I am very pleased to have been able to interview Thomas Jerome Baker, multi-genre author of over 100 books including both fiction and non-fiction. Here, he tells us about himself, his writing and inspirations.
So first of all Thomas, tell me about what made you start writing?
I honestly believe I have always been “predisposed” to writing. What I mean by that is I am an “autodidact”, a person who learns without the benefit of a teacher or formal education. A very important tool for me as an autodidact is writing. For me, my writing process involves the evolution of my initial thoughts, ideas, observations into its final, polished form. In the end, what I have is clarity, something that is meaningful to me. This process of arriving at clarity in thought and word is what motivates me to write again and again, in a wide diversity of genres. In sum, it is how I learn, as a human being, and make sense of the world around me.
What do you think of when you think about your readers? Do you have a constant reader like Stephen King or do you write for a friend/loved one?
I am writing to tell my story in a meaningful way. It involves me starting out without knowing what is going to happen in the end. Many times, I am surprised by what is there on the final page. But, if I have the feeling that the story, as I have told it, is faithful to itself, to its essential nature, then I write those fateful words, “The End.” The story is finished, and it will find its reader(s). I am only the writer…
Do you have a writing process/formula, or is it more random?
I have a process that goes like this: 1.Tell the story. Write, and write and write until the story is done. 2. Read the story. Happy? Content? Satisfied? No? Go back and rewrite. Yes? 3. Do the editing. 4. Publish.
Kirsten: So simple when you put it like that!
Who are your favourite mainstream authors?
Kirsten, my All Time Favourite Number 1 writer is William Shakespeare(s). As you know, there are some people who doubt that his body of work was done by just one person, or several. So, for me, my favourite authors are the Shakespeares(s), if you will allow me to answer that way. The writing of Shakespeare transcends time and place. It captures the human condition in all its various expressions.
Kirsten: Great answer! The fact that his works are still mainstream reading in schools today must say something about the significance of his work
Have you tried other formats like articles/screenplays/plays etc, or do you stick to novels?
I am a multi-genre author, including both fiction and non-fiction. I have not yet attempted a screenplay or a play, but I honestly don’t rule it out as a future possibility for me.
Do you consider writing a hobby or a profession?
Kirsten, this is a great question. The hobby or profession dichotomy asks a writer to consider their profession in terms of whether or not they are able to make a living at it. My conservative guess is that fewer than 10% of writers are able to make a living only by writing. However, history gives us multiple examples of great writers who never earned a dime in their lives. Only after their death did the world “discover” their wonderful literary works. Let me name a few people: William Blake (considered mad by his contemporaries), Soren Kierkegaard, Henry David Thoreau, Du Fu (Chinese poet), John Keats (his contemporaries hated his work), Emily Dickinson (poet), Herman Melville (author of Moby Dick), John Kennedy Toole (1981 Pulitzer Prize winner, he committed suicide 12 years BEFORE he won the prize)… I rest my case. To sum up, I am a professional writer not by my ability to earn a living at my “profession”, but by the dedication with which I pour all of my talent, skill, and ability to tell the best story I possibly can, while always seeking to grow as a writer. I think that is a definition of a professional writer (me) as opposed to a successful, commercial writer (which I am not)
Kirsten: That’s probably the fullest answer I’ve ever had, but an interesting take on the whole professional v hobby question
Where do your ideas come from?
My life. Fortunately, my life has been lived in Europe, North and South America, and I have come into contact with an incredibly diverse group of people. As a soldier (10 years), nurse (10 years), and teacher of English (20 years), my life experience has given me an infinite number of topics I can write about in both fiction and non-fiction.
When it comes to marketing and promotion, how do you approach this area?
To be honest Kirsten, I’m not very good at self-promotion. Fortunately, social media (and interviews like this one) gives me a viable solution to get my work in front of people who otherwise would not have a clue about my writing. It is sometimes time-consuming, but it is economically the only viable option I have. I’m comfortable using it to maximise my earning potential.
What would you most like to sit down and discuss with your readers?
I sometimes choose to let my stories go off in directions that some readers would rather I hadn’t. I don’t seek controversy for the sake of controversy, but if the story demands a certain path, I won’t avoid it simply because it might “turn off” some readers. I sincerely believe that a story will always find its readers, so I don’t avoid controversy in the hopes of achieving greater commercial success. Two books come to mind that exemplify this: 1. Emily and David’s Quest, and, 2. Jewish & Nazi Shoah U-Boat Catchers: An Amazing Tale of Holocaust Betrayal. Both books are difficult to read because neither one gives readers what they expect, and quite frankly, would rather have, namely, a triumph of good over evil.
About what would you most like to chat with your favourite author?
I think Shakespeare (the man) is a person who would not measure up to the mythological literary persona that has been created around him. So, I’m thinking this is a guy who would find it extremely funny that we hold him in such high esteem now and have done so for the past 600 years. In that sense, having a beer with him and listening to him clarify what his life was really like would be a fascinating way to spend an evening in London before taking in a play at the Globe Theater.
Kirsten: I agree. I wonder if he’d be overwhelmed at the impact of his work or just find it hysterically funny that we have made so much of him
Where do you see yourself in five years? What is coming up for you, new book/project wise?
Currently, I am in the final year of studies at Universidad Católica Silva Henriquez in Santiago, Chile. I’m studying for a degree in Career and Technical Education, which will be my fourth career after being a soldier, a nurse, and an English teacher. That’s my priority at present, so writing has had to take a backseat to that aspiration. I see myself in five years time able to dedicate increasingly more of my time to writing, maybe at some point opening a bookstore dedicated exclusively to the more than 100 books I’ve written already.
What are your greatest writing influences?
Kirsten, I think that writing books is a way for the dead to speak to the living. Voices from centuries past whisper words of wisdom, wonder and advice into your soul. Accordingly, I am influenced by every single writer who I have ever read, both the living and the dead. It is impossible not to acknowledge that in the search for oneself, one finds those who came before us somewhere within us, connected to the stories and the ways in which we give form and meaning to our stories. I would go so far as to include not only those writers who we accept and admire, but also those writers who we reject and despise. For me, this is an inescapable truth. My originality is embedded in the originality of those who came before me. I am a part of them, and they are a part of me, in their totality as human beings.
Is there anything you’d like to add?
Thank you for giving me the opportunity to use your platform as a way of presenting my thinking about writing and writers with you and your readers. I appreciate the work you are doing very much in this regards. Have a wonderful day!
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