Author of The Bunko Babes
From preacher’s kid to youth pastor’s wife to Mrs. Oklahoma, “setting a good example” is pretty much second nature for author Leah Starr Baker. And, like most women, she is all too familiar with the pressure to be perfect in all arenas. But since surviving a bout with Systemic Lupus, a chronic disease that affects the immune system, Baker is more apt to celebrate life’s imperfections these days – and has found a creative outlet that allows her to do just that. Her debut novel The Bunko Babes (Emerald Pointe Books, November 2007), chronicles the lives of eight women who rely on each other through giggles, fattening foods, and weekly bunko games for strength and support.
Drawing from the frantic reality of a woman’s daily life – cooking breakfast, clothing an army, running errands, forgetting the dry cleaning – and from a host of deeper struggles, like infertility and divorce, The Bunko Babes offers readers a cast of loveable friends – friends whose troubles certainly aren’t getting in the way of their weekly bunko game.
“I have fallen in love with each of these women, and by the end of the novel, I was sad to let them go,” says Baker. While the “Bunko Babes” are far from perfect, they are survivors, much like Leah herself. “The Bunko Babes chose me I guess you could say, not the other way around,” says Baker. “And I hope the main message that readers take away from the book is that nothing and no one is perfect. Life is not perfect and better yet, God doesn’t expect us to be perfect. He just wants us to be real,” she says.
Though Baker’s various career paths have included everything from stay-at-home mom to country music recording artist, she admits that she never sought out writing as a profession until recently. Her knack for storytelling, however, does appear to be a family trait: the daughter of pastor and author, Richard Exley, (Alabaster Cross and Encounters with Christ), Baker recalls watching her father burn the midnight oil preparing sermons for his congregation. “As a child, I remember my father sitting at his desk, kerosene lamp at his shoulder, preparing his Sunday sermon and me across the room watching, absorbing,” says Baker.
Combined with the colorful cast of real characters in her life – “a compilation of the many amazing women who have touched my life throughout the years,” she notes – Baker had all the tools necessary to explore female friendships in a work that has been likened to The Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood and Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants.
“I write as if I am sitting on the couch, sharing a cup of coffee, and chatting it up with one of my girlfriends,” says Baker. “I like to think of the reader as a participant in the story, instead of an observer.”
Along with her two children and husband, LEAH STARR BAKER currently lives in Tulsa, Oklahoma. When she is not writing, she is a volunteer for Jenks Public Schools. For more information, please visit thebunkobabes.biz.
1) Sometimes people think of authors as being bigger than life and not "real", so I thought we would start off with a very important question, one that will show people just how real you are! "What dessert can you not resist when it is time to indulge?"
SUGAR, SUGAR, SUGAR…anything jammed packed with the sweet stuff makes me drool. I am hopelessly in love with the stuff. One of my all time favorite treats are those tiny, beaded candied sprinkles that you put on top of cakes. I eat them by the spoonfuls. I know there’s absolutely nothing remotely healthy inside of them but I just can’t help myself.
2) The Bunko Babes is one of those fun books that introduces us to a group of people at the beginning and then walks us through various aspects of their lives as the book progresses. So as a reader we don't get just one new friend, we get a whole batch all at once. We get to know Becca the most intimately as the book is seen through her eyes, but we are not spared the pain, heartache, joy or turmoil of any women in The Bunko Babes. Leah, do you have a group of ladies in your life like this that support you and are there for you no matter what arises in your life?
Absolutely, I am so blessed when it comes to friends. God has brought so many amazing ladies into my life that I shake my head in amazement. I, like Becca, have friends for any circumstance that I might face. Need a pick-me-up? Call Karen or Susannah: they’ll have me feeling better and laughing within minutes. Need a good kick in the pants? Call Karen: she always helps to put things in perspective. Need a great shopping buddy? Jody can spend the dough as well as I can (hee, hee). Just need somebody to talk to? Call any of my babes or my ladies from church. As you can see, my list just goes on and on.
