Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Ken Baker Author Interview

Book Nerd Interview

Ken Baker is the E! News/E! Online Senior Correspondent and Breaking News Editor, an acclaimed author, producer, public speaker and former pro hockey player.

Ken reports breaking news, conducts celebrity interviews, delivers investigative reports and hosts a range of news segments for E! News, E! Online, E! International, E! News specials and the network’s live events.

Baker has published six books. His newest work is a novel due out in April 2014 titled “How I Got Skinny, Famous and Fell Madly in Love,” a story about an obese teen who is pressured by her family to go on a reality show to lose weight and, in so doing, learns the real meaning of freedom.

His debut novel, “Fangirl” (Running Press, 2012), told the story of a pop star who falls in love with a fan amid a sensational tabloid drama. Ken is adapting “Fangirl” into a movie in collaboration with Converge Media.

Ken is currently at work on a series of Hollywood-themed thrillers set for release in 2015.

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Was there a defining moment during your youth when you realized you wanted to be a writer?

My journey as a writer started when I was eleven years old. I grew up in a small town outside of Buffalo, New York, and was obsessed with hockey. I began keeping a hockey journal, which quickly morphed into a hybrid hockey and personal life journal. Looking back, some of the entries are cute – as in, “Jan. 22 – It’s cold today. Lots of snow. I’m bored.” – but there are some moving entries as well, such as, “Dad moved out. I wish he didn’t…” What I love most about those diaries is that it was my first attempt at stopping the film of life, pressing pause and analyzing what’s happening, observing it and describing it to myself. In a lot of ways, as a writer I am doing pretty much the same thing now for my book readers – and somewhat so as a chronicler of pop culture for E! News. The truth is, I’m still trying to figure out life, and I have decided if I ever stop trying to figure out life’s mysteries that is the moment I have stopped living.

Beyond your own work (of course), what is your all-time favorite book and why? And what is your favorite book outside of your genre?

I don’t mean to be evasive, but I am not good with these kind of questions. And it’s not just when it comes to choosing my favorite book. For example, people often ask me what’s my favorite color, or who is my favorite celebrity I have interviewed, and I can never give an honest answer. The reason, I have concluded, is that my brain simply is not wired to think this way. I appreciate different things about different people, in the same way I appreciate books for different reasons.

What I can say is that one of the first books to really impact me was “The Inner Game of Tennis.” I had to be around thirteen, and a hockey coach had suggested I read it to help me become a better goalie, which at first seemed like a ridiculous notion. I mean, why would I read a book about tennis to learn how to stop pucks better? The basic thesis the author put forth was that tennis consists of an outer game and inner game, and you could never realize your true potential if you didn’t master the inner game. Very Zen. That book not only became my bible for sports performance, but also a guide to achieving success in life. So much about achieving success is pushing aside self-doubt and anxiety. You know, the old Nike slogan: Just do it. That’s what I did a few years ago when, after writing a few nonfiction books, I decided I would try fiction. I was scared. I feared I would be horrible at it. But I overcame that fear and I am getting better and better at it.

But our minds like to get in the way of peak performance with inner conflict. We all can learn to eliminate that inner conflict through practice, which opens up a path the success. I remain fascinated by this concept, and I am now preaching this religion to both of my kids (who are also hockey goalies!). So please don’t be surprised if you see these kind of inner conflicts and attempts to resolve them play out through characters in my novels. Most of us want to be the best we can at whatever we are doing, and it has become something of a cultural obsession. Oprah built an empire around it. In “How I Got Skinny, Famous and Fell Madly in Love,” the main character, Emery, is surrounded by “experts” trying to help her succeed in achieving her weight-loss goal. She even has a mental health doctor helping her inner game. You’ll have to read it to see how it all works out for her!

In your book; How I Got, Famous, and Fell Madly inLove, can you tell my Book Nerd community a little about it?

It’s about an obese California teenager named Emery Jackson, who, while convinced she is perfectly fine with her state of health and appearance, is pressured by her family into going on a reality show titled “Fifty Pounds to Freedom.” If she loses 50 pounds in 50 days, she and her family will win a million dollars. I wrote it because a) I am obsessed with the explosion of reality TV and how it can create instant celebrities overnight, and the impact it has on these people and b) Our cultural obsession with being skinny, and our society’s prevailing belief that being skinny and famous equals happiness. This is an issue – a cultural malady actually – that has been stirring inside me for a while. I think we all have felt not good looking enough, or too fat, or too ugly, or too young or old, at some point in our lives. And while I do think that being healthy physically is important, it is the more intangible inner qualities of self-love and acceptance that makes us more fulfilled. Emery takes us on this journey, but in many ways I think Emery is each and every one of us.

For those who are unfamiliar with Emery, how would you introduce her?

Emery is sixteen. She lives in a beach town in Southern California. Her family is a ridiculous version of the Kardashians, if that is possible. Being close to 200 pounds, Emery has built up quite the defense mechanisms to survive at school, at the beach, and inside her own home, where the pressures to look and act perfect prove quite suffocating. Emery ends up making decisions that many of us, if we are being honest with ourselves, would make under the same circumstances. But she doesn’t make those choices in private – it is on an international stage, under the glare of the paparazzi, social media and tabloids. And, as crazy as her ride through fame gets at times, I can tell you that everything I write in the book is based on events that have actually happened!

