Jim Baker interview with David Alan Binder

posted Jun 23, 2016, 6:17 AM by David Alan Binder

Jim Baker interview with David Alan Binder

 Short Bio from his website:     J.I. Baker began his journalism career as a reporter covering New York City clubs at Time Out New York, the weekly magazine he helped launch. During his tenure, he interviewed the likes of David Lynch, David Cronenberg, Clive Barker, Jason Starr, Peter Straub, Gwyneth Paltrow, and Ethan Hawke. He then went to US magazine, where he edited—among others—Chuck Palahniuk before becoming Deputy Editor at Glamour. From there, he went to Real Simple, where he spent four years before being made Development Editor at Time Inc. He is now executive editor at Condé Nast Traveler (his pieces on Barcelona/Ampurdan and Marilyn Monroe’s Los Angeles will be published in the August issue).

 Novel Website:     http://emptyglassnovel.com/

 His Website:         http://www.jibaker.com/

    1.     Where are you currently living?

Westchester County, NY

 

2.     What is the most important thing that you have learned in your writing experience, so far?
When you’re writing a first draft, don’t overthink. In fact, don’t think at all— just keep writing. You discover what you’re writing and what you want to write by writing, not thinking. Once you finish a first draft, you can start to analyze and think, but first put your mind aside and write from your gut or your genitals instead.

 

3.     What would you say is your most interesting writing, publishing, editing or illustrating quirk?

I’ll leave that for others to decide.

 

4.     Tell us your insights on self-publish or use a publisher?
Not qualified to answer this!

 

a.     Who is the name of your publisher and in what city are they?
I publish a lot of journalism, and have written many books for TIME/LIFE, so my publishers vary—they’re mostly magazine companies. My novel was published by Blue Rider Press.

 

5.     Any insights eBooks vs. print books and alternative vs. conventional publishing?
I’ve never done eBooks, so I’m not qualified to answer this.

 

6.     Do you have any secret tips for writers on getting a book published?      
The only way to get a novel published by a mainstream publisher is to write a great novel. The only way to write a great novel is to write it. On the other hand, if you write non-fiction, you can sometimes sell a book through a proposal based on your experience or expertise (being kidnapped by terrorists, saving $15,000 on your food bill through creative coupon-clipping....)

 

7.     How did you or would you suggest acquire an agent?  Any tips for new writers on getting one?
See number 6, above: You get an agent by writing a great book—or coming up with a great idea. But agents aren’t fairy godmothers. Even when you get one, they won’t make a career happen or solve all your problems. You just have to keep writing.....

 

8.     Do you have any suggestions or helps for new writers (please be specific and informational as possible)?
So many aspiring writers think that writing is something that will happen if they talk about it. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard someone say at a party, “You know, I’ve always wanted to write a novel.” Or, “I started a short story about a year ago, and it was pretty good—I might go back to it one day.” In real-world terms, these statements mean: “I am not a writer, and I will never be a writer.” Writers are people who write. That’s all there is to it. If you’re an amateur with a lot to learn but you get up every morning and write a paragraph, you’re a writer. If you’re a genius who could write the next Ulysses but you “don’t have time to write,” you’re not a writer.

9.     What was one of the most surprising things you learned your creative process with your books, editing, publishing or illustrating?
Hmmm....I don’t really know.

10.                        How many books have you written?
One novel, plus a handful of short nonfiction books for TIME/LIFE. (Honestly, I can’t remember how many.)

11.                        Do you have any tricks or tips to help others become a better writer (please be as specific and information as you possibly can)?
There are three sure-fire secrets to becoming a writer, or a better one. Number one is “write,” number two is “write,” and number three is “write.”   

 

12.                        Do you have any suggestions for providing twists in a good story?

It depends on the story—the demands or techniques vary depending on whether you’re writing, say, detective fiction or romance. But someone once said “no surprise for the writer, no surprise for the reader.” I think that’s true. Along with everything else, twists just happen as you work. Again, it’s all about the process, the act of writing itself.

13.                        What makes your or any book stand out from the crowd?
Gee, I don’t know—a reader would have to answer that.

 

14.                        What are some ways in which you promote your work?
Well, I’m a journalist, so I have connections in New York media, particularly magazines, where I’ve worked for most of my adult life, so I could call in some favors. But I don’t think traditional publicity is terribly effective anymore—and if I ever publish another novel, I’m not going to spend any time worrying about Twitter or digital promotion. I can’t speak for everyone, but for me it was a huge waste of time and money, and it didn’t result in any tangible payoff.

 

15.                         What is the one thing you would do differently now (concerning writing or editing or publishing or illustrating) and why?

I would have focused early on more on nonfiction and journalism and less on trying to write the Great American Novel. You won’t write the Great American Novel; unless you’re Herman Melville, and even if you are, it won’t sell....I would have been more practical and lived in the real world instead of in my fantasies.

 

16.                        What saying or mantra do you live by?
“You have to pay for everything you get”—John Lennon

 

17.                        Anything else you would like to say?
No....

 

Jim later emailed me adding this:  Thanks.  You may add all this as well:

You also asked about what drives me--I don't have a mantra for that, but I've always been obsessed with stories and, more specifically, language itself.  The writer Lawrence Block once said something like, "it's not enough to love words. You have to want to wallow in them." I want to wallow in them and always have.  I've been writing since I can remember and maybe it becomes a kind of addiction? Albeit a productive one? How do you explain that kind of obsession or compulsion? I don't know, but I think you either have it or you don't.  Successful writers tend to be very driven, relentless people because without that quality I'm not sure how you could take all the rejection, and there is a lot of rejection. (Saul Bellow once said that the life of a successful writer involves trading one level of rejection for another.) But I absolutely HAVE to write. I would go insane if I didn't.

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