I was recently introduced to Ken by another Scribbler guest, Heather McBriarty, author of Somewhere in Flanders: Letters from the Front, who suggested Ken would be a good fit for our author interviews. I’m glad she did. You can read her interview HERE.
I have been gifted Ken's debut novel - Yukon Audit – and I have read this terrific story. I’m eagerly anticipating reading book 2 in the series – Yukon Revenge.
The detail is remarkable in the story. Baird is a pilot and when he takes you flying, you can feel it. A fine storyteller.
The novel has garnered a ton of 4 & 5 star reviews on Goodreads. See them HERE.
Let’s have a chat with Ken.
Allan: I have trouble finding a bio on you. Is that intentional?
Ken: Before I answer that, let me first say thanks for the opportunity to talk to the Scribbler clan. I love talking books with people who love books.
*** You are most welcome, Ken. It’s a pleasure having you as a guest.
Now to your question. At the end of each of my novels is a brief two-line bio which is also included in the bar code meta data for each print version. So that two-liner should be accessible somewhere on the net. But I’ll save everyone the trouble and recite it to you now. It succinctly states:
“Ken Baird operated a Yukon gold mine for ten years. A former receiver-manager and private pilot, he now lives in Florida.”
And that’s the extent of my online persona. I’ve never been a fan of social media, and in particular of those scoundrels running Facebook, and have never used the internet for any kind of promotion. I have no website, no Facebook page, no Twitter account, no Amazon Author page, in fact don’t even own a smart phone. My writing is my product, not me, and I’ve always let the merits of my books stand on their own. Thankfully they’ve been well received by readers who continue to post plenty of positive reviews, and nothing sells books like positive reviews. The word-of-mouth strategy has worked well for me.
So, with regrets for your time spent looking, you were not going to find a more comprehensive bio of me posted anywhere online. Is that intentional? Probably.
Allan: Before we get into writing and such, please tell our readers a bit about yourself.
Ken: Well, I’m a Canadian and damn proud of it. Still listen to CBC radio in the car. Been all over Canada and around the world. Had a lot of adventures and did some dangerous things. Hated every minute of every day I ever spent in school. And I wish we were nicer to the animals. And I really, really wish we would start to get serious about managing the planet better, which among other things will mean smaller houses, smaller families, and smaller people.
Allan: From reading an intro in Goodreads, I discovered you spent many years in the Yukon and the vivid descriptions in your novel can only come from someone who’s been there. Can you share a little about this experience and how it affected your writing?
Ken: Ah, the Yukon. Well, as the saying goes, home is where the heart is, and for me that will always be the Yukon. I went up there for the first time in 1979 for an office job, left a year later for a so-called promotion in the city, and not long after took a big demotion to return just as fast as I could. Next thing you know, I’m a gold miner.
Regarding the Yukon’s influence on my writing, it’s the mystique of the place that inspires me. There’s no such thing as a frontier left anywhere in the world, satellites have put paid to that concept, but at least the Yukon still looks and feels like one (especially when you’re lost in an airplane). Can never hope to explain this adequately, but there were times when it was just me and the land and the wilderness, and I’d often be overwhelmed by this eerie spiritual reverie. I can’t count the number of episodes I had like that over my twenty years up there, many of which to this day remain vivid and palpable. If life is about weaving memories, then I had my fair share in the Yukon, whether digging for gold in the middle of nowhere, or flying in an empty sky, or crossing a big mean lake in a boat too small, or simply gazing at a mountain in the middle of the night, glowing like bronze in the midnight sun. And oh, I also had a couple of hundred adventures and a bunch of close calls too, but those are for another day.
So armed with that nostalgia, when I sat down to write my first novel, guess the setting for the first chapter.
Allan: Please tell our readers what to expect when they pick up their copies of the Yukon novels.
Ken: Well, both Yukon Audit and Yukon Revenge are definitely thrillers, but thrillers with a difference, because the hero has to share the limelight with the Yukon.
The protagonist is a guy by the name of C.E. Brody, a reclusive bush pilot and handyman who lives on the Yukon River with two poorly behaved dogs. Brody likes to mind his own business and just wants to be left alone, which means he’ll do anything and everything to avoid any form of authority and the various trappings of a modern world. But trouble finds him anyway when a beautiful woman, and some very evil bad guys, walk into his life and turn it upside down.
I think the ways in which Brody confronts the threats and challenges he must overcome are what make these thrillers unique, because it’s the Yukon itself that ultimately provides him with the means to survive. Then there’s the cast of supporting characters, composites of the eccentric people I knew up there (aka the colorful five percent), and readers should enjoy their off-the-wall attitudes and perspectives on life. I also do my best to paint a picture of the land and delve into its gold rush history, its geology, geography and wildlife, as well as providing some exciting scenes with Brody at the controls of his beloved old plane. So there you have it, a pair of thrillers with a different kind of hero, some very evil bad guys, plenty of action and suspense, a sizzling romance, and an incredible setting. Something for everyone.
Allan: Please share a childhood memory or anecdote.
Ken: My whole childhood was an anecdote so here’s a shorter one from later in life.
I remember walking past a bookstore when I was in my thirties, looking cynically at the people inside, and asking myself, “Why would anyone buy a book?” Years later I sat down and wrote one. Guess you’ve got to try everything at least once, because life’s no fun if you don’t.
Allan: Yukon Audit is an award-winning novel. Best Thriller – Indie Book Awards. This is a great accomplishment. How does it feel to be recognized like this?
