My latest interview victim is Judith Baker, who writes domestic noir/psychological thrillers under the name J.A. Baker, published by Bloodhound Books. Ms Baker forthrightly answers my questions on finding time to write, tackling difficult subjects, genre issues and the stresses and conflicts of being a writer. Apologies Judith for the somewhat delayed appearance of this post! (blogger ineptitude)
Q: How do you manage to write, research and publish/promote your books – and also have time for the rest of life?
My latest releases – Her Dark Retreat and The Other Mother – were written one straight after the other, which sounds fairly easy if you write full time, but I don’t. Writing is my second job so I do most of it on an evening, at weekends, or during the school holidays. The main difficulty for me is time, or rather the lack of it! I have learnt to utilise my time wisely and make sure I leave enough time for seeing family and friends. I managed to study for a degree whilst working and having four children living at home so juggling being a writer as well as working is nothing new to me.
After getting my debut novel (Undercurrent) published, I naively thought I could sit back for a while and had no idea how important it is to get your books out there and get your name known to readers. I soon realised that writing was a full-time job and there was far more to it than simply sitting and tapping away at a keyboard. Interviews, book signings, meeting readers and other authors are all part and parcel of being a writer. I love doing all of these things but again, time is always against me. I’ve learnt that I need to prioritise now, choosing to attend some and not all functions and taking part in only a few interviews rather than putting myself up for all of them.
Q: Have you tackled difficult subjects in your books and how did you approach this?
My second book, Her Dark Retreat, gave me the jitters prior to release because of the content. It deals with an assortment of difficult subjects such as dementia and infertility and although I had some knowledge of both, I also know that everyone’s experience is different and braced myself for some sort of backlash. However, I feel they were dealt with sensitively and were integral to the story so I hope nobody was offended. I do feel there is responsibility attached to producing a story and putting it out into the public domain and if as a writer, you are going to tackle difficult subjects, then you have a duty to do your homework beforehand and make it as accurate as you possibly can. Nobody is perfect and as I said earlier, everyone’s experiences are different and people interpret things quite differently, but as long as you can say, hand on heart, that you did your research then I don’t think anybody can complain or find fault.
Q: What genre do you write in, and what draws you to it?
The characters in my books aren’t always likeable. I don’t necessarily go down the route of having a protagonist everybody immediately warms to. We live in a complex world where people have many facets to their personality. I am fascinated by how normal people react when plunged into abnormal situations. I like to write about how their darker sides emerge as the story unfolds and events begin to unravel. My background is in education and psychology so it’s the working of a character’s mind that I focus on rather than the actual crime and forensics. I don’t consider myself a crime writer, more a thriller writer with a bit of crime thrown in!
The genre I slot into has been described as both psychological thriller and domestic noir. I have heard it said that this sort of writing is predominantly written by females and geared towards a female audience. I haven’t seen any statistics to back this up and only have my own experience to go on. The readers of my books seem to be a mixed bag for sure, including male and females of all ages.
Q: How do you find the editing process and all that goes with getting your book out?
I am fortunate enough to have a publisher (Bloodhound Books) who are so supportive of all their authors, which is just as well as I am a bag of nerves prior to the release of my books. I find the whole editing/proofreading process highly stressful. By the time I receive my book back for one final glance over for errors etc, I’ve read it so many times I can hardly bring myself to even look at it. I spend the month before release worrying about glaring errors, holes in the plot, grammatical mistakes etc. and am constantly sending emails to Sumaira, the publishing assistant who does her best to calm my raging nerves. And then of course there is the worry about how it will be received and whether or not it will sell as well as the last book. The trauma of being a writer never ends! And yet I keep on doing it. Just when I think I can’t cope with the stress of it any more, those ideas come creeping back into my brain and I’m off again – plotting, inventing characters, thinking up new settings and before I know it, my next book has been born…
J.A.BAKER was born and brought up in the North East of England and has had a love of language for as long as she can remember.
After gaining an MA in Education & Applied Linguistics with the Open University, she found herself with spare time and embarked on doing something she always wanted to do – write a novel.
She has a love of local history and genealogy and enjoys reading many genres of books but is an addict of psychological thrillers.
In December 2016 she was signed by Bloodhound Books who published Undercurrent.
Her second novel, Her Dark Retreat was published in October 2017. J. A. Baker’s third book, The Other Mother is due out on 5th December 2017.
She has four grown-up children and a grandchild and lives in a village near Darlington with her husband and madcap dog.