Greetings my favorite booknerds and friends! I so enjoyed talking to some of my author friends and sharing with you all their tips and processes for writing, that I just had to share another before I get back to the "regular" business of blogging. Allow me to introduce you to Baj Goodson! Much like Tyffany and Becky, I met Baj through the bookstagram community rather randomly. We just started liking each others posts then responding to each other's stories, then we found out that I lived maybe 2 hours from her in Louisiana before moving back to California... We were so bummed we never got a chance to hang out before I left! Over the past six months or so, Baj and I have gotten pretty close, sharing some of our personal life struggles and dishing on our struggles with coming up with stories. She's such a fabulous motivator and supporter, plus she has the kindest heart. She's seriously one of the sweetest people I've ever met! Who says you can't make real friendships virtually?! Plus, Baj is an incredible writer at the start of what's going to be a long and successful career. I had the honor of reading her debut novella when it first came out, and loved it! Check out my review for her story here, and in the meantime, enjoy the interview! Be sure to go all the way to the end so you can find Baj in all the places!
Baj: You got that right! Crazy ride indeed. But I tell you what, every one of those job experiences led me to another open door, and if it hadn't been for each of those doorways I traveled through, I wouldn't have gotten to a place where I was so miserable in the workforce that I was desperate enough to just GET OUT and take the plunge into writing full-time. It was a huge risk -- when I tell you I had nothing going for me besides a dream and a husband who believed in me, I mean it! But it turned out to be one of the most rewarding decisions I've ever made. I always knew I wanted to write books one day, but by the time I graduated from college, I was just trying to find a "real job" with a dependable income so I could pay my bills like a big girl. Yet all the jobs I worked were dead-end, just something to give me that steady paycheck; I wasn't passionate about any of them. They had their fun moments, sure, and I learned a lot of marketable skills that have come in handy later in life (and even in writing realistic characters in realistic job settings), but more than anything, I learned about MYSELF through those jobs. For instance, I determined I don't want to work for anybody else -- I don't care to forever spend my days checking off the goals of other people when it means I have to stand still. I want to further MY goals every day. I even tried multiple times to go into business for myself, but nothing worked out long-term in a way that I could financially support myself. Still, even those failures taught me things that would become vital -- years later, mind you -- in the process of self-publishing and doing all my own marketing. So should I even call those failures? Everything came together in the end, and now, although I may be living a simple life with only 2% fanciness, I am no longer crushed by the stress of my job because I am totally passionate about what I do!
Baj: Ah yes, the WhimsiGals! That's a fun story. Even though we haven't been together long, I love those ladies dearly, and I am so thankful to have them in my life now. I'm convinced it was all divinely orchestrated! We met back in March of 2018, which is when I first became a part of #bookstagram. I was paying a lot of attention to several writing gurus on Instagram who gave out tips on how to be the best writer you can be, especially if you intend to publish. One thing I kept hearing was to "find your writing tribe". No one had come to find me, so I took that to mean I should go out and find my own peeps -- and I couldn't have dreamed up a better crew! Our group is perfectly balanced at 4 people -- Daphne, Rebecca, Adelaide, and myself. I had been interacting a lot with each of these ladies individually for awhile, solely on IG, and had a recurring itch to ask them if they had writing groups already. When I messaged each of them privately with my proposal to form a small group, they were all interested! It was a little risky of me since I didn't know them super well, but they just felt RIGHT. So we gave it a trial run and simply talked, determining if we meshed together. As it turned out, we are made up of similar personalities, so we mesh BEAUTIFULLY while still having enough differences to keep things interesting. We understand each other, we encourage each other, we challenge each other, we're honest with each other, and we bring out the best in each other not only as writers, but as supportive friends. Writing would be a much lonelier endeavor for me without them. For example, we often bounce story ideas off the group, we collaborate, we do writing sprints, we give feedback on one another's work, we celebrate all manner of goals accomplished, we share our fears and victories, and sometimes we just vent. It's great because, although we come from all over the spectrum in terms of writing experience, that's part of what makes us fit together like 4 little puzzle pieces! We really do balance each other out.
Baj: I'll be totally transparent here and tell you that I have done minimal community-building on Wattpad. Eeeeep! I find that most of what is popular there isn't my cup of tea, which means that my story, SOMETHING BEAUTIFUL, won't have most of the elements that has so many readers hooked on the top stories. So I bypass the community altogether (whoops?) and simply use Wattpad as a free platform to give readers that already actively follow my writing some periodic material to enjoy between books. Plus, it gives me the opportunity to air out my YA stories and appeal to a different audience than I intend to with my books (well, if I ever get with the program and do some effective marketing, anyway...).
Baj: Believe it or not, this was one of THE hardest things I had to figure out when marketing and doing the back-end work in uploading my book to be sold. My husband and I must have discussed it a hundred times! Even determining the key words and themes became a hotbed of deliberation and uncertainty! We finally decided the most "safe" genre to put it under was suspense. When people ask me what kind of book it is, that's what I now tell them. Is it the best label? Honestly?? To this day, I am only 75% sure.
