Nightmare’s are just dreams aren’t they?
They can’t hurt you, not really…
They’re trying to tell her the truth, and won’t stop until she understands.
Nineteen year old Leah struggles to cope with normal life after the recent loss of her mother.
Her heart-broken father decides to uproot them to Little Virginia for a fresh start, so they can bury the past behind them.
At once Leah is captivated by the castle ruins near her new doorstep, and whilst exploring she comes across a mysterious stranger.
Recurring nightmares long thought dead reawaken, and new strains appear in her relationship with her father.
But as Leah attempts to piece together the connection between them, she will find herself thrown into dark and dangerous worlds beyond her wildest dreams…
Andrea Baker has written stories and poems all her life, although most of them no longer exist. After graduating from the University of Wales, Aberystwyth in Economics and Marketing, she convinced herself to stop making these stories up, believing it to be something a “grown-up” should not do.
Since then she has spent most of her career working on major programmes within the public sector. Of all the ideas that continued to occur to her, Worlds Apart has been the most insistent, refusing to go away.
This interview is the fourth part of a brand new blog tour featuring Andrea. You can find the first book in the “World’s Apart” series here.
What was the hardest part of writing this book?
The hardest part of writing this book was knowing where to stop in the story. It is part of a series, and it was a struggle to know when to stop Book One, having given readers enough of a story to feel that something has happened, without giving too much away about what happens next.
What did you enjoy most about writing this book?
Finally allowing myself to write it, and let my imagination run free. For many years I’d stopped myself dwelling on my ideas, and imagining what happened in those stories, so finally allowing myself to focus on this story, and let it run, was liberating.
Are there vocabulary words or concepts in your book that may be new to readers? Define some of those.
There are a few. Although not science fiction, there is the concept of multiple realities. There are three worlds, all duplicates of one another. Earth is one of the three. The Savant (Vi, Sansi and Gelaf) are the ancient ones, the original beings sent to oversee the world that was created and keep evil at bay. Seraph are the guardians that work on behalf of the Savant on the worlds that are created. They take the place of people who are taken too soon, so occupy that body for the duration of the Guardianship. They age slowly, but naturally, and in most circumstances simply become friends with the person they are responsible for, with the individual never knowing the truth. Shear Seraph are pure, created initially from relationships that occurred between humans and the Savant, something that is now forbidden. Shear bloodlines must be kept pure and therefore it is forbidden for them to have relationships with other non-Shear Seraph or humans. Harbingers are evil creatures, terrifyingly fast and vicious, and are the agents of Nilameth, the first woman to spurn and disobey the rules of the worlds.
What is the biggest thing that people THINK they know about your subject/genre that isn’t so?
There is a tendency to think that paranormal is all about Vampires, Werewolves and Magic, which just isn’t true. Paranormal is essentially edge of reality, so the world you are writing lives and breathes with “normal” earth rules alongside it.
What is the most important thing that people DON’T know about your subject/genre, that they need to know?
There is a misconception that fantasy is easy to write – after all, everything is made up. If anything, the reverse is true. What we create as authors of fantasy has to be believable and work; consistency and timelines are essential. So, we have to decide whether gravity exists, how beings can travel dimensions, what the lands, languages and inhabitants are like before we can begin with the story itself.
What inspires you?
This is going to sound so corny, but my family. Not just my daughter and husband, although they do their fair share, but my parents, sister, aunts, uncles, and my late grandparents. They have all experienced so much, both the good and the heartbreak, the way they have fought and struggled through what life has thrown at them while maintaining a close, loving family. They are my daily inspiration.
How did you get to be where you are in your life today?
Hard work, determination, and the love and support of people around me. The world is full of people that think they are owed something out of life – that just doesn’t happen. You have to make your own opportunities and work at it every single day.
Who are some of your favorite authors that you feel were influential in your work? What impact have they had on your writing?
My favourite authors are quite varied, there’s the classics, such as Shakespeare (I think I’m still the only person in my groups of friends that enjoys reading him), Arthur Conan Doyle, the Bronte Sisters, Jane Austen, etc. Then there is the authors who influenced me and my choices of books as a child – C S Lewis, Lucy Maude Montgomery, Enid Blyton – their stories captured my heart and imagination, and I’d spend hours playing with the characters when much younger, and making up more stories in my head. Lately one of my favourite authors has been Nora Roberts. She introduced me to paranormal fiction, so I guess you could say she is to blame!
What did you find most useful in learning to write? What was least useful or most destructive?
