Elizabeth Baker’s interview

» Posted on May 28, 2009 in Blog | Comments Off on Elizabeth Baker’s interview

This week I’m hosting Robin Shope with her book, Wildcard and Elizabeth Baker with her book, Living with Eeyore. If you want to enter the drawing for the book, please leave a comment on one of the post during the week with your email address. I will not enter you without an email address (my way to contact you if you win). If you don’t want to leave an email address, another way you can enter is to email me at margaretdaley@gmail.com. The drawings end Sunday (May 31st) evening.

Elizabeth Baker’s interview:

1.What made you start writing?

In some ways, I think I have always been a writer. To me, writing is something that is in your blood. Stories occupy your thoughts and turning sentences over in your mind is habitual. I think I would probably be writing even if I never published anything, but I’ll admit that the process is a lot more gratifying when there is an audience and even more so if you are getting paid!

2.How long have you been writing? When did you sell your first book?

In 1975, my husband and I were ranchers. Times were tough and it looked as though we might lose the farm. I was a stay at home mom with several small children and limited education, but for about a year I had been writing a book simply because I felt I had something to say and had to say it. The idea of making money from the work was only a distant hope.

When I found an old Sunday School paper that had an address for Victor Books on the back, my pastor, who was also my brother-in-law, suggested I send them a letter and the chapters I had finished thus far. I didn’t even know if Victor published books or just Sunday School literature, but as I said, times were rough and although I was shy and embarrassed (rightly so, considering the quality of the script!) I knew it was a step I had to take someday and they might pay something, so I wrote the letter and mailed the pages.

As it turned out, the manuscript must have been exactly what they were looking for and it arrived at precisely the right time. I had a contract back in my hand in two weeks. Going that fast from query letter to contract was (and is) unheard of, but it happened. At the time, I didn’t even know contracts were involved when books were published and had no idea what a miracle it was to get accepted that fast.

The publishing field was very different thirty-five years ago. Today, I don’t think my package of hand-typed, misspelled, smudged sheets would even be opened much less taken seriously. I remember how shocked I was when I read the galley proofs and learned for the first time that the word “husband” had a “d” on the end of the word. I now joke that the reason for the misspelling was because, when yo from Tex-as, husban don’t got no “d” but it is amazing that the publisher had the grace to take the work seriously.

Yet, all jokes aside, the core of the book and the passion that drove the project grew from a single source: I burned with something specific to say, and—in spite of my personal lack of education, flawed the grammar and spelling—they felt I said it very well. Victor Press is no longer in business, but they were more than gracious as they worked to bring a good and solid book from my labored inadequacies and dreams. I still occasionally get comments on that publication. It sold better than anything I have published since and I would love to see an updated version eventually reprinted

3.How do you handle rejections?

Regardless of the dramatic start of my career, I have had LOTS of experience with rejections and they still disappoint, but since I have been in the business for thirty years, it is easier to put them in perspective now than it was once. When I began, rejections caused much more pain. I think one reason for this was because, as a writer, I’m sort of self-taught. There was no schooling in the subject, no peer group or class or mentor to help me understand why I might have been rejected or to encourage and help me see individual rejections within the broader scope of a career. It was tough and I gave up more than once.

4.Why do you write?

As I mentioned earlier, writing seems to be so much a part of who I am it would difficult NOT to write. I think I would be scribbling on something one way or another even if I had never published. It might be a lame effort at poetry or journaling or writing out lessons to teach or letters or even memoirs for my children, but I would be writing.

However, writing for publication is an entirely different matter. I think I keep submitting scripts to editors for several different reasons. One aspect is rather selfish; I simply enjoy an audience. But, by far a more compelling reason is that I honestly feel I have something to say that is worth hearing.

5.What would you be doing with your free time if you weren’t writing?

There is so much about life I enjoy that I am never at a loss when a free moment presents itself. I don’t choose to own a television, so I really enjoy G rated movies at the dollar show. I grow organic vegetables and, of course, there is always something that needs to be done in the garden. I could read forever and constantly have one to five books going. Bible study is pleasurable especially when I’m chasing some obscure point that is tantalizing me. I could add many other things to the list, but those are probably the top four. In addition, with fifteen grandchildren and five great-grands, just touching base with them all is a delightful challenge.

6.What are you working on right now?

I just finished Personality According to Pooh for Standard Publishers. It’s available now by advance order from Amazon, and will be on shelves the first week of July. That was a particularly fun book; especially the personality quiz that lets the reader choose their own “Pooh-sonality”.

