It’s hard to remember a time when Mike Sion wasn’t a creative member of the Northern Nevada scene. Newspaper reporter, magazine editor, pop musician, chess master—many people may not even be aware of his primary bread and butter: ghostwriting. He’s worked on more than 100 books, having lost count over the years. He makes it clear he’s not the writer, but he’s worked with many well-known Renoites on their books, including Link Piazzo, Joe Morrey and Mayor Bob Cashell. The best way to get in touch with Sion is through Facebook, where he’s Michael Sion.
You’ve never written fiction, right?
Of course I have. I’ve written everything. The fiction that’s been published is ghost-written novels. I’ve ghostwritten novels, memoirs, family histories, marketing books, relationship books—I’ve ghost written quite a large spectrum of books.
Can you say who you’ve written for?
I shouldn’t, and I apologize for that, but all I can say is, the people have been prominent families who wanted their family histories written, people with very interesting backgrounds, whose memoirs I’ve done. The few novels I’ve ghostwritten are for people who have absolutely amazing stories. What I do is, it’s their stories, their words, their thoughts, their spirit, their soul. All I do is make sure that I get it into print in a professional fashion.
I’ve known you—what, probably 15 years—so I know that what you’re saying is true, but it’s hard to talk to a writer who can’t even say the name of his book.
[Laughs] I’ll give you a few titles of books I’ve helped out on. But I want to stress that these books are not mine, these books are the clients’. It’s their words, their heart, their soul, their story.
Some of the books that I’ve helped put out—there was a novel, Two Toes: The Coyote Legend of Green River. That was ghostwritten for the late Preston Q. Hale. … It was a fantastic story of man vs. animal in the wilds. … I’ve written the memoirs for a lot of people, including Joe Morrey—he was the founder of Morrey Distributing. He was born in a shack … in the shadow of the Hamm’s Brewery in St. Paul, Minn. He started below the poverty line and worked his way up to an extremely successful businessman. I’ve helped clients write these rags to riches stories, many, many times. … [I helped tell the story of] Link Piazzo, who flew over the atomic bombing sites days after Hiroshima and Nagasaki. It was called It Can Always Be Worse.
I helped Mayor Cashell on his family history. It was called Call Me Mayor, or Anything You Like. His story is absolutely fantastic, and also mirrors 40 years of Reno history itself. He was lieutenant governor; he’s mayor in his third term—another rags-to-riches story. … These are the stories I like most. Through sheer guts and hard work and brains, create something out of nothing.
What’s your process?
My process is I interview the clients. I create a draft. We sit down and go through the whole thing letter by letter, word by word, syllable by syllable until everything is accurate, everything says what we want to say. We don’t put in things that aren’t as interesting. We go for the highlights, and then I help shepherd it through publication.
And did you leave the Reno Gazette-Journal to pursue this?
What I did was, while working a full-time job at the Gazette-Journal, I did this as a sideline so that I could get my family out of an apartment, into a house, then into a bigger house. And then I worked at the University of Nevada as the editor of Silver & Blue. I decided then I was going to be completely self-employed. And that’s the story.