Chandler Baker played flashlight tag on the streets of Lake Highlands as a kid, and now she’s lighting up her career.
An author and corporate attorney, Baker released her novel “Whisper Network” in July. The thriller is connecting with readers across the nation. Reese Witherspoon selected it for her book club, and the book is peppered with Dallas references. “Whisper Network” has been described as “Big Little Lies” meets “Working Girl.”
The novel is a must-read if you’re looking for a witty, relevant and bold story about the quotidian troubles that working women face. Baker was personally inspired by the whisper network she and her female colleagues created as summer associates while encountering inappropriate advances from male colleagues at their law firm. As she considered this experience and reflected on her return to work after maternity leave, Baker realized her creative authority was needed now more than ever to give women a voice. While a student at the University of Pennsylvania and the University of Texas School of Law, Baker still found time to write. Little did she know that her hobby would explode into five young adult novels and “Whisper Network.” Baker now lives in Austin with her husband and toddler.
What are your memories of our neighborhood?
I grew up in Lake Highlands until I was 10, and I went to Merriman Park Elementary. We belonged to Royal Oaks Country Club, and I remember having the best times there. I thought it was awesome. We also had a great group in our neighborhood. It had such a community feel. We did a lot of flashlight tag and playing street hockey, all the typical kid things. My parents still have a lot of the same friends that still live on our street.
What was your inspiration for writing “Whisper Network?”
I wanted to look at how we’re dealing with gender politics and how women are treated. A lot of my conversations with women centered around personal experiences — how they have handled certain experiences, work, sexual harassment or gender politics. These were the kinds of conversations I was having with my friends at book club or when working out with them. The narratives fell into the general experiences for women in the workplace. Sexual harassment is a part of that, but not the only part. I wanted to discuss my friends’ stories along with my own experiences. These experiences are universal.
Do you consider yourself to be like the women in your book?
“Whisper Network” is a book about women in the workplace. Most days I don’t know how I handle it myself. I’m very much like the women in my book. I fall asleep with the heat of a laptop burning my thighs. I prioritize. Anything that doesn’t have to get done I just don’t do. Laundry is basically never folded in my house, never going to be organized. I have a pretty high capacity for stress. It just doesn’t bother me that much.
What are your personal experiences with gender discrimination?
On my first day back from maternity leave I was asked to stay late, but when I asked to leave to feed my baby, the partner I was working for, who has three children, said, “Well she’s not really a newborn anymore.” He only granted me 15 minutes. I think that it wasn’t ill-intentioned. I think it’s just an obtuseness that we’re still experiencing in the workplace, perhaps willful obliviousness to the realities that we’re still grappling with. I wanted to write a book big enough and juicy enough to touch those experiences.
How do you relax?
I’m a big audiobook listener. I go on walks and run. I’m a huge reader. I like to exercise. I’m really into my book club. It meets once a month, and it’s just a time for me to spend time with friends and relax.
Who are your greatest influences?
Elizabeth Gilbert, Jessica Knoll, Tana French, Lauren Oliver, Gillian Flynn. There are so many women authors that I love.
What advice would you give your younger self?
Start writing earlier. I think I wanted to be a writer for a very long time, but I didn’t think it was a real career. I started writing in college, and I would have loved to take more creative writing classes, but I just didn’t think it was practical. What I didn’t understand was that you can have more than one career. I wish I could have been more open to that possibility.