Hello and welcome to my blog, Author Interviews. My name is Fiona Mcvie.
Let’s get you introduced to everyone, shall we? Tell us your name. What is your age?
I am Ron Baxley, Jr. I am 43 years old but still have what some friends call a “big kid streak” at times.
Fiona: Where are you from?
I am originally from a small Southern U.S. town called Barnwell in South Carolina in the United States but also lived for two years in Massachusetts and cities throughout South Carolina.
Fiona: A little about yourself (ie, your education, family life, etc.).
I have a B.A. in English from the University of South Carolina-Aiken. I went back and worked on my certification to teach middle school Language Arts at one point. I was an educator in various capacities for 15 years but am now a care-giver for my mom, part-time correspondent/reporter for the Orangeburg “Times and Democrat”, and part-time travel specialist for the Mad Hatter Adventures Travel Company, specializing in selling Disney vacations of all types. I started being a correspondent when I moved back with my mom in January 2015 to be her care-giver and have been a travel specialist for a little over a year while continuing to write and publish work. In the house with my mom, I have my emotional support and shelter-adopted Pembroke Welsh Corgi, Ziggy, who has appeared in my latest book and who I actually based a graphic novel on as well. Ziggy is basically my fur-child and fur-angel.
Fiona: Tell us your latest news.
Y.B.R. Publishing, based in Ridgeland, S.C. in the U.S. and shown on Facebook, is releasing my adult fantasy novel, O.Z. Diggs Himself Out, in April, and it will be premiering at the Authors Under the Live Oaks Event at the Lowcountry Visitors Center / Frampton Plantation off Exit 33 on I-95 in Yemassee, S.C., U.S.A. on Saturday, April 28. I have also signed a contract for an Oz parody adventure game, NE by NW OZ, to be released as a Hosted Game at the Choice of Games web-site (http://www.choiceofgames.com) with approximately 12 illustrations by USA Today graphic designer Ian Clyde. The game is projected to appear sometime toward the middle of this year. Finally, I have been invited as a special guest author at the Michigan Oz Festival in Ionia, Michigan June 8-9 but will be attending other local and regional events before then.
Fiona: When and why did you begin writing?
I started writing when I was very young, creating little stories to supplement my own cartoon drawings of action figures going on different adventures. I did this purely to explore my own imagination. I suppose I also always wrote to escape what was around me.
Fiona: When did you first consider yourself a writer?
I was quite precocious and considered myself a writer in high school. I was even submitting work to publishers then. My first publication was a skit in a glossy youth magazine. I was sent plenty of rejection slips but was honored because I received some hand-written notes on my work from editors. Some of them were complimentary. Shortly after that, in early university, I started getting poems and other small pieces published in journals. Eventually, I started getting articles and stories published as well. I worked on novels but did not submit any until late in university.
Fiona: What inspired you to write your first book?
I was always an Oz fan from when I was in fifth grade on forward. I had read a few of the L. Frank Baum Oz books (later, I read all of them). Toward the end of university, around 1997 or 1998, I even wrote a column and wrote an essay one time for “The Baum Bugle,” the journal of the International Wizard of Oz Club. During that time, I saw that the club was sponsoring a centennial contest for an Oz book. I truly wanted to finish a book for that contest but could not make the deadline. What inspired me to write The Talking City of Oz was my love of Oz and what spurred me on was the contest itself. When I did not meet the deadline, I submitted it to Oz author March Laumer, and he published it under his The Vanitas Press. I later self-published a Second Edition in 2010 with many additions and changes. It was that book that started getting me invited as a participating author at various Oz festivals and conventions.
Fiona: How did you come up with the title?
If you look at many of L. Frank Baum’s titles, he had “of Oz” in them, so I knew that had to be in there somewhere. Within the book, toward the beginning, there is a seemingly disembodied voice echoing from a suddenly-formed chasm that the classic Oz setting of the Emerald City mysteriously falls into while shrinking with all of its residents at the same time. The implication is that perhaps the buildings of the Emerald City themselves, which are shrunken and moved away, are talking, but why and how? That is the mystery contained within the book itself. Therefore, I knew the focus had to be on that talking city. Hence, the title became The Talking City of Oz.
