My inspiration for The Last Ancient started off as something darker than the final product. Some people very close to me were having their lives ripped apart by addiction, and I began writing a parable about that downward spiral. Then I basically went down a creative rabbit hole myself, found some incredible stuff, recorded it, and realized the story I needed to tell was a much different tale than the one I’d intended. It would have to be more personal.
I’d just quit my job as a reporter on Nantucket and moved to Finland to raise a family with my Finnish wife. Having given up career and country for the move, I felt stuck between two worlds, living in one but missing the other. Staring out my office window at the pale winter sunlight, I suddenly thought back to our former home on the island. I got homesick. I recalled one of my first field assignments as a reporter where I’d shadowed a deer hunter at sunrise, and how amidst a chorus of shotgun blasts the red island sun rose over the cold, windswept island. I remembered seeing truckloads of dead deer at the weigh-in station, and some illegally butchered carcasses discarded on pristine trails and beaches. Looking back down at my laptop, out of nowhere, I typed, “Shotguns crow across Nantucket.” Fireworks went off. The Finnish sunlight outside just seemed to turn golden. A gateway to this darkly fantastic Nantucket opened. It was a pivotal moment.
That didn’t mean it was easy to write. Remember how Keanu Reeves had to first decide which pill to take to enter the Matrix? And then he had to learn how to fight and fly and teleport and stuff once he went into the Matrix? Writing The Last Ancient was kind of like that: taking the pill was easy–I just had to take it–but dealing with the consequences of a genre-bending supernatural mystery thriller was really hard, requiring tons of effort and research.
I’d never designed a mystery before. At times I felt like I was juggling flaming machetes. So much research, so many interlocking subplots and historical anecdotes. And yet the characters always spoke to me and the story always flowed. I rarely got burned or cut and never dropped the blades. How? Most of all, I wrote the book I wanted to write, damn the conventions. You have to be passionate about your subject matter and use the literary force, young Jedi, lest you follow a fad or write what you think they’ll like. That will end in failure.
I finished the first draft and pitched The Last Ancient at The Pacific Northwest Writer’s Association conference in July, 2012. I got strong interest from some New York agents and indie publishers. Champagne Book Group was the one house who wanted my book as-is, without substantial changes, and they praised my writing and story right off. New York was worried the book was too long and combined too many genres, and recommended pretty invasive surgery. I went with the house that believed in me. And did they ever. They just awarded me 2013 Novel of the Year in their Champagne Book Group Annual Author Awards.
Eliot Baker lives in Finland. He teaches communications at a local college and runs an editing and translating business, but would be content singing for his heavy metal band and writing novels full-time. He grew up near Seattle, got his B.A. in World Literature at PitzerCollege, and got his M.S. in Science Journalism from BostonUniversity. He was an award-winning journalist at the Nantucket Inquirer and Mirror, and before that he wrote for the Harvard Health Letters. He spent four years pursuing a career in the sciences while at the HarvardExtensionSchool, during which time he spun old people in NASA-designed rocket chairs and kept younger people awake for 86 hours at a time in a sleep deprivation study. He likes good books, all music, and bad movies, and believes music and literature snobs just need a hug.
His latest book is the supernatural thriller/historical mystery, The Last Ancient.
Visit his blog at www.eliotbakerauthor.blogspot.com.