Monday, May 18, 2015

Interview with Bart Baker, author of After Ozz

Title: After Ozz
Author: Bart Baker
Publisher: CreateSpace
Pages: 254
Genre: Young Adult
Format: Kindle/Paperback

 With her uncle, the President of the United States, presumed dead and her beloved younger brother, Ozz, missing, Dot Gale is whisked into an odyssey in a different, very strange dimension. With the aid of three friends she makes on this arduous adventure, Scared Crow, Heartless and half man/half beast, Lars, Dot must battle the diabolically deadly Empress West if she is ever to return home with Ozz. Can Dot survive the evil machinations of the Empress and return home to rescue the United States before her wicked Aunt Emily succeeds with her sinister plan to take over the country?

To Purchase After Ozz

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What are you most proud of accomplishing so far in your life?
My family.   All the other accomplishments, money, success comes in a very distant second. 
How has your upbringing influenced your writing?
I grew up very working class.  It’s how I see the world.  I’ve treated writing like a job even before it actually was my job.  Also, my family is large and borderline insane with lots and lots of very colorful, crazy, flawed but loving people, so I’ve been blessed with a huge font of inspiration.  Whenever I’m creating characters, I have plenty to draw from.   
When and why did you begin writing?
My friends tell me I was writing all the time as a kid.  I don’t remember that, but I never focus on much more than the present and the future.   When I was 20, I moved to Los Angeles to chase the dream of becoming a writer.  It was a wonderful time, I worked a lot in the theater, having a couple plays produced and eventually segued over to screenwriting where I have been blessed to have over a dozen projects produced for film and television.  And then I slid over to writing novels.  My first, HONEYMOON WITH HARRY, was successful and it’s in the works to be produced with Bradley Cooper attached as writer and director.  Now I move back and forth between film and novels.  Presently I am writing a remake of BEACHES, the Bette Midler film for the Lifetime Network, then back to the sequel I’m penning to HONEYMOON WITH HARRY, then the second installment of the AFTER OZZ series. 
Do you recall how your interest in writing originated?
I’ve always loved storytelling.  I have always had a very vivid imagination and I loved reading and going to the movies as a kid.  The mix of those things converged and I knew in college that it is what I wanted to do with my life.
When did you first know you could be a writer?
I’m still not sure I am.  I’m more comfortable calling myself a storyteller.  That being said, I never doubted my abilities, but I always figured most people had the same talents I did, that I wasn’t that special, that anybody could write.   It took much longer in life to discover that wasn’t true.  And I’ve had enough success with getting movies produced, plays mounted and books published that someone must like what I do.  I just feel blessed. 
What inspires you to write and why?
Well, first and foremost writing is what I do for a living, so putting my kids through school and feeding them inspires me to keep at it.  But as far as where inspiration comes from with each project, it is simply second nature to me to be keen on the things around me that spark my imagination.  Each story has a different source, sometimes they are completely from my imagination, sometimes I read, see or hear something that sparks me, sometimes it’s a certain person, or even an image that I can’t shake.   But I keep myself open to it all and that allows me to never be short of material.  I always have more projects to write than I have time.
What genre are you most comfortable writing?
I think I’m best writing a mix of humor and heartache.  That’s not really a genre, more of a description of what I believe I do well.  I am known for being able to tap into the emotions of a character and making the reader feel that.  But as I said earlier, I come from a brood of crazy, colorful people who never cease to make me laugh – either with them or at them – and so I tend to leaven my pathos with lots of humor.
What inspired you to write your first book?
I was coming off a movie project, a film that got made but will remain nameless, and it was a horrible experience.  The people I worked for were awful and sleazy.  They lied to me all through the process and the my trust in them was so dim that I literally went into their office with a draft of the script, made them put the check on the table as I put the script on the table and then we passed them to each other.  It was crazy.  But I remember saying to myself over and over that I was too old for this kind of crap.  I had a body of produced work behind me and I shouldn’t be treated this badly by these scummy people.  
Around that time, I remember getting an image in my head of two men, one big, one small, standing at the edge of the ocean, the sun setting.   And that was all it took.   HONEYMOON WITH HARRY came out of that imagine in my head.  I did not want to write another screenplay and go through what I had just went through, so writing a novel really appealed to me.  I knew it would be a challenge and I think if I had known more about the process I would have talked myself out of it, but I launched in.   It took about four months, four very emotional months, of writing and I had the first draft of the book.
Who or what influenced your writing once you began?
I wanted to prove to myself that I could write a novel.   Being a playwright or screenwriter, you certainly don’t think in terms of three or four hundred pages.   So that was daunting.  But I took it chapter by chapter, never looking too far ahead and just telling this story.   Now I’m no longer freaked out by hundreds of pages of prose.  And I love the process of editing, or fixing and finding new and better ways to say things, more powerful images.  I thrive on that.
What do you consider the most challenging about writing a novel, or about writing in general?
Making a living.  Money is huge factor in everyone’s life.  And being a “professional writer” is difficult.  Making any kind of sale is hard but making it your sole or primary source of income is wildly improbable.   That being said, I’ve done it.  And thankfully, I’ve been very smart with my money and put it away when I made it so that I’d have it when the work wasn’t coming.
Did writing this book teach you anything and what was it?
Each book teaches me something, about my strengths and weaknesses as a writer.  This was challenging because I’ve never written a YA novel before, and I wanted to aim AFTER OZZ at both teens and twenties, predominately female (because the book has a female lead.) 
Do you intend to make writing a career?
It is my career.  And I hope to keep doing it with some level of success until I’m very old.
Have you developed a specific writing style?
Yes.  Sometimes I try and break that style, to challenge myself or to find a different voice that coincides better with whatever project I’m working on.   But I have a certain “voice” that I write it that is very specific to me.  And I like that people recognize that.
What is your greatest strength as a writer? 
Characters are probably my greatest strength.   I believe all story comes out of the characters.
What is your favorite quality about yourself?
I’m compassionate.   I don’t suffer fools well but I understand when someone is hurting or in need and having been a writer so long, it doesn’t take much for me to feel some level of their pain or sadness.
What is your least favorite quality about yourself?
I’m short tempered and moody when I’m working.   It’s like living two lives, my actual life with those I love and the life I am involved in with my characters.   That creates conflict in my life as I don’t want to be disturbed when I am involved with my characters and I wish they wouldn’t bother me when I am with my family.
What is your favorite quote, by whom, and why?
Sometimes it’s better to remain silent and be assumed a fool than to open your mouth and remove all doubt.  --  Mark Twain

