Friday, July 20, 2012

Author Judy Baer ~ Interviewed


Judy Baer was born and grew up on a farm on the prairies of North Dakota, experiencing many of the same things as her Hilltop characters. An only child, she spent most of her days with imaginary people—either those she read about or those she made up in her head.

Baer graduated from Concordia College with majors in English and education and a minor in religion. While at the time, she was simply studying what interested her, Baer later realized that she was educating herself for her future career as a Christian writer. She certainly put her education to use as she is the author of more than 75 books.

A certified professional life coach now certified in three coaching disciplines, Baer coaches primarily professional and aspiring writers. She is also a faculty advisor in the Department of Human Development at St. Mary's University in Minneapolis, MN.
Baer has two daughters and three step children. She and her husband live in Minnesota.

Learn more about the author and her books at www.judykbaer.com. 

What two or three things would you do differently if you were starting your publishing career today?

-- I’d not try so many different things at once.  I was writing YA books and romance novels as well as for a national magazine and some newspaper articlesInstead, I’d pick a spot and stay in it!

What one issue makes you struggle the most as an author? How do you handle it?

--Time.  I’ve worked out of my home and written nearly 80 books.  It’s very easy to become distracted when your living and working spaces are so close.  The other is motivation.  Once I get going, I can lose myself in the story.  It’s getting going every day that’s the hard part.

 
What is the best writing (or life) advice you have ever heard or wished you had followed? Why?

--I’m a bit of a sponge, frankly, I soak up so much and apply it to my life that there is no way to tell you just one thing.  The best writing advice I’ve ever had came from an editor who offered to walk me through her edits and tell me exactly why she had suggested each change.  It was my very first book. I learned so much from her in two hours …and it came at a time in my career that I really needed it.  It was like a college semester in editing!

What one issue ignites your passion? Does your passion fuel your writing? What would you do with your life if you didn't write?

I have certain books that certainly did ignite my writing passion. FOREVER HILLTOP is out right now from Guideposts.  It’s a about a city boy, professor turned pastor, whose first parish is in the center of rural North Dakota.  I grew up in a rural area and understand that life-style so I had a wonderful time writing a fish-out-of-water story.

If I weren’t writing, I’d be coaching full time.  I’ve been a personal life coach and a writing coach for twelve years.  That really gets my heart going—I love working with people to have their “ah-ha” moments, see books published and change their lives for the better.

Tell us a bit about your current project.

I have FOREVER HILLTOP out right now and THE BACHELOR BOSS (Love Inspired) August 1.  Now I’m working on proposals for other books and have 4 or 5 ideas I really like.  I’m also arranging to put LIVE! FROM BRENTWOOD HIGH, my six book series for teens, out on Kindle.  They will be on Amazon very soon.

We are all about journeys...unique ones at that. How convoluted was your  path to your first published book? Share some highlights or lowlights from your path to publication. 

I’m one of the fortunate ones.  I worked for one year on my first book which was rejected but my second and third books sold within 3 weeks of each other.  I’ve been writing ever since—it has been my only career except coaching which I began 12 years ago.

Do you still experience self-doubts regarding your work, or struggle in a particular area such as writers block or angst driven head-banging against walls? Please share some helpful overcoming hints that you’ve discovered.

Frankly, I think the longer you write, the worse it gets.  I know I’m more particular now that I’ve had more experience.  When you start out often you don’t even know what you don’t even know!  Sometimes when I’m stuck on an idea I go take a shower.  It’s amazing how well I can think with water pouring down on my head!  Being out in public also revs me up.  I like to work in coffee shops, restaurants, even airports.  Changing location and scenery or a good long hot shower are tricks that work for me.

What mistakes have you made while seeking publication? Or to narrow it down further what’s something you wish you’d known earlier that might have saved you some time/frustration in the publishing business?

I was in on the ground floor of several projects.  Some worked, others didn’t.  One for example, was books based on a television show and something fell through in the licensing after my manuscript was complete.  I suppose I would have had to have a crystal ball in order to save myself from lost time and frustration. 

What is your favorite source for finding story ideas?

It always has to be something that piques my curiosity—a theme, occupation, a personality trait or a “what if?”  That usually send me down a research trail or fact-finding mission and things go from there.  Sometimes I don’t do any of that.  I just grow the story in my mind (and the shower, and the coffee shop.)

Have you ever had one of those awkward writer moments you’d like to share with us, the ones wherein you get “the look” from the normals? Example, you stand at a knife display at the sporting goods store and ask the clerk which would be the best to use to disembowel a six foot man…please do tell.

My awkward moment always feel the worst at book signings.  I love to have people come and visit even if they have no intention of buying my book.  Usually, though, those people skirt around an autograph table like it has the plague! 

I did, however, have a real life awkward moment similar to the one you describe.  I went into a store and asked for a skinning knife.  They wanted to know what I wanted to skin.  I told them “a buffalo.”  The clerk looked at me like I’d lost it and said “We have some paring knives on sale.” 

