Writing short stories, even mini-fiction, can’t always be worked into a writing schedule; so for those authors who may not be able to let their characters play in the sand, I’ve invited them to a nighttime beach bonfire to have a drink, listen to the crashing waves, and answer a few questions of my own.
Can you tell us a little about yourself, something readers may not have heard before?
I’ve been writing for Dreamspinner Press for six years, and I have a weakness for guy-next-door characters, men who are relatable and have flaws that make them seem more real. I’m a huge romantic at heart–I met my husband on the first day of college when I was 17 and 21 years later we’re still together. My characters are often sarcastic and a bit cynical, but that’s almost always a front to protect their gooey marshmallow hearts. I write a lot of big romantic gestures into my books, and I have an unapologetic love of holiday romances–my first published piece was in a Christmas anthology, and my sixth Christmas novella will be out in December 2018.
I love infusing humor into my books, and if I wasn’t writing I’d probably be pursuing stand up comedy. Making people laugh really energizes me, and the thought that my jokes or stories might make someone’s day just a little brighter is the best feeling in the world.
Official Bio:Bru Baker writes sophisticated gay romantic fiction with strong characters, real-world problems, and plenty of humor. Bru spent fifteen years writing for newspapers before making the jump to fiction. She now balances her time between writing and working at a Midwestern library in the reference department. Whether it’s creating her own characters or getting caught up in someone else’s, there’s no denying that Bru is happiest when she’s engrossed in a story. She and her husband have two children, which means a lot of her books get written from the sidelines of various sports practices.
Can you introduce us to the world(s) that you have created?
I have a pretty unique take on werewolves, and it was a lot of fun to craft that world. In the Camp H.O.W.L. universe, werewolves are born, not changed from a bite. They seem completely human until the first full moon after their nineteenth birthday, which is when they hit their second puberty and go through the Turn. Shifting for the first time is traumatic and hard to navigate alone, so families that can afford it send their kids to werewolf camps where they can have trained counselors ease them through their first time. They spend the month after the Turn learning about how to be a werewolf–from the mechanics of shifting to things like how not to out the supernatural secret on Snapchat.
Will this be your first Coastal Magic or are you a veteran? What was it about Coastal Magic that drew you to it? Why have you continued to return?
This will be my first year at Coastal Magic but I feel like I’ve been before because so many of my author friends have told stories about it. February can’t come fast enough!
If you’ve been before, what is your favorite CMC memory? If you’ve never been, what are you looking forward to?
This will be my first Coastal Magic, and everyone I’ve talked to who has gone before has told me that there is a, pardon the pun, magical atmosphere unlike any other convention. I’m really looking forward to connecting with readers in a casual atmosphere. I’ve been to Romantic Times twice and I do the LA Times Festival of Books yearly, but those are both big conventions. I’m expecting a totally different energy at Coastal and I can’t wait!
What was your inspiration when you created your characters and the worlds they live in?
I love writing flawed characters, and the Camp H.O.W.L. series starts with one of the most flawed I’ve ever written–a born werewolf who didn’t shift at 19 like he was supposed to. We meet him on his 28th birthday, and he has long resolved himself to being the only human in his Pack. But by some quirk of biology, he finds himself going into his Turn ten years too late.
My contemporary romances are all about characters who have to find a way to love themselves before they can find their HEA with someone else, and I wanted to see how that would look in a paranormal world. I was walking down a city street one afternoon and a migraine was brewing, so my sense of smell was really sharp. A bus went by and the smell of exhaust was so strong I couldn’t stand it–and somehow that morphed into thinking about how hard it would be for someone with super senses–like a werewolf–to get by in a society where there’s constant input like smells, sounds, etc. And Adrian, my first werewolf main character, was born out of that.
As for the werewolf camps, it just made sense that you’d need to have a way to train werewolves not to out themselves to humans, and also to help teach them coping mechanisms so it was possible to turn their senses down a few notches when they were in public. And Camp H.O.W.L. was born.
Is there any character that didn’t make as big of an impact on the story that you thought they would? Is there a character who stayed on the page longer than you thought they would?
