I had the great pleasure of chatting with G.D. Baum about his new book Point and Shoot.
Over the course of many interviews, I have found that authors tend to use real people as their characters. Obviously there is a piece of you in Lock, although I am sure that you do not hang out in his kind of places. Are any of the other characters based on real people?
The scene that comes to mind is the one in which Grandfather holds out his two hands and tells Lock (at the time, a small child) to place his small hand between the two without touching them. Lock feels an electrical current running along his palm, which is the “Chi” or life force.
I have actually done that, both on the receiving end and later, as the one projecting the Chi onto someone else’s palm. It is absolutely extraordinary to feel something that is usually so intangible. I must say that actually experiencing that invisible energy as a tactile force convinced me that there was something more to the martial arts than just punching and kicking. It helped me make the transition in my own training from the hard style of Shaolin Kempo Karate, in which I have a 2nd degree black belt, to the more esoteric internal style of Tai Chi, just as Lock does in the novel.
I know a number of people in the martial arts and I tried to borrow aspects of many of them to take the reader into that world. Indeed, I know a very high level martial artist who looks exactly like Grandfather, but he disdains the internal martial arts styles that Grandfather has adopted. I think he once told me that “Tai Chi is bullshit.” On the other hand, I know martial artists who are completely immersed in the internal styles, such as Tai Chi, and possess that gentle mirth in their approach to life that Grandfather has. I amalgamated the two to create Grandfather.
The martial arts fight scenes are as authentic as I can make them. In particular, I tried to take the reader into the mind of a martial artist using the hard Karate style in an encounter with maximum speed and power. At the highest level, the movements literally become a tornado of strikes, a blur of energy.
As to whether there’s a reflection of reality in Lock’s relationship with a woman dying of cancer, I think I’ll skip that part of the answer.
Entering into the literary world is often a difficult task: first time authors are often disillusioned at the end of the process, the endless editing, rewriting, etc. Did you find the process frustrating?
I hired a professional editor and was disappointed with the result. I probably went through at least a dozen redrafts myself after the editor finished. I think that editing really involves a line by line review that is taxing even to the author himself. However, the good news is that I enjoyed re-reading my own novel; it holds up. I think that is because it concerns important themes, such as the relationship between fathers and sons; the imperative that a man live his life in an honorable way, regardless of the lack of appreciation he experiences; the discovery that there are unseen forces in the world that can shape us.
How long did the book take to come together, from idea to fruition?
It took me four years to write and publish this book. Since I have a full time job and also perform public service work as a volunteer, I had to work on the book during weekends and vacation weeks.
Your web page indicates that another Lock story is in the mill.
I am writing a second installment in the Lock Tourmaline series called, “Cross and Cover.” The story takes place five years later, and all of the characters have changed and grown, yet they are still recognizable. I am doing this because I feel that there is more to say. These characters are not done with me yet.
How is your second book coming along? And when can we expect to see it available?
I think that I should have it completed in about three to six months. After that, it’s just a question of publishing.
Another common problem that new authors face is lack of shelf space in the traditional Bricks and Mortar bookstore. The Internet, through vehicles like Amazon, have helped resolve this to a certain extent. How important is real shelf space as opposed to virtual shelf space?
It is very important, and as in all things, it comes down to a question of money. The book stores, quite rightly, want a proven author, so that they can move product. One of the outstanding things about the Internet is that it allows authors to have their voices heard outside of the bricks and mortar process. We are hoping, of course, that if we can create sufficient buzz on the Internet, it may popularize the novel in other more traditional venues as well, such as bookstores.
How are early sales coming along?
We’re very pleased with the initial sales. In fact, I want to thank you in particular for helping us get the word out. The review that is posted on Blogcritics shows a great deal of insight into the novel and accurately explores what I was trying to accomplish in writing it.
Was there some ‘defining moment’ that made you take the plunge into creating a book?
Here is what I have said about that topic in the post I made on my web site, www.pointandshootwebsite.com
My focus at Sarah Lawrence College twenty five years ago was in creative writing. I wrote many book-length manuscripts, only to discard them, knowing that I could do a better job. That is a process that many authors go through: they write thousands of pages as "ramping up" to reaching the stage where they can produce professional quality work. Ray Bradbury has written about the inspiration for Fahrenheit 451 being the night he took all of his prior faltering attempts to compose a professionally done short story or novel, threw them in a pile and burned them. It is the moment of liberation for a writer.
Accordingly, the turning point for me was when I took Henry Miller's words to heart. He has said that the process of becoming a writer involves a commitment to speaking with an honest voice. When we censor ourselves, we obscure our character and undermine the very reason for writing in the first place: to communicate the better part of ourselves. It is literally an act of courage to speak with a true voice and put behind us the fits and starts that are, as he puts it, "the grand tuning up of the instrument".
Point and Shoot is a treble-themed book, the gritty PI, the loving and caring companion, and the ‘karate kid’. You handled the change-up in writing very well; did you find it difficult to switch from style to style?
I think that we wear many hats in our lives. The idea of exploring one aspect of a character’s life to the exclusion of others, is often just an expression of lazy writing. We are all an amalgam of such things as our work, our love life and the dark pendulum swinging over our head, reminding us that it all ultimately ends. The key is to create characters that show us what it is like to inhabit their skin.
Is there anything else that my readers should know about the rather anonymous sounding ‘G. D. Baum’, maybe your name for example?
If the book keeps getting the wonderful reception that we received on Blogcritics, I might just decide to open the kimono a bit, so to speak.
Thank you for spending time talking with me. I am sure that our readers will enjoy this insight into the mind of G. D. Baum, good luck with Point and Shoot, and your new project.