"I have lived a life wide open to adventure. With fishing, hunting, exploring, backwoods of America, hitchhiking 30,000 miles, walking 30,000 miles bicycling 20,000 miles, living on the road and in the street for about one year total, with crooked cops and their ruffian henchmen, including a black magic warlock all sought my life but the most profound thing about my life are the miracles that have occurred to me over the years. Especially having had a wide awake, physical, in the body experience in Heaven while I was traveling my hardship year of 1989."
By, Rami Ungar
He started out on a farm, but had to leave because people were after his life. What happened over the many years for this man, before turning to writing, involved a life with more twists and turns than a labyrinth, involving drugs and crime, camping and living in the mountains across North America, and even some interesting paranormal experiences. Today’s interview is with Timothy Louis Baker, author of Fantastic Florida Fun, Crime and Drugs on Trip City Street, and his autobiographical When North Meets South and East Meets West.
Based on the descriptions of your books, a lot of your writing seems to be based on your own personal experiences. What motivates you to write about your past and how do you come up with stories based on your life?
Rami, I often make the comment that I write what I know and I know what I write and that holds true, through present I refer to things of my own life to write about and very little do I have to look up in another book or online somewhere. That is all because I have had such an interesting life and I’ve found that if I take those experiences I’ve had and expound upon them in fiction but along the same lines as has occurred in my own past, that my writing is just that, not only interesting but entertaining, to the ultimate degree. I’m very well-traveled and have been in a variety of locations and multitude of actual experiences, so I have no trouble in keeping a story line going about a certain person, place or thing. Whether I write fiction or non-fiction in the case of my autobiographical works, my story unfolds and continues consistently with new material and not keep repeating the same thing over again. If you examine my writing, you’ll find that the pace is fast and constantly changing, with either what the character is doing, where they are in location or what they are up to. It all varies at an incredible rate because that’s exactly how I’ve lived, continuously changing where I am, what I’m doing or whatever, there is never a dull moment. My lifestyle reflects upon the pages of my books, even the fiction works and really as a writer and an author, because of the kind of person I am, I wouldn’t have it any other way. That just goes to show you, personalities show up through our work and I think that’s the way it’s supposed to be.
Could you walk us through your writing process, from the moment you get an idea to when you publish the book?
I started writing on pencil and paper then graduated to a typewriter and eventually by computer, but it all goes the same route. I write my story and then I edit it with my own author’s knowledge but sometimes, after submitting to a publisher, I have to crack down on myself and allow them to edit it also. My full-length autobiography Where North Meets South and East Meets West was an idea I had long ago, I mean like when I was 16 years old and hitchhiking to Florida with little or no money, I had an idea that my life was going to be long enough and full enough to write a book about it all, and more. When I was in my 20’s and living part time in the mountains of Kentucky, Tennessee, Arkansas, and the forests of Michigan and Minnesota, I came about the idea for each and every story of all my books and made that mental note in my head the exact ideas I had for them, and eventually I did write them. It was easy because I already had the created version in my head, I just had to use my imagination to add the characters, places and events that were in my head to the pages of my books and behold I am an author again. Then after submission to publisher and acceptance of my manuscript I am again a published author. With me, writing is the work, editing is minuscule comparatively and when I get that acceptance email from a publisher is truly happiness. Because I know my writing is going to be available to the public for the people to have access and that is the point of my career. It’s not how much money I might make or how famous I will become that is important, but getting my writing out there to the people who may read it. The rest all comes along with extras in between that, not just as the main point of enjoyment in my life but the fulfillment of what I’ve written as an author to be enjoyed by others.
You’ve had some very interesting life experiences. What do you do now these days? Is your life any more interesting, or has things gotten somewhat calmer?
Ah, but life is the same. Now that I don’t do all of the things, as much or as many times in a row, as when I was younger, doesn’t mean that I’m any less active or live a less exhilarating lifestyle anymore. I keep occupied at what a great many people may do, and I’m sure they do, by online computer and other devices. Look we have access to all of the things that people used to have to go to the library to look up or reserve a mental note to ourselves to ask a certain particular person we might know, next time we see them. Now not only that we can read books and gain all of this information or personal entertainment, right at the touch of our fingertips. Life is as exciting as ever. I fish in the creek, I ride a bike almost everywhere I go in town and at 55 I still lift weights. Lifting weights is what I used to call bodybuilding, but because I’m not a spring chicken anymore and don’t grow as rapidly nor can I do as much weight as I used to, I now just ‘lift weights’ or ‘do my weightlifting.’ As far as living a calmer life? Maybe when I’m a hundred. Never a dull moment and I always mean that in a good way when I say it. One does not have to go thousands of miles to experience adventure. That is something a person can do anywhere they are and anything they’re doing. It is something you find inside yourself, so much of the time anyway. All it usually takes is a little bit of initiative to find or discover and that can be nearby as well as far away, it just depends on the situation. I like the days when the last thing I can possibly do that night when I go to bed is drag myself off to the bed and lay down to sleep, just as much as I like those days when I am able to sit for longer periods of time and let the radio or television entertain me rather than get it by just so much activity of my own hoping that will keep me excited enough to stay up without falling asleep until I get all the work done. Mentally I’m probably more active since becoming a writer than I ever was before. If not then just as much anyway.
