Keith Anthony Baird lives in rural Cumbria, England, with his partner Ann, a mad spaniel, two cats and two goldfish. He’s also inherited two daughters and a grandson. He’s had a varied career, having been a journalist for ten years, and also a designer and a retail manager in his time. The Jesus Man is his first novel, written throughout 2016 and based upon an idea he devised just under thirty years ago.
Inspired by such luminaries as H. P. Lovecraft, Edgar Allan Poe and H. G. Wells, his aim has been to deliver stories in a classic vein, but with a contemporary slant in both style and content. He aims to remain entirely independent, producing his works his own way, without interference from traditional publishing houses.
In his spare time, he and Ann indulge their shared love of the mountains by scaling the many peaks of the inspirational Lake District National Park.
Keith Anthony Baird’s Top 10 Inspirations.
1 – Ann
First of all, and most importantly, I never would’ve started writing if it hadn’t been for the fact that, at the age of 45, I finally met my soulmate Ann. Her unwavering support, especially in the early days when I’d relocated to Cumbria and was struggling to find employment, meant I was able to concentrate on getting my first novel off the ground. She supported me financially and emotionally, but mostly by encouraging me to get the work started and to see it through. There were times when I wanted to throw in the towel but she always reminded me that it was something I’d always wanted to do, and so I’d mope for a while and then get back to it. Her belief has paved the way for a new journey for me and that will always be the fundamental inspiration which underpins my writing endeavours.
2 – Mountains
One of the major things which rubbed off on me when I met Ann was her deep love of the mountains. She’d lived in Austria in her younger days, in the Tyrol mountain range. We’re lucky to live in the Lake District National Park and so its rugged beauty is literally on our doorstep. It’s been the inspiration for many a writer and it’s easy to see why. I was instantly hooked by the breath-taking views and the challenge of attaining them. There’s nothing better than putting in the physical work to push on up a tricky scramble or simply slog a steep face. When you summit and get that awesome 360 view it’s a fantastic feeling. I may only be 3,000 ft up but it feels like I’m on top of the world every time. Speaking of which, we have an ambition to get to the Himalayas for our 50th birthdays – watch this space!
3 – Authors/Books
This is an interesting one for me, in that I’m quite left field in my approach to writing, yet I’m influenced by a number of what I’d deem ‘mainstream’ authors. That said, I have a deep affinity with Lovecraft, Poe and Orwell. Their legacies are incalculable, being the inspiration for so many authors, film-makers and artists, not to mention the fact that long after their deaths their works continue to find new readers. I think it’s truly phenomenal to create pieces which have such a far-reaching scope. I love the classics too, Wells, Shelley, Stoker and Verne, as they were truly ground-breaking authors who pioneered the way for a whole raft of those who came after to stand on the shoulders of giants. In terms of the contemporary, the likes of King, Gibson, Dick and Miller all possess a certain quality which strikes a chord with me – unique voices among a sea of many. There are others too, but I could go on and on and there’s not enough space to put that down here. Suffice is to say that those who push the boundaries will always resonate with me.
4 – Directors/Films
I have a love/hate relationship with about 99% of what comes out of Hollywood. I’m so hard to please when it comes to the big screen. I often come away from watching a movie with a sense of deflation, thinking ‘they had a chance to do that really well and they screwed it up’. There are very few that seem to get the balance right for me and far too many which focus on the visual without the prop of a good story behind them. I’m actually open to any type of film providing it’s well crafted. Usually, one film per any given director will be about all that truly makes its mark with me. Examples are: Seven – David Fincher, Alien – Ridley Scott, 1984 – Michael Radford, The Thing – John Carpenter, The Shining – Stanley Kubrick, The Silence Of The Lambs – Jonathan Demme.
There are others, but not many, and Scott gets a nod for Blade Runner but I can’t think of anyone else who’s directed two that I like. Carpenter’s reworking of the 50s classic is one that’s leveraged loyalty out of me since I first saw it back in the 80s. It’s definitely one of those ‘cult’ following types which created an enduring fan base. Integral of course to any screen offering is the performance of its cast and there are only a handful of actors who I think are standouts for me. First and foremost would be Gary Oldman. His intensity and versatility put him top of my list and others are Anthony Hopkins, Christopher Walken, Robert De Niro, Paul Newman and Kurt Russell. More recent names would be Michael Fassbender and Tom Hardy, both having rapidly established themselves as Hollywood hot property.
