Interview with Tiffany Baker, author of "The Little Giant of Aberdeen County"
Tiffany Baker is the New York Times best-selling author of The Little Giant of Aberdeen County. She sat down with me to answer some questions about her book and what it's like to be an author in the internet age.
The Little Giant of Aberdeen County is a magical book. I think part of that stems from the various little mysteries in it, one of which is Truly's health. We currently live in the age of "Dr. Google," where people can find out more information than we know what to do with about our conditions. In the book, Truly doesn't know much about her condition. Did you ever consider having Truly know more about her condition? Do you think Truly would have done anything different?
That's a good point that you make about living in the "Dr. Google" age. But no, I never wanted Truly to know that much about her condition. Growing up, she never would have had the resources for such a thing, and then, when she's with Dr. Morgan, I wanted her to resist his treatments -- at least mentally. Truly needs to keep her own idea of who she was and what was happening to her to herself. It's the only autonomy she has, even if it's internal. There's a moment in the book when Truly's a child, where Dr. Morgan's father comes to see Truly's father to try to help her, but he refuses. I think that’s the only chance Truly has for her life to be different, but it’s not in her control.
What can you tell us about your writing process? Do you plan out your books start to finish or do you let the character guide you? Do you have a specific writing routine?
The writing process for me changes a little for each book, because each book has its own set of problems, its own structure, and rhythm. Generally, though, I’ve been thinking about a story for at least a year before I sit down to try to write it. I usually start with characters and settings, and then start playing the “what if” game. I don’t love really detailed outlines, but I do need to have a story’s arc completed in my mind before I sit down to write. I always know what will happen in the end -- it’s just getting there sometimes takes me down routes I never expected! And that, to me, is magic.
As for routine, well, it’s hard to have that with three kids under the age of eight. I write madly when they’re at school, negotiate a lot with my husband about the weekend stuff, and do the best I can. But I can tell you: When there’s a deadline, everybody’s eating pizza, and that’s that.
Did you find the experience of selling your first book changed how you worked on your next one?
Definitely. For one thing, there’s a lot of chatter to contend with: reviews, feedback from editors, and expectations to meet. It’s taken me a little while to learn how to turn all of that off in my head. With a first book, there’s none of that, only the question of whether or not you’ll ever get published. On the other hand, now that I do have one book out, it’s a pleasure and an honor to know that there are people who want to read another book. I can’t tell you how encouraging that is. It makes the days when nothing flows, when I have to trash a chapter and start all over again, worth it.
You were part of the Debutante Ball, a group blog for debut authors. How did you find that experience? How do you think your publishing debut would have been different without the internet?
First of all, let me just say how much I appreciate the community of book bloggers. I’m amazed at the support and interaction there is online. It’s really cool. And as more and more traditional review avenues like newspapers disappear, the Internet is an invaluable way to connect with readers in a more personal way.
The Debutante Ball is a grog for women writers, and those girls helped keep me sane through the debut process. There’s a lot of joy when you put your first book out, but a lot of anxiety, too: first book readings, first reviews (good and bad), first meetings with publishers and editors, questions about publicity, second books, agents. They gave me support in a way none of my “real time” crowd could because they were going through it, too. And it’s been really gratifying to watch all of their careers take off.
Earlier this year you became a New York Times best-selling author. Did you do anything to celebrate?
Hmmm, let me think. I was in the kitchen making dinner when my editor called, so I know I finished that up and ate heartily! Then I called all my friends and family and crowed for a while, and then, yes, I sat down and got back to work on Book Two. But it was a wonderful surprise.
What can you tell us about your next book?
It’s called The Gilly Salt Sisters, and it’s about three women in a salt marsh on Cape Cod who all have a history with the same man. Two of the women are estranged sisters, and the third is his pregnant teenaged mistress. When they all end up together in the marsh, things literally go up in flames.
This book is more complicated than Little Giant. It’s told in the voices of the three women, covers a lot of history between the characters, but, like Little Giant, it’s got a healthy dose of magic, a really captivating setting, and characters I hope you won’t forget.
Thanks for featuring me, and happy reading everyone!
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