I have lived many of the adventures depicted in some of my writing, such as flying, driving race cars, windsurfing and sailing, skateboarding, mountain biking, and so on. I’ve been an artist most of my life, doing professional work in stained glass, paint, and sculpture. (www.baldwin-glass.com)
I’ve worked professionally in Silicon Valley and so understand that general type of business from the inside. I also worked on the Apollo moon program back in the day. These endeavors inform some of my characters, allowing me to bring real-world dimension to their words, desires, and actions.
I’m also a jazz keyboard player, and I ran my own creative communications service in Honolulu and Vancouver, B.C.
In my artwork since the 1970s, I conceived a three-dimensional approach to art glass design, invented the painting style known as Hard-Edge Impressionism, and coined the term Repainted Photograph, to describe my digital treatments of California landscapes. (www.baldwin-glass.com)
I do all my own cover art, using photos I’ve taken or from stock services, and mods using Photoshop, Canvas, and a drawing tablet.
What inspires you to write?
There is usually some social point I want to make, although it might not be the leading topic in the story. Being very visual, I get scenes in my head that are interesting and provocative. After a while enough of them start to look like the plot to something, and that’s when I begin collecting notes and doing research.
Strong images that illuminate crucial plot points are key. If you can make a mental image like that into words on a page, so that others see the same picture, you have accomplished a lot. It’s like mind-to-mind communication. Writing is the only art medium that makes this possible, it is rich and personal on both sides. When I get a review from someone who gets it, I could weep.
Tell us about your writing process.
For example in my speculative fiction novel Next History, I got interested in why women are so put down in society, all around the world. (Yes, I happen to be a guy.) I started to research that, I found my way back the origins of the patriarchy among the Levite tribes of Mesopotamia 4400 years ago.
One powerful image kept coming: an enormous demon imprisoned in the center of the Pentagon (it’s a pentagram, right?). So I began to research Lucifer and got onto the Babylonian creation myth. There I found the origins of Lucifer’s split-apart Lilith, the first woman who actually preceded Eve, and then I had something interesting. Talk about a woman who was a goddess archetype until the Levites bad-rapped her and turned her into a she-hyena, the evidence is clear what happened to how women are regarded: it was political. Hmmm – what could I do to flip that around in a story?
Then I started to figure out how a character would call up a demon without actually intending to. This line of reasoning gave one of my characters her quest. And in that I found it’s not the quest itself, but the character’s intensity that brings power to the story.
So I had these images, and something to say. Two of the characters came from an earlier book. It wasn’t a prequel or anything, I just happened to know the characters well and I liked how thy looked in the new context. The young girl became the lead in Next History. I figured out I could totally morph their relationship in a realistic way, which made it fun to write. So it’s a plastic process.
My ears are always open to inspiration. When I’m thinking about a plot, almost anything can stick, like what the waitress says in passing to the next table over. You need a lot of diverse small threads to create a believable world for your reader, so your mind has to be like glue all the time. It becomes your process.
Am I an outliner, seat of pants guy, use character sketches, etc?
I do all the above. I outline with plot turning points and images. I write character sketches, a few paragraphs, which often become text in the story.
For one novel I used the Enneagram to sketch my characters. Look it up, there is a lot of psychological wisdom and knowledge in the Enneagram. There are nine personality types, and the distorted aspects are well described and informative. Great for sketching villains and heroes alike. It is human failings that make most dramas unfold.
For Fiction Writers: Do you listen (or talk to) to your characters?
I am so immersed in each character I begin to think like they might. I imagine them in situations and see what they would want to do. I am always conscious of the point each one wants to make in the story, and the point of the story as a whole.
Writing is thinking on paper. Maybe it is actually painting in the mind. It is the only art form that lets us create a series of images in another person’s mind, which makes it very personal.
That is part of what makes careful editing so important, because the slightest misspelling or grammatical blooper can break the fine screen of reality that words conjure up, if the reader can’t depend on the wizard, the communication fails and the story is weak.
Keeping your reader focused on your imagery is key. A wonderful writing style is a good thing to have. But aside from being functional and accessible for most readers, if it becomes the focus, it can distract from the imagery. Your reader should not be conscious of your writing, only the stream of pictures you create inside their heads.
What advice would you give other writers?
I go for economy in my writing. I try to trim out the fat, multiple adjectives, extra clauses. I want page-turners, keep the excitement high so the reader wants to go on and gets a reward on every page.
How did you decide how to publish your books?
Tried years ago through many agents to get representation and a publisher, but never got hooked up. I got several warm replies, who said that my voice was clear and strong and my story lines were good.
A couple agents, while turning me down, pointed out that the publishing world is after the next sure bet, saying how hard it to take a chance on a decent first novel by an unknown writer.
I tried self-publishing fifteen years back on MightyWords and a similar online publisher, got some sales and reviews, but those sites went under.
When Amazon got serious, I wanted to test the market, or for the market to test my work, so I published Angle of Attack on Amazon, a mystery adventure I wrote in one month. Then I spent two months editing it, while published on Amazon and learning about KDP and self-promotion. The sales are OK, but the reviews are great. There’s a lesson in my stats that is more about the kind of readers out there than it is about my work. I have great faith in the value of what I do and how I do it, much more so than any random judgment.
What do you think about the future of book publishing?
Written words are going to stay.
As I pointed out, writing is the only means of implanting imagery in another mind. That is the core skill which sets good writers apart, and there are a million ways to do it well.
What genres do you write?
Genres so far are adventure mystery, Western noir satirical shorts, and contemporary fantasy and speculative fiction. I guess my most fundamental question is, What If?
What formats are your books in?
eBook, Both eBook and Print
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