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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    Tucson author Shannon Baker discusses literary journeys, mysteries, new novel

    Carmen Valencia
    Shannon Baker, author of Stripped Bare cheerfully signs a copy of her book at her Barnes and Noble book signing in Tucson, Ariz. on Sunday, Oct. 2, 2016.

    Shannon Baker, a local Tucson author, has experienced and written mostly about the Southwest since moving here from rural Nebraska. 

    In her newest mystery novel, “Stripped Bare,” Baker revisits the sandhills of Nebraska, a region which with she has a complex relationship.

    Baker has found success in her writing career with her first trilogy, the “Nora Abbott Mysteries,” which led to recognition as a finalist in the New Mexico/Arizona Book Awards in 2013 and as the Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers’ Writer of the Year in 2014. 

    Baker told the Daily Wildcat about her journey back to Nebraska, the place where she spent 20 years of her post-college life.

    “When I was living out in the sandhills, I really needed a creative outlet,” Baker said. “So, I started to write.”

    Her straight-out-of-college job required her to look busy around a boss who was particular about what she could do in the office. 

    Baker found that during the long hours of the afternoon, sitting and making up stories was a both productive and encouraging outlet. 

    Though the writer has a business background, she remembered back even earlier to her first encounters with writing and being staved.

    “When I was in grade school, I wrote this poem and it got all this attention,” Baker said. “Then my older sister finally took notice of it and said, ‘That’s fine, but I’m the writer in the family.’ ”

    Clearly, this was not too discouraging, and neither was the long road to her first novel being published in 2013. 

    It took Baker close to 20 years to publish that first novel, and she notes that most writers, especially of fiction, are said to have to write a million words before they ever see themselves published.

    Baker said she sort of happened upon her genre. 

    She received a response regarding her first “Nora Abbott Mystery” manuscript that claimed the novel fell under the mystery genre. This made Baker realize there was more to come for Nora Abbot’s character, as mystery readers tend to prefer series. 

    She found that the best ways to expand her work was in the details, which is something her readers note about her.

    “Scenery and setting are as much a part of my books as any character,” Baker said.

    After seeing her first three novels take place in Flagstaff, Boulder, New Mexico and Moab, Utah, Baker turned back to the place from which she had strayed  away for 10 years. 

    The “Nora Abbott Mysteries” dealt with Hopi Indian spirituality and environmental issues, as well as murder. 

    In returning to the Nebraska sandhills, she worked with the superficial bleakness of the environment and the complicated relationships in a place where cattle outnumber people.

    “It took me all this time just to get my sense of humor back about the place,” Baker said. “Kate Fox just walked into my head one day and I said, ‘Okay, let’s see what you can do here.’ ” 

    Baker traveled back to the barren land in order to rein it in again in her mind, setting down this character, Kate Fox. 

    Kate, who has lived in the sandhills her entire life, has a huge family there and thrives there. That is, until the novel’s troublesome events transpire. 

    This fictional life is very different to Baker’s personal experience.

    “I was 21 when I first moved out there—a new bride,” Baker said about herself. “After a month, I wanted to leave, but I was too embarrassed, so I stuck it out and learned to love this weird place.”

    Baker noted that when Kate Fox’s life turns upside down, the drama unfolds in sync with the volatile weather of an April in rural Nebraska. 

    Though Baker describes the sand hills as being the dunes of the Sahara Desert covered with grass, it is a grassland which gets hit by a blizzard as Kate’s life is rocked.

    When it comes to her inspiration, Baker notes that all her writing is really an extension of reading and that she is always reading. 

    One thing that is for sure, though—Baker and all her readers will be glad she was bold and triumphed in order to share the story of “Stripped Bare.” All that is left is to find out if Kate Fox can do the same.

    Shannon Baker will be at Clues Unlimited for a book signing, Saturday at 2 p.m.

    Follow Gretchyn Kaylor on Twitter.

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