Thursday, December 11, 2008

Author Interview ~ Elizabeth Baker

Elizabeth is an author who draws on thirty-five years of experience as she writes about the practical application of God’s word to real-life problems. A widow since her mid-30's, Elizabeth’s colorful and varied past includes running a cattle ranch single handed and earning a high school equivalency certificate (GED) when her children were teens.

As she entered her forty’s and her first grandchild was born, Elizabeth felt God calling her to help others apply God’s Word to the practical issues of daily living. So, she in rolled in college earning Bachelor and Master degrees from Liberty University and was soon licensed by the state of Texas as a Professional Counselor. In her mid fifty’s she was accepted into the doctoral program of Oxford Graduate School where she graduated with a Ph.D. in Religion and Society.

Elizabeth currently spends her days developing books and seminars that explore the juncture where Spirit meets Life. She has four grown children and their faithful mates, fifteen grandchildren, and four great-grands.

Tell us a little about your latest release:

The two words that best describe it are practical and fun. Living With Eeyore, How to Positively Love the Negative People in Your Life, was an enjoyable project from beginning to end. Not all my books have been that way. Some were challenges and some touched on dark subjects. But, Living With Eeyore was delight.

How did you come up with this story? Was there a specific 'what if' moment?

It was easy to write about living with Eeyore because I live with Eeyore! Mom and I are both widows and have formed a household together for almost twenty years. We are poles apart in personality, yet we manage to be a team through a LOT of mutual grace. The fact that she has a personality like Eeyore was a joke between us. I would even sometimes say, “Now, Eeyore…” It was a way to use humor to defuse moments of tension. The book was pretty much a natural outgrowth of that joke. (By the way, my personality is Rabbit. But, I am getting ahead of myself. That book will be released in the fall of 2009)

Looking at the Eeyore book from a serious side, living with a negative personality can be a heavy burden, yet it seems to be a common situation. When someone sees the down side of every up and is constantly telling you that the glass is half-empty, it is easy to get depressed yourself. Having been there, I wanted to address that issue with honesty, practical help and a light touch.

Tell us a little about your main character and how you developed him/her:

Milne did a masterful job of describing the original Eeyore, just as he did all the characters in the Pooh books. Most professional evaluation systems divide human personality into four/eight/or sixteen possible profiles. Milne used eight and Eeyore was one of the more prominent. Eeyore’s negative outlook, dry sense of humor and stubbornness have remained famous for generations, which, of course, is the mark of a true classic. It is also evidence that Eeyore is someone we easily identify in our own life.

What did you enjoy most about writing this book? Least?

It is hard to say what I enjoyed the most—as I mentioned, it was all fun, but the thing I enjoyed the least was letting Mom know what I was doing! After all, Eeyore is not always considered a flattering profile.

But, there are many good qualities about Eeyore and when Mom proofread the script, she actually laughed (a rare occasion for my donkey). She was not offended and I trust that other Eeyores will not be either. The trick was to remain honest, while also adding a dash of humor and sprinkle of humility. We all have personality quirks even if we can’t be classified as Eeyores.

What's the most difficult part of writing for you (or was when you first started on your novel journey)?

The most difficult part of any book is always the need to persevere and make yourself stay with the keyboard even when you would rather be doing something else. But, I think for this particular work, the practical applications were the second hardest. I wanted to help readers live with their personal Eeyore without drowning in his sea of negativity. That help would have been an even more difficult challenge had it not been for my many years as a therapist. All those years sitting in a counselor’s chair gave me the skills and wisdom, ideas and illustrations to make Living With Eeyore a real help for readers, not just a light, funny read. It was also my years of Bible research and personal application of those truths that made the group discussion questions and brief Bible studies at the end of each chapter easier to write than they would otherwise have been.

What does your writing space look like?

Gulp! Very cramped, but sufficient. We have a small home and my “office” is actually one wall of our living room. I could never get away with that if I had children, but since it is just Mom and I, it works. The main problem is my books. My library contains over a thousand volumes, many of which are philosophy and research-type books. At the moment about a third are in storage, but the others are on shelves—floor to ceiling—in the bedrooms.

