Editor’s Note: “The Reel Black List” is our annual spotlight of brothers and sisters in the worlds of advertising, film, TV, music, radio and media who are making a difference through their contributions and creativity daily. For the next 29 days, you will be able to celebrate wonderful human beings, like author, Ronald L Smith.
Ronald is a celebrated children’s book author who has crafted a diverse collection of captivating stories that resonate with young readers. Born into a military family in Maine, Smith experienced a nomadic childhood, living in various states and even abroad in Japan. His early fascination with fantasy and science fiction novels laid the foundation for his future career as a writer. Despite initially working in advertising, Smith eventually turned to writing children’s fiction, where his talent truly flourished.
In 2015, Smith made his literary debut with Hoodoo, a tale set in 1930s Alabama that immediately garnered attention and acclaim. Published by Clarion Books, Hoodoo not only showcased Smith’s storytelling prowess but also earned him the esteemed American Library Association’s Coretta Scott King/John Steptoe Award for New Talent, solidifying his place in the world of children’s literature.
Following the success of Hoodoo, Smith continued to enchant readers with his imaginative narratives. His second book, The Mesmerist, transported readers to turn-of-the-century London, weaving together elements of mystery and intrigue. Smith’s versatility as a writer shone through as he explored new settings and themes, captivating audiences with each page.
In January 2018, Smith ventured into the realm of Marvel Comics with Black Panther: The Young Prince. Released ahead of Marvel’s highly anticipated Black Panther film, the novel delved into the middle-school adventures of the iconic superhero, earning praise from critics and readers alike. With nods to T’Challa’s future exploits as the ruling Black Panther, the book resonated with audiences and further solidified Smith’s reputation as a master storyteller.
Subsequent works like The Owls Have Come to Take Us Away and Gloom Town continued to showcase Smith’s ability to craft compelling narratives that transport readers to captivating worlds filled with wonder and mystery. Through his imaginative storytelling and relatable characters, Ronald continues to inspire and captivate young readers, leaving an indelible mark on children’s literature.
Let’s meet Ronald!
What’s your origin story?
Superhero whose power is procrastination.
How did you get into writing novels?
I have written stories since childhood. Kept at it while working as a writer for ad agencies. Finally wrote one that was worth publishing by a Big Six New York Publisher.
What did your parents think you would be?
A disappointment. No. A writer. They always supported me.
Who were your mentors?
English teachers, older brothers, parents, and great creatives in the publishing and ad industries.
The bravest thing you’ve done?
Going to Portfolio Center in my late 30s to get a better job in advertising.
I also once jumped out of our family station wagon after coming back from an action movie. Actually, that was the dumbest thing I’ve ever done.
How do you handle failure?
I don’t fail.
Who is a talent, actor, director or writer you are dying to work for?
I write books for the Young Adult (YA) market. I’m waiting for a call from Jordan Peele.
Zack Snyder’s Rebel Moon is over-indexing on Black and Hispanic audiences. Why?
I have no idea because I haven’t seen it. But if I were to guess, I’d say it has to be the dope-ass vibes.
Lunch, Happy Hour or Dinner?
Lunch: James Baldwin at Café Flore in Paris.
Happy Hour: Josephine Baker.
Dinner: There’s only one answer. My president. Barack Obama.
You would give up your career to go on tour and perform with what singer/band?
Colman Domingo is a national treasure. Yes or no?
Are you kidding?! Yes! He got us through the Zombie Apocalypse!
Nosebleed seats for Beyonce or front-row tickets for Taylor Swift?
If I really had to decide, I’d go with Beyonce for the people-watching and vibes.
What are your guilty pleasures?
Filling out forms/ Potato Chips/ Watching teen dramas
What’s brewing for you in 2024?
I’ve got a new book out in the fall called Project Mercury: Kids. Time travel. Aliens. It’s got all that.