Ken: Yeah, who’d ‘a thunk? My first novel. Best Thriller. And it wasn’t just any book contest. The Next Generation Book Awards is the “world’s largest not-for-profit contest for independent publishers and self-published authors”, and “the Sundance of the book publishing world” claim the people who run it, the Independent Book Publishing Professionals Group. So talk about a longshot. Anyway, it truly was an honor to win, a huge surprise of course, one of the most rewarding moments in my budding career as an author, and an accomplishment that gets better and better every year. That said, I can also tell you it’s the only book contest I won, and I entered quite a few, so feel very fortunate for the recognition.
Allan: Please tell us about your writing habits and/or favorite spot to write.
Ken: Years ago, I bought this big old colonial desk, solid wood, weighs a ton, and little did I know at the time it would become the centerpiece of what I now use to produce my work. As to writing habits, I have none, preferring to work in fits and starts and whenever the moment grabs me. On that note, I keep my computer on 24/7 and so on a whim can sit down at my desk any time, jiggle the mouse, and up comes my manuscript. This has proven to be very convenient, especially when I have an epiphany in the middle of the night and feel compelled to get up and write.
Allan: What’s next for Ken Baird, the author?
Ken: Right now I’m writing the third C.E. Brody novel, Yukon Justice, and it might well be the last of what would then be the C.E. Brody trilogy. Not sure what’s next after that, but perhaps something different. I had a job in a big city once and was appalled at the disparity in fortunes between the people like me working in the glass towers, and the hapless homeless souls living on the sidewalks below. Sometimes we literally had to step over them on our way home after work. That disparity in fortunes still bothers me to this day, and I have some ideas for a story to bring it to light.
Allan: There is a cliché amongst authors – Write about what you know. What are your feelings on this statement?
Ken: I’m not sure, I suppose it depends on what you’re writing about. But one thing is certain, the instant a reader senses you don’t know what you’re talking about, then your whole story loses credibility, and so do you. A few years ago I picked up a popular new novel by a New York author about the Klondike Gold Rush. Only a few pages in he began describing the methods of mining gold in the Yukon at the time, and how the gold could be easily recovered from the creek gravel because the gold was so much lighter than the gravel. I was flabbergasted at what I’d just read. I mean come on, who doesn’t know that gold is heavier than just about everything else? I thought, “It’s the other way around, you idiot!” I almost called the cops on the guy. Needless to say, I tossed his book.
Which raises the importance of research. If you’re going to describe anything at all, then do your research and do it thoroughly. Get the facts and get them right. Diligent research is a big part of the writing process, and a crucial responsibility to your audience.
Allan: Anything else you’d like to tell us about?
Ken: Only to say thanks again for this, that I’m still having fun with my new gig as an author, and to look for the third C.E. Brody novel in late 2022.
An Excerpt from: YUKON JUSTICE (scheduled for release in late 2022).
(Copyright is held by the author. Used with permission.)
Excerpt From Yukon Justice © 2021 by Ken Baird
The man in the back of my plane was in a body bag.
At least I assumed he was a man, judging by the length of the lump inside.
I’d just taken off from Franklin Lake, which is a hundred miles north of where I live, a dot on the map called Minto, on the Klondike Highway, in the Yukon.
Two cops had loaded the bag into the cargo bay and told me to fly it to Whitehorse. They said some other cops would be waiting there to unload it. Of course they wouldn’t tell me who was in the bag, but seeing as how yesterday I’d flown a Yukon conservation officer into the very same Franklin Lake, and seeing as how the only other access into the lake was a trail still waist deep in snow, well I had a pretty good idea of who it was.
Which was damn depressing.
Because he was a nice guy.
And just a kid.
Which had me wondering what might have happened to him.
I took off and climbed to three thousand feet, leveled off, eased back the throttle, and with a heavy heart pointed my old plane south.
Naturally the cops weren’t going to trust a bush pilot like me with a dead guy in a body bag, and so I was accompanied on the flight by a Constable E. Saunders of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. Saunders was a fierce looking woman with a crew cut, the personality of a fence post, and a body made out of concrete blocks. I’d met her last summer in Whitehorse where she’d given me a two hundred and fifty dollar ticket for using my cell phone while driving my truck.
We didn’t exchange Christmas cards.
She was sitting beside me in the only other seat in my plane, frozen like stone, hands clenched between her knees, face white as a sheet. She was fixated on the console, breathing in short gasps, except whenever we hit a bump and she’d stop breathing altogether.
Guess she didn’t like flying.
An hour later with Whitehorse on the horizon, I got up my nerve and decided to pop the question. With the press of a button on the wheel, I jutted my thumb over my shoulder and asked, “So who’s in the bag?”
Constable Saunders didn’t respond though I knew she could hear me through the big green headphones on her head, same as the ones I was wearing. You’ve got to wear ear protection in my plane, the big radial engine is loud, and like it or not she’d had to remove her Mountie hat to put them on.
“Is his name Blake? I flew a guy named Blake into Franklin Lake yesterday, but hey, I guess you knew that already. Right?”
She said nothing, didn’t move, and remained transfixed on the console.
“So what happened?” I said.
Still the silent treatment. I gave her a good long look and could see she was in a personal battle to keep her lunch down. I know the signs all too well when a passenger is about to lose that fight. First they start burping, little ones at first, then the burps get bigger and more frequent and their cheeks will inflate with each one. It’s only a matter of time after that.
I kept an eye on her, waiting and watching. The next time she burped her cheeks puffed up like tennis balls. “Hey,” I said, “if you’re going to be sick use that bag in the pocket beside you, or that fancy hat of yours for all I care. But don’t upchuck on the floor or I’ll have to add a cleanup fee to your bill.”
When she turned and glared at me, I glared back and said, “It’s two hundred and fifty dollars.”
* * *
Thank you for taking the time to share your thoughts, Ken. Wishing you all the success you deserve.
For all you exceptional readers wanting to discover more about Ken and his stories, please follow these links:
Next week, June 19th, Author Marjorie Mallon will be back.