Name Ken La Salle
Where are you from
I’m a Southern Californian native and have lived here all of my life. Presently, I share a lovely home with my beautiful wife, Vicky, and my little dog, Shipoopi. While I’ve travelled a bit, both inside and outside of the United States my heart always returns me back to my home… back to the comfort of the urbanized, Republicanized squalor that is Orange County.
Fiona: What books have most influenced your life most? a mentor?
I think I first got the idea that I could be a writer when I saw books by Kurt Vonnegut in my high school library. They were so thin! I looked at them and thought, “Is that all?” Little did I realize there was much more to it.
And then, I read Zen & The Art of Motorcycle Maintenance by Robert Pirsig. Zen showed me that books can be much more than anything I had considered before. When I first read Zen, I was in my late 20’s and had started the process of learning how to write by writing several books of my own (that no one will ever see).
More than twenty years later, my work is still influenced by the brilliance of these men.
Fiona: What book are you reading now?
Sadly, I find I don’t have nearly as much time for reading as I’d like. I used to have two or three books going at a time. Now, I write two or three books at a time, which leaves no time for reading. But I’m a firm believer in following your impulses and mine point me constantly towards creation. As I say to my friends, I get to read my books before anyone else.
Fiona: Do you remember the first book you read?
I don’t remember the first book I read but I do remember the first book I bought. This was way back in 1982 or so. I had just finished reading a borrowed copy of The Sword of Shannara and was passionate about fantasy novels. My mom and I were in our local K-Mart and I saw a copy of Elizabeth Boyer’s The Elves and The Otterskin propped up in a rack in the impulse aisle. My mom questioned my sudden desire to purchase a book, at 16 years of age it was my first, but she bought it anyway.
(And, yes, it was pretty great.)
Fiona: Name one entity that you feel supported you outside of family members.
I don’t know if my wife, Vicky, counts as being “outside of family members.” And, yet, all the same, I owe it all to her. Before Vicky and I met, I had only just survived a terrible divorce that had stripped me of my desire to create. I still acted in other people’s shows – I was acting back then – but I certainly couldn’t write.
But after a year with Vicky, before we were wed and she could be counted as a family member, my creative impulses were aflame like never before in my life. And I haven’t slowed since. Vicky is my love and my muse and I doubt I’d be here if not for her.
Fiona: What makes you laugh/cry?
As I have followed my artistic impulses, I find that I have also become a more emotional person. (And this is coming from an American male raised when such people did not have emotions.) So, I laugh a lot and I cry a little and that’s okay. Becoming an artist has enriched my life in ways I couldn’t imagine.
Fiona: Other than writing do you have any hobbies ?
Absolutely! I’m a big fan of the idea that we should try to tackle all sorts of things if our impulses lead us there, whether we’re good at them or not. In fact, we should absolutely do things we’re terrible at. For instance, I’m not at all good at backpacking but I just spent some time on the Pacific Crest Trail and have more backpacking trips lined up for the future.
Fiona: What TV shows/films do you enjoy watching?
Um… everything? (Wait. I already used that.)
Actually, I’m a huge film buff and love too many TV shows.
In film, I love a good silent from Harold Lloyd, a good Serio Leoni western, 20th century Bond, and anything by Marvel Films, pretty much. On TV, I watch far too much Bob’s Burgers, Schitts Creek, Vinyl, and hours and hours of Cutthroat Kitchen!
Fiona: Favorite foods / Colors/ Music
Food: Pizza, ice cream… hold on. Pizza Ice Cream??? Hmmmmmm….
Color: If you asked my wife, she’d tell you I wear far too much blue.
Music: As I’ve grown older, I’ve found myself loving more and more music. There’s just too much good stuff out there. We’re living in a great time for music.
Fiona: If you were not a writer what else would you like to have done?
Around 2004, I had to choose between acting and writing, both of which I loved. But I found I could connect more truthfully with my words, rather than someone else’s (despite how good they might have been), and so I chose to write.
Fiona: Tell us your latest news?
I’m always hard at work on a new project, sometimes several. In the past couple of years, it seems I’ve released about a dozen titles.
This year is a little different because I’ve gone back into “writing mode” after working as my own publisher/publicist/audiobook narrator/producer/and so on. For instance, I’ve completed a pair of sequels to my novel, Heaven Enough.