What are some of your current and future projects that you can share with us?

Well, I am really excited about a series of novels I am currently writing. I call them “celebrity journalism thrillers,” because the series’ protagonist is a blogger who covers Hollywood. Those should start coming out in late 2015. I also have a few ideas brewing for other YA novels, one of which is a very unorthodox love story. I’m also kicking around an idea in the non-fiction category. I am going to be coming up soon on my 20th anniversary as an entertainment journalist, and it might be pegged to that. Not sure yet.

I am also excited about translating my novel “Fangirl” into a movie. I have teamed up with a great team of producers and we are in the middle of writing the screenplay. Definitely more to come on that!

If you could introduce one of your characters to any character from another book, who would it be and why?

I would love to introduce the 16-year-old Ken Baker in my memoir “Man Made” to the 16-year-old Emery Jackson at the end of “How I Got Skinny…” He could learn a lot from her. I think they would get along very well and have a lot to share. My 16-year-old self had some major body-image issues. I was an athlete, but struggled to lose my “baby fat” and it became an unhealthy obsession. I’d later learn I was battling a rare hormone disorder that was causing my body to be at war with itself. Truth is, there is a little bit of me in Emery. Okay, maybe a lot of me!

When asked, what’s the one question you always answer with a lie?

My height. I am a little over 5’10 ¾” tall, but I always say I’m 5’11.” Technically I am not lying, just rounding up like we were taught in middle school math class! The best year of my life was when I got measured at an Olympic development camp for hockey when I was seventeen, and they somehow measured me as being six feet tall. Probably helped get me my college hockey scholarship.

What's the most memorable summer job you've ever had?

I worked in the produce department for a grocery store in Blasdell, New York, called “Super Duper.” I think it is now shut down – and I probably had something to do with it. I was horrible at the job! I had to stand at a sink and cut the stalks off iceberg lettuce heads, bag them, and then stack them on display. It was beyond boring. Plus, I am not to be trusted with sharp knives. Ever.

Who was your first girlfriend?

Depends on how you define “girlfriend.” But when I was fifteen, I dated a French foreign exchange student named Sophie. She was very sweet and, um, very French, and liked to call me a “silly American boy.” All I remember is that she also smoked these disgusting French cigarettes! That experience is probably why I never kissed (on purpose) a smoker ever again.

Tell me about your first kiss

It was not very glamorous. I was standing in a neighbor’s driveway when I was like six years old and a girl down the street named Suzie, without even asking, kissed me on the lips! I ran home crying and when I rushed into my house, my mother asked me what was wrong, and when I told her what happened, she couldn’t control her laughter. So, yeah, I have been not much of a ladies man for a very long time, basically from square one.

When was the last time you cried?

Oh, let me see … uh, like four minutes ago! I am a pathetic crier. I cry listening to love songs. I cry thinking of how I will feel when my 11-year-old son leaves for camp this summer for the first time. I cry when I think about how lucky I am to be alive and healthy and have a great family. And, oh, I cried like a baby in a basinet reading “The Fault in Our Stars.” I am a total mess. But I believe we can all find strength in our weakness and vulnerability. Or at least that is what I tell myself to feel better about being a baby.

What decade during the last century would you have chosen to be a teenager?

The ’60s. For one, the pop music landscape was so new and innovative and exciting. And the nation was just accepting massive social change. Such an exciting time when you think about it. The social changes – in terms of race, especially – were immense, probably akin to the technological revolution. My dad was a teen in the early ’60s, and I think he really enjoyed it.

What is your greatest adventure?

Being a journalist. It has afforded me already a lifetime of adventures, and I am not even halfway through it! I hope that the journalism profession can thrive moving forward, that media outlets can find a way to adequately fund journalism and they can monetize profits from the enterprise of journalism, because it has been one great adventure. I have traveled the world, interviewed fascinating people, satisfied curiosities – and been able to share that news with a world of readers and viewers. And, nowadays, I get a free wardrobe form E! I mean, what’s better than free clothes?

“Thick. Heavy. Big boned. Plump. Full figured. Chunky. Womanly. Large. Curvy. Plus-size. Hefty.” To sixteen-year-old Emery Jackson, these are all just euphemisms for the big “F” word—”fat.” Living on a Southern California beach with her workout fiend dad, underwear model sister, and former model mother, it is impossible for Emery not to be aware of her weight.

Emery is okay with how things are. That is, until her “momager” signs her up for Fifty Pounds to Freedom, a reality show in which Emery will have to lose fifty pounds in fifty days in order to win the million dollars that will solve her family’s financial woes. Emery is skeptical of the process, but when the pounds start to come off and the ratings skyrocket, she finds it hard to resist the adoration of her new figure and the world of fame. Emery knows that things have changed. But is it for the better?

You can purchase How I Got Skinny at the following Retailers:

And now, The Giveaways.
Thank you Ken and Running Press for making this giveaway possible.

3 Winners will receive a Copy of How I Got Skinny, Famous, and Fell Madly in Love by Ken Baker.

1 Winner will receive an iPod Shuffle.

*JBN is not responsible for Lost or Damaged Books in your Nerdy Mail*
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