Books·Magic 8 Q&A

Carleigh Baker on the intense emotions that drive her writing process

The author of Bad Endings, which is a finalist for the Rogers Writers' Trust Fiction Prize, answers eight questions from eight fellow authors.
Carliegh Baker's short story collection Bad Endings is on the shortlist for the 2017 Rogers Writers' Trust Fiction Prize. (Callan Field)

Carleigh Baker is a Métis/Icelandic author whose debut short story collection Bad Endings is on the shortlist for the 2017 Rogers Writers' Trust Fiction Prize and also won the 2017 Vancouver Book Award.

Below, Baker takes on the Magic 8 Q&A and answers eight random questions from eight fellow authors.   

1. Ed Riche asks, "Readers want redemptive endings, do you give it to them?"

Do all readers want the same thing? I don't think so. I think my characters want redemptive endings, but my stories don't always provide them with what they want. Kind of like life. Hopefully I tie up enough loose ends so that there's a feeling of satisfaction, or inevitability, at the end of my stories.

2. Ausma Zehanat Khan asks, "What form of writing would you love to attempt even though you're secretly terrified by it?"

Genre fiction, I guess. I wrote a neo-noir story this summer and I was acutely aware of how devoted and voracious noir fans are, so I was afraid I would let readers down, or annoy them with my ignorance. I was lucky to work with a great editor, Sam Wiebe, and he helped guide me through my worries.

3. Jean McNeil asks, "What role do you think fiction has to play in contemporary politics, if any?"

Fiction has the ability to teach in a subtle way, and to introduce readers to new perspectives. That knee-jerk defensiveness many of us experience when being introduced to new, unsettling ideas can be subverted when these ideas are presented through storytelling. This makes it a very important social and political tool.

4. Drew Hayden Taylor asks, "How do you decide on character names?"

Since a lot of my stories are just thinly veiled nonfiction, I often use people's real names when writing the first couple of drafts, and then when I start fictionalizing and adjusting the narrative accordingly, I pick names of other people I know. I'm not excited by naming characters, it's just a thing I have to do. I feel the same way about titles, kind of meh. Though I do get annoyed when people critique my titles. Like, dude, I just spent a million hours on this story. I'll call it whatever I want.

5. Trevor Cole asks, "What emotion do you find best fuels your writing — happiness, sadness, anger or something else?"

I tend to gather material during periods of intense fear and anxiety, times when I'm out of my comfort zone and struggling to maintain control. But that's the loading stage. I write best when I'm through those periods, and feeling safe again. Maybe a little more confident for having proven my resilience to myself.

I've drafted some pretty good poems when I'm pissed off, though. But then I have to calm down again before I can edit them.

6. Shauna Singh Balwdin asks, "What did you learn from writing one book that you have used/can use/will use when writing the next?"

I've only written one book, but I've learned that it's okay to write in my own voice, and to be vulnerable on the page. People seem to like that.

7. J.J. Lee asks, "Superman or Batman?"

Warriana. (Google the Venture Bros.)

8. Kate Cayley asks, "Which could you not live without, writing or reading?"

Tough choice. Reading, I guess. I'd be a pretty lame writer if I stopped feeding my brain with other people's work though.