We had the good fortune of connecting with Mike Baron and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Mike, where are your from? We’d love to hear about how your background has played a role in who you are today?
I grew up in South Dakota. One day I emerged from a cigar shop (I was about ten) holding a John D. MacDonald paperback which cost thirty-five cents. As I stood in the sidewalk looking at it (The Deep Blue Goodbye,) I realized that Mr. MacDonald didn’t write these for a hobby. He did this for a living. I decided I wanted to be a writer. I read voraciously. I haunted out public library and read all the great science fiction masters. Heinlein. Asimov. Clifford Simak. Andre Norton. A.E. Van Vogt. I had to get permission from my folks to check out Lolita. My desire to write did not take hold until I was in high school, in Madison, Wisconsin, when I started writing for the school paper. In college, I visited a friend who ran the underground newspaper Takeover. There were hundreds of LPs leaning against the wall. “Mark!” I said. “What’s with all these records?” “Oh, the record companies send them to us. You can have them if you’ll write about them.” So I began writing about music. I was a loner, like a lot of writers. I lived mostly in my head. My imagination ran wild. After graduating from UW with a degree in poli sci, I moved to Boston. Friends told me they had alternative news weeklies who would give anybody a chance. I answered an ad in the Boston Phoenix for volunteers to live on a hospital ward for a month, smoke govt marijuana, and take tests all day. It was just like college. After the test was over, I wrote it up for the Boston Phoenix and that’s how I broke into journalism.
Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
I became Music Editor of the Boston Phoenix. It was my job to go out night after night, review performances and interview artists. It was the greatest job in the world. I had lunch with Freddie Mercury. I interviewed Les McCann, Jacki Byard, and Jaco Pastorius. I saw Mingus and Otis Rush. One day, seventy five albums arrived at my house from the record companies. I also wrote for Fusion and Creem. But in the back of my mind, I wanted to write fiction. I thought I could sit down, whip off a paperback, and make a few bucks. HA! It took me thirty years to learn how to write a novel, because I’m a slow learner. But when I get it, I get it. I have three rules. One: entertain. Two: show don’t tell. Three: be original. There are many more rules but I like to keep it simple. My stories, both novels and comics, grab readers by the throat and pull them in so that they can’t wait to learn what happens next. That’s the essential question in all story-telling. What happens next? In order for the reader to care, you must give them compelling characters, an intriguing plot, a seductive narrative voice, an exotic setting, and a thousand other things.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
If they ride a bike I would take them on the Big Thompson Trail through Loveland. If the venues ever open again, I would take them to Odells to hear music. We have seen so many great bands there. We might go up Rist Canyon and head north, have lunch at Mishawaka. I might take them on a hike in Rocky Mountain National Park, if we can get in. Last year, we rode motorcycles up the Fall River Road. It was white knuckle the whole way. Not much traffic. When we arrived at the Alpine Center, it was jammed to the gills and there were police out on the highway directing traffic which was back up three miles.
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
My parents weren’t too crazy about the comic books, but they encouraged me to read. In high school, I had Mrs. Dowling for English teacher. She said, “I’m going to teach you to write an essay if it kills us both,” I studied with Jerry McNeely, head writer for Marcus Welby, M.D. Professor McNeely said, “You make ’em laugh a little bit, cry a little bit, you scare the hell out of them, and that’s entertainment.” Later, when I moved back to Madison from Boston, University professor Blake Kellogg was instrumental, as were Judi K-Turkel and Franklynn Peterson were selfless in their mentoring. More recently, Kevin J. Anderson, also from Wisconsin, has been a great friend and cheerleader. He has published several of my books.
Florida Man cover by Todd Mulrooney. Banshees cover by Joe Comstock. Nexus cover by Steve Rude. Badger cover by Val Mayerik.