The most useful thing any writer can do is read, read, and squeeze more reading in. Don’t limit yourself to a single genre either, because by reading a huge variety of books you get to understand good characterisation, poor scene setting and so on, and subconsciously it will influence and improve your own work. The most destructive thing I have tried to do in my writing is correct grammatical and spelling errors as I go along. I have to let the creative side of my mind run free, and type what comes, otherwise the story dries up.
Are you a full-time or part-time writer? How does that affect your writing?
I’m a part time writer. I work full time and have a family, so writing comes third on my list I’m afraid. That means it can be difficult – sometimes I’m just so exhausted either physically or mentally, that I cannot write for days.
What are some day jobs that you have held? If any of them impacted your writing, share an example.
I’m a part qualified accountant and have worked and qualified as a programme and change manager, I’ve also had a Saturday job in a store that no longer exists, and worked as a passenger services assistant at Birmingham International Airport when on vacation from University. I now run my own business offering consultation, service delivery and problem solving to other organisations. I guess I’d say that they have influenced my work in terms of exposure to many different types of personality and character, including behaviour traits, and knowing the people that I really just don’t like. Those all find their way into my characters somewhere along the line.
For those interested in exploring the subject or theme of your book, where should they start?
Firstly, try to visit Kenilworth – the castle, town, Leah’s home and the Abbey are all real, so you can explore them for yourselves and see if they meet the descriptions I’ve created in your mind. If you can’t do it in person, look on the Internet, on the English Heritage site, and you will find the castle there.
You can also contact me directly through my website (www.AndreaBakerAuthor.com) or on facebook if you have questions. I love to hear from readers and people interested in the series.
How do you feel about ebooks vs. print books and alternative vs. conventional publishing?
I have mixed feelings to be honest. Anything that encourages people to read is fantastic, and I personally possess both a tablet with reading software and an ereader, and find them invaluable when travelling. But, nothing compares to the feel and smell of a new book, and I will always for that reason buy my favourite authors, or books I’ve discovered online, in physical format too.
In terms of publishing, the industry has become a bit of a school playground really, with bully-boy antics between some of the larger players, and scam and con artists moving into the micro-publishing market. I’ve fallen victim to some of this myself, and it makes me mad to be honest, as these people are generally the middle men between the source of the product (the author) and the buyer (the reader). I find it really annoying that the “big boys” tie bookshops into only selling what they print, so as a reader, what I can find in my local bookshop is being dictated to me, and in some cases the bookshop can’t, or won’t, even order an item off the prescribed list in for me. This is one of the reasons (other than convenience and cost) that I believe that the online market has boomed. However, because of poor editing and quality, the ebook market has a bad image, especially if a book is self published.
What do you think is the future of reading/writing?
The whole industry reminds me a little of what happened in the music industry a decade or so ago – people claimed it would die, and that downloads would be the death of successful music – but the industry had to change, and now is as strong as ever. Personally I think the publishing industry should stop trying to strong arm each other into doing what one company thinks, and allow the world to adapt and change. The end result will be better for readers and authors alike, with more choice, and more affordable products for the reader, recognition for the author, and the industry will then still be profitable for the business. Once the bully boy tactics have stopped, and people realise that change is here to stay and adapt their practices to suit the new way of working, then things will improve again. I can’t see a time when people no longer wish to read, even with the immediacy of visuals or gaming, but I do worry that the author is being forgotten in the equation.
What process did you go through to get your book published?
Like most authors, I have my fair share of rejection letters in my files, but I was fortunate in winning a competition to be published. There used to be an online community where authors could publish their first chapters, and the community could read and give constructive criticism. Each month the publisher that ran the site would select a number of the first chapters uploaded each month, and at the end of the month put them up for a vote. The winner would get a contract.
My novel was finished in 2011, and submitted, finally being published on my sister’s birthday (a complete coincidence) in October 2012.
That story sounds like a dream come true, but unfortunately the publisher was one of the many independents that have sprung up over the last few years. Unbeknown to me at the time of signing the contract, the lack of communication, accusations of theft against authors, and subsequent failure to pay any royalties were just a few of the experiences we had, and at the point I signed they had over 80 authors on their books, so were by no means a small house. They have now gone into liquidation, still without paying many of their authors, so my experience was, to say the least, bittersweet.
What makes your book stand out from the crowd?
