1. How did you come up with the title?
Originally, the working title was "Pop Star." But as I got deeper into the narrative I realized that the fangirl character, Josie Brant, was emerging as a dominant voice, and one I felt readers would best relate to. So it made most sense to brand the book as "Fangirl."
2. Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?
I mostly want readers to take away their own personal insights from the story -- not mine. But, the truth is, a sub-narrative to the story that strikes a deep chord is that both Josie and Peter Maxx are dealing with past traumas in their lives, and in each other they find strength in coping and moving on. I know that I relate to that, and I suspect most people do. People deal with all kinds of traumatic things — death, disease, disappointment, dysfunction …what we used to call in my celeb magazine days "the big D's." We all have a choice to either let our traumas define us and control us, or we can learn from them and move forward with the strength of knowing we survived them. There are many ways to cope and I believe that music, writing, and art in general can be a way to do that. At least that is what I have found in my own life.
3. How much of the book is realistic?
Let's just say that most of what I write about concerning the world of teen pop stardom is lifted from what I have seen firsthand as a celebrity journalist. It is not based on any one celeb's life, but it is a composite of all of them. It is truly fascinating what an impact intense fame and fortune has on teenagers, and so naturally it is a very ripe territory to mine as a writer.
4. If you had to do it all over again, would you change anything in your book?
Early on, I toyed with writing the book as a first-person narrative from the perspective of Josie. But I found that I equally wanted to get inside the head of the pop star Peter, and to write the book as a first person from just one of the characters would have limited me too much. But I do wonder what the book would have read like from her voice. Hey, maybe if readers enjoy the first book I will write a sequel and consider doing it in her voice — or even his. Or maybe even both! The idea is very exciting to me.
5. What was the hardest part of writing your book?
Finding the time. I have a full-time job at E! News. I have no time during the week to sit and write. Like none. And if I ever do my mind is so cluttered with other thoughts — and the everyday stuff of being a dad and husband — that it is next to impossible to focus. So it was hard to find the time and then to spend the weekends holed up alone, away from my family and friends, as the rest of the world went about their lives. But I think every writer feels like that a little bit. But once I finished the story and the book has come out, I would do it all over again. In fact, I have already begun writing my next novel!
6. Did you learn anything from writing your book and what was it?
In general, I learn a lot about myself and about life when writing. I think that is the selfish reason why I enjoy writing. It is therapeutic. It's as if I am able to work out my own personal issues on the pages. I hope that makes the characters more relatable to the readers because it comes from such a personal place. There is a little bit of me in pretty much every character, because I think as humans we share a lot more in common than we sometimes like to admit. Once thing I definitely learned is that music has the power to connect people in a way that is profound and beautiful, which is why I wrote a lot of lyrics in the book. Songwriting is next to godliness. Anyone who can write a good song is genius to me.
7. Do you recall how your interest in writing originated?
I started keeping a diary when I was around 11 years old. Well, I guess boys call it a "journal." So I was a journalist from a young age and, well, I guess I have never stopped doing it, thought nowadays I feel like Twitter is my journal. Oh, how times have changed!
8. Who is your favorite author and what is it that really strikes you about their work?
I don't have a favorite. I am never good at answering those kind of questions, like what's my favorite movie, TV show or favorite celebrity. I just don't think that way. I enjoy reading all kinds of authors — fiction and nonfiction — and all kinds of stories. I can tell you that I love an author that can make me laugh out loud, and Sophie Kinsella definitely does that for me. Steve Martin is a real craftsman too. An early influence on me was Tom Wolfe. As a journalist, I really appreciate excellent reporting and the ability to turn that into compelling narrative. I try to bring good journalistic research to my novel writing, because I want that ring of authenticity to the storers. And I do totally fall for the sappy romance, which is obvious to anyone who reads Fangirl. I am not afraid to admit that I have cried reading Nicholas Sparks and Robert James Waller. But one thing I just can't bring myself to read is 50 Shades. No offense, but I don't think it is for me anyway.
9. Tell us your latest news.
Well, I am working on my next novel, which is set somewhat in the world of reality TV. I am still developing it so I am reluctant to reveal too much. But, safe to say, I am really excited about it. There also has been a lot of interest from different people to translate Fangirl into either a TV or movie project, which would be pretty neat. We'll see.
10. Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers?
Live, love, laugh.
About the Book
What would you do if you had a chance to meet your celebrity crush? Now what if said crush reciprocated your feelings? As someone who covers celebrities for a living, E! Channel’s Chief News Correspondent Ken Baker has interviewed everyone from Justin Bieber to Miley Cyrus—if they’re young and famous, you can bet he’s met them—and he’s seen up-close-and-personal the dedicated fans surrounding today’s young starlets and teen sensations. In his debut YA novel, FANGIRL (Running Press Teens; October 2012; $9.95 US/$12.00 CAN; Paperback Original), Baker tells a charming story of first love amidst the teen pop idol experience.
Fourteen-year-old Josie Brant is a straight A-student from Bakersfield, CA, who falls hard for the dreamy pop superstar Peter Maxx. An aspiring song lyricist, she is thrust into the spotlight when her lyrics win a contest sponsored by her celebrity crush. A whirlwind romance via Tweets, IMs, texts and secret phone calls ensues as Josie gets swept up in the chaotic world of a teen heartthrob, but life is not quite as pitch-perfect as the fantasy she’d been dreaming up this whole time. Can the fairy-tale become reality and flourish in today’s plugged-in, celebrity-obsessed culture?
FANGIRL will have readers young and old recalling their earliest celebrity crushes and the complexities of first love, and delighting in what Publishers Weekly is calling “a fun, pop culture-saturated romance.”
Price: $9.95, paperback
Genre: Young Adult
Publisher: Running Press Teens
Release Date: October 2, 2012
Buy Links: Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Books-A-Million, Borders, Buy.com, IndieBound, Powells
About the Author
Ken Baker is E! Entertainment Television’s Chief News Correspondent. Ken has interviewed and reported on just about every major pop star in the world—all of whom he proudly has on his playlist. He lives (and writes) in Hermosa Beach, California.
Links to connect with Keb:
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