Thursday, March 5, 2015

Character vs Real Life

Sparkle Abbey is hosting guest blogger, Shannon Baker

Today we're joined by our good friend, Shannon Baker. She's graciously offered to give away a copy of her latest novel Tattered Legacy. Just leave a comment to be entered to win. (U.S only.) Take it away Shannon!

I never start off a novel to work out my life issues. I don’t create characters as some form of self-therapy. (Although I used to have fantasies of torturing a barrel racer and leaving her unable to speak. But I’m much better now.) Writers come to their books differently, but for me, I generally find WHAT I want to write about and then populate it with the most interesting WHO I can make up.

Recently, I got to thinking about my protagonists, which to this point have all been women. I hate to reveal too much about my personality, but when I match up what people say about those characters and what was going on in my life at the time, I can’t help but see how my sneaky subconscious was working overtime.

A reviewer for my first published book, Ashes of the Red Heifer (gratefully out of print now) commented, “…unnecessarily stubborn and foul mouthed…” and an  “…overbearing, stronger willed woman than I've ever met.” (Yes, I know, most writers use pull-lines that say nice things about the book. I have those, too, but I’m trying to make a point here.) At a book club one woman, trying to be as gentle as possible, described her as, “prickly and bossy and not very nice.”

Despite my trying to soften Annie up in revisions, she always kept that hard shell. So, here’s what was happening in my life: My husband of 15 years was having an affair (remember that barrel racer I mentioned earlier?) and I had two daughters in school, in this tiny town, and I was holding every emotion so tight no one would see me crack. That probably translated to the page, making Annie tough and hard as granite.

I wrote the next book after my family life had substantially improved. My kids were on their own and I’d found the love of my life. Personally, I felt secure and happy. But professionally, I was teetering. We’d just moved to Flagstaff and it took me over a year to find a job. When I did, instead of being in charge, as I was previously, I had no clout. While I loved the people I worked with, I felt undervalued by the management.

In Tainted Mountain, the first in the Nora Abbott mystery series, Nora is all kinds of conflicted. She gives the world the face of a competent business woman and she’s smart and hard working. Inside, she’s riddled with insecurities. She waffles back and forth between “hear me roar” and squeaking in the corner.

In Broken Trust, book two, while I’d taken a risky job at a start-up, Nora is struggling to take command of her life. By book three, Tattered Legacy, written after I’d survived menopause, Nora is full of confidence and action.

I’m not Annie or Nora or any of the other protagonists that came before them. But I can see where some of my real life transfers to their characters.

There are far less subtle ways my real life infiltrates my books. For instance, how often I kill a philandering husband. And just how many of protagonists wrestle with mother relationships. Dogs, cats, and even horses find their way onto my pages. Any aspect of my real life can seep onto the page. But not the sex scenes. Those are totally made up or derived by watching movies.

When you read a novel, do you wonder how much of the story or characters come straight from the author’s life? 

Remember, Shannon is giving away a copy of Tattered Legacy. For a chance to win, just leave a comment below. Make sure you include your email address.

Shannon Baker is the author of the Nora Abbott mystery series from 
Midnight Ink. A fast-paced mix of Hopi Indian mysticism, environmental issues, and murder. Shannon is an itinerant writer, which is a nice way of saying she’s confused. She never knows what time zone she’s in, Timbuck-Three, Nebraska, or  Denver, or Tucson. Nora Abbott has picked up that location schizophrenia and travels from Flagstaff in Tainted Mountain, to Boulder in Broken Trust and then to Moab in Tattered Legacy.  Shannon is proud to have been chosen Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers’ 2014 Writer of the Year. Visit Shannon at www.Shannon-Baker.comWhile Tattered Legacy is available from your favorite online or bookstore, if you’d like to support indie bookstores, you’re welcome to contact Who Else Books at Ron and Nina are the best! And they might have a signed copy to send.


  1. Thanks so much for letting me hang out with you. In case you don't win Tattered Legacy nere, I am offering a Goodreads giveaway, so you can take another shot.

  2. Floydene Wilder
    Ah-Ha! I have suspected this. No matter, I so enjoy the Nora Abbott Series. Why does there have to be only three?

  3. Floydene, you probably know too much about me!

  4. Shannon, we're so excited to have you here today! We can absolutely relate to how real life can find its way into our work in progress, especially during stressful times. Sometimes that's how we come up with the best victims. Ha!

  5. Very true, Shannon. Our lives creep into our writing, sometimes before we realize it. But isn't that what makes our writing real? Your books are on my to-be-read list now. Email: sara at hoklotubbe dot com

  6. I loved your interview.

    kaye dot killgore at comcast dot net

  7. Thanks for the interview. I will check out the author and also the book.