ABOUT WHAT REMAINS
When Conner Carter is banished from New York for cheating on his socialite wife, he flies across country to Sonoma, California to stay with his brother Cody, Cody’s ridiculously wealthy husband, Rhett, and their two adopted Cambodian children. Since childhood, Conner has been jealous of the gilded life Cody has led, but Conner learns that what glitters often tarnishes and shatters in shocking and dangerous ways. Having always taken life’s easiest route, Conner now finds that path closed when he is forced to step up for his brother when Cody’s personal life crumbles after Rhett goes missing in Colombia on a documentary film shoot. Conner’s world unravels when the woman he’s fallen in love with, their black Puerto Rican nanny, Zinzi, finds her violent past catching up with her. From the tattered and surprising pieces of these characters’ intense and complicated lives, these people will discover the strength in WHAT REMAINS.
Thank you for your time in answering our questions Let’s begin by having you explain to us why you decided to write a book?
First off, thanks for having me. My reasoning for writing my first novel, HONEYMOON WITH HARRY, was because I had just come off a terrible experience on a film project. I am also a screenwriter and have had a modestly successful career. But in that business you’re sometimes treated badly. Certainly not all the time, and not even most of the time, but sometimes. Anyway, I had come off a particularly difficult project with awful people. I’d been working as a screenwriter for over 25 years at that time and I remember thinking, “I’m too old to be treated like this.” I had this idea that had been brewing in me for a while, I could see it, I could feel the characters in my soul. And I decided come hell or high water, I was going to write this story as a novel. That became my first book, HONEYMOON WITH HARRY. Ironically, the movie rights to HARRY sold to New Line/Warner Bros. before the book was published. So go figure… But the new book WHAT REMAINS I wrote because I was going through a particularly emotional and challenging time during the adoptions of my sons. WHAT REMAINS is not about adoption (though there is a tiny bit in there about that and two of the characters adopt two children) but it is about family. The family we are born into and the family we create with the people we bring into our lives. I’m a huge family man. I love my family. They are vital to me. And through WHAT REMAINS I was able to channel those strong emotions into the emotional spine of this book.
Is this your first book?
As I said, no. WHAT REMAINS is my second novel. HONEYMOON WITH HARRY is my first.
Can you tell us a little about your publishing journey?
Oh my gosh…insane. I ended up self-publishing. As I also said, the movie rights to my first book, HONEYMOON WITH HARRY, sold before the book was published. And it was reported in the press that they sold for over a million dollars, which wasn’t true. I’m not complaining about the money the rights sold for but none the less, it wasn’t a million dollars. And when that news hit the press, publishers and agents were falling over themselves for the book. Well some. One editor at a publishing house actually said to me, “What do you need to publish this for? You already made a million.” There was a certain cynical and snide reaction from some in the publishing world. And as I was dealing with agents and publishers, the movie project was moving ahead. Again, when it was reported in the press that certain directors were involved or certain actors wanted to be in the movie, publishers and agents were knocking at the door. But as it happens in the movie business, projects heat up and cool off, when HARRY would cool off, the agents and publishers would disappear. I realized rather quickly they were all interested in the fast buck, not me as a writer and not anything else that would come from me. And then after a couple discussions with novelist friends of mine who were disheartened by their deals, especially their deals on electronic media, I stepped back with HARRY, took their advice and released it a couple years back when I felt the time was right under my own moniker Big Muddy Books. HARRY has been successful, especially for not having a big publisher behind it. I did the same with the second novel, WHAT REMAINS, which is a far more accomplished book than HARRY, and it has been getting great press and a wickedly wonderful response from readers.
What lessons do you feel you learned about the publishing industry?
That it’s all changed. The Kindle and Nook, et al., have changed the publishing business. The music industry was the first to go through this change and the book world has been rocked by self-publishing. I still believe in traditional publishing. I think having someone else handle the business end of publishing is necessary when you and your work become a desirous commodity but there’s a certain power in self-publishing. It isn’t easy to do well, and I certainly have a learning curve. But it can be done. And done well.
If you had the chance to change something regarding how you got published, what would you change?
Maybe I would have taken the first publishing offer that came along. But who knows if that would have amounted to anything. I certainly wouldn’t have the relationship I have with my readership, who I actively court to contact me because I love hearing from readers. I could have been more savvy about how I released my novels and been more prepared (when WHAT REMAINS was released I was certainly more organized and together but I didn’t foresee selling a movie project to the Lifetime Network that took my focus off my plans for WHAT REMAINS. And I’ve been playing catch-up with the release of the book, which is a shame because it’s a really good book and the response has been remarkable.
Writers are notoriously right-brained and if you self-publish and do it well, you have to be left-brained as well. That’s tough. I’m a fairly realistic guy and modestly organized. Writing is a gift and a blessing. Publishing is nothing short of work. Might not be digging ditches or roofing houses in the middle of summer but it’s time-consuming and arduous.
Did you credit any person or organization with helping you get published?
As I said, I have a few friends who are novelists who have pretty nice deals with publishing houses. They were the ones who talked me into self-publishing after sharing their stories with me about their publishing deals. Even if it comes down to being able to pick my own book cover, I relish that power.
What’s the best advice you can give to aspiring authors?
Write. And keep writing. You get better with every project. I can certainly say that WHAT REMAINS is a far more accomplished novel than HONEYMOON WITH HARRY. It’s a richer tapestry and I challenged myself by writing the book in first person from four different characters’ points of view and managing to keep the story on track. But write and write, and then learn the business. Even if you get a publisher, know what they do, what you need them to do, and what is realistic. If you do it yourself, go big or go home. And if you’re working with a publisher and agents, etc., make sure they are doing what is best for your book. This is your livelihood. You would go after someone if they were taking food from your children, why shouldn’t you expect your publisher to help you put food on the table? But again, be realistic. And accept everything that comes as a blessing. Because it is.
ABOUT BART BAKER
With two feature films, eleven movies for television, four television series credits, as well as eight theatrical plays produced around the world, WHAT REMAINS is Bart’s second novel. Bart’s first novel, HONEYMOON WITH HARRY, was a critical and commercial success and the movie rights were bought by Warner Bros./New Line Cinema for a feature film. He’s recently sold a film project in conjunction with the hit song by Miranda Lambert, OVER YOU, to the Lifetime Network. Bart lives in Ellisville, Missouri with his family.