If you mean how I came up with the title of my current book, I have a character who is basically trying to dig out his own identity, is having to dig his way out of the closet, is trying figuratively to dig his way out of a curse, and is having to do some literal digging in Nome tunnels. I also like puns and the descendant of the original Oz the Great and Terrible, the wonderful Wizard of Oz, O.Z. Diggs is actually the seventh in the line with that name. Therefore, I came up with the title, Oz Diggs Himself Out. It is my latest book and what I would like to focus on during additional questions if you do not mind.
Fiona: Do you have a specific writing style? Is there anything about your style or genre that you find particularly challenging?
I would say that my writing style is lyrical and full of imagery. I also tend to like humor and puns. What I find challenging about my style is not making it too flowery and trying not to make the usage of fantasy tropes verge on the cliché.
Fiona: How much of the book is realistic and are experiences based on someone you know, or events in your own life?
O.Z. Diggs Himself Out is realistic at times in that it is semi-auto-biographical but not entirely and has amalgamations of people I have met here and there. Many of the travels the character goes through from state to state in what is essentially a fantastic, satirical travelogue duplicate ones I have had as an Oz author. However, the main character is often who I have always wanted to be in certain situations, not necessarily who I am.
Fiona: To craft your works, do you have to travel? Before or during the process?
Travel often inspires my writing. Traveling to Disney World for escapism, for example, clears my head and gives me time to think on the journey. The sights and sounds there can partially be my Muse as well, though I see God as my number one Muse. Experiencing other states and meeting new people have helped me better write my books, including my latest book in which the main character does a lot of traveling.
In fact, traveling helps me before the writing process. I brain-storm and combine ideas in my head while on the road. I seldom travel during the drafting and revising part of the process. I do most of that at home.
Fiona: Who designed the covers?
Gwendolyn Tennille, an artist and illustrator from Florence, S.C. in the U.S., has designed my latest cover and many of my current covers with the exception of the graphic novel based on my Corgi, “Ziggy Zig-zags the Light and Dark Fantastic”, which was designed by Maine, U.S.A. artist and illustrator VincentMyrand. Oz author and illustrator Dennis Anfuso also designed a cover of one of my Oz books a few years ago as well. Other illustrators with whom I have worked are Jared “Flaco” Martinez, Sam Spina, and Nancy Carney. Gwendolyn Tennille, for the cover for O.Z. Diggs Himself Out, was commissioned by me to do a large hand-wood-burned, hand-colored piece of art to give the cover a folksy yet fantastic feel to it. This was photographed as you can see in a SnipItpreview of the cover and is being used for the front. I sketched a concept out for the cover, but Gwen also added little details to make the book seem more like a leather travel journal. She also designed a back cover which also made the book seem like a travel journal because she even put coffee rings and rings from glasses on it. Gwen has a style that couples folk art with traditional art with lots of whimsy and fantastical influences. I think it matches a lot of my pieces.
Fiona: Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?
A person is so much more than his identity and background. One can transcend both.
Fiona: Are there any new authors that have grasped your interest? Who is your favorite writer, and what is it about their work that really strikes you?
