Please welcome Todd R. Baker to The Qwillery. Secrets of Men...in a Lifeboat is published on April 1st by Aqueous Books. Please join The Qwillery in wishing Todd a very happy Publication Day!
TQ: Welcome to The Qwillery. When and why did you start writing?
Todd: Thank you for having me! I started writing screenplays right out of college on the side; I had a day job as a young television and film executive. Over the years, I sold a comedy film script to 20th Century Fox and an action film script to Columbia Pictures, but neither one got made. I didn’t start writing Secrets of Men…in a lifeboat until I had left the film business behind for good (after nearly 15 years as a studio executive and movie producer).
I think I started writing my novel seven years ago; it took five years to finish, and I simply wrote it because I had a story to tell and I couldn’t stop myself.
TQ: Are you a plotter, a pantser or a hybrid?
Todd: Ha, I wasn’t sure what this meant until I looked it up! At the root, I’m a plotter. I knew the story’s crucible and the words of my final page before I began. I see stories in scenes and arcs, and I outlined the novel chunk by chunk—using headers on my notes like “Part 1, Section 1, Building Blocks.” I would finish a “section,” then outline the building block scenes of the next section, adding in important lines of dialogue, character, and theme to my notes as I went.
However, when I’m actually writing the novel, I never know how the dialogue, the descriptive language, or the characters will actually turn out on the page—I guess that would be unforeseen pantser, which makes writing for me a journey of discovery and a joy.
TQ: What is the most challenging thing for you about writing?
Todd: Just finding the time, with all of life’s real life challenges, including my responsibilities and commitments to my family, which come first.
TQ: What has influenced / influences your writing?
Todd: Most of all, trying to figure out why people want what they want and how they decide to behave the way they do. Writing is a way for me to explore folks who startle, confuse, and inspire me.
TQ: You've worked in the film industry producing and developing movies. Had this affected (or not) your writing?
Todd: 100%. I visualized my story in a filmic way, from years of working with film writers, directors and editors. I think Secrets of Men is filmic, but not because I set out to write a story that would become a film. It’s filmic because that’s how I understand an unfolding story.
TQ: Describe Secrets of Men...in a Lifeboat in 140 characters or less.
Todd: By a magical twist of fate an empathetic man who thinks he has nothing gets everything but loses his soul—with a last chance at redemption. 140 characters exactly with spaces!
TQ: Tell us something about Secrets of Men...in a Lifeboat that is not found in the book description.
Todd: The Meditation on No. The Chestnut Rhetoricals. The Reverie on Luck.
TQ: What inspired you to write Secrets of Men...in a Lifeboat?
Todd: The thorn in my side to understand fate and destiny.
TQ: What sort of research did you do for Secrets of Men...in a Lifeboat?
Todd: I spent years in the movie business observing a tableau of sociopaths, narcissists, and the occasional humane dreamer—all the research I needed.
TQ: Who was the easiest character to write and why? The hardest and why?
Todd: The easiest: Lisa, the discarded wife but fierce, deeply-loving, devoted mother to her son Trevor in Part Two of the novel. Because she is eminently decent and lives by the golden rule; it’s easy to write an honorable character worthy of her strength.
The hardest: Luke in Part Two. How can someone be so heartless? How does an author explore and realize an unfortunately common, cruel archetype, when the writer can’t begin to understand the character’s despicable, selfish mind.
TQ: Which question about Secrets of Men...in a Lifeboat do you wish someone would ask? Ask it and answer it!
Todd: Why has the novel appealed to so many women readers? Because Luke in Part One is an honorable, single father committed to being an extraordinary man, and once women readers embrace and respect him for his decency, emotional IQ and unplanned struggles, they read on, hoping for his ultimate redemption, despite Luke’s descent in Part Two into cavalier brutality.
TQ: Please give us one or two of your favorite non-spoilery quotes from Secrets of Men...in a Lifeboat.
1. “Take a man like me and give me some strength, because I will not tempt a woman’s heart unless I can shelter her from want. I’m here to admit that I’ve dated my share these last lost years and I’ve had my way with good, kind souls. But I was insincere and unfair to all of them and I will never go there again.”
2. “And how this could be on that spindly tree is but the first of the infinite components of a miracle.”
TQ: What's next?
Todd: I wrote the book with an open heart, and I hope the story is a ray of light for our better qualities: fairness, empathy, and love.
TQ: Thank you for joining us at The Qwillery.
Secrets of Men...in a Lifeboat
Aqueous Books, April 1, 2016
Trade Paperback and eBook, 460 pages
Luke Morrow, a financially struggling young single parent to an 8-year-old boy, comes to believe that he has nothing, until by a magical twist of fate, his improbable internet technology start-up turns him into a Silicon Valley billionaire star. Secrets of Men in a Lifeboat begins with Luke’s harrowing romantic sojourn on the moneyed Westside of Los Angeles. Just when Luke can’t bear life’s pain anymore, he is remade—into a rich but brutal man. As Luke catapults through realms of fame and fortune, he is granted one last chance to seek redemption in a final showdown between honor and his own devastating power.
Todd R. Baker grew up on the North Shore of Chicago and somehow ended up on the shoal of Los Angeles. During Todd’s film industry career, he produced and developed movies for 20th Century Fox, Paramount Pictures, Disney, Miramax, and Universal Pictures, starring Kevin Costner, Leonardo DiCaprio, Tom Cruise, Jack Nicholson, Robert Downey, Jr., Adam Sandler, Elijah Wood, Robert Duvall, Anjelica Huston, Whoopi Goldberg, Raul Julia, Daryl Hannah, Chris Farley, Steve Buscemi, Brendan Fraser, Christopher Lloyd, and Kenneth Branagh. He licenses two of his U.S. patents for one of his inventions and is a Phi Beta Kappa graduate of Stanford University. Todd lives in Playa Vista/Silicon Beach, California. Visit Todd online at toddrbaker.com.