An Interview with Consuelo Saah Baehr

I love social media. I have met so many wonderful and talented authors there! Consuelo Saah Baehr is one of them. I have read all of her books, and I was a fan before I made her acquaintance. Here is an interview I had with her about writing.

Why do you write?

I have two insatiable needs.  I need constant approval (I only found this out recently) and I want to find out who the heck I am.  Writing is the delivery system I have chosen to satisfy those needs.

Do you like to write?

Anyone who tells you they love writing is lying or demented. You have to shut off all the fun stuff and get down to business in a serious way.  Sometimes a long walk or a long shower will flood me with ideas for a current project or for a new project and I rush to the computer.  Seldom are these ideas reliable but they do get me to sit down and often lead to something solid. The writing monkey chose me a very long time ago and he/she is still on my back. I don’t have a say in the matter.  If I’m not writing, I don’t feel worthwhile. (I also don’t feel worthwhile if I AM writing.)

How do you choose what to write about?

I don’t consciously choose a specific story.  It begins with a character with traits I admire even if those traits are not completely admirable. The character will hound me with their thoughts and needs, sometimes for years. When I finally give in and begin to write, I am always astonished by the way the character reacts to life events and choices.  This was true with One Hundred Open Houses and Nothing To Lose.

I try to use settings that are familiar and hold my interest.  In Nothing To Lose it was the workings of a big department store and the internal drama that the customers don’t see.  In One Hundred Open Houses it is the thrill of inspecting other people’s houses and trying on their lives.

What was the hardest book to write?

In terms of time and commitment to getting it right, I would say Daughters because the story took place in another century and the setting was a small Christian village outside of Jerusalem. I used three sources for every fact.  I did a year’s worth of research including many hours of oral history.  I’m proud to have written about Christians living in Palestine because so little has been done to humanize the Palestinians. Readers often cite this fact with surprise and gratitude.  The book has over 120 five star reviews on Amazon.  When it was traditionally published it was translated into 15 languages.

Do you think of yourself as a humorous writer, and is it hard to write humor?

People are too enamored of humor.  When women describe the man of their dreams, humor is always at the top.  Really?  Funny men seldom make a lot of money.   Humor is peculiar and very personal.   I hardly ever laugh out loud and I hardly ever laugh when I’m alone.  Sometimes physical humor (someone falling down, etc.) makes me laugh. The book that far outsells all of the others, Daughters, doesn’t have one humorous line in it.

Writing humor is not hard if you are willing to showcase the very worst things about yourself.  Think of it this way:  you are getting paid and/or admired for your faults.  If you have a colossal blind spot about housekeeping, lying, eating, hoarding, etc. and can manage to discuss it as if it is a secret virtue you share with your reader, you will do well with humor.

What’s the worst part of being a writer?

When people know you are a writer they will say, “Would I have read anything you’ve written?”  If you wanted to clear the room, you could answer: “No, you ignorant jerk.  You would have not.”  You can simply say “No.”  The alternative is to recite a laundry list of everything you’ve written and wait like a schlump for the person to recognize a title.  Where is the payoff here?  There is no payoff. This is a lose/lose situation.  My advice?  Never tell anyone you are a writer.  By the way the second question is always: Have any of your books been made into movies? Always say yes.  And when they ask the title just fill in one of Johnny Depp’s movies.

So far you have made being a writer sound simply horrid.  Do you get any pleasure out of it at all?

Yes.  I get enormous pleasure from writing my blog.  I see my blog as the present the writing monkey has given me for sticking around all these years.  In a way, writing a blog is a little like being a copywriter at a big department store (my first writing job). If you write a good ad, you see the customers rushing in to buy the merchandise the next day.  They are confirming that you wrote a winning ad.  With blogging, these wonderful readers and followers weigh in the next morning also to let you know that you have mirrored their lives or given them a chuckle or share a very human fault.  It’s all good.

Check out her books at the links below.

 

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