“Stranger at Sunset” by Eden Baylee is a fantastic read. So much, that I read it twice. I first noticed Eden through her blog and didn’t realise for too long what a gifted writer she is. Her thriller is amazing (my review is below) and her adult fiction has literary quality. Today I am proudly presenting you with an interview with Eden.
Hi Eden, I must say, your bio is very impressive. Tell us about your transition from banking to writing?
Thanks so much for inviting me on your terrific blog, Christoph. It’s so cozy here.
The transition took twenty years and hasn’t been easy, but it’s been tremendously rewarding. I actually left my job after ten years to pursue a writing career the first time. I moved to NYC and immersed myself in the writing scene there. Unfortunately, not long after, I was diagnosed with cancer—bad timing! It forced me to move back to Canada for treatment. The process of getting my health back took about two years, and by then I was not financially sound.
I had to return to work and thought I’d only stay for a year or two before leaving again. Who knew it would take another ten years before I got up the nerve to do it?
All I can say is I was in a much better position to leave the second time. I would encourage writers to keep their day jobs unless they are able amass enough savings to last at least 3-5 years. I was never able to work a full-time job and write, so I had to make a choice.
What made you decide to be a writer? Have you always written?
Before I was ever a writer, I was and still am an avid reader. Reading and writing have been passions of mine from when I was young, though I can’t say I ever thought I would become a writer professionally. I just never considered it a financially viable profession for me when I was in my twenties. At the time, I was concerned with material things.
That changed over the years of course. Life is not just about money and things. It’s about what makes me happy, and the combination of a life-threatening illness and not being happy in my job made me rethink my priorities.
Writing may not be bringing me riches monetarily (not yet anyway), but I’m much happier with where I am in life right now.
You started off with Erotica but even there you’ve written quite deep characters. I was surprised to find you turn to crime fiction instead of a literary theme. Tell us about the transition.
I read my first book of erotic fiction when I was eleven, and it definitely affected my psyche. The novella was Story of O by Pauline Réage. I started with erotica because I enjoy reading well-written stories about love, romance, and sex as relevant to the story. The genre, however, works best as short novels, approximately 25K – 35K words. I’d written eight of them and compiled them into two anthologies. (Fall into Winter and Spring into Summer). After that, it was time to move on.
I’ve been a reader of many genres, and mystery/suspense novels have always interested me. I also needed a challenge. Writing Stranger at Sunset was challenging because it forced me to plot. There are intricate threads in my book that will be carried over to the next two books since it’s the first of a trilogy. With short stories, I rarely had to plot.
The transition to writing a full-length novel really tested me. It made me feel much more confident about my writing, more so than for the fact that I changed genres.
Who are your favourite crime authors?
I love the classical writers and I’ve read some excellent indie writers too. A short list of authors I enjoy are: Dashiell Hammett, Agatha Christie, Raymond Chandler, Elmore Leonard, James Ellroy, Dennis Lehane, Patricia Highsmith.
For good indie mystery/thriller/crime writers, there are too many to mention, but you can find many of them interviewed on my blog. I tend to support the writers I enjoy reading as I want to see them succeed and continue to write.
I love your blog posts, especially the music ones. Tell my readers about them and about your connection to music.
Thank you for your compliment, Christoph! I’m a fan of 60s and 70s rock, blues, and jazz, so music is something I enjoy very much. I also play harmonica and guitar, though neither proficiently.
As a child, I grew up with music based on the taste of older influencers. Cousins, aunts and uncles shared their record collections with me, and that’s the music that touches me the most, even today.
There is so much ‘bad’ music out there, so in blogging about what I enjoy, I am also re-discovering music I haven’t listened to in some time. Perhaps in the process, I’m sharing what I like with a new generation.
Music, as a universal language, unites people. By blogging about it, it’s another way for me to connect to others.
You’ve written great characters. Would you say you’re like any of them? Or, how do you create your characters? Did you have any actors or people in mind when writing your characters?
In formulating a story, my main focus is on characterization. I believe that a story exists because the characters make it happen. Even though my book, Stranger at Sunset is a mystery/thriller and considered genre fiction, it doesn’t imply you can have a great plot at the expense of great characters.
I enjoyed Dr. Kate Hampton, the protagonist of the book. I relate to her, which in itself is a little scary. Some readers have said she is not likeable. Others think she is terrific. It’s a strangely dichotomous reaction, but I can understand why. For me, she represents two sides of one person – the one you show to the world and the one you keep hidden.
