Thursday, December 12, 2013

Nantucket I&M Article!

Hello dear readers! The incomparable Lindsey Pykosz wrote a wonderful article about me and "The Last Ancient" for today's edition (Dec. 12, 2013) of The Nantucket Inquirer and Mirror. Lindsey's an excellent writer, and I want to extend a heartfelt thanks to her for her effort and skill in putting this together. And of course many thanks to Editor & Publisher, Marianne Stanton who, along with Editor Josh Balling and the rest of the crew there at the Inky helped make me the writer I am today. Reporting for the Inquirer and Mirror was one of the greatest experiences of my life; I wish I could write for them  again.

Check out the article below!



By Lindsay Pykosz
I&M Staff Writer
         This island has a way of getting under people’s skin and inspiring different people in different ways. For some, that pull is still felt from thousands of miles away, even after they have moved from the island.
         When Eliot Baker left Nantucket and his job as a staff writer for The Inquirer and Mirror in 2010 to return to Finland with his family, where his wife is from, that love he felt since he first visited in 2003 only grew stronger. So much so that it became the setting for his first published book, “The Last Ancient,” a suspenseful historical mystery and love story all rolled into one that takes place on-island between Thanksgiving and Christmas. It was released digitally on Dec. 2, with the print version coming later.
         “An off-island reporter with a dark past is thrust into the story-and the fight-of his life as he follows a breadcrumb trail of ancient coins left at animal mutilation and murder sites around the island,” Baker wrote in an e-mail. “The path leads to a diabolical conspiracy and a mythological creature hunting on the island. A creature he becomes obsessed with in ways beyond his understanding. A creature he is told he must kill to save himself and all he holds dear.”
         The island setting is what Baker, from the West Coast, described as “unique” for the story, with the hero, Simon Stephenson, fighting against forces that are threatening to pull him away from Nantucket, his home.
         But the connection is also personal for Baker's family. His son, Erik, 4, was born on the island and his daughter, Saga, 5, learned how to walk here and still remembers the island's beaches.
         “I was in-between classes at the local English school, looking out the teacher’s lounge windows into the first snows of Finland’s loooooong, dark winter, when I suddenly had this memory of one of my first assignments for The Inquirer and Mirror, tagging along with a hunter at sunrise on the second day of the season and hanging out at the deer weigh-in station and learning about tick diseases.
“I thought of all my days running and biking through the windswept conservation land trails, bumming around the beaches, meeting amazing people; and into that island reverie popped the mental image of a young man discovering a wounded mythological creature in conservation land. I opened up my laptop and wrote, ‘Gunshots crow across Nantucket.’ It was like fireworks went off. This whole magical world with this beautiful/sinister narrative opened up in my mind.”
Baker found himself in his family cottage in remote Finland, submerged in peace and quiet and surrounded by an atmosphere that allowed him to mold and shape his craft. His first two drafts were completed between Oct. 2011 and July 2012 and pitched it at the Pacific Northwest Writer’s Association Conference in Seattle, Wash. While he said he got a lot of interest, one woman, J. Ellen Smith of Champagne Books, was particularly excited. After two more drafts, he sent it to her and the rest was history.
Baker has always loved to write and had distant dreams of becoming a novelist. From the time he was seven, he told himself that he would one day be an author. That inspiration may have come from his mother, Sharon Baker, who published three sci-fi novels with Avon Books before she died of cancer in 1991.
“I wrote a lumbering beast (180,000 words!) of a novel when I was 22, fresh out of college,” he wrote. “It somehow got some representation but never went anywhere. I shelved my novelist aspirations and went back to school to be a doctor, attending the Health Careers Program at Harvard Extension School, and working in two different labs as a research assistant at Harvard Medical School.”
Later, Baker decided to return to writing and got his Master’s in Science Journalism from Boston University. He worked at Harvard Health Letters before starting at the I&M in 2008. He credits his experiences here with how to be a good novelist.
“In addition to learning how to trim the fat and nail the heart of a story with a good lead, I learned how to research a story and how critical it is to get your facts straight,” he said. “The same holds for fiction.”
While he has done some freelance work for an English language paper in Finland, he said he has directed his writing towards fiction. He also runs an editing/translating/writing business at eliotbaker.net, teaches communications, leadership and project management at Satakunta University of Applied Sciences, teaches at the local grammar and high school’s English language track programs.
While “The Last Ancient” was intended to be written as a stand alone, Baker said he would love to turn it into a series. He added that he has a historical fiction prequel already mapped out, but much more research at the Nantucket Historical Association will be required to finish it-perhaps to be started during a trip to the island next summer.
“I have the first draft of my next novel nearly finished, and a half-dozen other projects plotted out, most of which have a fantastical approach to them, although not all,” he said.

Eliot Baker’s “The Last Ancient” is currently only available online, and can be purchased at www.burstbooks.ca

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