To quote a reviewer, “I’ve never come across a story with these unique beings and events”. Being set in a real town, with real locations, but with a storyline and characters that have not been seen before makes it ideal for anyone that loves fantasy and paranormal, but wants something a little different to dragons, elves, witches, werewolves and vampires!
How do you find or make time to write?
It’s a discipline, which sometimes I don’t have the willpower to stick to! I try to write something at least twice a week – I’d love to say daily but at the moment that just isn’t feasible. Having said that, I do record voice notes for myself using my smartphone, so if a song on the radio, or something that is said in the office triggers an idea, I can record it and use it in the future.
Do you write more by logic or intuition, or some combination of the two? Summarize your writing process.
Intuition is my master – I write in a very visual way. The ideas are often stimulated by music, so I will try to record the track that gave me that idea. As I start to piece together the ideas, I create a playlist of those tracks, and listen to it while writing. My ideas come to me in images, and it is almost as though I am watching a film in my mind as it unfolds, and the biggest difficulty I have then is keeping up with the images in my mind! I’m not saying it is the perfect formula, but for me it works so well that I can put myself straight back into a scene simply by moving to a specific track in the playlist. Having said that, there has been the odd occasion when it has backfired on me when people happen to have a specific track as their chosen phone ring…
What are some ways in which you promote your work? Do you find that these add to or detract from your writing time?
I try to maintain a presence both in terms of my webpage, facebook pages (I have a profile as an author and pages for my books), twitter and through my blog, however keeping those active is quite hard when I already have so little time to write. Just recently I engaged a company to manage the promoting side of things for me, as my biggest difficulty was finding the right contacts. Novel Ideas, and Nick himself, have been a godsend for me in terms of putting me in touch with radio interviews, blog tours, interviews, etc., and given me a platform within which I can work and concentrate my efforts.
What is your role in the writing community?
I am a learner, and an active member of a small community called The Alliance of Worldbuilders. We originally came together through the Harper Collins website, Authonomy, which brings authors together to discuss and promote work. As a group of fantasy authors we bonded, and became friends as well as fellow authors, to such an extent that at one stage we almost broke their servers with the size of our threads! We now use other methods of keeping in touch, and we are fortunate in that many of us have now been published in one way or another. The support, advice and friendship from people who understand the “I woke up with an idea at 4am and wrote 5 thousand words before leaving for work” mentality, has been invaluable. I really don’t think I would have got this far without them. We suffered a tragic loss at the start of the year, when one of our members died very unexpectedly, and the grief we all felt, despite being in different corners of the world, was almost tangible. It brought us even closer together, and we are shortly going to publish an anthology in memory of those we have lost, and hope to release one annually to raise funds for charity.
There are those out there that think they are better than others because they’ve been published. My point of view is different, I have been fortunate, but still have a lot to learn. If I can help others on their own journey then I’m happy to talk and offer my own experience for their reflection, but I’m no expert.
What do you like to read in your free time?
Anything and everything depending upon my mood. As I’ve already said, my tastes are wide ranging and somewhat eclectic, but you’ll rarely find me without a book on the go, whether it is physical, or audio so I can listen to it in the car or gym, or on my phone or tablet.
What projects are you working on at the present?
Book Two of Worlds Apart is well under way, and I have the remainder of the story planned as well. They are my current work in progress items.
What do your plans for future projects include?
I would love to write crime, and I have an idea mapped out that may develop fully in that way in the future, but before that I have another book to write. It is based upon the childhood of my late grandfather, and will be named after him, who grew up in inner city Birmingham just before and during the war, including being evacuated to a place not far from where I used to live. It is hard to write, however, as I still miss him very much.
I am also working on a journal that has very personal meaning to me, regarding something that I experienced a few years ago, that changed my life for many reasons. Over a period of seven years, I had seven operations, and a diagnosis of malignant melanoma, as well as a pre-cancerous condition, that left me in a state of constant panic and fear that I wouldn’t live to see my daughter grow up – the dedication to my daughter and family in the front of Leah was written during that time. Then, on 2nd November 2012, I was called to see a different surgeon for a complete review of my case. At that appointment I was told that it was all false – none of the operations had been necessary, and the diagnoses were incorrect, the whole thing was a pack of lies and money-making racket. The journal has become important in terms of working through the fear, anger, despair and hatred of those lost years and the doctor I trusted. Whether I will ever be brave enough to put it forward for publication will be another matter, but writing is the only way I know of dealing with it and getting it out of my system before it is the cause of something else.
“LEAH” IS NOW AVAILABLE ON AMAZON