R.A. Baker is a science fiction and fantasy author. His books include: The Beast at the Gate and Two Merchants and a Thief. Please welcome him to No Wasted Ink.
Hello, I’m R.A. Baker and I’m a speculative fiction author for JK Publishing. I live in the great state of Virginia and I’ve written science fiction, fantasy, paranormal short stories, and several books. I’ve been writing stories since the age of seven and I’ve been writing professionally as a published author for about 15 years. During this time I’ve also juggled the responsibilities of being a dad to two great kids, and a computer analyst for a day job that pays the bills between royalty checks.
When and why did you begin writing?
For me, writing was a bit of self-discovery—a long, meandering process that eventually made me the person I am today. In grade school (third or fourth grade, I believe), I loved writing stories. After one of my teachers had gone over Aesop’s Fables, there was something about those stories that connected with me on a deeply creative level. I proceeded to write my own fables, patterned in a similar Aesop style. My stories so impressed my teacher, she entered one of my fables in a local short story contest. I became a finalist and got my story published by the school. That was my first taste of what it was like to be a writer, and I liked it! At the time, I didn’t realize what I was writing was dancing on the edges of what would be considered speculative fiction or fantasy; to me, they were just expressions of my imagination. Soon after that, I would discover the Richmond Public Library with its rich assortment of science fiction and fantasy authors. Reading these authors’ books made me hungry to create my own characters and fantastic worlds…and rest is history. I was officially hooked.
When did you first consider yourself a writer?
To be honest with you—at the risk of sounding cliché—in my heart, I was a writer for as long as I can remember. As soon as my small, clumsy fingers first learned how to put words together on paper to form sentences and eventually paragraphs, I somehow knew that writing would always be a critical part of my life. However, it was on a subconscious level at first. It took a while before I affirmed in my mind, ‘hey I am a writer—that’s my true calling’. I think that’s probably true of many professions, whether it be athletics, or art, or religion. It’s intuitive. It’s instinct. And yet, it draws you in slowly, assimilating you over time, from childhood to adulthood. For me, it wasn’t one defining moment, but rather a series of events that told me I always was and will always be a writer.
Can you share a little about your current book with us?
I’m currently working on the second book in an epic scif-fi/fantasy trilogy; the first book is titled, The Beast at the Gate. In a nutshell, it’s about a young, modern-day woman, Rayna Powell, who suddenly finds herself in a strange pre-industrial society called Taren. It’s a land divided by war, years of mistrust and social prejudice. Needless to say, Taren is a bit of a shock for Rayna. Part of the reason for this is that some Tareners possess magic-like mental powers they call “psi-magic”. To add to the problem, Taren is currently ruled by Nephredom—a bitter, cruel man with a questionable grip on sanity. Nephredom commands many forces, most notably the Red Robes. They are an elite unit of psi-mages who increase their powers greatly by combining their thoughts—allowing them to think and act as one. Using the Red Robes, Nephredom has systematically bent the people of Taren to his will—or at least most of them. This takes us to Princess Keris. She was the rightful heir to the Taren throne, but was framed for murder by Nephredom’s aide, and forced into hiding. Soon after Rayna arrives in Taren, she meets the princess and they agree to join forces in an attempt to overthrow Nephredom. In exchange for this help, the princess says she will take Rayna to see a group of “scientists”, who may know how to return Rayna back to her world. In the The Beast at the Gate, I address a variety of topics such as unrequited love, social prejudice, and the moral dilemma of human cloning.
What inspired you to write this book?
I always wanted to write an epic sci-fi/fantasy series, and after reading a few great examples I decided to take the plunge myself.
Do you have a specific writing style?
I’ve been told I have a very descriptive, fast-paced style. I just try to write in a way that pulls my readers into my world and not let them go until the last page is read.
How did you come up with the title of this book?
The original title for the book was Rayna of Nightwind, and that was the title it was published as, under my own imprint, when I self-published. Rayna Powell was the protagonist of the story, so it made sense to me to include her in the title. However, when I was picked up by a traditional publisher (JK Publishing), they decided to re-publish the first novel as The Beast at the Gate.
Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?
Yes: welcome to my world—have fun!
Are experiences in this book based on someone you know, or events in your own life?
Not really. Granted, every author brings something unique to their writing based on their culture and how they grew up. But I think the whole appeal of writing science fiction and fantasy is the ability to escape reality for a while. So you will see very little of my personal life in my books, which—if you read my work—you will find extremely reassuring.
What authors have most influenced your life? What about them do you find inspiring?
So many authors have influenced me, it would take me forever going through the list. I will say most of my favorite authors are science fiction and fantasy authors.
If you had to choose, is there a writer would you consider a mentor? Why?
I consider almost every speculative fiction author I’ve read a mentor, because I learn something new in my craft whenever I read a book by a new writer. However, Steven Barnes, Terry Brooks, and Stephen Donaldson stand out in my mind. Sorry, I can’t narrow it down further than that.
Who designed the cover of your book? Why did you select this illustrator?
Jess Buffett is an illustrator who works for my publisher. She designs most of the book covers and does a great job.
Do you have any advice for other writers?
It’s popular to say, ‘don’t write for yourself, write for your audience’ or ‘write for the market.’ I beg to differ. If you write for yourself, your passion and love for what you are writing will shine through. That’s the best way to gain and keep readers, in my opinion.
Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers?
I would like to thank all my readers for their support. I have a modest but dedicated fan base that has consistently encouraged me over the years. And yes—book two in my Taren trilogy is nearly complete!