I would say many of us keep parts of ourselves hidden, even to the people closest to us. That’s why I think her story is interesting, and why she will have two more books written about her.
As much as I love film, I don’t write a book with specific actors in mind. It’s less important for me who plays the characters. I prefer to think of film directors and how they would convey the overall plot. To that end, I love the filmmaking styles of David Fincher, the Coen Brothers, and Alfred Hitchcock.
What is your writing environment like?
Sitting for long periods of time to write is not a good idea, so I stand at my kitchen counter. Sometimes, I have ankle weights and exercise at the same time. When standing becomes tiring, I stop for a while and take a walk or do yoga or meditate. I like writing by natural light, so that dictates where I write most days.
Did you have any say in your cover art? What do you think of it? Tell us about the artist.
Yes, I use award-winning designer, JB Graphics from Toronto. (http://www.john-beadle.com/). He designs my covers, website, and any other artwork I need. I am involved in most aspects of the design, mainly because visual art interests me.
I also know the message I want to convey, and how a cover can set a mood for a book since it’s the first thing a potential buyer sees.
My requirements for a cover are that it should look professional across all platforms, with a unique design and the right proportion of image and fonts.
How have you found the experience of self-publishing? What were your highs and lows?
As you know, Christoph, being a self-published author is never just about the writing. When we go this route, we expect to do it all, and if we can’t, then we hire professionals to help us.
Given that, each day is somewhat of a juggle to write, read, and promote.
There are many things that need to be done to spread the word of a book before and after it’s written. Selling books is a huge part of being a full-time writer. It’s what pays the bills and allows me to keep writing.
The highs come when I realize I’m living the life I want to live, moment by moment. It’s all about the writing.
The lows come on days when I don’t know if I’m coming or going, when I haven’t slept enough, and I’m “chasing” a story that’s just not happening. Doubt about my abilities as a writer creeps in. I’m not one to wallow, but at one or two in the morning, the mind can play tricks on my self-confidence.
As writing for me can be all-encompassing, I have to force myself to walk away from my laptop and decompress. It’s difficult but it’s necessary.
What is your advice to new writers?
My main tip is to keep writing. It’s amazing how much I’ve learned by writing continuously. The fact that I cringe a little when reading some of my earlier works is a good thing. It means I’ve moved on from there. I feel the mark of any writer should be to improve with each book they write.
I’d also advise to hit a word count or daily goal you set for yourself. As a writer of fiction, I’m fully aware that my imagination is a function of my brain; the brain is a muscle. And like any muscle, it needs exercise daily or it will atrophy.
What makes you laugh?
Many things and sometimes everything! I love dry, witty English humour, but I also like silly slap-stick. I don’t need anything highbrow, as anything that hints at farting usually makes me giggle.
There’s nothing like having a great belly laugh, the type that doubles you over with tears streaming down your face because you just can’t stop. This usually only happens with a few close friends. I’m convinced they’ve discovered the way to kill me is by making me laugh until I can’t breathe!
What (not who) would you like to take to a lonely island?
Haha! I suppose if I took someone it would no longer be lonely. I’ve answered this question before and my top 3 things are always the same:
- Solar-powered laptop with an unlimited iTunes account and WiFi. This satisfies my need to read, write, and listen to music.
- Power tools to build a proper shelter.
- Lip balm because I loathe chapped lips.
Who would you like to invite for dinner?
You, Christoph, of course! I think you would be an amazing dinner guest – fun, intelligent, and we can even speak in my poor German if you like! I make a wonderful schnitzel, just so you know.
Perfect. It’s a date…
What song would you pick to go with your book?
Actually, Stranger at Sunset has a soundtrack for sale on iTunes. Because of my love for music, I inserted songs into the storytelling, so I have a playlist of approximately thirteen songs that go with the book.
In one of my erotic novellas, “Seduced by the Blues,” the male lead is a blues guitarist, and there are numerous references to music in that book, including one of my all time favourite musicians, Van Morrison.
How do you handle criticism of your work?
I hire a hitman … just kidding. (hehe)
I take criticism of my work as a valuable lesson to improve my writing. If someone reads my work and takes the time to write a review, or to tell me what they thought, then they are doing something very few do. They are making a concerted effort to express their opinions for why they liked or did not like a book.
As an author, you need to have a thick skin, and if you don’t, grow one fast. Our writing will not appeal to everyone. That is just not possible.
