Interview with Australian Author – Jai Baidell
“Australian Authors” – Tell us a little about yourself? Perhaps something not many people know?
Jai – Inside every writer is a life-long voracious reader. As a child in Adelaide in the 1960s, I caught the bus into the city every Saturday to visit the Children’s Library. My goal was to read every book in the collection. The borrowing limit of four books a week was a bit mean, but thinking back, I doubt I could have carried more anyway.
The library opened up new worlds for me. Later I became a librarian for a while. Best job ever!
“Australian Authors” – What made you want to become a writer?
Jai – When Amazon opened their Kindle store to Australians, I read ebooks in vast numbers, and thought I could do better, or certainly just as well.
I couldn’t find enough books I liked set in Australia. We have many tough outback adventures and gritty urban tales, but I wanted something else. I wanted suburban Canberra, with its strong ties to rural towns and villages, its amazing scenery and its diversity of people. So a late-blooming author was born! And what a wild ride it’s been! I wouldn’t have missed it for anything.
“Australian Authors” – What gives you inspiration for your book(s)?
Jai – My inspiration comes from pictures. I’m an avid watcher of Netflix and its rich feast of action-adventure stories like Arrow and The Musketeers. Spy movies, too, and westerns and science fiction. I love any story with heroic battles against evil conspirators and darkest fate. I started using iStock for book cover images, but it’s also a wonderful place for finding inspirational ideas.
“Australian Authors” – Now, the big question, are you working on another book?
Jai – I am working on another book, yes. A new series in fact, for release in 2019. My hero is a disgraced detective, Jud Jeffreys, who leaves his home town to try to resuscitate his career.
I’ve set this story in Australia, of course, but not Australia as we know it. In Jud’s Australia the continent contains a French colony, a British Dominion, and Jud’s home country of the Australian Free States. I’ve drafted five books and have story-boarded the last two. I’ve even chosen the images for the covers. Book 1 is titled Deadset Mongrels. Watch for it.
“Australian Authors” – What genres do you prefer to write in?
Jai – I love the neatness of genre fiction. You always know what you’re getting, right? I wanted to write about a strong female amateur sleuth/spy with a strong romantic element. That isn’t what happened. Maybe my age and cultural upbringing are responsible? I don’t know, but what I actually wrote were action-adventure stories about men.
I’m still trying, though, with the Detective Jud Jeffreys series. Jud’s work partner, Nula, and his landlady, Cora, are pretty tough cookies in the finest tradition of strong female characters.
I also enjoy writing science fiction. I was excited and proud to have a short story, ‘The Empty Quarter’, published in Aurealis magazine in 2018. I’ve also dabbled in fantasy and written a children’s story. Although I’m quite old, I’m still a new writer, so it doesn’t worry me that I’m trying out different things. As long as I can write heart-warming tales of triumph over adversity, I’m happy.
“Australian Authors” – What do you think about the ebook revolution?
Jai – I love ebooks. I love the lower prices that let me read so many more stories. I love getting rid of dusty bookshelves. I love the trees that no longer have to be chipped for paper and printing. I love the international markets that let me read authors I would never otherwise have found. Changing the text to a readable size is fantastic. And ebooks are great for genre fiction, which is what I enjoy most. I do worry about the long term availability of digital books though.
“Australian Authors” – Do you start a book with a definite plot, or do you just write?
Jai – I don’t plan out books in advance, although I create a rough framework. I’ve tried detailed plotting chapter by chapter, but the results were uninspiring, and it was too much like work. Like painting by numbers. I wanted more excitement. The story emerges from the response of the characters to their situation, and I like working that out as I go along. Sometimes I’m surprised. And sometimes I have to rewrite the whole thing several times. It’s all good.
“Australian Authors” – Pen or type writer or computer?
Jai – I love my computer. Not just for writing, but also for research, for sharing with readers and other authors, and for learning. I have lots of tools; Scrivener for writing, but also software for creating images, for proofreading, and for file backups, as well as publishing tools. And social media, of course. To be fair, the map creating software, which still defeats me, was an indulgence, but I love books with maps so I’ll keep trying.
“Australian Authors” – Do your characters seem to hijack the story, or are you always in control?
Jai – Characters always hijack my stories, but I’m getting better at reining them in. In my first novel, my protagonist’s mother, Susan, was so recalcitrant I had to kill her off, but doing that created an entire new thread in the plot and probably improved it dramatically. Susan was meant to be an overbearing and unloving mother, just one more burden for Joanne to bear, but she blasted her way onto the page and insisted on being the centre of attention. I had to do something! I swear, it was self-defence.
“Australian Authors” – Are your characters based on real people or completely imagined?
Jai – All my characters are completely imaginary. The settings are often based on real places, but the people, no. Once I’ve created them, though, they become disturbingly real. I sit in the corner and rehearse conversations with them. Not that authors are weird or anything.
“Australian Authors” – Have you thought about joining with another author to write a book?
Jai – I haven’t considered joint authorship so far, but it would be an interesting project. I do wonder, though, how authors could ever agree on anything. It would be like herding cats. We tend to be opinionated and live in our own imaginary worlds.
“Australian Authors” – Who are your favourite authors?
Jai Baidell – In science fiction, Lois McMaster Bujold, Nathan Lowell, and Australian authors Graham Storrs and Christopher Ruz.
In crime and mystery, Louise Penny, SJ Rozan, and Australian authors Sulari Gentill, JM Green and Emma Viskic.
And KJ Charles writes wonderful romances.
“Australian Authors” – What’s your advice to Authors? On writing? Publishing? Marketing?
Jai – Don’t be wedded to a single way of doing things. Everything changes: the world, technology, publishing, and most of all, ourselves. Go with the flow.
And support other authors. We’re engaged in a wave of creative collaboration. It’s not a competition. It’s the best time to be an author.