This weekend we welcome author Shannon Baker!
Shannon Baker is the author of Stripped Bare, the first in the Kate Fox mystery series (Tor/Forge). Set in the isolated cattle country of the Nebraska Sandhills, Kirkus says, “Baker serves up a ballsy heroine, a colorful backdrop, and a surprising ending.” She also writes the Nora Abbott mystery series (Midnight Ink), featuring Hopi Indian mysticism and environmental issues. Shannon was voted Rocky Mountain Fiction Writer’s 2014 Writer of the Year. Visit Shannon at www.Shannon-Baker.com
ROCCO –Shannon Baker
Hi, Rocco, and Toni, too, of course. Thanks for inviting me over to spend some time with you. I’d love it if you want to curl up on my lap. I miss having cats in the house.
R: Thank you Shannon! Tell us a bit about yourself and how you became interested in writing.
I’m not one of those folks who always knew I wanted to be a writer. I’ve always been a reader, of course. But after college, I married a rancher and moved to cattle country in Nebraska, where cows outnumber people by 50:1. To keep my sanity, I started writing stories.
From Nebraska I moved to Boulder, Colorado, my favorite place. Then did a stint in Flagstaff, AZ, back up to Boulder for a bit, and over to southwest Nebraska for a short but painful interlude, and finally, two years ago, down to Tucson, where I hope to plant myself for a long time.
I know you’ll try to be tolerant, Rocco, when I tell you I live with my favorite human, and our lively and ever comical Weimaraner, Jezebel. I love cats, I really do, but I love my husband more. And he believes, mistakenly, that cats belong outside. (R: Well, I guess I’ll forgive him, merow!)
R: Tell us about your latest release, STRIPPED BARE.
Kate Fox thinks she’s got her life all figured out. She gets to live on and run a ranch she loves and settle into married bliss. But a phone call shatters her world. Her husband, the sheriff, has been shot, a local rancher killed, and her ward has jumped the fence and bolted. It gets worse when she discovers her husband’s affair. Despite wanting him to rot in jail, when he’s accused of the murder, she’s got compelling reasons for proving he isn’t the killer.
Filled with Kate’s boisterous and interfering family, quirky rural characters, and set in the cattle country of Nebraska, STRIPPED BARE has been called Longmire meets Fargo.
R: Do you have an “how I got my agent” story you’d like to share? How did you feel when you got the call your first novel had sold?
Agents searches—ugh. I’ve been writing a really long time. I couldn’t even begin to tell you how many agent queries I’ve sent out over the years. I was lucky enough to meet an editor at the Colorado Gold conference in Denver. (One of the best writers cons in the country!) After getting to know each other, I sent her my manuscript and she bought it! That was the Nora Abbott series, and I published three books with Midnight Ink (Tainted Mountain 2013, Broken Trust 2014, Tattered Legacy 2015). But when I wrote the first Kate Fox book, I girded my loins and once again, entered the agent fray.
I created a spreadsheet from the deals listings in the Sisters in Crime newsletter, going back for two years. This list only included the mystery genre and only those deals reported in Publisher’s Weekly, but it gave me a good place to start. I noted how often the agent sold and to whom. From that, I compiled a priority list and started sending out queries in batches of fives. One agent recommended me to someone else. That agent read it, was interested, but eventually passed. After ten queries, I noted a trend in responses and did some tweaking to my manuscript.
Then, that recommended agent called me. She said she couldn’t get the story out of her mind and if I made a few changes, she’d like another look. I’d already made those changes, she liked it, and within a month, STRIPPED BARE was sold at auction, with 3 of the Big 5 making offers.
That’s more than you wanted to know, I’m sure. But my point is: It might take a lot of time and effort, but if you keep going forward and working on craft and knowledge of the business, the stars might align and things can work out.
R: What’s a must have for you when you are writing? What aids the creative process?
My laptop, I guess. And even then, if that’s not available, a notebook and pen. I can write anywhere. It’s a matter of making myself sit down and do it. I’m pretty disciplined and quite a plodder, so, for me, working a word count every day is effective.
R: If you had access to a time machine, which historical moment would you travel to and why?
I’m pretty happy with now. I’m such a realist that I think of all the modern conveniences I enjoy--dishwashers, daily showers, toothpaste, washers and driers—that I don’t think I want to go back, even as far as my parents’ and grandparents’ eras. Grandma had to have a “girl” help her out several hours a day, just so she could get all the cleaning, laundry, cooking, and caretaking done. When would I write and read if I had to spend all my time doing that?
R: If a movie were to be made of one of your books, which one would you want it to be and who would you pick for the lead roles?
I’d definitely want STRIPPED BARE. Not sure who to play Kate but maybe Kate Mara. I think she’s so cute and can be tough but vulnerable.
R: What is one thing your readers would be most surprised to know about you?
I don’t know how surprising it is, but I’m training for my first ½ marathon. I’ll be nearly 57 when I run it and I’m scared and excited at the same time. Oh, I guess something that surprised my daughters, is the tattoo I got on my ankle. It’s a tome with a dagger plunged into it, with blood dripping down. I love it!
R: What is the craziest thing you've ever done?
Okay, let’s just pick the most recent. My husband and I hiked down the Grand Canyon on Christmas Eve, camped at the bottom, and hiked out Christmas Day. I love the Grand Canyon and this trip was as amazing as other times we’ve gone. But this time, it snowed at the top, rained at the bottom, and we ended up having to climb into our tent at supper time and stay there until morning.
R: What do you hope readers will most take away from your writing?
I want to take readers on a ride. Pull them from their easy chairs, or propped on their pillows, and take them to a different place. Make them see new things, get their hearts pumping, wonder what’s going to happen next, experience the place and feel like they’ve met some interesting and fun people. I want to entertain.
R: Are you a plotter or a pantser?
I’m an all-out plotter. I used to plot on an Excel spreadsheet. Now I use Scrivener. And note cards on a corkboard. I don’t plot in as much detail as I used to, because I know I’ll have better ideas as I go along. But I generally have plot points set out and write to those and away from them.
R: Where can we find out more about you and your work?
My website, Shannon-Baker.com If you sign up for my newsletter, you get a free short story. Signing up is pretty painless. I only send out newsletters three or four times a year. Jezebel writes them and she always includes a cocktail recipe.
R: Do you have any advice for beginning writers?
My best advice, after Write Every Day or as often as you can, is to understand that writing is a long game. I only know of one writer who sold her first book. I believe that old adage that it takes one million words written before a writer learns how to write. An addendum to that is to not work on one book too long. (I don’t know how long that is.) At some point, let it go, quit revising, and move on to something new.
Just for Fun:
Night or Day? Day
Dog or Cat? (answer carefully) *cringe* Jezebel
Beach or Pool? Beach
Steak or salad? Steak
Favorite Drink? Old Fashioned (today, tomorrow might be a great IPA)
Favorite Book? (2016) A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman
Favorite TV Series? Deadwood
Favorite Movie? Gone With The Wind
Favorite Actor: Clark Gable
Favorite Actress: Merle Streep
Dirty Martini or Pina Colada? Bourbon
Hawaii or Alaska? Hawaii