In the last installment of the Lost Genre Guild guest blog series, today we meet self-described nomad Paul Baines.
A. I used to mess around with short fiction at school, but I only started writing seriously about fourteen years ago.
Q. When did you feel called to write?
A. Fourteen years ago. I asked God for something that I could do for Him and the desire to write hit me within a matter of weeks.
Q. Where do you get your ideas for your stories?
A. I usually start with thinking about an interesting situation or scene. Occasionally, one will stick and I then start thinking about events surrounding the scene. If end up with enough material to work with, it may end up on my list of potential stories. At this point, I write the opening chapter. This is usually enough to tell me whether or not it can work as a novel.
Q. What are your thoughts on critique groups?
I was invited to one a couple of years back, but I have never actually taken part in one. The problem is a lack of time. I simply don’t have enough sand in my hourglass to do everything I want to do. If they could find a way of adding another eight hours to the standard day, I would be a very happy scribbler.
Q. Was it hard to develop a writing style?
A. For me, yes. It took most of the past fourteen years for me to find my voice. My first attempt at a novel was described as “solid but not slick enough.” Since then I have worked diligently to find my own voice. I’m not sure how “slick” my writing is now, but at least it is mine.
Q. Who is your favorite author?
A. Stephen King.
Q. Have you dealt with writer’s block? If so, how did you overcome it?
A. I get a mild version of writer’s block fairly regularly. Sometimes the words just flow. Other times I can spend days in a staring contest with my monitor. I get over these blocks by reading. I find that the act of reading will often be enough to jump-start my own creativity.
Q. Do you find a part of your personality sneaking into any of your characters?
A. I once read that you should write what you know. I am pretty certain that, in the act of creating a character, we all draw on our own experiences. So, yes, definitely.
Q. Were there any scenes you found difficult to write? Made you angry or made you cry?
A. The hardest scene for me to write was a church scene. I was desperate to avoid being preachy, yet the scene was essential for the story. I think I managed to avoided making it preachy in the end (at least I hope I did). As for making myself cry, I did manage to make myself choke up one time. I was reading a chapter that seemed to make everyone who read it a bit teary. I wanted to see if I could identify exactly what it was that triggered the emotion. While reading it, I choked up. And, yes, I did identify the trigger.
Q. Do you use outlines or let the story develop on its own?
I like to have a very broad outline. I liken it to remembering an old film I’ve seen years before, in which I can remember the mood of the film, and the general plot, but not the details. That way, I can let the story grow, but without getting lost on the way.
Q. What do you want your readers to take from your book(s)?
A. A sense that God is in control and loves us more than we can ever imagine.
Q. Can you share any upcoming projects with us?
A. Hmm. Well I have two finished stories with my publisher at the moment. Plus a long humorous poem for kids, written in the style of Dr Seuss. At the moment I’m busy writing a sequel to my debut novel Alpha Redemption. And I have another story waiting to be written, plus an old story that I want to rewrite and another that I am thinking about.
Q. How do you respond when someone comments that certain elements (magic, vampires, zombies, etc.) in your story does not fit in what they consider to be Christian?
A. Jesus was a story teller. He used stories to help explain difficult concepts. On ten occasions Jesus started a parable with the words: “The kingdom of heaven is like. . .”. He could have just “told” them about heaven, but he knew it would be more effective to “show” them through a story. If someone ever suggested that certain elements of my story were un-Christian, I would probably direct them to go and read through their Bible again and underline anything that they would consider to contain “un-Christian” elements if they encountered it in a modern novel. I think most of Revelation would qualify, as would much of the account of Moses’ time in Egypt.
Q. Tell us a little about yourself. What do you like to do when you are not writing? What is your temperament, etc.?
A. I love to watch a good film, or listen to some music. When I’m not relaxing I am usually exercising, or watching sport. I used to be a fitness instructor so cannot imagine not being fit. I’m not a fitness fanatic, but I do like to train.
Q. With a full schedule, how do you find time to write?
I commute six miles to work and back on my bicycle every day, which means I have about an hour-and-a-half with nothing to do other than watch the world roll by. What I started doing a few years ago was to write my novel on the way to work. I would run through plots and narrative and dialogue in my head, and then write them down as soon as I got to a computer. It is quite effective.
Q. When creating a character, where do you begin? Do you give them a background even if it may never be mentioned in the storyline?
A. I tend to concentrate on the main characters. I don’t do an outline, but I imagine what they are like, and how they fit into the story. Then I let them grow organically with the story, adjusting and tweaking as I go. Sometimes this means rewriting a part of the novel, but that is just a part of writing so I don’t mind.
Q. Can you share one or two nuggets of wisdom to those wanting to travel down the writing road?
A. Be prepared for rejection, criticism, and a lot of hard work. Forget those fortunate few who beat the odds and became instant bestsellers. Focus instead on becoming a better writer. God may not want you to sell a million copies, but then again He might. Focus on the pleasure of writing. Be prepared to market yourself and your book, even if you cringe at the very idea.
Q. Where can readers find your books and contact information?
Q. Do you spend time in prayer before you write or begin a project?
A. Yes, enormous amounts, especially for any work that I consider a part of my ministry. I feel that, as a Christian writer, I should do nothing without God’s blessings. My prayer used to be: please let my book be published. Now it is: please don’t let my book be published, unless you want it to be.
Q. What is your writing routine? Do you need peace and quiet, soft music, or does it matter?
A. I actually do most of my writing during my lunch break at work. My office can get quite noisy, so I usually listen to music through my headphones. I like Rachmaninoff, or a movie soundtrack if I need some inspiration.
Thanks, Paul, for stopping by.