An Interview with the very talented and very cool ~ Tina Baker

Punk Noir Magazine

Can you tell our readers a little bit about how you got started in the Literature scene?

My favourite scene was the New Romantics circa 1980 when I accidentally set fire to my false eyelashes in Camden Palace while watching Divine and smoking pink Sobranie ciggies. I took up literature as being less injurious to my health. Actually, I was always into reading and writing, but it took decades to go for it because I was shit-scared and ‘people like me’ don’t get to be writers. I’ve worked as a journalist for 30-odd years (some odder than others; I interviewed George Harrison and a vicar who played bagpipes while water skiing) but never have I felt so exposed as writing my novels. I still don’t really feel part of a scene tbh, but crime and horror writers have been very supportive on the socials, so they’re the closest thing I have.

Tell us about your recent work?

Well, this morning I had 3 clients on the Zooms – yoga, pilates and dance – and tonight I’ll make young people do star jumps. Oh. The writing. My debut novel is domestic noir, a psychological thriller. Call Me Mummy is dark. Even the funny bits are dark as fuck. If you met me I’m all My Little Pony Vibes. But beneath the sugar tits is a warped soul. A woman desperate for a child steals one. I’m both that woman (but search my house – I haven’t really stolen a kid, honest) and also the woman who’s labelled a ‘scummy mummy’ by the press. They crucify her because she’s nothing like a Disney mum. She has tattoos and swears and has a troubled past. I’m also the bolshy little kid who is taken. It’s based on my own failed attempts to conceive and the sad experiences of my mum who was abused by Welsh nuns. In any fanatical religion women tend to be fucked over. We can’t win.

Describe your writing style in 5 words?

(Is FFS one word or 3? Bugger.)Grafting. Laughing. Working through trauma.

What and/or who are your inspirations?

Working class writers who ether came from ‘similar’ backgrounds, or write about them – from DH Lawrence to Roddy Doyle, Irvine Welch, Barry Hines and Bernadine Evaristo. Working class actors like Stephen Graham (Line of Duty and a million other things) and Sophie Wallen (Alma’s Not Normal). Anyone who stays sober and sane in this totally fucked up world. Paul O’Grady and animal rescuers, especially drag queen rescuers. Honest people. Funny people. Mama RuPaul.

What advice would you give to up and coming indie authors?

Keep going. Try different things, but keep going. Perhaps put that bit of writing aside if it’s a total ballache & come back to it later – but keep going with something else. If all else fails, compile a hit list of everyone who’s rejected you and kill them off in heinous ways, ideally in future work rather than in real life. Other writers on social media have kept me going throughout shielding and mad anxiety through the pandemic. Get a few friends like that who tell you to keep going. No. Matter. What. Stephen King managed to write while living in a caravan (I know what that’s like) and supporting a family and an addiction. So FFS keep going!

What are your plans for the future?

To stay alive. Just finished the final edit on book 2, Nasty Little Cuts, out next Feb. I’m hoping I can reinstate the edited phrase, ‘that nonce’ now R Kelly has finally been convicted. And I’ve started book 3 – although I’m not sure where it’s going yet apart from Breaking Bad with Mr Sheen vibes. The big dream is to rescue more animals and live by the sea and write and not be so totally fucked up. This might* take considerable work.*definitely will

What is an issue you care about deeply?

Basic human decency, kindness & all that bollocks. I cannot comprehend how we have a government who don’t give a toss about the old, weak and underprivileged. I can’t believe how lies are now the norm. Fuck all those selfish bastards. Fuck them to hell.

What novel are you reading now?

Sundial by Catriona Ward, the follow up to her sublime The Last House on Needless Street. Stephen King’s a fan. Who wouldn’t be! Beautifully written horror at its finest.

What music are you listening to now?

Bowie. Low. This is the soundtrack to many dark periods. Since BastardCovid* I’ve been on a similar emotional rollercoaster to the dodgy year I spent off my tits at Sheffield University. This was the era when I nearly died trying to pogo in a pair of 5inch platform clogs, when punk collided with glam rock. I had the chance to shag Johnny Cougar Mellancamp** but unfortunately overdid things and was found unconscious in public toilets by a very nice accountancy student who somehow got me home. At the time I was working as a life model to pay my way through university and we went on strike, keeping our clothes on, to demand a 3 bar electric fire in the art room. The pandemic almost sent me over the edge again.*TM**Invited back to his hotel

What did you last eat?

My own bodyweight in various chocolate products (biscuits, ice cream, Maltesers, Wispa Bites… ALL the chocolates). This is why i have to do burpees at 9am on a Saturday morning. It’s been an emotional few days/ months/years. I no longer do drink or drugs. Chocolate is ALL I HAVE LEFT!

If you could go on a drinking binge with 5 writers alive or dead who would you choose?

I am no longer allowed to booze because of the behaviours* , but I sooo want to have a cuppa and natter with Booker winner Douglas Stuart, to give Shuggie a huggie. Also fellow Booker winner Bernadine Evaristo who is a Top Woman as well as a Top Writer, Caitlin Moran, for the laughs, Seamus Heaney for the lyricism, and Dickens for the everything else. If any have prior engagements I claim Dave Grohl because he makes us all think he’s our friend.*arrested on top of a bus shelter doing Tarzan impressions

If you could travel to a time and place in history what would it be?

History leaves me cold. I want to see the future. I will only go back if I’m not a serf or slave girl, because history treats people like me like shit. But it’s your rules, so… What about Ancient Egypt to see if Cleopatra was all that.

What would you like written on your gravestone?

FFS!

Tina was brought up in a caravan after her mother, a fairground traveller, fell pregnant by a window cleaner. After leaving the bright lights of Coalville, she came to London and worked as a journalist and broadcaster for thirty years. She’s probably best known as a television critic for the BBC and GMTV, but after so many hours watching soaps gave her a widescreen bum, she got off it, lost weight and won Celebrity Fit Club. When not writing she now works as a fitness instructor. She also rescues cats, whether they want to be rescued or not. Call Me Mummy is Tina’s first novel, partly inspired by her own unsuccessful attempts to have a child. Despite the grief and disappointment of that, she hasn’t stolen one. So far.