The official biography for Baker says she grew up in Florida, but many in Lake Highlands remember her as the towheaded daughter of Mike and Coni Craig, attending Merriman Park Elementary until moving away when she was 9. Baker came back to Texas for law school at UT, and she now lives in Austin with husband, Rob, and daughter, Elliott, almost 2.
Baker’s newest book, launching August 8th, poses the question – what would you do? Specifically, This Is Not the End asks, “If you could choose one person to bring back to life, who would it be?” In Baker’s story, Lake Devereaux is the survivor of a car crash that killed her best friend and boyfriend. Resurrection technology, now real, has strict rules, and Lake previously made a secret vow to save someone who’s not even dead yet. Who will Lake choose?
I chatted with Baker about her new book, her writing process and her childhood in LH.
You were young when you moved to Florida. What are your favorite Lake Highlands memories?
We played a lot of street hockey on Abramshire. I loved vacation bible school at Preston Hollow Presbyterian and going to Royal Oaks Country Club for slushies at the pool in the summer.
Who taught you to read? What is the first book you remember reading?
My parents taught me to read. My dad was the big reader in the house. We read so much when I was young, but one of the first that I remember truly loving was A Wrinkle In Time. My daughter is only two, but at least so far her favorite activity is “reading” which, without us, simply means flipping through pages of her favorites. Right now those are Llama Llama Red Pajama, Pout-Pout Fish and Rosie Revere, Engineer. Our plan is to continue to get recommendations of fantastic books from authors and parents we trust and hope that it translates into a lifelong love of books for her.
Were you ever in a book club? Do you have advice for teens discussing books as a group?
Yes! I’m in a book club now and we just celebrated our four year “birthday” of which we were very proud. We had a brunch with awards, certificates and prizes even. It was exactly as nerdy as it sounds! My advice is to start a group with a friend whose own social circle doesn’t completely overlap with your own. If everyone in the group is already best friends with each other, it’s more tempting to get sucked into what you always talk about. Don’t choose books over 400 pages, except with the rare exception and then offer more reading time. Mix it up–we will read a book we know will be a movie, then discuss and go see the movie together. We’ve skyped in authors. We’ve had pool parties. Dressed up on theme. Have fun with it and don’t take it too seriously. If someone doesn’t finish the book, it’s not a big deal, but with the understanding that spoilers abound during discussion time.
Your book has 3 compelling components: a likable main character, an unusual premise and a surprising plot twist. Do you craft your books, like a carpenter might build a table, or do you float along and go where the story takes you?
I think of story construction more like creating a very intricate braid with more strands than you have fingers to hold them. I usually start with the premise or the central conflict, then each of the other elements–the character traits, the setting, the sub-plots–they all have to tie back in to the premise for the story to hang together. For instance, I can’t create Lake’s character in a vacuum. I have to give her personality traits such that the loss of her boyfriend, her friend and an illegal vow to resurrect someone who’s not dead yet will be even more devastating to her than to the average Joe. Every detail has to serve the story.
You have an undergrad degree in bioethics and a law degree. You’ve said you’re drawn to “speculative fiction” – topics like resurrection and cryogenics which bring ethical issues. Why?
I don’t set out to write about bioethics, but it seems this is at least the third book of mine that’s touched on the subject. I’m fascinated by bioethics because it raises such broad societal questions–when do the ends stop justifying the means? How far are we comfortable reaching to subvert nature’s course? Where is that line? Is there even a line? –None of which have right or wrong answers. And while the implications of such questions are broad and far-reaching, our health and our bodies are so deeply personal.
Why do you choose to write for young adults? How young is too young to read about car crashes, death and resurrection?
I started writing YA because when I began working seriously toward the goal of becoming a published author, the most exciting works I was seeing were on the young adult shelf. It was around 2007, so authors like John Green, Melissa Marr, Jay Asher, Gayle Forman and Carrie Ryan were all making a name for themselves and I wanted to be a part of it. Now, I enjoy the heightened level of fan interaction from teen readers. I enjoy that teens are often in the process of discovering what will be their favorite book.
In terms of how young is too young to read about certain issues, I always encourage parents to be the decision makers there because every kid is different. I do believe books offer a safe space to grapple with tough issues. Whether we like it or not teens face grief, break up of families, health issues and life-altering choices. The nature of books lends itself to nuance, to privacy for the reader, for a less graphic introduction in that if a reader is too young to understand something, he or she may simply gloss over it or close the cover for a time.
Also part of the Teen Book Club kick off Aug. 22nd will be YA author Samantha Mabry, whose new All the Wind in the World comes out in October. Interabang says the group will decide by meeting’s end which book they will read together first. There is no fee to participate and no need to pre-register. Interabang is located at 10720 Preston at Royal. The event begins at 7 p.m.