How did you get into writing?
When I was 33 years old I had the idea to write down some notes about my lifetime and because my life had been so interesting up to that point I soon invested in a typewriter that ended up the forerunner of a rough draft for my autobiography. I had lived so many interesting experiences that I thought the world should know all about them. It wasn’t until a few years later that I was able to gain the ownership of a computer but before I did I set down a rule in my house: Every time I came up with an idea on something pertaining to a real experience that happened to me personally in my lifetime I would write it down on a piece of scrap paper and lay it on a pile on my kitchen table. Well after several months and when the pile was a couple of inches tall and I was sure everything I would need the time to think of before writing had already taken place, I finally found a way to get a computer and that is when the placement in chronological and geographical locations began to take shape. With the computer I could write something where I thought it should be and then if I didn’t like where it was or how it was written, I could change it and copy and move it and paste it wherever the best place for it I judged would be at. Well this was OK except that something happened, that is now included in my autobiographical works, a catastrophe and all I got away with it all were the floppy disks of some of the stories of some of my books now, but also including a printout copy of my first rough draft. Well to make a long story short, being relocated a couple of times, finally I was able to manage to procure another computer and that was the one that wrote all of the rest of my seven books that I had not already written on either the floppy disks or the paper printout version of my autobiography. This led to me achieving internet access and that brought on copyrights for all seven books and eventual publishing of them all. Basically I got into writing because I had some things happen to me that I thought were so unique that nobody else in the world had these occurrences and so I was compelled to write then and that is my full-length version autobiography Where North Meets South and East Meets West, the less graphic and condensed edition An Experience Heaven Sent and My Life’s History in Poetry and the uniqueness of those events that I’ve never heard of happening to any living man in my generation were the miracles including and especially the living, waking, physical ascension in Heaven where everyone and everything was young and beautiful and lived forever. Then I was returned to the earth by my ‘higher power’ that had caused me to thus be arisen into that afterlife, also brought me back. If that isn’t something to write about then I certainly don’t know what is of my own personal lifetime of events and trivia.
What are you currently working on?
I haven’t been writing any actual books lately but I’ve got one started that I began a few years ago and sometime when the workload of book marketing the seven books I’ve already published slackens and begins to give me ample opportunity to finish writing that one I will. I have to have some time for me too on a personal level to do the things I want to do with my own time on my own space but the name of this newest work of mine is Some Sing Song Way and it is a historical novel about a man that is abducted by Indians from the Oregon Trail and he discovers that living with the red men is actually compatible to his own life. He has a past with the white men and now he lives with Indians, finally on a voluntary basis and actually sort of prefers them. Later in the book he will meet up with the past in a US fort out west and after that when he is alone and in solitude the events of his lifetime will unfold before him as he will contemplate that past with his own history with Indians, while he is living out in nature without either one, or anyone, and he will decide how he really feels about it all in his own present and that will make up his mind on his decision about how, where, and with who he will live the rest of his days.
What is some advice you would give a budding writer?
I always give the same answer to people that ask me advice through posing this question and that is – write what you like and hopefully that will be what you know and if you write what you know, you are likely to write the very best that you can write. That has so far been my answer to this question of what to tell someone that asks what they should write for a book, written by them.
If you were stuck on a desert island and could only take three books with you, which ones would you take?
That’s easy and they are all books that I have written. The books that are the most important things that I could ever take with me to be alone. Even if I ever doubted I would ever see anyone else ever again, I would take the three autobiographical works that I have written, Where North Meets South and East Meets West, An Experience Heaven Sent and My Life’s History in Poetry. Because in them I know what I left in print in books behind me back in civilization, the most important words or any kind of works I have ever performed in life would be there to remind me of what I left behind that someday, maybe not in my own lifetime, but someday in some generation in the future perhaps, would be invaluable to the rest of the world of their, those people’s time. In other words, someday in some generation this story will come out and make that big impression upon all humanity at that time and continue for the rest of life on earth as we now know it.