I’ll also be releasing a few titles this year. Summer of 2016 will see the release of an autobiographical monologue, available in audio only, called The World’s Worst Backpacker along with a cozy mystery titled Once Removed, available in ebook and paperback. In Autumn of 2016, I’ll be releasing my memoir on growing up in the 1970’s, titled False Starts, along with a non-fiction book on ethics, Dynamic Pluralism: A Revolution in Ethics. Both of these titles will be available in audio, ebook, and paperback.
Fiona: When and why did you begin writing?
I became a writer on a dare.
True story. I knew a guy in high school named Roy Johnson who wrote some amazing short stories. One in particular was called Snails. It was a love story… about snails. One day, I made the mistake of saying, “I could do that.” Then, I had to show proof.
Fiona: When did you first consider yourself a writer?
I didn’t consider myself an actual writer until a few years ago, when I started writing full time. I had spent nearly a decade employed as a marketing and technical writer. When the “Great Recession” stole my job prospects, Vicky and I decided it was time to give writing full-time a go. It was an amazing opportunity!
Fiona: What inspired you to write your first book?
My first crack at writing a book came out of that instance in high school, which I mentioned above. I didn’t come back with a short story, which would have been the smart thing to do. Instead, I began writing my first novel, which I only finished halfway before a girl I was seeing lost my only copy. That was a lesson I learned the hard way.
Fiona: Do you have a specific writing style?
My writing is loaded with dry humor and a passion for answering questions. That’s what draws me to my topics: the need to find answers. This also lends itself to my multi-genre/multi-media approach. My writing style is a reflection of myself popped into every kind of media.
Fiona: How do you come up with your titles?
I’ve been told I have good titles, which is a relief. Since I write so much, I always want titles that stick out.
For The World’s Worst Backpacker, for instance, I didn’t really have a title until I began recording – as this title is only coming out as an audio release. When I began writing material about a year ago, I thought I would write about what a great backpacker I would be… until I discovered I’m not that great at all. In fact, I’m the worst.
Bingo! Title found!
Fiona: Is there a message in your novels that you want readers to grasp?
If you look at some of my older work, you’ll have no problem finding a message. When I was younger, I wrote a great deal about world events and situations that made me angry. In Daughter of a One-Armed Man, for instance, I talk extensively about what we’re doing to our planet. I consider it an environmentalist love story.
Age has added more grey tones to my viewpoint and I think my messaging has become a little less specific. In Heaven Enough and its forthcoming sequels, for instance, the message is about the importance of love in your life. I’ve come to believe that, even when tackling issues such as the future of the planet, we must start at a more essential place.
Fiona: How much of your books are based on experiences of someone you know, or events in your own life?
I draw heavily upon my life in most of my writing. This is how I release such titles as The World’s Worst Backpacker and False Starts.
But even my novels begin at a personal place. Heaven Enough, for instance, is about a man whose wife dies. My only experience in losing my wife was in a divorce but my best friend did lose his wife to cancer, and we would often talk about which was worse. (There’s a question we’ll never answer.) I used these discussions as a kind of jumping off point to write about someone who experienced something I have no knowledge of.
Sometimes, the experiences of my life lead me to a novel. In the case of Once Removed, I happened across the idea when lying in bed with my wife one night. We got on the subject of what she would do if I died – you know, that kind of conversation – and I suggested I’d leave her little notes. From this, I began wondering what a wife would do if those notes provided clues to some greater mystery and the story became Once Removed.
Fiona: Do you see writing as a career?
Calling it a career doesn’t do it justice, I think.
As I mentioned, I previously had a career in marketing and technical writing. But I never worked as hard or as often, sank as much of myself into my work, or made it as much of my life as I do writing. I think writing is a calling. I think it has to be, especially in the present market.
Fiona: If you had to do it all over again, would you change anything in your latest book?
I’m not the kind of writer who is going to worry over a single title for too long. Having read Isaac Asimov’s memoir, I. Asimov, I know I’m not alone in this – so that’s a relief. I see other writers scratching away at their work for years on end and I think I must be ADD.
Once I finish a book, which means several drafts and several edits all taking no more than about six months or so, I’m finished. I think of books as a reflection of myself as an artist. Flawed? Perhaps. Less than perfect? Okay. But also an abstract image of my brain, my heart, my self, and everything in between.
Fiona: Can you share a little of your current work with us?
I’d be glad to. From The World’s Worst Backpacker…
If you were to ask me for one trait common to all good backpackers, I could give you a long, detailed argument for the ability to land on one’s feet. Landing on your feet is, in fact, such a common sense ability to have I wouldn’t need to make that argument. We’d all agree.
