Sunday Interview – Marjorie F.Baldwin


Sweet A.T.Weaver apologized for being long-winded and today’s guest also mentioned she was ready to cut some of her words. But you know what, ladies? This is your spotlight, and you can ramble as much as you please! I’m a writer, I know what it means when you just can’t stop because you’re writing about what you love. So I will stop rambling myself, apologize to the author for NOT reading her book yet – it’s on that infamous TBR pile a.k.a. my Smashwords library, sigh – and let you enjoy today’s guest. Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome Marjorie F.Baldwin!

Where do you live and write from?

North Carolina, on the Eastern Seaboard of the United States. At least, for now. I’d like to move to Europe for a while and travel around a bit, then ultimately, retire in the Negev Desert.

When did you start writing?

When I was a kid, very young, I wrote my first story. I started making them up in my head earlier, though. My first character, Joshua Andrew Caine, was a 30-something cross between the Marlboro Man of the 1960s cigarette commercials and the blond version of Richard Chamberlain in Young Doctor Kildaire. Him, I conceived in my mind, fully-blown, when I was about five (in first grade).

As a child, I saw nothing wrong with imagining this fully-grown man in my head but as a middle-aged woman, I have to wonder what was going on in my child-mind that I made up adult characters instead of age-mates. William Harrington followed swiftly behind Joshua (no pun intended) though I did originally imagine them as just “very good friends.” I was an innocent child and definitely did not understand what sex was, let alone “sexual orientation.” Ah, the sweet ignorance! By my teens, I’d really fully-developed both Joshua and William and a half a dozen more characters from the series. Joshua and William were still very good friends, but they were already more than that—I just didn’t know what exactly. I figured out the what—that they were a gay couple—when I was around 20. I started writing the series a year or two later. I was seriously naïve in my teens despite being completely out there in the world (I started clubbing around age 12, in 1972 when there still were night clubs in Boston so I sure had the opportunity to see a lot but I seriously had no clue). I think I found them to be such interesting men and people, I just never really objectified them as sexual targets. Odd, because I usually have no trouble objectifying men as sexual targets (LOL).

What genre(s) do you write?

Science Fiction, more of the Classic SciFi and “psychological” kind than the exploding spaceships stories with alien wars that are so popular today. I write the old-fashioned stuff from the Golden Era—but with a fresh new voice. My voice ^)^ Since I do see humans (not just men) as sexual creatures, however, I have a lot of sex in my stories. It seems to bother some people while Romantic SF has actually grown into a genre unto itself. My SciFi stories don’t follow the “romance novel” format though. They’re more about the Sci in the Fi than the umm, you know what goes in the pie.

Where do you find your inspiration?

Oh, everywhere. All of life is story fodder. Living life keeps me full of ideas. Oddly, though, I’m coming to realize I never really read much of the works by female authors who are my age mates. It’s weird to discover this 30 years later as I begin to get my work published myself. I think we were all influenced by the same things, but in my teens and 20s, when I was really writing full-length novels at full speed, one after another, I read almost exclusively male science fiction authors or non-fiction works.

I never read the big names that started out in the 70s and 80s: Anne McCaffrey, Ursula K. LeGuin, Octavia Butler, and my now-favorite, Lois McMaster Bujold not to mention a host of others who won major awards while I was working white collar middle management jobs and writing “art for art’s sake” (not to share or publish). I wrote a lot, daily at least, more so on the weekends but I’d frequently go a day or two without sleep and just write for 12 hours in between my day job shifts. I worked in offices at unchallenging secretarial jobs back then, before I went to college. I had plenty of time to rest my brain at work (LOL)

During the 80s and 90s, I read a lot more of the scientific journals and other non-fiction (history) than I did fiction authors. I think if I’d read something like Butler’s Xenogenesis Trilogy (Lilith’s Brood) which I just read this year, either before or during the time I was originating The Phoenician Series, I would have decided to be “lazy” (like I think she was) and not have bothered writing in any of the actual science in my science fiction.

