By Douglas Owen
S.A. Baker: once a rocker, now a competitive bagpiper and writer. He makes his home in Ayr, Ontario with his wife and children. Besides working in a nursing home, S.A. hides in the closet to write, hoping no one opens the door. Between work, bagpiping and his family, he tries to sneak away to put pen to paper whenever he can. He submitted his baby, Winterbourne, to independent publisher Science Fiction and Fantasy Publications and prayed for a response.
IM: Tell us a little about yourself.
SAB: I am a 46-year-old recovering professional musician who is trying to pull bodies out of a sausage grinder without going crazy, period. Oh, wait. That’s Hawkeye from M.A.S.H. I like hats and sometimes wish I had more than one head. I spend an inordinate amount of time inside my own head and the worlds I’ve created there, which seems to finally be coming to some kind of fruition.
IM: You spent a decade as a professional touring musician. What instrument did you play and what type of music?
SAB: I played upright bass in The Frantic Flattops, a rockabilly/psychobilly band from Rochester, NY for six and a half years, and then switched to electric bass and started a kind of all-star band called Bee Eater—a kind of Black Sabbath meets the Ramones meets the Who with a girl singer—which turned into a gigantic song writing outlet for me.
IM: What made you start writing?
SAB: I always wrote, even if it was just inside my head… in fact, it was mostly inside my head. I remember winning a writing contest in grade school and winning a copy of a book of Canadian ghost stories. I felt like I had won the Pulitzer Prize. When the band was on tour, I would write freelance travel pieces for a now-defunct local rock rag that were very Hunter Thompsonesque, where I would put myself in a given situation and wait for the madness of everyday living to take hold and then write about it. I would read them to the other two in the band before I sent them in. If I got big laughs, I’d send them straight away. If the laughter was scattered, I’d dial up the lunacy around us, wait for something else bizarre to happen, and then rewrite it. I went through a very long stretch of self-doubt, when I didn’t feel I was writing anything worth reading, so I began to write less and less, and I eventually forgot how much fun it was to write because I liked to do it. I eventually found my way back through NaNoWriMo. (Shameless plug)
IM: How did you come up with the concept of your novel?
SAB: I work the nightshift in a nursing home. Death is an ever-present entity, constantly lurking in the shadows and waiting, always waiting for the next name on the list. I think it just sort of wormed its way into my subconscious, given my surroundings and near chronic sleep deprivation. I do, however, have a fairly skewed and black way of looking at the world, so it was only natural that it ended up the way it did.
IM: How did you think of the title?
SAB: Initially, I was trying to write some gigantic Lord of the Rings type fantasy book about someone or something imbued with the powers of winter, hence Winterbourne. The story idea, mercifully, didn’t last long, but I liked the title, so I kept it.
IM: Is there a real town called Winterbourne?
SAB: There is! I found it last year, quite by accident, outside of Fergus, Ontario.
IM: What did you do when you found Winterbourne?
SAB: I pulled my car over and got out to look around. I may have even slapped myself to make sure it wasn’t a hallucination.
IM: What do your family and friends think about the publication of your novel?
IM: Tell us about your writing process.
SAB: I tend to always be writing, thinking about either what I am currently working on or the next one. When I do finally begin, I usually write the first draft in longhand and begin to edit on the fly, as I type it into my laptop. I usually take six weeks between first draft and second, but then, I edit and rewrite until the story is told.
IM: So, you can tell stories. What is your next step now that Winterbourne is being published?
SAB: I always enjoyed stories that revolved around a single thing. In my case, it is the town of Winterbourne. That is the constant and there are many stories that live in the crumbling buildings and shadow-covered alleys. I’m working on the second draft of the next book and thinking seriously about the third.
IM: What is the hardest part about being published?
SAB: I don’t know that there is a hard part. Maybe being expected to write more books? How horrid that a writer should write more books.
IM: Did you have to do much editing after being accepted for publishing? Tell us about the process.
SAB: More editing than I figured I would have to do, yes. The editor of Science Fiction and Fantasy Publications would send me several chapters at a time, with the edits and suggestions highlighted. I would edit and send them back and we would keep going back and forth like that until it was all finished and everyone was satisfied it was the best it could be.
IM: What did you learn while going through the editing process?
SAB: That I really, REALLY like pronouns.
IM: If you were to say anything to an aspiring writer, what would it be?
SAB: Always be writing and always be reading. I love TV and I love my computer, but they’ll steal the soul of your book faster than you can possibly imagine. Don’t listen to the whys in your life, listen to the why nots.