Michigan writer, Ron Estrada, is a self-proclaimed Navy Brat. Born in Pontiac on December 31,1966, Ron thinks it’s quite cool to have a birthday so close to the holidays. As he put it, “Everyone is still recovering from Christmas and/or prepping for New Years, so you’re never bothered with birthday greetings or cards or gifts or anything like that.” Ron moved back to Michigan after his own 4-year stint in the Navy because he. . .”got tired of sunshine and warm beaches.” Now, if you’re not laughing already, you will be by the time we finish shining the Writer Spotlight in his direction. Welcome to The Mitten Ron!
Mitten: When did you start writing for children or otherwise, and how did you know it was something you wanted to do?
Ron: Since all of my adult novels, according to certain editors and agents, looked as if they’d been written at a 4th grade level, I figured “why not?” At first I tried simply changing my serial killer from a 40 year-old man to a 4th grade girl. Didn’t work out. So a few years ago I started reading some guy named John Green. He’s not bad. What I liked was that teens and pre-teens don’t have rules like adults. If your character has no job and eats Pop-tarts all day long, he can get away with anything. So I started with YA, because of Katniss, you know. I wrote the first book of my Cherry Hill series. Agents loved it but couldn’t figure out how I’d pull off the plot (I tried telling them that was what writers do…no sale). So I self published four books in that series. The second is my favorite. It’s called Angel ‘n Me and it’s a total rip-off of All Of Me with Steve Martin and Lily Tomlin, but different. My 7 readers loved it.
Mitten: How did you find out about SCBWI and how long have you been a member?
Ron: I think Denise Jaden told me about it. I was beta-reading for her (the token male reader) and told her I wanted to write like John Green, but not quite as good because I didn’t want Hollywood messing up my books. She suggested SCBWI and assured me that I’d never have to fight off Steven Spielberg. So, after two years of considering the $90 hit to my budget, I joined last year.
Mitten: What genres are you most interested in and why? Picture books, middle grade, YA, chapter books, poetry, nonfiction?
Ron: Amish Zombie Romance. But I do seem to find my place with middle grade. I want to write like Gary Schmidt (when I’m not writing like Green). Gary has no movie deals as far as I know, so it might be a better fit for me. Since I’m heavy into cloning successful writers, I wrote my first middle-grade a couple years ago and set it in 1968, like Gary’s Wednesday Wars. I was only 1 1/2 years old in 1968, but I’m sure I remember watching Lost In Space and wondering “why are those girls wearing skirts in deep space?” I’m also seriously considering chapter books. They make me laugh. Laughing is good. Better than having cold legs in deep space.
Mitten: Tell us about your publishing journey. Are you pre-published or published, and if so where?
Ron: I’m trans-published, which here means I’ve self-published and am re-thinking that whole plan. I have acquired an agent who played football for U of M and is from Ohio (I think he’s no longer invited to Thanksgiving dinner). He’s repping me for my Navy Brat middle grade quasi-historicals. The first is called Scorpion Summer, set in 1968 Norfolk, Virginia. I’m working on the second book, set in 1972 Pearl City, Hawaii. The books follow my own Navy brat path through time and space (not deep space…way too cold, definitely wear capris).
Mitten: Many of us have a job other than writing for children. Tell us something about what you do outside of writing.
Ron: I’m a professional napper, which pays crap. So I have to be an engineer, too. I suffer from career ADD, so this may change by the time you post this, but I’m currently a sales engineer for a quality software company. Really, it rocks. I’m responsible for nothing and get to do things like write my author profile requests for small, local SCBWI blogs that will be read by our three members in the U.P. who are snowed in by now and have nothing else to do.
Mitten: How does this occupation inform your writing?
Ron: I like science and math (I know, it drives the ladies wild). So I can sprinkle my books with some fun knowledge. You have to trick kids into learning math. Once they’re onto you, you’re dead meat and they’ll just go watch some horrible John Green movie instead.
Mitten: Where do you get most of your writing ideas? Do you write them down, keep them in a computer file or just store them in your memory?
Ron: I steal them. There’s a lot of movies out there, so why create something new? I think I could re-write All Of Me a few dozen times before anyone caught on. Okay, I do have one or two original ideas. The loss of the USS Scorpion in 1968 has never been turned into a children’s book as far as I know. Nor has anyone ever written about a red-headed Navy brat living in 1972 Hawaii where she builds a traditional surfboard from scratch. I would have stolen another book idea and had her climb rocks, but I kept getting dizzy and nauseous in the first scene, so surfboards it is. I could have her get her arm bitten off by a shark and…
Oh, and I use about 37 different free apps to store my novel ideas. I think I’ve deleted them all. Evernote’s good, too, if I can remember what I named the folder.
Mitten: We all have favorite writers that inspire us. Name two of yours and why you like them.
Ron: Ray Bradbury, because I can’t understand a thing he writes but he still made a fortune. And Stephen King, because he could have his YA characters (before it was called YA) go to battle with scary clowns and vampires and stuff without his readers’ mothers finding out about it (I still have shower curtain issues).
Mitten: What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever received as a writer for children? Why?
Ron: Don’t give up that killer sales engineer job.
Also, don’t write down to the kids. I have to remember that the kid who couldn’t find his mouth with a spoon five years ago can probably recite the Magna Carta now (I don’t even know what that is…I think I just made it up). Their brains are growing at an alarming rate. My own kids hacked my 401k and bought PS3s by the time they were 12 (now they’re 21 and 22 and losing IQ points quickly). I also have to remind myself that I, not of above-average intelligence, drifted into the adult novels by the time I was 10 (Flowers in the Attic…really Mom, what were you thinking?).
So that’s me. After plugging away at this thing for nearly 20 years now, I’ve found a home in kidlit. I’m having fun. Oh, by the way, book 2 of my Navy Brat series, Breathe Me Home, is being roughed during NaNoWriMo and posted daily to Wattpad. This is life on edge, kids. Come join me! I have a Nespresso machine (and Baileys).
See, I told you he was funny! Thanks so much for stopping by today Ron. You can learn more about Ron by connecting with him at the following:
And remember, the next Writer Spotlight may be shining on you!