Photo: Courtesy Ken Baker
Ken Baker is the Chief News Correspondent for “E! News.”Chances are you’ve seen him interrupting your E! programming with news of a celebrity arrest, battling with CNN’s Nancy Grace about stars’ legal troubles, interviewing actors on award show red carpets, or giving Giuliana Rancic and Ryan Seacrest their daily dose of celebrity gossip on “E! News.”
But in between all of his E! duties, in addition to being a doting dad to an eight-year-old daughter and nine-year-old son, Baker, the former West Coast Editor of Us Weekly, has found time time to write four books about everything from being pro hockey’s oldest rookie to Saddam Hussein.
But Baker’s next act as author of the just-released “Fangirl” stays true to what the veteran entertainment journalist knows best—Hollywood.
Photo: Courtesy Ken Baker
“Fangirl” tells the story of a pop star who falls for a devoted fan and gets caught up in a tabloid-ready love triangle. Baker has cited his front-row seat to the world of celebrity fandom as inspiration for the teen love story.The young adult novel is also a commentary on how the relationship between artists and fans is quickly changing, and becoming more intimate, thanks to social media.
We spoke with Baker (disclosure: the author used to work with him) about the discipline it took to write a book in his free time, how social media is changing the way celebrities interact with their fans, why celebs use Instagram more than Facebook and how Justin Bieber used Twitter to initially woo his now-girlfriend Selena Gomez.
1.) How did you find time between your busy E! shooting schedule and having two young kids to actually sit down and write?
It is not easy, but highly rewarding. Book writing is flexing totally different muscles than TV reporting. My days at “E! News” are so packed that I have no time to write during work hours. So I am left with every weekend and occasional weekday evenings to squeeze in writing sessions—in between taking the kids to hockey practice. Luckily, I enjoy the escape of writing and the alone time spent just focusing on my characters, and I really enjoy the research that goes into it as well. So, it doesn’t really feel to me like work, per se.
2.) What is your writing process like? How disciplined do you have to be? How long did it take? How many drafts? Any financial benefits?
My journalism life is one of rapid rewards and instant gratification. I get a piece of news and five minutes later I can have it posted on E! Online or be breaking it on TV. But book writing is an entirely different beast that requires much more patience and long lead times. I conceived and outlined the story of “Fangirl” in mid-2010 but didn’t land a deal with my publisher until early 2011. I then wrote furiously until November of last year before turning in a first draft. I wish I could say the final manuscript is a carbon copy of that first draft, but that would be a total lie. My editor helped me identify what sections needed more polishing and story development and my final draft in March did the trick.
3.) You interview celebrities every day for “E! News,” did that inspire you to write a book about a young starlet?
I want to clear up a Web rumour: The pop star in “Fangirl,” Peter Maxx, is not Justin Bieber! But it is true that there is a little bit of the Biebs in him—but just like there is a little Jonas Brothers, Miley Cyrus, Selena Gomez, One Direction and other teen idols.
4.) The novel’s premise explores how social media is changing the way celebrities interact with their fans. Is this something you’ve witnessed first-hand?
In the old days, if you had a crush on a pop star you would have to somehow find out what hotel they were staying in and camp out on the sidewalk and hope to catch a glimpse of them. Not anymore. All you need to do is tweet them and you can grab their attention. So every fangirl in the world feels like they are one tweet away from getting asked out on a date by their celeb crush. Technically, it is true. The story as it plays out in “Fangirl,” however, kind of throws it upside down, with the pop star stalking the girl down on Twitter. I thought it would be fun to play with reversing the roles! I am making a prediction here: Very soon we will have the first celebrity-fangirl coupling that happened via Twitter.
Photo: Courtesy Ken Baker
5.) How has this fan/artist relationship evolved over the past few years?
It’s much more personal, intimate and revealing. Fans know so much about their idols. The interesting thing is that it doesn’t seem to have spoiled the fantasy or dampened their fanaticism. If anything, it seems to only fan the flames of their passion for the celebs. As they say, information is power, and I think fans feel empowered to know so much and become that much more interested in their favourite stars.
6.) Which form of social media (twitter, fbook, instagram) do you think celebs use most to communicate with fans?
Twitter is by far the most single powerful tool. Facebook, not so much anymore. In fact, Instagram seems to have really gained popularity among more and more celebs lately. Luckily, for Facebook, they own Instagram now!
7.) Do you have any insider info about real-life celebs getting romantically involved with fans they’ve met online?
I know that a lot of celebs use Twitter to initiate contact with each other. Selena Gomez and Justin Bieber were tweeting each other before they became serious, for example. If it has happened and we don’t know about it now—it is inevitable that we will find out in this tabloid media culture we live in.8.) When does a fan tweeting their favourite celebs and attending their appearances become stalking?
Well, there are legal definitions of stalking and generally it needs to involve a threat being made to qualify as stalking. But just obsessively chasing after your favourite stars on the web is definitely not a crime. In fact, I would argue it has kind of become America’s favourite pastime. And one that I highly encourage — as long as no one gets hurt.
9.) How important is a celeb’s social media to their overall image and career?
We saw Miley Cyrus quit Twitter, only to return a year later. Why? If you want to have direct communication and contact with your fan base, there is no better platform to do that. Especially for pop stars, who are in large part selling themselves as much as their songs. For actors, who play their trade pretending to be other people, Twitter isn’t as vital. But for pop music stars, I think it is essential. Fans are craving that next level of contact.
10.) What’s your hope for the book? Any news you want to break to us?
I hope teens buy it and I like it. I hope anyone who has ever had a pop star crush buys it. I hope anyone who believes in the power of music to connect all of us will buy it and be inspired. I know I was inspired writing it. From there, I will let God take the wheel.
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