The Long and the Short of It is pleased to welcome June Phyllis Baker, whose first novel No Regrets is available from Amazon.com. She’s currently working on a second book in the series, Nobody’s Cowboy.
She begins her stories by first getting an idea for a character. She then decides what she wants to see happen to that character. From there, the plot develops.
I asked her to tell us a little bit about No Regrets. June told me, “Just a regular day in Sunny Hills. Should she mind her own business? The gossip columnist doesn’t think so. The Sheriff things she should. And what exactly is that pesky Major up to? Reporter Arlene Sinclair is afraid of nothing or nobody. A staunch advocator of the truth, she'll stop at nothing to get her facts. Of course Sheriff Lance Carter doesn't see it that way; especially when she interferes in police business and takes something from a crime scene she's sure means nothing. In spite of this he is in love with her. Arlene is determined to write the story that will make her a household name. When a man with a grudge and a gun holds her hostage, Arlene becomes her own big story.”
Her current WIP (work in progress), Nobody’s Cowboy, is set in the same sleepy little fictitious town of Sunny Hills, Georgia in the 1950s, just like No Regrets. “Dusty, my hero, developed a love for flying while serving in Korea,” June explained. “He's also a deputy with the Sunny Hills Sheriff’s office. He wants to start his own crop-dusting business, but his girlfriend Katie doesn’t see it that way. She thinks he should keep both feet on the ground. His brother-in-law, who is also the sheriff, wants him to stay on the force. Dusty's friend Mike would like nothing better than to steal Katie away from Dusty.”
June has always been a voracious reader. In fact, in her town’s summer reading program, she always placed among the top readers. When she was twelve, she saw an advertisement for a writing contest on the inside of a matchbook cover and entered. “I didn’t win,” she said, “but it planted the seed to write.” She told me, “The first time I saw my story in a magazine, being a writer became even more real to me.”
I asked June what inspired her to write that first book. “After 9-11, I wanted to make people laugh, help them escape from the sadness,” she said. Then she added, with a laugh, “Little did I know it would take me five years to write it.”
June shared with me that the hardest part of writing her book was dealing with her dyslexia. “It presented a real challenge,” she said, “especially since I’d mix up words, transpose letters. Sometimes my thoughts get mixed up and I have to slow down. I have to check and recheck everything.” It also surprised her that she had the patience to work on the book for as long as she did, as well as actually being able to write a novel-length book. She was aiming for sixty thousand and ended up writing seventy-two thousand.
She rarely suffers from writer’s block, she told me, because she’s always got one idea or another running through her head. “The times it does happen,” she said, “I either have my characters write me a letter and tell me what they want me to do with them, or go back and read what I’ve already written.”
June also follows a schedule for her writing. “I write every day,” she told me, “either in the morning or the afternoon for a hour. Then check my mail and then try to do some reading.” Her computer is set up in the corner of her bedroom. “On the left corner of my desk I have the ARC copy of my book. I keep it there to inspire me to keep writing and to realize what I have accomplished,” she told me. “Next to it I have Merriam Webster’s Handbook For Writers.”
One reason she writes books with such a humorous twist is that she enjoys reading books that make her laugh. She told me that Janet Evanovitch is one of her favorite authors. “Her books never fail to make me laugh,” she shared. “She has a wonderful sense of humor.”
I asked June what she was currently reading. “A friend told me that my writing reminded her of of Ann. B. Ross, author of the Miss Julia series,” she said. “Hearing that, I decides to read a couple of her books. Right now I’m reading Miss Julia Strikes Back.”
On a personal note, she hates how she looks in pictures and has very few of herself in the house. “My excuse is that I didn't get the photogenic gene,” she told me. Also, she’s never eaten a crayon, but if they tasted like chocolate, she’d be willing to give it a shot. And, she’s never made a crank phone call because she’s sure she would giggle and ruin it.
I also wanted to know what one experience from her past she would erase if she had the chance. “When I was in the second grade, the teacher tied me to a chair in front of the class,” she said, “because, I would get up and walk around the classroom. It was humiliating.”
Finally, I asked her what advice she would give to a new writer just starting out. “There are a lot of good online writing chats that are very helpful to newbie writers,” she told me. “Take an online course. Read as many books as you can in the genre you want to write in. There are also some pretty good self help for writer’s books. Two that I would recommend are Goal, Motivation, and Conflict by Debra Dixon and The First Five Pages by Noah Lukeman.”
You can keep up with June on her website, http://junephyllisbaker.com