As a journalist, I sought out, was able to preview, and was able to do an article on South Carolina Country Roads: Of Train Depots, Filling Stations & Other Vanishing Charms by Tom Poland which will be coming out in April from The History Press of Arcadia Publishing. I was interested in his book because of growing up in rural S.C. and because he did some photographs and wrote some anecdotes based on towns in my newspaper’s coverage area. Plus, I had just been sending final edits on the galleys for my satirical, fantastic travelogue and a more realistic travelogue piqued my interest. Next, James Krych fills me in on what is going on with sequels in his “Flight to Oz” series. I read the first book in his series and enjoyed how he brought in the modern military into the Land of Oz and explored the contrasts between the residents there and outsiders. Next, I have been reading In the Dark, a thriller by author and illustrator Gwendolyn Tennille. This one fascinates me because Gwendolyn’s art is so whimsical and fantastic as is some of her writing, but this book is a bit of a departure for her and is very dark. I like it the way I have liked the works of Stephen King and Thomas Harris because of the suspense and tight, descriptive prose. I have not started Sherrill Burns’ Duties of the Heart but the premise of her fantasy book interested me when I saw it at a past Authors Under the Live Oaks event I attended at the Lowcountry Visitors Center/Frampton Plantation in Yemassee, S.C. Recently, I picked up independent comics such as “Beta Males” from Timothy Taylor which explores parallels between dogs and humans and a fantasy comic from Andrew Lytle among others at Savannah Comic Con in Savannah, Georgia in the U.S. I saw “A Dog’s Purpose” on D.V.D. and actually picked up the book it was based upon recently but have not started it. I will be seeking out Gabriel Gale’s “Ages of Oz” books soon too. There are so many on my list!
Choosing a favorite writer is difficult. There are so many whose works I have read and loved through the years. I have loved most because of their strong characterization and the wow factor that results from great imagery in a lyrical style, which is what I strive for in my own writing. I would have to state Ray Bradbury is my favorite author because his imagery brings me straight into the fantasy worlds or futuristic worlds he has created and makes me say, “Wow” many times. His lyrical style is pure poetry, yet he also has strong characterization throughout his novels and incredible themes. (By the way, I did not choose Bradbury because of gender or ethnicity either. Gloria Naylor’s Mama Day and Maya Angelou’s I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings were both extremely lyrical and quite magical in their own way and are placed up there close to the top too. The lyricism and the strong characterization are what matter to me, not the identity of the author.)
Fiona: Outside of family members, name one entity that supported your commitment to become a published author.
So many teachers, friends, and others have been supportive, so I hesitate to pick just one. However, if I had to choose one non-family member who throughout the years, even with following up, had supported by commitment to become a published author it would have to be Dr. William Claxon, English and creative writing professor at the University of South Carolina-Aiken. He pushed me to revise my work in university and challenged me to add more to it. He later reviewed one of my satirical science fiction books and, being the scholar that he was, saw exactly what I was satirizing in history and the present day with it. Having been taught by him, I also learned to focus even more on writing what I know from my background in the South and to always start with the basic question, “What if?”, when brainstorming.
Fiona: Do you see writing as a career?
Yes, absolutely. I have taught, which I enjoyed immensely for the most part, and have done other things in my life, but I have always focused on writing as a career as well.
Fiona: If you had to do it all over again, would you change anything in your latest book?
No. I have revised O.Z. Diggs Himself Out hundreds of times during the past three years and even revised it at least four times from digital galleys. If there were something I wanted changed drastically within it, I would have found it during this process.
Fiona: Did you learn anything during the writing of your recent book?
I learned that even though one has done seemingly countless revisions that when it comes to seeing the digital galleys of a book, seeing it as it will appear in print itself, that one can still find more mistakes than one thinks one has made.
Fiona: If your book was made into a film, who would you like to play the lead?
-Josh Gad as the eccentric O.Z. Diggs VII because of the way he played LeFou in the live action version of “Beauty and the Beast” and his general build and slightly impish yet eventually quite kind personality, or if it takes years before the film is made, young actor GatenMatarazzo of “Stranger Things” and “Stranger Things 2” if he retains a slightly husky build and because he mixes sarcasm with humor and enthusiasm quite well in his acting. Both have curly locks of hair that they can grow out even more for the character. I also would not see either of them having a problem having their hair dyed in all the colors of the rainbow.
Fiona: Any advice for other writers?
Write daily, edit often, ignore the nay-sayers, and be sure to experience life.
Fiona: Anything specific you want to tell your readers?