John Campbell would have rolled over in his grave to see Butler’s trilogy called “science fiction” because there’s no actual science in it. There’s a vague reference to it, sideways, but conversational hand-waving does not a science fiction story make. Back then, just knowing Campbell was out there and might read something of mine one day, even just “by accident,” made me feel like I had to live up to what I call the Campbell Standard of science in my SciFi. Campbell summarily rejected better stories than Butler’s Xenogenesis trilogy for a lack of scientific basis. I wanted to be good enough for the Campbell Standard, so I focused on learning as much science as I could. In fact, that’s why I got a degree in Mechanical Engineering: for the first-hand knowledge of the math and sciences required. It just so happens I truly enjoy subjects like chemistry and physics, though, so it worked out all right. I just think the universe is a fascinating set of contradictions once you learn how it all works!

Do you have a specific writing routine?

Not really. I’m actually in the process of redefining my writing habits into a routine I can follow. I want to learn how to outline, how to plan, how to schedule pieces so I can divvy up my life into bite-sized pieces. I’m not sure I can be truly creative that way. We shall see how “organizing my art” actually works out for me ((smirk)) I’m a practically compulsive type of planner and scheduler in the rest of my life. I have no idea why I never applied my management skills to my writing. Probably because I’m afraid I’ll squash the creativity.

I’ve never specifically assigned myself a task to complete (i.e., write thus and such a scene today, then that one tomorrow, etc.) I’ve always just sat down and written whatever might pop into my head, usually starting at “The End” and working back towards the plot climax, then I skip around writing scenes, then I fill in the middle, and lastly, I try to write an opener that makes sense for the book I’ve already sketched out. It’s a system that has worked extremely well for me, but it’s hardly one I’d call “specific” or “routine.” I don’t even know if I could duplicate this process with any reliability. So I’m working on developing a reliable routine I can duplicate, predict, schedule and evaluate for effectiveness. Yeah, I’m that compulsively organized! So far, I’m doing all promo and no writing. I think this system is broken (haha) Wait, is this thing on?

Outliner or improviser? Fast or slow writer?

I answered the first question already and as to the second: very fast! I can easily turn out a first draft of 120,000 to 150,000 words in 3-4 weeks—assuming I don’t need to work a day job or do anything else. If my books are self-supporting, I could turn out multiple books very quickly. I am never—I repeat, n-e-v-e-r—at a loss for ideas or words to write. Or at least in my 51 years of life and 42 years of writing, I have never once attempted to write and been “unable” to do so. I’ve been distracted by real-life emergencies (you know, like work and buying or eating food) but my mind has never been unable to conceive of a story if I allow it to run unfettered.

I don’t edit while writing. I know a lot of writers do. I don’t. Deliberately. After I churn out the initial material, I go through numerous drafts honing and fine-tuning and tweaking sentences and correcting typos and filling in things I forgot to mention, etc. That’s all editing of one form or another and not writing; I edit very slowly. It’s quite a different beast than writing. I call writing “creative” while editing is “destructive.” Mostly I think they are opposites because I don’t care what I churn out during “writing” but I try to be ruthless in my slaughter during “editing.” It doesn’t always work. I need outside help for the “wet work” I think.

On that note, I’m just starting to work with others on the editing process. I’ve never done that before. I’ve always solicited people to read but not to edit. I call these people First Readers (FRs) because they like/read the kinds of stuff I write and take a look at my work then make comments. I don’t allow them access to the files or allow them to do any real editing of the content, so basically, it’s like getting early reviews and then changing the book.

Now, however, I’m working with people who are attempting to edit me, and are either professional editors or want to be professional editors. It’s a learning experience for both me and some of them. After more than a quarter century, I’m pretty good at posing questions to guide readers into the process of critiquing rather than giving opinions. With editors, however, I’m still learning how to exploit what they have to offer without losing months worth of time going through their changes afterwards and having to put things back the way I had them when I don’t agree with their suggested changes. Bottom line, after turning over a file once, I don’t think I’ll be doing it again. I think I’ll stick to the process that has worked for me for over 25 years.

