Andrea Baker was born and raised in the beautiful English county of Warwickshire, where she lived with her parents and older sister. She left home to study at the University of Wales, Aberystwyth, from where she graduated with a Bachelor of Science, with honours, in 1992. She now works as an independent management consultant, and lives less than five miles from the town and castle of Kenilworth, in Warwickshire, with her husband and their daughter.
Worlds Apart is a series of romantic fantasy books, the first of which, entitled Leah, was originally released on October 11th 2012. Since January 2014 it has been published by Rose Wall Publishing.
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The best thing about being an author is being able to give your imagination the freedom to run
Tell me about your writing style. How do you come up with the ideas behind the stories? My writing style is actually quite fluid. Ideas come from lots of things – sometimes it’s a novel I’ve just finished reading or a really good film. At other times, they just come to me. An idea or dream will linger, and I’ll start to play around with it in my mind, and before I know where I am there is a story starting. That’s actually one of my favourite times of writing—when you get those little morsels, the flicker of an idea that starts to grow, almost like a flame. I find anything can add to it – a conversation with a friend, a track on the radio, reading a story to my daughter, anything. Then I find certain music will start to influence the story, and I build a playlist of those to listen to as I write. Finally I will sit, either at our desk or with the laptop, music playing, and just type what I visualise in my mind, or at least I should say my fingers try to keep up with me!
How did you get interested in writing this particular genre, and what does a would-be writer in your category need to know? I read a series of books by Nora Roberts quite a few years ago now. I’ve liked her romance books for a while, but I had never read anything from the paranormal genre before. The idea for Worlds Apart had started for me years before that, in some particularly vivid dreams in early pregnancy; but the story centred around Leah and her dreams, and I’d struggled with bringing the rest of the story together. Then I read The Circle Trilogy, starting with “Morrigan’s Cross”, which I picked up in our local library one day in 2008, when taking my then four-year-old daughter to enrol in their Summer Reading Challenge. Although I’d always enjoyed paranormal elements in terms of film and TV, and in particular the “edge of reality” style, I’d never come across it in writing before. Then, I read this Trilogy, and it opened up a huge world for me in terms of ideas, and possibilities.
In terms of what people need to know, it is fairly simple to explain. Many people think Fantasy is easy to write. In fact it is the opposite—you need to create a world that is both believable and realistic and keep it consistent. That’s before you start to write it down. In paranormal that is even more important because you are creating occurrences, beings, and a world that has to co-exist with the rules of the world we live in.
What kind of research did you do, and where do you begin your research? Location is important to my writing, so I always try to visit the place and absorb the atmosphere, which tends to mean first thing or last thing, when there are fewer people around.
I then research that place, both at the local library and on the Internet, to try to identify local legends that could tie in or influence the story. As the rest of Worlds Apart is from my own mind, I don’t have to do much more research. I like to think that all the reading I did as a child, and still do when I get time, has formed part of that research too.
My other work-in-progress is much more detailed, as it is a piece of historical fiction, and therefore needs to be very accurate. That is taking much more research, which is why it is taking a lot longer to write.
What’s a typical writing day like for you? When and where do you write? Do you set a daily writing goal? It’s been a while since I’ve had a typical writing day, as I tend to fit my writing in around daily life. That means that I can’t set targets and goals because my family will always come first, closely (unfortunately) followed by my work. But, in general, I will get up around 6am to leave the house for work at 7. It generally takes me about an hour to get to my client sites, so I listen to the local radio station for traffic news, and sometimes record voice notes and ideas as I drive using the voice commands on my phone.
The rest of the working day can be spent trying to block ideas out – particularly if I hear something off my playlist as a ringtone. There have been times when I’ve just gone off into my own world as someone is talking to me, but I’ve learned to control that most of the time.
Then, it’s home time, with a repeat of the morning journey. I collect my daughter, either directly from school or from my parent’s home, and we spend a few hours together, getting tea, talking about the day or getting on with homework. Again, that has become a discipline because my time with her is precious, and they grow up so quickly. As the evening draws in, I allow my mind to wander. Sometimes I’m just too mentally exhausted to actually write, so I’ll pick a scene, and work out avenues and behaviours in my mind while we watch something on television. Other times, when I’m really in the flow of the book, the laptop will come out, the iPod goes on with headphones, and I just type.
Very occasionally, at weekends, I get a block of time to write, for example if my husband and daughter have gone out to do something together. That’s when the notes, computer, and music all come together.
What is the hardest part of writing, and how do you get past the difficulties involved? The hardest part of writing is finding the time to do it when your mind is fresh and relaxed, and you are not worn out with a dreadful day on client site. You have to become meticulous in your discipline; both in terms of allowing yourself time to write, but also real time with your spouse, family, and work when it is needed. If you don’t, they all collide and nothing gets done. You also need to remember to relax as well, because if you get too stressed out, the creativity will be strangled and it will just dry up.
What’s the best thing about being an author? Giving your imagination the freedom to run away without being embarrassed. For years I thought I ought to have grown out of these ideas and “fancies”, then I came to my senses and gave in to the urge to write. There is a freedom, and an honesty in writing that can’t be found anywhere else.
What’s the worst thing about being an author, and does the good outweigh the bad? Everyone becomes a critic and thinks that you’re rolling in money! People are constantly surprised that I still work, as in a day-job, when I’m a published author, with the misconception that there is always a huge cheque to accompany the contract. The criticism in some reviews hurts, but you have to accept that not everyone will like your book, and if you dilute the story to try to satisfy everyone, then no one will like it. Having said that, since the day I went back to writing, to my made up stories, I’m much happier as a person, therefore the good definitely outweighs the bad.