I think every writer has that character who was meant to be in the background but refuses to stay there! For the Camp H.O.W.L. series, that character is Harris. He kept pushing to the forefront in the first book, and I enjoyed writing him because he’s sarcastic but a very loyal person. He was featured in book two as well, which set up book three as his story. I hadn’t intended to write a book about Harris finding his HEA, but I’m so glad he was persistent and kept pushing into scenes. His book, Hiding in Plain Sight, was published on Sept. 18 and it’s my favorite book in the Camp H.O.W.L. series, so I’m really glad I followed my instinct and let him take center stage!
Is there any part of your series, any of your series, world(s) that you would like to expand on in the future?
The Camp H.O.W.L. series is set at a werewolf camp nestled deep in the Hoosier National Forest in Southern Indiana. It’s secluded and the werewolves there don’t worry much about hiding what they are, since the camp is protected from prying eyes. Counselors teach wolfings control, but they also run as wolves through the forest without worrying about exposing the supernatural secret.
I wanted to follow my werewolves out into the world to see how different it was to be a werewolf in a city instead of at secluded camp in the middle of nowhere. The spin-off series to Camp H.O.W.L. will take place in New York City and showcase not only the challenges of being a werewolf in a big city but also the other supernatural creatures who flock to a densely populated area. The first book in that series, Stealing His Heart, comes out in March 2019.
How do you take our world and build something fantastical from it? How do you turn our reality into fantasy?
I’m most interested in the kind of world building that takes a magical realism approach. How do you take the world around us and make it more? I write both contemporary and paranormal romance, so I think that’s what is behind my choice to go with a more realistic outlook rather than a high fantasy approach. I love the idea that your neighbor could be a werewolf and you don’t know it, or your bank teller could be a selkie or a witch. It’s fun to play with reality like that, and it jives well with my overactive imagination. I’m the kind of person who can’t sleep with their feet hanging over the edge of the bed just in case the stories are true.
I really like the element of secrecy involved in building a supernatural world that stays hidden from the human world. Which kinds of supernaturals would be able to blend in and live among humans? Which can’t adapt and have to live in the shadows or in other realms? In Stealing His Heart, the main character runs a charity that helps supernatural kids who are in the foster system. How can a young shifter stay under the radar when they’re living in human foster parents? What would a witch need to help them graduate from high school without bringing attention to their powers when they short out the lights in the gymnasium every time something startles them? Figuring out the answers to questions like that is the best part of world building for me.
Which do you find is more central in your writing: the characters or world creation? Why?
I’m a very character-driven writer, so I definitely form the characters first and the world second. That being said, sometimes a setting can almost be a character itself. Camp H.O.W.L. is a luxury resort where upper class wolflings go for their Turn. It has a Michelin-rated chef, Soul Cycle classes, and upscale cabins that feel more like the Four Seasons than a campground. I had a blast setting up the camp and figuring out what types of activities would be offered and what services these pampered kids would expect.
What drew you to writing in the genres you do as opposed to other genres?
I love both contemporary and paranormal romance because there’s a comfort in knowing that no matter what you put your characters through, they’re going to get that HEA at the end of the book. I love writing the plot twists and ups and downs that really put the characters through their paces, but I also love the feel-good payoff of watching the characters earn their happy ending. I write relatable characters–people you’d want to sit down and have a conversation with over coffee or a beer. I want readers to really connect with them and be invested in their journey, and that’s something you mostly see in the romance genre.
If you could be one of the characters in your book for one day, who would it be and why?
I have werewolves, selkies, shifters, witches, and fae in my series, but I think I’d go with Drew, who is human. He’s the main character in Under a Blue Moon, and he’s used to being the only human in the group. He was adopted into a werewolf Pack when he was a child after his mother married a werewolf, and he grew up alongside his stepbrothers, who were werewolves. But he never felt like he was less than them. He had to learn how to be tougher and smarter, and in the end he became a better person for it. He doesn’t let assumptions about his abilities (or lack of them) get him down, and it’s a real challenge for him when he falls for a werewolf who doesn’t think a human/werewolf couple has a future. He’s plucky and funny and incredibly smart, and his confidence and pure enjoyment of life would be great to have for a day.
Don’t miss your chance to meet over 50 fabulous urban fantasy, paranormal, and romance authors at Coastal Magic next February! This super casual book-lover weekend happens on Daytona Beach, and gives everyone the chance to hang out with fellow readers and amazing storytellers.
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