As I may have stated before, anyone can transcend their identity and background. I feel that I have become so much than my Southern small town up-bringing and labels with which I am identified by and with which I identify myself. Also, my main character O.Z. Diggs VII in O.Z. Diggs Himself Outbecomes so much more than his Southern identity and background. He shows that anyone can transcend both.
Fiona: What book are you reading now?
Gwendolyn Tennille’s In the Dark
Fiona: Do you remember the first book you read?
The Little Golden Book entitled “The Monster at the End of this Book”.Talk about a book that broke the frame before so-called experimental literary books did! I loved the humor and suspense of it when I was around four or five.
Fiona: What makes you laugh/cry?
Snobby people getting their come-uppance in a relatively non-harmful way always makes me laugh whether in fiction, film, or life. A snob getting chewed out makes me giggle. Someone who is very uptight about faux pas doing said faux pas inspires a chortle. What makes me cry is when someone, through no fault of their own, has several tragic circumstances hit them in a row. I cry when others go through trials and tribulations and do my best to console them and pray for them. I also will verge on tears when this happens with a fictional character. Another thing that makes me cry is seeing a photo or article related to animal cruelty or an article related to child abuse in any form.
Fiona: Is there one person, past or present, you would love to meet? Why?
Jesus Christ… in my belief system, I have already met Him through his words and through the Holy Spirit. However, I anticipate seeing Him in the spirit in person in the afterlife. He gave up His position in Heaven to come down to us and to save us by His sacrifice on the Cross. He never gave up being God. He was fully God and yet fully human.That is like one of us agreeing to become an ant and entering an anthill yet still being able to access our “human powers” at the same time. Imagine the scenario of a human becoming an ant and living in an anthill. Not only that but say that all the other ants had been accused of eating too much of the food supply (the biggest sin in an anthill), but the “human-ant”, the human who has been shrunken down and put in the ant hill and disguised as an ant, was accused of it, though he did not, and made to die. Imagine if the “human-ant” could have changed back to his original form and use his “human powers” but chose not to. Christ, God in human form, basically did the same thing. He, taking a much lesser form, allowed himself to be killed as a sacrifice for our bad, past actions. I find that fascinating, inspiring, and the ultimate form of compassion. Who would not want to meet a more loving friend, teacher, and mentor than that?
Fiona: Do you have any hobbies?
I love taking my Corgi for long walks at parks and on nature trails, at shops, and at malls. I like traveling to Walt Disney World. As you can tell, I like travel in general. I have already mentioned my love of reading, but I also like to do a little sketching and cartooning from time to time. I enjoy doing reviews of books and films as well.
Fiona: What TV shows/films do you enjoy watching?
I really got into “Stranger Things” and “Stranger Things 2” on Netflix the past couple of years. I enjoy watching most any film from Disney but also like the films of Wes Anderson. Britcoms and the older Mystery Science Theater 3000 appeal to me as well. “Star Trek: The Next Generation” has also been a favorite of mine.
Fiona: Favorite foods, colors, music?
My favorite food is spaghetti with meat sauce, my favoritecolor is blue… I mean green (aaaah)… seriously, it’s green, and my tastes in music are really quite eclectic.
Fiona: Imagine a future where you no longer write. What would you do?
I would have to sketch out my ideas. I would do cartoons of my ideas like I did when I was younger but, of course, with only visuals and no cartoon bubbles, etc.
Fiona: What do you want written on your head stone?
Do everything for your fellow man. Believe in Christ while you can.
Fiona: Do you have a blog or website readers can visit for updates, events and special offers?
You can find me on the YBR Publishing Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/YBRPublishing/and soon on their website at http://www.ybrpub.com. A fan of my work runs a Facebook group for me too at https://www.facebook.com/groups/196187527438597/. My web-site is at the following address: http://rbaxley37.wixsite.com/ronbaxleyjrofoz . My regular Facebook page, which is a mix of all the things I do, is at https://www.facebook.com/ronbaxleyjrofoz .