Does a writer get better with practice—or is writing just a talent you have from day one? Writing is a craft. The talent is having the imagination to create the story, but the act of writing is a craft that improves both with practice and experience.
What advice would you give to aspiring writers? Write as much as you can as often as you can, find friends, other authors, people who can realistically review and comment, with some level of understanding, on your manuscript. Never believe that the first finished manuscript is the final version, read it through yourself and identify errors, spelling mistakes, inconsistencies etc., then ask the beta readers to review it. Listen to their views rather than just dismissing or discounting them. Work some more on the manuscript with those comments in mind. Then, regardless of how you plan to publish it, get a professional proof reader and editor to look at it, and again listen and act on their comments. Only then will your manuscript be near its final version. At the end of the day, writing is a journey, and the first draft a mere pit stop on that journey.
Do you have any favourite authors or favourite books, and how did your favourite books change the way you wrote? Nora Roberts has become a firm favourite over the years, both in terms of her romance novels as well as her crime novels written under the pen name J D Robb. I loved the Chronicles of Narnia as a child, and spent many days imagining stories where I played with Lucy. I guess that’s probably where my writing started. But I read almost any genre, providing the writing draws me in and I can associate with the characters, I will read and enjoy it. I think the wider acceptance of writing in the first person though has been a huge step forward for me, as when I write, I tend to think as the main character. Now I can write in both, but writing in the first person is far more natural for me with the Worlds Apart Series.
How important is grammar to the writer? Should content come first or perfect grammar? Grammar is essential, but that is where it is essential to read through comes in. Get the content down first, while it is bursting to get out of your head and onto paper. Then, as you are reading through it, you can correct the spelling anomalies and grammatical errors. Having said that, as I’ve already said, I believe that using a professional editor is essential – I write professional reports as well, and often find that you can be blind to your own mistakes, especially the ones that you make frequently. I can hear my own editor in my head now nagging me about the use of commas!
Did you spend much time refreshing your knowledge of grammar and writing rules? To be honest, no I didn’t. Probably because I read so much as a child, I’ve always instinctively known which their/there/they’re to use. Having said that, I do have some very bad habits—commas and hyphens being two of them. An author friend of mine introduced me to Caro, my editor, and I couldn’t be without her now. Knowing there is someone you can trust to pick up those errors is wonderful.
At the end of the day, writing is a journey, and the first draft a mere pit stop on that journey
Should writers worry about bad reviews? Are reviews really that important? We all worry about bad reviews. At the end of the day, an author needs readers, and we crave people who love our books as much as we do. So yes, it does hurt when you get a bad review. But I’ve learned to be realistic. There is no way that I, or any other author, can write something that everyone will love. Leah was written for a specific audience; and therefore, if I get a review from outside of that target audience, it hurts a lot less. Despite this though, I always want to be able to know more, understand why they didn’t like it, because that’s how I can improve.
The reviews that authors do get cross about though are those where the reviewer obviously hasn’t read the book.
Is a great story or a great cover more important? Oh, that’s a tough one. The story is what lives with the reader long after they’ve finished the book, so I would like to say the story. Being realistic, however, it is the cover that will draw you into the bookshop, to that particular shelf, so the cover needs to be intriguing enough to make a reader pick it up, to be interested in the first place. Without a great cover to attract readers, the best book in the world could get ignored.
Is it harder to write the second book than the first? Yes, definitely. I often wish that instead of honing and revising Leah, I’d focussed on getting the whole story written down first. Although I know where it is going, there have been times when I’ve been so busy, or stressed, that getting back into the story has been really hard. You also have to find time to market the first, while writing the second, so your writing time becomes even more precious.
Do you believe there is any “one” set genre or can books be in multiple genres? I think realistically most books will fall into more than one genre – Leah, for example, is both paranormal fantasy and romance. Booksellers try to identify the predominant genre because it makes it easier to market and stock the book, but I think readers almost expect variety these days.
Are intelligent reads better reads? Not necessarily. Intelligent reads make you think, and therefore stimulate your mind. However, many people read to escape the real world – whether it is for relaxation or escape, they open a book to disappear for a while. Good writing enables that escape, and it doesn’t matter whether it is literary, intelligent or fantasy, if it enables a reader to achieve that then it has achieved its purpose.
How do you write dialogue? Do you act it out as you write it? Is it based on the way you would say something? In my mind I am the main character as I write, so the dialogue is written how I hear them speaking. Leah is quite a naïve young woman, who was very sheltered in her upbringing; therefore, her language and choice of words may not seem to fit her age. The other characters are based on people I know in terms of how they react; therefore, their speech patterns echo that combination of people.
Are your characters ever based on you? No, not deliberately. There are pieces of me in them, naturally, but they are all very much their own people.
How do you know if something is right for your book? Do you rewrite until you get the perfect mix? The images flow so quickly in my mind when I am writing that I honestly don’t get chance at that point to think about whether it fits. As I edit, I’ve got a much clearer mind, and scenes have been cut, or completely rewritten at that point because they just don’t work.
How does it feel to hold a finished manuscript in your hand? I can honestly say it is one of the best feelings in the world! Writing a novel takes months, even years – especially when you build in the time it takes to edit and then get it through beta-readers and a copy editor. That sensation of holding the complete manuscript in your hand ready to go off to the publisher is amazing. A mixture of pride, trepidation, nerves and fear is the only way I can describe it.