I find the very best editor or editorial assistance will be when someone explains to me what’s wrong and then leaves it up to me to figure out how to fix it, rather than telling me what’s wrong and how they think it should be changed. It’s a subtle grey line between advice-giving and the realm of the AuthorGod’s creative license. I think an editor who “rewrites” an Author has overstepped their bounds. At least with me. With that in mind, I can say I’ve been truly blessed to find editorial help that works precisely the way I do. Cassie McCown at Gathering Leaves and I are a perfect match! Well, we’ll be a perfect match once I can afford to pay her what she’s worth—which ain’t cheap! She’s amazing.

I confess I do have one friend I’ve known online for about 25 years but have never met in person. Because he and I have communicated exclusively in writing and done so for a quarter of a century, he is uniquely qualified to practically read my mind when I leave a word out or misstate something. He knows what I mean rather than what I wrote. It’s like magic. We still misunderstand each other in email, though. It’s hilarious. I am currently a porcupine. May I shed my quills and use them for Good (writing) not Evil? Only time will tell!

Tell us about your latest book (add link if published)

I’ve just released the first of my Classic SciFi/Thrillers in The Phoenician Series: Conditioned Response which yes, is Book 2 of the series. The books were all written years ago, when I was 20ish, and centered around this one character I mentioned earlier named Joshua Andrew Caine. He’s a little more pompous now than he was when I first imagined him. As a teenager, I had a big crush on Dudley Do-Right (the blond Canadian Mounted Police man in the cartoons). I think I liked Dudley Do-Right because Joshua was a blond, not the other way around, though I definitely lifted a few of Dudley’s Good Guy traits to endow Joshua with some angelic qualities. He’s none of that now; he’s completely full of himself in Conditioned Response.

I haven’t written Book 1 yet. Conditioned Response was edited in 2005 both for a change to the setting (I took it off-Earth) and to create a new tossaway character, some “guy on the street” named Raif, who is a Proctor, or basically a cop (there’s that Dudley Do-Right thing again). As soon as I got Raif written down on the page, the guy outshined Joshua to the point of pushing him right off the pages of the entire book! Raif, I guess, took Joshua’s place as the central male character in Conditioned Response.

In fact, Raif took over enough I needed to renumber the books and make Conditioned Response Book 2 so that I could write a whole book just for Raif which will be Book 1. It’ll come out in 2013 (I hope!) What I have done is begin to go back in time, writing prequels. It’s really fun. Theoretically, I could do this indefinitely. I won’t, but I could.

I plan to release Book 1 next and then move forward with the series in its normal chronological order. Since the later books are already written and just need to be edited, I estimate a 6-9 month per book schedule but it could take longer. We’ll have to see. I won’t release something halfway done.

The universe of The Phoenician Series is still centered around Joshua Andrew Caine—he’d have it no other way!—but Book 1 will be Joshua’s past, who he was, has been, will have to resolve to end being. In Book 2, Conditioned Response, Raif will be Joshua’s present; and in Book 3, Brennan will become Joshua’s future. I cannot tell you who is the central male lead character in Book 4 or I’ll be giving away the end of the series ((grin)) The point is that the entire series keeps coming back to Joshua Andrew Caine.

Because of this, it occurred to me to write a prequel talking about Joshua, kind of to tide people over while I work on editing Book 1. I’m about halfway through writing a short story titled When Minds Collide which will tell the story of how Joshua Andrew Caine came into existence. He didn’t always used to be … the man you meet in Conditioned Response.

