Thing From the 80s? It isn’t around anymore, oh wait, it is 60 years in the future… Hum, now you got me thinking.
- Favorite Historical Period? Most of them for different reasons – here’s hoping the future is even better.
- Most Interesting Person In History? Professor Peabody
- Steak Temperature? I’d rather have chicken.
- What Do You Eat For Your Last Meal? Don’t plan on dying, I’m taking over the world, remember?
- Beverage(s) of Choice? Hot Tea – Mint
- Do You Have Pets? 7 cats 1 dog and 20 or so chickens. Way too many pictures.
- What Actor or Actress Should Portray You in Your Biopic? Sweetums 😊
- What Question Should I Add to the Lightning Round? Can’t think of one. Perhaps one I ask you?
What question(s) would you like to ask me?
- When did you realize you could put more than two words together and be entertaining?
Rob’s Answer: Ummm, not sure. I didn’t write when I was younger, though I learned somewhere along the way how to tell stories. I have some idea I’m making progress because of increasing sales and improving opportunities. Nevertheless, I still don’t know if I’ve put words together until someone else looks at it. I’m still a work in progress, that’s for sure.
- Who was your mentor? Must be someone you met not just idolized from afar.
Rob’s Answer: The closest thing is probably Chris Kennedy. He’s certainly given me opportunities and taught me a bunch. Again, I started writing at 46 and did so in a hermit sort of way. I researched a bunch and went to LibertyCon to listen. I learned a ton, and owe so many people thanks for taking the time to toss stuff at me. However, it all started with me trying to dig myself out of a hole.
- Are you active in the SCA? In what capacity?
Rob’s Answer: Not as active as I used to be. I got to about an event a month, and I sell at a lot of them. Pennsic and Gulf Wars are two great events for me. I make money and get to hang out and sing. I’m a laurel for wordsmithing and Anglo-Saxon research, which I have to say might answer your first question. I guess I learned I could do something when I saw people crying happily at the scroll texts I wrote for them. Now I just socialize and sell, though fighting will happen again.
Tell me again where we can find your stuff?
- Bloodstone – Written in Stone, urban fantasy, new adult. First in a series. To be available soon. Published through Three Ravens. Waiting on cover art and edits.
- Sha’Daa Novella one of four in a book on War. My section is on the Revolutionary War. My hero is French Navel Captain Nicholas Guidelou, a privateer for America, who disappeared after an encounter with the English – Or did he???
- And Bloodstone – The Wolf Awakens will be released at the end of this year.
And where can we find you?
- FantaSci, Durham, North Carolina, March 19 thru 23 https://fantasci.rocks/
- Gary Con, Lake Geneva Wisconsin, March 26 thru 29 https://garycon.com/
- Liberty Con, Chattanooga Tennessee, June 11 thru 14 https://libertycon.org/
- Looking at but not sure…
Conquer Con, Appleton Wisconsin, September 19 https://conquerconexpo.com/
Do you have a creator biography?
RJ Ladon is a nightshift writer (by choice) and a dayshift design engineer (by necessity) to pay for the afore mentioned writing addiction. She is a self-proclaimed tree-hugger and animal-lover. If she is not in her garden, pasture, or woods you can find RJ watching movies or reading books. Documentaries, thrillers, comedies, science fiction, fantasy, and even romance can be found in her book and video library. She lives with her husband, children and a variety of farm animals on a farmette in Wisconsin.
Thanks to RJ for taking the time to answer my questions.
If you have any suggestions or comments about this interview format, let me know so I can keep tweaking it.
Also, thanks to you for reading. If you’re interested in any of the other interviews I’ve done, you can find them all here: https://robhowell.org/blog/?cat=326. If you are a creator, especially an independent creator, and you want to be spotlighted in a future interview, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Finally, if you want to join my mailing list, where I’ll announce every interview, as well as what’s going on in my life, go to www.robhowell.org and fill out the form (Name and Email Address) or drop me an email and I’ll add you.
Have a great day.
Author of the Shijuren-series of novels
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