A yearling bison had run into a fence and broken its own neck. I didn’t want it to have died for nothing so I was determined to save the hide.  Let me tell you, you don’t need paring knives when you skin a buffalo!  The hide is still on my family room couch and I treasure it.  (As you may have guessed, I lived on a bison ranch for a few years.)

With the clarity of experience what advice would you offer up to the wet-behind-the-ears you if  beginning this writing journey today? 

Learn the craft first!  I often teach beginners and they usually want to find out how to get published but some of them haven’t even written anything yet.  That’s a cart-before-the-horse situation.

What event/person has most changed you as a writer? How?

A little book I read (and reread dozens of times) as a child, SAWDUST IN HIS SHOES  (Eloise Jarvis McGraw) was the book that taught me how much I loved story and the written word. 

I sold my first piece when I was about twelve (and was paid $10.00 for it.)  That was big.  Unfortunately I took a twenty year hiatus after that but read furiously all that time so I was ready to publish again!

Also, my husband Tom makes me happy and happy is a good space to write from! 

What piece of writing have you done that you’re particularly proud of and why? (Doesn't have to be one of your books or even published.)

THE WHITNEY CHRONICLES and the new FOREVER HILLTOP double book that’s out right now.  Those are the books of my heart, the ones I knew I had to write.  There were others, of course, like BE-MY NEATHEART and the CEDAR RIVER DAYDREAMS series for kids (they will also be out on Kindle soon.)  I received 200 fan letters a month during the height of that series so I knew I was making a difference.

When I write from the heart and become completely engaged in my characters, the writing is a joy.

Do you have a pet peeve having to do with this biz?

I do my share of whining to my husband but I know the business is what it is.  I don’t spend much time wishing I could change things.  I’d rather just write.

Share a dream or something you'd love to accomplish through your writing career.

I’m blessed by letters I get saying I’ve made a difference in people’s lives.  That alone is a dream come true.

What gives you the greatest writer buzz, makes the trip worth the hassles (besides coffee or other substances, or course)?

I always said I’m not so crazy about writing, but I love having written!  Seeing another book out there delights me.

What is one of the more unique or strange life experiences that has really given you an extra oomph in your writing?

Well, there is the skinning a buffalo thing…

Describe your special or favorite writing spot or send a picture if you'd like.

We rent a lake home that is a lovely spot to write.  I’ve enclosed a photo of sunset over the lake so you see some of what I see.


What aspect of writing was the most difficult for you to grasp/conquer? How did you overcome it?

Getting started in the morning.  I have to fall back on the “Just Do It” advice.  The other is plotting.  I’m very character driven so sometimes have to go back and revamp the plot after a character has taken me on a wild goose chase.

What is the first thing you do when you begin a new book?

I write out my idea in long-had on yellow legal paper.  I carve out chapters and brief descriptions of scenes I want to include in each.  It builds from there.

Writing rituals. Do you have to sit somewhere specific, complete a certain number of words, leave something undone to trigger creativity for the next session? Some other quirk you’d like to share?

I often stop in the middle of something good, when I’m having fun writing, when creativity is flowing.  It sounds counter-intuitive but then I’m eager to get back to it the next morning.

Plot, seat of pants or combination?

Some of both.  Maybe you should add “stab in the dark” too.

What is the most difficult part of pulling together a book? Ex. Do you have saggy middles, soggy characters, soupy plots during your first drafts…if so, how do you shape it up?

The hardest part is the middle.  I’m already very clear on the ending and beginning when I start.  It’s just the stuff that holds it together that I have to think through!  Usually that’s when going back and doing some serious plotting helps.  If I’m vague about where I’m going, my writing will be vague too.

Have you received a particularly memorable reader response or peer honor? Please share.

I had a young girl tell me that she’d had a boy pressure her to have sex.  I’d written a book about a teen pregnancy and she remembered what happened in BROKEN PROMISES and stopped him, went to her parents (like the girl in the book had done) and as a result she and her parents were now very close, they attended church as a family and she said I’d saved her life. 

I had dozens of letters from kids saying “I read your book and for the first time I realized I’m not alone with my problem…)

Books can change lives.

Have you discovered any successful marketing/promo ideas that you'd share with us?

I’m really trying to improve on Facebook and the like.  I think my best bet would to squeeze 30 or 40 hours into every day but so far, no luck.

Parting words? Anything you wish we would’ve asked because you’ve got the perfect answer?

I think you’ve asked great questions but the perfect answer has eluded me once again.  Maybe I’ll think of it in bed tonight when it’s too late to do anything about it!  Isn’t that the way it always works?


2 comments:

Kelly Klepfer said...

Thanks for buzzing by, Judy. I've gotta tell you...your awkward writer moment is by far the most unique one I've heard. Ha. Ha. And your writing nook is indeed inspiring.

sally apokedak said...

Great interview. Thanks. I LOVE that sunset over the lake.

And middles are the hardest things!