Like any writer, I must have computer and high-speed internet access. There is a very-well-worn office chair that I must replace soon, two printers and a file cabinet. When that is insufficient, I spread to the dining table or other flat surfaces. The only saving grace is that I am very organized and I clean my environment each evening when I quit work…well, almost each evening.

What would you do with your free time if you weren’t writing?

With fifteen grandchildren finding things to do with free time is never be a problem! But, I also enjoy raising a small vegetable garden each year. I am busy, so I very much appreciate an opportunity to read for a couple of hours and the dollar show is one of my favorite haunts when they have something G rated. Of course, I attend church each week, enjoy classical music and while I don’t often admit it, I keep solitaire and free cell on my desk top to entertain when my brain turns to mush. We don’t own a television, but I might like to get one someday. I’ve been thinking about that.

I also enjoy dropping by my facebook page: to see what others are saying, and hearing from readers when they contact me through my website .

Right now, I am offering a free booklet of holiday short stories to all who contact my website with name and address. I put these booklets out each year.

Do you put yourself into your books/characters?

Always. But, I am not sure if I “put” myself in them or if that fact is the inevitable results of writing from the heart. Living with Eeyore is full of vignettes and examples—most of which are taken from true life situations that I have personally known—it is hard to use that much personal informant and not have it feel like a piece of your heart has been exposed.

Standard will be doing a sequel to the book (Personality According to Pooh, Fall, 2009). Since the next book covers all personality types and includes a “game” that allows readers to type themselves, I trust that I am not the only one who will find myself in the characters of my books. I hope readers will find themselves, also!

What message do you hope readers gain from your book?

Laughter and a knowledge that it isn’t the end of the world when personalities grate on one another. There are ways to make the situation better and in the mean time, there are steps to protect yourself.

Briefly take us through your process of writing a book—from conception to revision.

When I get an idea for a book, I open a file and give it a name. As additional ideas or other information pops up that might apply to the subject, I drop these in the file, too. When I have enough, I mess with the items placing them under chapter headings.

If the idea continues to develop (and often they do not) I eventually work a formal proposal and sample chapters that are sent to my agent. If he likes it, he begins the marketing process sending it to selected publishers.

Once a publisher says they like the idea, they offer a contract of which my agent negotiates the details. When I accept the contract, it outlines everything I must do and gives me a deadline. The publisher usually pays half of our agreed advance money at that time.

After signing the contract and receiving partial advance, I get to work producing the book according to guidelines and deadline. When I finish and they accept the work, the other half of the advance is paid.

How much marketing do you do? What have you found that particularly works well for you?

Aw, yes. Good ol’ marketing. I don’t particularly like that aspect of the business and I don’t think I am very good at it. When I started writing many years ago, authors did very little marketing of their own works. Publishers figured out that end of the deal and we pretty much left it to them. No more. Now, virtually every author has to be actively involved in marketing. It is expected. And, the better and author can market, the more likely they are to receive a contract.

I would estimate that I now spend 1/3 to ½ of my time marketing in one from or another. I have Twitter and Facebook, also one website and will soon be opening another. I offer gifts and premiums, do interviews (written, radio, and occasionally television), give seminars and keep speaking engagements and meet the public at every opportunity. In one way, I’ll admit it is fun. But it was not what I expected of my life as an author and it really keeps me very busy.

Tell us what we have to look forward to in the future. What new projects are you working on?

I’ve already mentioned the new book that is a sequel to Living With Eeyore. It will be out this coming fall and I am about half way through. I have a collection of short stories being marketed by my agent now and I just finished my first novel. JaKobe’s Assignment is about an angel and his work in a small southern town. I am really excited about the novel and look forward to seeing what happens with it.

Do you have any parting words of advice?

Advice about living or writing? As for living, keep in mind how very brief life is and construct your days accordingly. As for writing, hold your dreams very loosely. You may be hit it big one day, but that will be a small matter if you don’t have a life worth living along the journey.


Elizabeth Ludwig said...

Thank you so much for being our guest today, Elizabeth. I enjoyed getting to know you!