It’s such a useful quote and considering the amount of crazy I hear, the amount spouted by politicians and people who have a camera put in their face, it pops into my head quite often.
Bart and his family, Pastor Joe Elvis and their two sons Isaiah and Emmanuel, moved to St. Louis, Bart’s hometown. For nearly 30 year, Mr. Baker resided in Los Angeles, where he worked as a writer/producer in the entertainment industry.

He has had two feature films produced LIVE WIRE for New Line Pictures, and SUPERCROSS for Fox, as well as eleven films for television, including CHILDREN OF THE BRIDE, which spawned two sequels, BABY OF THE BRIDE and MOTHER OF THE BRIDE on CBS, as well as the Christmas perennial, A DIFFERENT KIND OF CHRISTMAS for Lifetime.

 Mr. Baker has worked on film and TV projects for Warner Brothers, Tristar, New Line, Fox, CBS, NBC, ABC, Lifetime, USA Network, Syfy Network, Fox Television, The Family Channel, as well as working on staff on the FX Network series, DIRT starring Courteney Cox.

 Presently, Mr. Baker has two projects in development, HONEYMOON WITH HARRY a feature film based on Bart’s debut novel of the same name at New Line with Bradley Cooper attached to star. Mr. Baker has also completed his second novel, IMMEDIATE FAMILY.

Mr. Baker also has eight produced theatrical plays under his belt. An avid fitness buff and political junkie, Bart enjoys spending his free time with his family and friends, and enjoys teaching film/television writing classes at Webster University. Writing is his passion and he feels blessed that he’s been able to make a living doing what he loves and for all the interesting people and events that he’s been exposed to through his work.

For More Information

Visit Bart at his website
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