Today, I’m interviewing Andrea Baker, a fabulous friend whose book, Worlds Apart – Leah, is well worth checking out. So grab a nice cup of tea, get comfy, and settle in to learn more about this wonderful author!
AB: Hi, Kay, and thank you for inviting me onto your blog – I love the title of this blog; it always makes me smile.
KK: You’re most welcome! I’m always tickled when people tell me how much they like my blog’s title – titles are really hard for me, so it’s nice to know I picked a good one for my blog. So, tell us a little about yourself.
AB: I’m pretty ordinary really – daughter, sister, wife and mother to a gorgeous and cheeky little nine-year-old girl.
I work full-time as an Interim Manager. This means that I tend to have short term (usually at least 3 months) contracts with different clients, covering projects, service transformation and that sort of thing.
I’ve always loved the paranormal genre – I’ve always referred to my favourites as being the “edge of reality” stories, where they are based in the real world, but unreal happens. Because it is my favourite genre to both read and watch, it was natural for me to write it too.
KK: Write what you know, eh? Have you always written, or is it a recently discovered passion?
AB: I’ve always considered myself a writer of sorts, in that I’ve always made up stories, and written them down as soon as I was old enough to write properly. When I first graduated, however, I forced myself to stop writing, believing it to be something that I should have grown out of, but the stories in my head never completely went away. This particular story has surrounded me for about five years now, but, other than very close family and one friend, I told nobody about my writing until the day Leah was released. I now consider myself, and admit to being, a writer (or author as we say here in England) because I have a published book to prove it.
KK: Your book, Worlds Apart – Leah, is a fantasy novel. What made you choose to write fantasy?
AB: The first books that I remember falling in love with were fantasy – The Chronicles of Narnia, the Enid Blyton books (all of them) – I spent hours absorbing them and living in those imaginary worlds. To be honest though, I don’t really remember “deciding” to write fantasy, that is just where my story currently lies.
KK: That sounds a bit like me – my story decided it was a fantasy, despite the fact that as the author, you’d think I’d have control over decisions like genre. 🙂 Do you write in any other genres, or have you ever considered doing so?
AB: Over the years, I’ve thought of many genres – my first attempt at a novel (called “Chimes”, written when in my very early teens) was what we would now call chick-lit, but it was awful, and thankfully didn’t survive. I have two more genres currently that I’m working on, suspense and historical fiction, although they are very much in early stages right now.
KK: What inspired you to write Worlds Apart?
AB: To be honest, it was a story that just wouldn’t go away – I often joke now that Leah was shouting at me in the end. The story had played around in my mind for about eighteen months, on and off, but I couldn’t get the pieces to fall together. When I think now of the location I can’t believe I didn’t twig before, as it feels so right! In reality I was driving home from work one night, through Kenilworth, during a thunderstorm. Lightning lit the castle up from behind as I drove down Castle Hill, and suddenly the missing piece fell into place. I got home, and over the next six weeks the bulk of the story, the “bones” as we would say, were written. Thirty thousand words written in snatched hours when the house was quiet after work and the family were in bed.
KK: I write the same way, although thirty thousand words in six weeks is impressive by anyone’s standards, I think. Tell us about your main character, Leah.
AB: Leah’s mother died when she was just fourteen, in a horrendous car accident. Since then her father has become more and more possessive over her, being paranoid about any boyfriends and, most recently, moving them both to Kenilworth so that she can stay at home rather than going away to University. Leah resents this a little, because she had always planned to go away to university with her best friend, Jen.
Leah doesn’t have much self-confidence; her father’s bizarre behavior and bad temper, plus a bad experience with a boyfriend have knocked that even further, so she is quite vulnerable and tends to keep to herself in order to avoid being made to look a fool. Highly intelligent, she spends her time reading, listening to music, chatting to Jen over the Internet, and exploring the ruined castle in her new hometown.
There’s a lot more to Leah than we see in this first book, but she needs to experience what happens in order to make her the person she becomes. To a certain extent, because of having lost her mother at such a young age, she’s a little naïve when it comes to life, but that soon disappears as the series unfolds!
KK: Do you have more adventures in store for her?
AB: I think it’s more a case of the adventures she has in store for me! I do know there are another two books, but odd snippets keep occurring to me that don’t fit the plot lines, and I’m not sure yet whether they will appear as sub-plots for the planned books, or it will go further. Having said that, it makes it sound as though I am in control, and I am most definitely not! The story can take the writer in the strangest directions, before it ends up where we want it to, but that’s part of the fun!