If you think the criticism is valid, then learn from it and move on.
If you think the criticism is bullshit, do the same.
Everyone is entitled to their opinions, not just professional critics/reviewers. The worst thing is to let negativity paralyze you … so don’t allow this to happen.
Tell us one weird thing, one nice thing, and one fact about where you live.
Hmm… what an interesting question. Toronto, Canada is not known for ‘weird,’ but right now I will say the weather is weird. It’s snowing in mid November. I hate the cold, so I’m not looking forward to this winter. This weird pattern is probably the case for the weather worldwide.
Nice: All the festivals and events we have, along with numerous restaurants. There is never a shortage of things to do and places to eat.
Fact: Toronto is the center of Canada for business, art, and … condominiums. A friend who is a realtor said we have the most condos of any city in all of North America. She must be right because our skyline is littered with cranes and tall buildings.
What are you working on now?
I’m writing my next novel called, A Fragile Truce, which is the book that follows Stranger at Sunset. I’m excited to see where the main character, Dr. Kate Hampton goes next. I hope my readers will be as well.
Thanks so much Christoph for the opportunity to share with your readers. You are an amazing advocate for indie writers, and I’m so happy we are connected.
Big hugs, eden
Stranger at Sunset by Eden Baylee
Eden Baylee left a twenty-year banking career to become a full-time writer. She incorporates many of her favorite things into her writing such as: travel; humor; music; poetry; art; and much more.
Stranger at Sunset is her first mystery novel, on the heels of several books of erotic anthologies and short stories. She writes in multiple genres.
An introvert by nature and an extrovert by design, Eden is most comfortable at home with her laptop surrounded by books. She is an online Scrabble junkie and a social media enthusiast, but she really needs to get out more often!
To stay apprised of Eden’s book-related news, please add your name to her mailing list.
Website | Blog | Amazon Author page US | Amazon Author page UK
Twitter @edenbaylee | Facebook | Goodreads | Youtube | Pinterest | Linkedin
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My review of the book:
A group of strangers and acquaintances spend a week together in a holiday resort in Jamaica after a tropical storm has recently devastated parts of it. One of those guests has given the resort a terrible write up in a travel magazine, another is an egotistic self-declared ‘alpha’ male, there are a few couples and house staff and then there is our heroine psychologist Kate.
The atmosphere is loaded with tension between the owner and the reviewer as well as between some of guests, there is plenty of sexual chemistry and the air is also full of secrets, plans and deceits. The focus of the narrative shifts to let us into the minds and thoughts of the well-chosen and perfectly fleshed out characters. They are all multi-dimensional and I ended up feeling for even the less likable ones because of the insights into their pasts or backgrounds. Kate as the trained psychologist is a great character who, with a razor sharp ability to dissect and analyse them, brings further dimensions to our perception and understanding of the cast.
The writing establishes and carries forward an excellent sense of expectation from page one, where a brief and ominous episode with binoculars already whets our curiosity. Atmospheric, stylish and confident Baylee feeds us the story day by day until some big events do take place. I do not wish to spoil the experience by hinting at what is going to happen, only that I thoroughly enjoyed the story and was genuinely surprised by the way everything developed.
I read some of Baylee’s erotic writing which has much more depth than the genre normally calls for and “Stranger at Sunset” is no exception. A psychological thriller of literary quality.
Stranger at Sunset (Book summary)
Vacation can be a killer.
Dr. Kate Hampton, a respected psychiatrist, gathers with a group of strangers at her favorite travel spot, Sunset Villa in Jamaica. Included in the mix are friends of the owners, a businessman with dubious credentials, and a couple who won the trip from a TV game show.
It is January 2013, following the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy. The luxury resort is struggling, not from the storm, but due to a scathing review from caustic travel writer, Matthew Kane. The owners have invited him back with hopes he will pen a more favorable review to restore their reputation.
Even though she is haunted by her own demons, Kate feels compelled to help. She sets out to discover the motivation behind Kane’s vitriol. Used to getting what he wants, has the reviewer met his match in Kate? Or has she met hers?
Stranger at Sunset is a slow-burning mystery/thriller as seen through the eyes of different narrators, each with their own murky sense of justice. As Kate’s own psychological past begins to unravel, a mysterious stranger at Sunset may be the only one who can save her.
Available in e-book and print
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Also available in Print | iTunes Soundtrack