And I’ve known a few people in my life who are amazing at landing on their feet. My wife, Vicky, for instance is a marvel at landing on her feet because she makes certain that the universe lines up for her just right so her feet are facing the ground and so that gravity is working precisely as it is meant to.
I have no doubt that Vicky would always land on her feet. She – she would make a terrific backpacker.
I don’t land on my feet. I land on my face.
Which may be why I think of myself as the World’s Worst Backpacker.
Fiona: Is there anything you find particularly challenging in your writing?
Stream of consciousness.
As I mentioned, my writing is typically filled with dry humor and I also tend to let the words flow from my stream of consciousness. For some, that’s not a bad thing and they’ll probably enjoy my work. But for those who can’t handle the occasional aside and parenthetical… well…
Fiona: Do you have to travel much concerning your book(s)?
And I say this because I have travelled a bit to research locations, etc. And it’s always a blast because I get to see where this big scene happens or that disaster. I think that’s loads of fun.
Fiona: Who designed the covers?
I design most of my own covers and, when I work with publishers, they take over cover duties. In the case of my Fun To Grow On series of children’s books for adults, my covers were designed by a young artist named Ashley Stark.
Fiona: What was the hardest part of writing your books?
Without a doubt: marketing.
Book marketing is a zoo and none of the animals are friendly. I would like to believe that old saying “Your best marketing is your next book” (or something like that). If it ever pays off, I’ll believe it!
Fiona: Did you learn anything from writing your book and what was it?
In the case of Dynamic Pluralism: A Revolution In Ethics, learning a lot was essential. I spent over a decade researching ethics because I wanted to create a system that anyone could understand and make a part of their lives, explained in very simple terms the differences between “ethics” and “morals” and “justice”, and used ethics as a basis for attacking real problems such as global climate change.
What I learned in the process of developing this system was just how incomplete every ethical system has been. In most cases, they remove the most essential element: people. And if you find that hard to believe, just wait until you read the book!
Fiona: If any of your books was made into a film who would you like to play the lead
I actually went to Vicky for this question and asked her who could play me. Her answer was Jason Bateman. “Not that he looks like you but he could play that same… quirky…”
As for characters in my novels, I would love to see Anthony Mackie (from so many of the Marvel films) play Matt Murphy, my protagonist from the Heaven Enough books. He has a great sense of humor and a depth that would work very well. My lead from Once Removed, Isabelle Montez, would be played to perfection by Rashida Jones. Right now, she stars in the comedy series Angie Tribeca but she has an amazing range that would serve the part well.
Fiona: Do you have any advice for other writers?
Decide what kind of writer you want to be as early as possible. If you want to be the kind of writer who has several best sellers right away, it’s good to know that for when the real world kicks your ass, as it will most likely do, so you can move on to the next opportunity while you’re young.
Understand the kind of life you’ll be living and know what kind of life you want. Some writers work great part time and thrive in that environment. Other writers, like me, burn so intensely they need to create all the time. Will any of this lead to riches? Probably not. If writing is your calling, however, none of that will really matter.
Bottom line: Know what you’re getting into. Don’t expect too much. And don’t go too easy on yourself. The tide will crush you against the rocks, but that’s only a problem if you don’t like being crushed against the rocks.
Fiona: Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers?
I want to thank the both of you from the bottom of my heart.
I decided a long time ago that I would not, could not be the kind of writer who wrote just one kind of book: mystery, romance, horror, etc. To be the kind of writer I want to be, I need to explore every avenue my artistic impulses take me. That’s why I self-publish a lot of my work, for the freedom it allows. This also leaves me open to producing my own audiobooks and exploring the audiobook format to be whatever I would like it to be.
If you decide to try something a bit different and pick up one of my books, audiobooks, monologues, and so forth, you have my thanks. Please send me a note via my website or Facebook and let me know what you thought. I appreciate reviews more than you can know because those really are the lifeblood of book sales!
Fiona: What do you want written on your head stone and why ?
I don’t plan on having a head stone. In a way, I consider my book covers to be my head stones and on them I would love to see written one day: New York Times Best Seller.
Cause I’m old fashioned like that.
Fiona: Do you have a blog/website? If so what is it?
You can find me online at www.kenlasalle.com
Track me down on Twitter at http://twitter.com/KenLaSalle
Find my Facebook feed at www.facebook.com/kenlasalleAuthor
Or view my YouTube offerings at http://www.youtube.com/user/theKenLaSalle
Amazon Authors page USA http://www.amazon.com/Ken-La-Salle/e/B004U6OFQ0/ref=dp_byline_cont_pop_book_1