KK: I’d be hard-pressed to name any writer who’s in control of their story, whether they plot it all out before-hand or not. I know my stories never seem to turn out quite the way I plan. But like you said, that’s part of the fun! What other projects do you have in the works at the moment? Can you tell us about them?
AB: As I’ve already said, there are two others on the back-burner, along with books two and three – my historical fiction is a deeply personal story, as it is based around my grandfather’s life, growing up in a single-parent family during World War 2 in Birmingham, England’s second city. It was a very hard life – his father had died and his mother had to raise three boys by herself. I want to do it justice, but every time I try to write it, I end up in tears, thinking about the hardship he went through. He died six months after my daughter was born, so the grief mingles in there too.
KK: I’ve always wanted to write memoir, so I can appreciate the difficulty of your story and the desire to do it justice because I’m not sure that a) I have a story worth telling and b) that even if I did, I could tell it well enough to make it worth the time to write. There are all kinds of challenges that come with writing, and some of them you don’t even think about till you sit down to write something that’s supposed to be simple. So in your opinion, what is the hardest part of writing?
AB: That’s a difficult question to answer, really, as although it can be really difficult, I find it isn’t really a choice… Writing itself is the easy part – once you have the idea for a story, for me anyway, seeing it come to life is the really enjoyable, if somewhat lonely, part. The hardest part comes afterwards. You need a very thick skin, to take the criticisms that you can get, and being completely ignored, but the hardest part has to be marketing. Regardless of who your publisher is, as a published author you are expected to put yourself in the public eye, and for me, as quite a shy person that is really difficult.
KK: I agree wholeheartedly. There’s a reason my day job isn’t in sales! And I’ve never had the gift of my forebears that allows me to strike up a conversation with total strangers as though we were already old friends. I envy them that confidence, but I suppose it’s something I have to develop on this journey to publication. Tell us a little about your publishing journey.
AB: I was really, really lucky. In January 2010 I found my way to the Harper Collins website, Authonomy, and there joined a group you may know, Kay, called the Alliance of Worldbuilders. It’s a group of like-minded fantasy authors who support, advise, critique, and chat with each other about pretty much anything and everything!
KK: Indeed, I do know the Alliance, being a member myself! There’s a list of links to the Alliance and various members’ sites in the menu at the top of the page. 😉
AB: One of the established authors there was in a poll for a small publishing house called Night Reading – I joined the site to vote for her and get some input into the first chapter of Leah. The following month, to my complete surprise, I was put into the public vote. The prize for the winner was a publishing contract, and, in June 2011, I won!
The journey was far from easy though. Night Publishing ceased trading later that same year, and the owner moved to America. I thought my luck had run out, and started the soul-destroying submission and rejection route (and yes, I have several rejection letters in a file like every other author that’s finally been published). Then, last spring, I got an email inviting me to sign for the new publisher, Taylor Street Books, that had grown from the ashes of Night Reading – I signed, and my novel was published in October 2012 – coincidentally on my sister’s birthday!
KK: With a rough road like that behind you, do you have any advice for those yet unpublished?
AB: Don’t give up! Keep plugging away at the submission route but, make sure you’re ready first. I know several authors who have tried to sell their book straight after writing “the end” – and they’re not ready. I know I wasn’t ready when Leah won that poll, and the delay ended up with it being a much better book then it would have been. Seek out writing groups that are willing to help one another, and be prepared to listen to their comments and suggestions. Yes, sometimes they are difficult to take, but consider them, and how they apply to your book, and sometimes you will find that your book is better that way. Mine certainly was, but it is always hard to hear criticism of something you are so close to.
KK: And finally, if you could recommend one book, which would it be and why?
AB: Just one! That’s really, really hard…
For pure escapism it has to be my childhood favourite, The Chronicles of Narnia – now I know that’s a series, so it’s cheating slightly, but it will have to do!
KK: The Chronicles of Narnia is an excellent series, so I suppose it’s not too big of a cheat. 🙂 I’m so glad you could stop by – it’s been wonderful to chat again!
AB: Thanks, Kay, I’ve really enjoyed our chat! I look forward to seeing you again soon. 🙂
For more fun with Andrea and Leah, check out the links below:
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- Author Spotlight no.231 – Andrea Baker (morgenbailey.wordpress.com)