E! Channel chief news correspondent Ken Baker has written a new young-adult… (Running Press )
Ken Baker is best known for his work in front of a camera. As chief news correspondent for the entertainment news channel E!, he's the go-to guy for celebrity information. This week, Baker made his debut as a young-adult author with the novel “Fangirl,” about an aspiring songwriter who gets romantically involved with a teen heartthrob via Twitter. Baker will appear at Vroman’s in Pasadena Oct. 9 and at Pages in Manhattan Beach Oct. 19. We caught up with the celebrity news personality to get the story on his new novel.
You’re probably more comfortable being on the questioning side of the microphone. How does it feel to be the interview subject?
It seems like a natural evolution. I’ve been doing celebrity entertainment journalism for 16 years. I’ve been a journalist for 20, and I’ve written books along the way: A couple memoirs, a self-improvement book with Scott Hamilton, a novella in 2005. This is my first full-fledged novel. At this stage in my career, it’s the perfect, most natural outlet because I’ve been able to see so many things and bear witness to celebrities and personalities and scandals, you name it. The best way to put that together and use all those observations is fiction. It’s not in my best interest to tell the real story of pop stars because then none of them will want to be interviewed by me, so it’s a better business model, even though it’s all pulled from my experience.
Did the idea for this story come to you slowly, or was there an aha moment?
A couple years ago, I was covering a lot of these Disney pop stars. I was in the recording studio with Miley Cyrus, I’d just met Selena Gomez, and the Jonas Brothers were pretty big at the time. I was getting a glimpse into their lives, seeing it on the inside, and I just found the idea of teen pop superstardom fascinating because when you’re a teenager, every experience is heightened emotionally. To be a celebrity at a young age, getting all that energy from fans and the world and the media, and being at the middle of that, it’s fascinating to see the issues they deal with. They’re normal kids and not normal at the same time.
While I was drafting the idea, Justin Bieber was coming on the scene. An interviewer asked, "Would you ever date a fan?" And he said, he wasn’t going to limit himself. I had already been outlining this book and working on some early drafts, and when I saw that quote, my mind just said, I can’t believe a teen pop star has not seriously started dating a fan. If they have, we just haven’t found out about it. But what stimulated the story was the world of Twitter. Back in the old days, if you wanted to meet your favorite pop star, you’d have to get in the front row and hope they notice you or get a backstage pass. But now you’re one little tweet away from getting their attention and interacting with them, so the walls have been broken down. In “Fangirl,” I’m playing with that whole idea of the access fans have to their stars.
Tell us more about the story in “Fangirl.”
I’m a pathetic romantic. I’m not normal. I will cry at chick flicks. I read Sophie Kinsella, chick lit. Teen chick lit is what this is. I wanted to write a love story. There’s a line in the book: “What does being in love mean?” The girl, Josie, says, “I imagine it means that every song you hear on the radio makes you think of that person.” To me, music is so powerful. There’s a lot of songwriting in this book because Fangirl was a songwriter. She’s very talented, and she becomes his muse. For me, great songwriting is next to godliness. I wanted to capture that.
What music today strikes those chords for you?
Right now we have Taylor Swift and Christina Aguilera and Adele. All these new songs come out in the fall. Taylor Swift is at this moment capturing the zeitgeist when it comes to expressing teen romantic angst. Her songs really are speaking to a generation in the same way as the Beatles. She’s really connecting with people because she’s capturing what it means to be heartbroken, what it means to be in love, what it means to break up and start all over again. They’re very stenciled concepts, but they’re timeless.