Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Straight From the Mouth of 'The Last Ancient' Eliot Baker

Eliot Baker lives in Finland. He teaches communications at a local college and runs an editing and translating business, but would be content singing for his heavy metal band and writing novels full-time. He grew up near Seattle, got his B.A. in World Literature at Pitzer College, and got his M.S. in Science Journalism from Boston University. He was an award-winning journalist at the Nantucket Inquirer and Mirror, and before that he wrote for the Harvard Health Letters. He spent four years pursuing a career in the sciences while at the Harvard Extension School, during which time he spun old people in NASA-designed rocket chairs and kept younger people awake for 86 hours at a time in a sleep deprivation study. He likes good books, all music, and bad movies, and believes music and literature snobs just need a hug.

His latest book is the supernatural thriller/historical mystery, The Last Ancient.

Visit his blog at www.eliotbakerauthor.blogspot.com.

Thanks for letting us interrogate interview you!  Can you give us a go-for-the-gut answer as to why you wanted to be an author?

It’s cool, I don’t mind being interrogated--although that water drip torture is starting to
get to me. Ahem. Anyhow. I always knew I wanted to be an author because writing lights up my brain. I get a small dopamine rush out of penning a good sentence, and a full-on religious experience from conceiving and completing a whole story. I guess I’m addicted to the writing process.

Tell us (we won’t tell promise!) is it all it’s cracked up to be?  I mean what are the perks and what are the demands?

Yes, it is, but no, it’s not (grinning and swirling a glass of brown liquor). I’m amazed at how many friends of mine think I’m rich and famous now that I’m a published novelist. That is, like, so fifty years ago. All ye who enter author-land, abandon hope of fame and riches. You do this because you love it, not for the luxury seats at the Super Bowl. Writing a a good book will require many sacrifices, particularly of your time. And with your time goes your social life and hobbies and other interests, all for what will amount to compensation of roughly one tenth of one cent per hour. It’s an obsession; it has to be, to succeed. But then you succeed… and it’s indescribable. It’s worth every sleepless night. I love it. I’ll do this the rest of my life, without hesitation, even if I never make a living at it.

Which route did you take – traditional or self-published – and can you give us the nitty gritty low down on what’s that like?

I went with an indie publisher, BURST Books, imprint of Champagne Book Group. I pitched my novel in 2012 to the publisher, J. Ellen Smith, at the Pacific Northwest Writer’s Association conference. It’s been great. High quality editing, all deadlines met, very clear contract, no hidden zingers, and they designed my cover and got The Last Ancient out to all the vendors promptly. Also I have access to some built-in author support/marketing groups within the house. The downside of an indie is that you have to devote more time into developing your platform – blogging, guest blogging, attending conferences, marketing & promo – than you would ever imagine. I’ve met some successful self-publishers, particularly in the romance/erotica market, but I knew that wasn’t my path; you really need to have marketing savvy and have an online presence to sell your book all by your lonesome.

What’s the snarkiest thing you can say about the publishing industry (e.g. rejections, the long wait, etc.)

Ooh, I get to be snarky here, too? How about how medieval are traditional publishing houses’ concepts of word counts and genre-typing. It’s a new world, folks. A book doesn’t have to be strictly 200 - 300 pages to be good. It doesn’t have to be completely, entirely horror or sci-fi or fantasy or mystery or romance to be appealing. People like both long and short books. People love genre-bending.

Tell us for real what your family feels about you spending so much time getting your book written, polished, edited, formatted, published, what have you?

Mostly, they are incredibly supportive, especially those of my family who don’t live with me. But seriously, my wife is wonderful about giving me space to go off and write or promote (I’m flying from our home in Finland to go peddle my book in the Northeast all of June). My kids can’t understand why I don’t write more books with pictures, though, because they can sit down and write a book-a-night. They are four and six, respectively.

What was the craziest or most insane thing that happened to you in the book publishing process?

One crazy thing was having my computer crash on my third and final round of edits with my publisher, just before I left for an overeas trip. It seemed I’d lost about a month of nasty, grueling revisions and line-edits. I had to travel all over Finland to find someone who could open up my Mac and get at the hard drive because something had also fried my backup hard-drive. So yeah, that happened. But it worked out.

But honestly, just getting accepted for publication was even crazier. When I got the email, as awesome as it was, I really hankered for a fat envelope, or receiving a long-distance phone call on a rotary phone from a stranger, something more substantial. As it happened, The Last Ancient was accepted for publication by BURST and in the same week also got some serious consideration from a couple New York agents, who said they might take it on if it were considerably altered. Talk about a reversal of fortune. I mean, months and months of silence or rejections, and then BOOM, I had to make a massive choice. I’m very happy with the one I made. The Last Ancient needed to be what it is and thus where it is.

How about the social networks?  Which ones do you believe help and which ones do you wish you could avoid?

I think Goodreads and Facebook and Twitter all probably work if properly utilized, but I’m really inept at them. I hope to find a magic social network house elf named Nobby to take care of it all for me this year.

Book sales.  Don’t you just love them (or lack of?)?  How are you making the sales happen for you?

After begging my friends, and seeing them beg their friends, and seeing a nice outburst of encouragement from everyone—and then watching sales flatline-- I am doing a marketing & promotional blitz this summer that includes virtual book tours, real book tours, attending conferences and begging bookstores within the area in which my book takes place (Cape Cod and Nantucket) to carry my title. We’ll see how it goes!

What is one thing you’d like to jump on the rooftop and scream about?


Okay, too much sugar for you today!  Here’s a nice cup of Chamomile tea and come on over and sit under the cabana and watch the waves roll in.  Now…can you tell us what you love about being a published author and how all those things above doesn’t matter because it’s all part of the whole scheme of things and you wouldn’t have it any other way?

I think you nailed it. Some people figure out that they are writers in grade school, as I did. Others start thinking about it in college. Still others, when they’re retiring. Once you acknowledge the part of you that is burning to write, you have no choice but to unleash it, and from there you can never NOT be a writer. Just on sabbatical, or in between projects, or researching (real life, by the way, is basically research for all of your writing—remember to live life well and have adventures). It’s like when Super Man goes on extended vacations wearing his glasses and suit. He’s still a super hero; he’s just not flying around saving people that particular day.

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