I’ve got a snippet of the early draft opening paragraphs for When Minds Collide on Goodreads. I’ll be releasing that as a free giveaway through Smashwords, so it’ll be at all of the regular eTailer sites (e.g., iTunes, Kobo, Nook, etc.) I’ll upload it directly to the Amazon Kindle store but they don’t like to let Indie Authors price books as “free” unless we join/enroll in their program granting them exclusive rights for a period of 90 days (3 months). I don’t see the point in limiting my readers on purpose so I’m going with the 99c option I guess. Whatever it takes. Smashwords will allow me to make it free. Get it there :) Or read the intro sample here and now if you just can’t wait to get more of The Phoenician Series.

Indie publishing or traditional publishing – and why?

Indie for now, definitely. In part, it’s a control issue and partly it’s an impatience issue. I don’t have the patience to query a publisher (who will take 85% or more of my profits off the top) and then wait 3 months to be told “No, we won’t look at your work” and not have a clue as to why not.

Nor do I want to waste time to solicit agents who will take 12.5% of my remaining 15% only to have some agent tell me my work needs to be changed like this and that and the other thing. Why? So they can sell it to their good buddy at thus-and-such a known publishing house instead of going out and working to find my market where they already exist? There are readers out there for nearly everything. You just have to find them—and an agent works with people he or she already knows. The traditional publishing model is absolutely all about “who you know” not “what you write.”

I’d rather deliver the entire set of books in The Phoenician Seriesmy way and then let the work speak for itself. If a traditional publisher wants to approach me, I can guarantee them I have a few dozen more books “in the drawer” already set to be professionally edited into salable and marketable format. The ideas I had in my teens and 20s are still fresh and original from what I’ve read. I’m a pretty voracious reader but I have to confess, I haven’t been interested in much of the cookie cutter stuff of the last ten or so years. I still enjoy my own work. Repeatedly.

If a publisher like Tor/Forge or even a smaller one like Baen Books approached me, I’d definitely take the meeting and think long and hard about how I can sell them some of my books without sacrificing my established brand. There’s always a pen name. Oh yeah, that’s right, I’m already doing that! (LOL)

What is your goal as a writer and what are you doing to achieve it?

I am both an Indie Author and an Indie Publisher, with some plans in the future to publish other Indie Authors. As such, I know what it takes to market a book and you don’t try to sell apples to people who love bananas. It just doesn’t work. There are so many people who love apples, why even try? Just go to your market instead of expecting your market to come to you. It’s so upsidedown sometimes.

I want to release my first work myself but that doesn’t mean I want to keep doing it all myself. I’d rather write more books! (LOL) I guess my real long-term goal is to get a traditional publisher to take over my marketing and promotion or better yet, get a sufficient and ongoing stream of revenue from my books that I can just hire a PR firm full-time to do it all. I can run an Indie Publishing house and write books if I hire a PR firm to do the promotion and marketing.

In fact, I’d like to hire someone else to do all of the crap that goes with being a small business owner—and being an Indie Author, not to mention an Indie Publisher, is definitely being a small business owner. Then I can focus on writing the next book. That’s my goal. Write full-time without sacrificing the need to stay in business.

I’m just over 50 now. Even with my lightning speeds, I can’t possibly write and release all of the books I have in me before I die. I have too many books in my head and more arriving every day! That’s not bragging. That’s the reality I live with: I don’t have enough time left to write everything I want to write. It’s both exciting and sad.

I have a solid handle on the promotional activity and simply need to spend the time and effort on it. Promoting a book is a full-time job. Promoting and writing is more than a full-time job. Promoting and writing and reading and learning and living life…that’s more than 3 full-time jobs. My future is definitely going to include hiring a PR firm for the marketing and promotion stuff. I’ll handle the rest of that list myself. With pleasure.((grin))

Links to Friday Baldwin:

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/FridayBaldwin or

http://www.facebook.com/PhoenicianSeries

Twitter: @phoenicianbooks

Goodreads: http://www.goodreads.com/marjoriefbaldwin

Blog: The Phoenician Series Blog

Read a free sample of Conditioned Response available in all eBook formats via Smashwords: http://bit.ly/SW-CondResp

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1 Comment

  1. A fun interview and sounds like an interesting series!

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