This article appears in the February issue of 400 Life.
Laura Thompson was a homeschooling teenager in Forsyth County and feeling a social void in her life when she stumbled into podcasting.
The Dallas-native moved to the area in 2000 right before starting middle school. It was the height of fandom over the massively-successful Harry Potter book series, and Thompson was a devoted fan, so much so that she started working for MuggleNet, a prominent Harry Potter fan website, just a few years into homeschooling after attending North Forsyth High School for a year.
Thompson became a jack of all trades for the website. She created content and moderated fan fiction, and when the website decided to start a podcast, called MuggleCast, they asked her to join the panel of hosts. The podcast was a hit with its mixture of in-depth analysis of the Potter books and banter between Thompson and her co-hosts.
At its height, MuggleCast had 70,000 weekly listeners. It became so prominent that Thompson and her co-hosts were invited to cover one of the Potter movie premieres in Los Angeles and meet the book series’ author, J.K. Rowling, at a book signing event.
Thompson eventually took a break from podcasting to focus on school and getting her career started, but she’s back into it full-swing. Thompson and a few of her former MuggleCast co-hosts started #Millennial in 2015, which tackles current affairs from a millennial perspective, and she just rejoined MuggleCast this month.
How would you describe the MuggleCast podcast?
“I would say in-depth analysis and predictions about the Potter books when they were still not all published. Of course, at this point we are in a post-Harry Potter world where we have all the books and all the movies.
“So at this point, the main focus is the Fantastic Beast franchise. We currently have two out of five movies out there. It’s been really interesting because it’s a different medium than Potterheads are used to. But it’s different in a good way. It’s forcing us to flex that muscle and really dive in and pay attention to all the details.”
How long did it take you to get comfortable with podcasting?
“I still remember doing my first episode of the (MuggleCast) podcast. I was so nervous. I was nervous about my audio quality. I was nervous about my contributions.
“I was and still to this day remain pretty shy by nature, but getting involved in the podcasting really helped me develop skills like public speaking and just helping me to learn how to be confident in those cases, or at least how to project confidence, even when I don’t feel like it.”
How much time do you commit to the podcasts?
“In terms of development and planning, we’re looking at a lot of nights and weekends at putting episodes together. Especially on #Millennial, since it is current affairs-based.
“Given our current political climate, there’s just a lot of moving pieces. We have to stay on top of our research. We’ve had times where we fleshed out a story, had it ready to go, and at the last minute have it change and have to either scrap it or completely rework it.
“We had that the other night, when President (Donald) Trump had his national address. We felt we had to be prepared if he decided to declare a state of emergency, so we had the discussion planned out to address that.
“He ultimately did not declare a state of emergency, so that whole side of the conversation had to go out. But that’s just the way it is. There was still plenty to talk about.”
What are your favorite podcasts to listen to?
“I go through waves with podcasts. I will binge listen to podcasts, and then I won’t (listen) for a while.
“I love true crime. I am a big fan of Payne Lindsey, who does ‘Up and Vanished’ and did ‘Atlanta Mobsters.’ Loved those. I was really into Serial’s first season when it came out. ‘In the Dark’ is also a really great true crime podcast.
“To be honest, most of what I listen to is true crime. It’s so disturbing but also captivating. It’s really gripping.”