5 – Readers
People with an appetite for literature provide a shot in the arm for authors and aspiring writers. The thought that there’s a market out there for what you’re doing can be very motivational. In the early stages that’s often hard to see, but reviews (as they trickle in) provide an insight as to how your material is connecting with its audience. Of course, when it’s a good review it’s uplifting but there’s inspiration to be found in those that aren’t so good. Though it’s impossible to please everyone, it’s useful to understand what works for some and not for others. I think any creative person should produce work which ultimately pleases themselves first and then, if it resonates with someone else, then that’s a bonus.
6 – Adventurers
I’ve always been inspired by those who take the path less travelled so to speak. Those for whom the everyday mundane holds no appeal whatsoever. Neither needing stability nor a set of rules to live by, they pursue their own vision rather than be shaped by either a sense of duty or expectation. I recently read The Endurance – Shackleton’s Legendary Antarctic Expedition by Caroline Alexander. I’d known of the story, but not the detail, and so to learn of the extreme hardship the crew had endured, and Shackleton’s single-minded focus to ensure every single man survived, really struck a chord with me. It’s so easy to slip into the whole ‘woe is me’ mentality when things aren’t going your way in life. Thing is, with enough focus and drive just about anyone can achieve what they set out to do. The secret lies in the ‘not giving up’ rather than in finding a way through. Now, whenever I start to feel that low ebb pulling at me I think of Shackleton’s men … then slap myself for being soft.
7 – The Natural World
Nature is a cruel mistress. Feelings don’t come into it. It’s kill or be killed in the animal kingdom, though there are of course exceptions to this such as in primates and marine mammals etc. This detached instinctive reflex is something that fascinates me and proves inspirational to my writing. As we’ve evolved we’ve become very detached from this, as we’ve risen to dominate the planet. No longer are we in danger from wild animals unless we go out of our way to put ourselves in harm’s way. There are aspects to this which I try to incorporate into characterisation or lend to environmental factors. Fear is a primal thing and I like to explore the concepts around this to create an interplay of ideas which might not necessarily be obvious. The predator and prey concept is what underpins most horror stories and anything that is removed from our understanding is always going to be an intriguing entity.
8 – Weather
Strange as it may seem I find weather phenomena fascinating. Not in some kind of ‘science nerd’ way but in the sense of the characteristics it can display. It can easily be imagined that there’s intent behind some of the destructive forces at play. When we are young we’re told fairy tales involving the ominous status of such and hear sayings such as ‘Jack Frost’. It’s a common thread throughout most cultures and rooted of course in the very real danger to life it can pose. It’s something else I like to explore, from the obvious destructive elements to the assigning of characteristics. For my first novel The Jesus Man, I did extensive research on storm cells, lightning phenomena and temperature extremes. It gave me a rich line of ideas to think deeply about and the prompt to construct concepts around those. I guess the art is ‘believability’ and that’s what I try to weave into fiction. If the reader doesn’t believe it, they won’t go there with you.
9 – Tall Ships
In laying down the ground work for my second novel Nexilexicon, I’ve researched a number of subjects, one of which is 19th Century ship building. The first half of the story is centred around a sailing expedition and so I had to equip myself with as much knowledge as possible. If you want to know the ins and outs of a three-masted schooner, I’m your man! In doing this, I’ve developed a love for sailing that previously wasn’t there but perhaps ties in with my fascination of adventure. It’s become a real inspiring subject for me and one I hope to pursue for real experience on a personal level.
10 – Rebellion
The whole ‘Fuck Authority’ concept has always been there throughout my life. Not necessarily because I wanted to be destructive in any way, more the sense that I didn’t want to live by a set of rules made up by other people. I mean, really, when you get right down to it, what right does anyone have to enforce their system on you? In truth, I’ve found the whole structure of society, from schooling through to the working world to be a case of ‘square peg, round hole’ for me. If you’re a maverick there’s no place for you, no one gets what you’re all about. But, I’d much rather be an outcast than a sheep and go through life with my own set of guiding principles which include what I call ‘a quiet state of rebellion’.
For more information please visit Keith’s website here
A desolate Earth is visited by a malevolent force locked in a celestial conflict for the ownership of souls. Post-war colonists must face their last days in the wasteland, at the mercy of evil’s machinations. A priest who is racked by visions and, ultimately possessed, heralds the downfall of the last of men. Rich in descriptive content and paced throughout with a growing sense of doom, The Jesus Man delivers an unsurpassed vision of Hell on Earth.
Nexilexicon, Keith’s second novel is due late 2018.