Baj: While many characters and stories of mine were first born as dreams (my current WIP concept came to me this way!), that was not the case with WoC. It was an evolution. Rewind a few years to 2016, when there was unprecedented rainfall where I live in Louisiana that resulted in a flood of catastrophic proportions. Many families, including my own, experienced the devastation firsthand. During the aftermath and clean-up efforts, one of the biggest eye-openers for me was a rather unexpected one: the realization of just how much “stuff” we accumulate (meaningless stuff!) that serves little or no purpose besides taking up space. It took over a year to manifest, but the initial concept of Wall of Crosses was born from this revelation. After I quit my job and was determined to become a full-time writer, my first ambition was to write a short story. I wanted to churn it out quickly to begin selling it ASAP, so I brainstormed the skeleton of a plot on the fly. My goals: it would be character driven, thematic, incorporate the experiences I'd had from the flood, have a twist or two, and would challenge me to make something unlike anything I'd written before. Instead of feel-good warm fuzzies and neat bows to tie everything up at the end...it would be the opposite. The prospect of going that direction, once the thought occurred, totally excited me. I longed to write that story — the one that wasn't a cookie cutter imitation of what we’ve seen a million times, but something that broke the mold a little and left an impression on the reader, whether they loved the story or not. Since I am predominately a discovery writer, the tale branched out with slow, unfurling roots, eventually becoming far more deep and convoluted than I’d planned. I spring-boarded off my personal post-flood experiences and those of people close to me, and the plot and characters really began to take shape. I just ran with it until everything came together as the story you see today! There was very little research involved, to be honest...mostly geographical, and a few things about wills and hoarding and arborists and spoiler-y stuff I can't talk about, hehe. Everything else, I just made up to suit my needs, lol! Even the characters were complete fiction -- the only exception was Ruth, who is, ironically, probably the one character people assume is fabricated!
Baj: I chose to be a self-published author after researching every which way to go in publishing, and determined it was the best fit for me. I'd already found out through recent experiences that I didn't want to answer to anybody else when it came to my own aspirations, even if that meant potentially turning my back on fame and fortune. I may not sell as many books or make as much money per unit sold, but I have 100% control over my work, my life, and everything in between, and that's more important to me. It ended up being a good decision for me, as I can be very frugal when it comes to spending, so I managed to fork out less than $1k on publishing my first book. It was a lot of work (with many all-nighters, tears shed, and tight deadlines), but I did almost everything myself, or with the help of my husband. I set my own deadlines, we hired a friend to make the cover, I tweaked it myself for all the variations we needed, I made my own teaser graphics, did 95% of my own marketing, formatted the manuscript, sought out tips from author friends and influencers when I needed ideas about or help navigating certain preparations, consulted beta readers and my writing group for editing and revisions, and established my author platform online well before my publication date. It was HARD, and I made a lot of mistakes (i.e., turns out you HAVE to have the cover and the MS formatted before you can upload your book for pre-ordering). But I've also never experienced a fraction of this kind of fulfillment in any other career path. It may sound cheesy, but I was made for this!
Baj: The genre I'm best at writing is probably contemporary, but I have spent a lifetime making up creatures and worlds and toying with supernatural and magical concepts, so I can promise you that sort of thing is on the horizon. But I don't think I could ever write a self-help book. Too much responsibility!!!! As much as I love helping people, I wouldn't be able to handle the nasty flipside of that where your advice ruins someone's life.
Baj: Some days I do a better job of it than others, but having less to do with social media has been a big help. I schedule posts as often as I can on my author platform accounts so I can still be present to my followers, but I really try to limit how much I get sucked into the digital realm doing the mindless scrolling thing. I also don't have the TV on unless I'm watching it, I don't have kids, my husband works out of the home, I may qualify as a hermit because I don't leave the house much, and I lead a generally quiet, simple life that would bore some people to tears. It's the perfect environment for someone like me, though, and the silence keeps my mind from being overloaded, so creativity flows fairly easily (most days -- sometimes I'm blocked up like nobody's business! My writing group helps me a lot during those instances!).
Baj: I know it's different for everyone, so I feel like the majority of advice is subjective. But one thing that I think applies to everyone is this: Nothing is free. Whether it be time, effort, or otherwise, everything cost something. Authordom is no exception. If you want it, you have to work for it. But if you stick with it, and you really put the pedal to the metal, I promise that one day you'll have something to show for it -- it's just a matter of time. That determination that drove me to put in the hours toward reaching my goal...that's what got me where I am, and will continue to push me toward my next goal. Well, heh, that and a whooole lotta grace!
Baj: Oh gosh. These are so hard!!! I'm not a cut and dry person when it comes to this stuff!! I'll have to pretend it's life or death, must pick only one...
Cats or dogs: Dogs
Beach or mountains: Beach
Cake or pie: Cake
Plotter or Pantser: Plantser
Favorite food: Tex-Mex
Favorite author: Uhhhh...today it's C.S. Lewis
Favorite City: Home -- Lindale, TX
Follow Baj in all the Places
I want to thank Baj for taking the time to chat with me during her busy schedule. I seriously love this lady, and I hope you all do too after reading her fun interview! She really is a marvelous human, all of which comes through so beautifully in all her words, whether on Instagram or in her books. I'll be getting back to blogging again soon, but this won't be the last author interview you see, never fear!