Before Finding Forever hit shelves, Ken Baker was all at work on the promotion – appearing on E! News every day, writing the second book in the Deadline Diaries series, and throwing himself into working on a story that he hadn’t received any reader feedback on, save for his daughter.
“I wish I could say that I [spent]pre-publication time sipping miniumbrella-dipped drinks at a seaside retreat in the south of France, tipping my tanning butler and getting daily manis and pedis as I count all my money in the bank,” said Baker.
But being a writer takes your full attention, especially when your book is being a pitched as a “Veronica Mars” readalike. In Finding Forever, celebrity news blogger Brooklyn Brant gets a call from the assistant to Taylor Prince, America’s 16-year-old sweetheart celebrity – but Taylor is missing, and Brooklyn needs to find her, and fast.
“To be honest, even though I think Kristen Bell is adorable, I have probably seen a grand total of half an episode of that [Veronica Mars] and haven’t even glanced at the novels,” said Baker, though he fully admits that he plans to binge on both when he has the time. “The idea for Deadline Diaries really sprung from me browsing the mystery-thriller section and realizing there are rarely ever any journalists as the hero. There are plenty of cops, private eyes, lawyers, and a lot of bloody vampires. And it’s not just books. Look at TV: All those CSI’s and Law & Order kind of shows, Breaking Bad, it’s almost always law enforcement. God bless them, but what about journalists? I think a lot of the romanticism of the journalism profession that inspired me when I entered it in the early 1990s has been lost. A lot of the cynicism is deserved.
“But I believe that journalists can still play a key role as the so-called ‘fourth estate’ in a democracy, as well as serve as a valuable watchdog of waste, fraud and abuse of all kinds. It can also shine a light on people and cultures and trends that make us reflect on ourselves in a healthy way,” said Baker. “Deadline Diaries is a lot of things – Hollywood expose/celebrity thriller/of-the-moment realistic fiction – but right up there on the list is that it’s a love letter to investigative journalism. A lot of young people don’t know who Woodward and Bernstein are, and how their reports brought down a president, but I am hoping they will know who Brooklyn Brant is and be inspired by her.”
A young teen journalist seemed a natural fit for Baker, who started writing young adult books a few years ago. During the day, Baker is a reporter covering Hollywood for nearly twenty years, having worked for magazines, websites, and various TV news. His earlier novels all take a look at the twisted relationship between Hollywood and young celebrities. “Fangirl explored the intense relationship between pop stars and their fans. How I Got Skinny, Famous And Fell Madly In Love delved into the ugly reality of reality TV and our cultural obsession with equating happy with being thin.” Finding Forever, of course, takes a look at blogging culture and the obsession Hollywood has with celebrating young stars.
With the chaos of what he saw in the lives of young celebrities with his work at E! News and his own love of the genre, young adult literature was the perfect fit for Baker, who thinks it the perfect category of literature – not just for teens, but for everybody.
“I think the teenage years can just be an exciting time of life to explore as a writer,” said Baker. “Teens have enough experience to know quite a bit about how the world works, but not so much that they can be totally cynical and closed off like – cough, cough – way too many adults. In other words, I find that in general younger people – and this is not restricted to teens – tend to be more open to feeling and trying new things, learning new ideas, and as such they are more vulnerable and prone to change through experiences. Well, hello! That defines a great novel character!
“Plus, I feel like we live in an exciting time for YA literature, with so many great books out there, and young readers are looking for stories and characters that they can relate to and see themselves in,” added Baker. “But, at the end of the day, I think I just find it fun. I spend all day living in an adult world, I love being able to come home to my kids and immerse myself in writing about their world. It’s a nice break from my adult reality. I highly recommend it for any burned-out older folks out there!”