I have my first novel complete and hope to get it out to my agent soon. That work was very different than writing non-fiction and the process was a challenge. The book is a fantasy/suspense about angels and how they relate to the people of a small town. The setting is a church in East Texas and the book follows both humans and the angels for one day with each chapter marked by time rather than chapter title. The book currently has the working title of An Ordinary Sunday in Thyme and I hope to get it out to my agent within the next couple of weeks.

I am also developing a new web site that I hope to have on line by the middle of June. It will feature monthly book give-aways, a blog that encourages readers to submit their own story of how God has moved in their lives and a gift basket of various goodies that is given away each quarter. In addition, I am expanding my speaking career and developing seminars on my most recent non-fiction books.

Between all of this and marketing, I guess you could say that I stay pretty busy.

7.Do you put yourself into your books/characters?

Certainly! Every character I have ever written about is in reality some aspect of myself. I believe there is much commonality among all human beings. Under the skin and in the private world of emotions and thoughts we are all a lot alike. So, when one of my characters—whether fiction or non-fiction—behaves or thinks a certain way, I feel it as being very similar to something I have done or felt. And, if I can do a really good job of boxing those behaviors and feelings inside words, I find the characters feel familiar to my readers, too. I guess you could say every character is me, but every character is also my reader in one way or another.

8.Tell us about the book you have out right now.

Personality According to Pooh may be the “most recent” by the time someone reads this post. But, at this very moment, the one that is ‘right now” is Living With Eeyore, How to Positively Love the Negative People in Your Life. Because of such close similarity in the books and the fast approaching launch date of Personality According to Pooh, it is hard to say which one is “right now.”I think the two words that best describe both books would be “practical” and “fun.” Writing both of these was an enjoyable project from beginning to end. Not all my books have been that way. Some were challenges and some touched on dark subjects. But, these have been a delight.

It was easy to write about living with Eeyore because I live with Eeyore! Mom and I are both widows and have formed a household together for almost twenty years. We are poles apart in personality, yet we manage to be a team through a LOT of mutual grace. The fact that she has a personality like Eeyore was a joke between us. I would even sometimes say, “Now, Eeyore…” It was a way to use humor to defuse moments of tension. The book was pretty much a natural outgrowth of that joke. (By the way, my personality is Rabbit and you can read more about that in the Pooh book)

In the original Pooh books, Milne did a masterful job of describing Eeyore, as well as all the characters. Most professional evaluation systems divide human personality into four/eight/or sixteen possible profiles. Milne used eight and Eeyore was one of the more prominent. Eeyore’s negative outlook, dry sense of humor and stubbornness have remained famous for generations, which, of course, is the mark of a true classic. It is also evidence that Eeyore is someone we easily identify in our own life.

9.Do you have any advice for other writers?

I think the first thing I would say is to join groups with other writers. That support and feedback can’t be over emphasized. It is also necessary read extensively and actually do the writing, not just dream about being a writer someday. There is so much more opportunity now than when I began writing in the early ‘70s. The Internet makes it possible to connect with other writers and even have your work professionally critiqued. There are writer’s conferences and training for ever level of expertise. Most of all, if you want to be a writer, you have got to face the fact that it is hard work. I suppose out there somewhere in space and time perhaps someone became inspired then sat down and the great American novel flowed from their finger tips, but I have never heard of them. Learn to spell. Learn grammar. Learn to listen to your critics. And, most of all, if you want to be a writer, then WRITE.

10.How important is faith in your books?

Faith is the central guiding issue of everything I have ever written. It is not an “add on” or something that I try to put in each book. Instead, it is like an undercurrent: Powerful and ever present even thought not always obvious on the surface. Because I most often write non-fiction in first person, there is an autobiographical element nature to much of my work and because faith is as much a part of me as my eye color and the air I breathe, it comes across in everything I say. I try to let that flow naturally, otherwise, I find my work becomes “preachy” and readers are turned off.

11.What themes do you like to write about?

That is a difficult question. I think you might best describe my theme as God’s activity in the lives of ordinary people. Both my fiction and non-fiction is practical, down to earth and centered on the application of God to daily living.

12.What is your favorite book you’ve written and why?

That is a bit like choosing your “favorite” among your children. Each has their own character and value and I find my “favorite” changing. Usually with the children, my “favorite” is the one I am talking to at the moment and I think the same is true for books. My special “favorite” seems to consistently be the one I am working on at the moment.

13.What is your writing schedule like?

The goal is 40 hours a week and I try to divide that time evenly between the business end of writing (marketing, networking, bookkeeping, travel, etc.) and actually putting creative words on paper. Sometimes I am over the forty and occasionally I’m below the mark, but if I don’t get in 40 hours, I feel as though I have cheated myself out of the wonderful world of possibilities that more effort might have opened up.