3) I know people that love the game Bunko and play it often, but I have never personally played it, though after reading the book I'm ready to put together a group to play like The Babes. Do you have any Bunko tips for newbies?
I have the perfect tip sheet for you newbies who are interested in putting together your own Bunko group.
1. Make a flyer announcing your own Bunko Launch Party.
2. Make a list of acquaintances or simply pass them out in your
3. Create a theme for your party. For a launch party, I would do an
outer space theme with twinkle lights in the windows and on the
ceiling plus decorations with stars, moons and planets.
4. Plan your menu to reflect your theme. You can go to my website
for some great finger food recipes. Don’t forget to provide
nibbles for the Bunko tables as well.
5. Provide door prizes for different categories, including the booby prize.
And the most important tip is to just have fun, fun, and more fun.
4) I know that some of the situations in The Bunko Babes come from your own life, like Becca's mysterious illness, was it difficult to walk through that situation again as you put down on paper what you had actually gone through?
Truthfully, I was writing this book when I was at the height of my suffering. The Bunko Babes actually became a tool to help me reflect upon and share my confusion, pain, and God’s unfailing grace. Everything that Becca experienced dealing with her illness is something that I personally have gone through. At times, it was almost like a journal for me. In fact, a lot of the first draft I left out because we felt that the book was becoming too focused upon Becca’s suffering and not enough on the entire story that God had given me to write.
5) There are instances of cheating, divorce, war separating a couple, illness, infertility, abortion and a few more I don't want to mention without revealing any spoilers... but through it all the thread of friendship is what weaves this story together, and even with such heavy topics being worked through, I just really enjoyed this book - it was fun! This book really made me wish that I had a support group around me like these ladies have - tell me about an interesting situation you had to walk through with a friend of yours (your situation or theirs)...
So many of us have suffered through the humiliation and desolation that comes about when you discover that your spouse has been or is being unfaithful to you. My friends and I are no exception. I will never forget the night one of my Babes showed up at 9 o’clock balling her eyes out. I opened the door and took her in my arms to comfort her. I knew she’d been struggling for quite some time in her marriage and I was honored that she felt no matter what time of day it was that she could come to me for comfort and encouragement.
6) I love the situation between Becca and her soon to be stepfather when she finds out her mother is getting remarried after the death of Becca's dad. The very man that she wants so much to dislike (because he's "replacing" her father) becomes a spiritual mentor in her life - do you have a spiritual mentor in your life like that?
My Dad is that for me and always has been. Growing up under his tutelage has been one of my greatest honors. Anytime I have a question or concern or can’t find a particular scripture, I just pick up the phone and call him. I am extremely grateful to have him as my Dad. Having been in the ministry his entire adult life, he is a fountain of comfort and information.
7) I just have to know, is The Bunko Babes a stand alone book or will we see more of these fantastic ladies?
I am hoping that you will see many more books about these wonderful women. I am definitely in discussion with Emerald Pointe Books about writing a sequel. Look for one in the near future.
8) What are you currently working on that we can be looking forward to?
I am working on the edits for another novel right now with the working title “Shattered Trust”. It was my first novel I ever penned and Emerald Pointe Books has expressed interest in releasing it in the interim between The Bunko Babes and its sequel.
9) Where can readers find you on the web and what fun things will they see when they find you?
They can find me at: http://www.thebunkobabes.biz/ There they will find information about me and my family, they can read the first chapter of The Bunko Babes, read the novel’s reviews and hear me on my most recent radio interview.
You will be able to find recipes and share yours with me as well as find monthly Bunko party theme ideas and of course, my blog. Please continue to visit me as something new and exciting is added daily.
There are two ways you can win a copy of this book - post a comment here letting me know what kind of game you like to play when you get together with friends (and a way to contact you please!) or sign up for Feedblitz and enter the big book bundle giveaways and win the bundle that has The Bunko Babes in it :-) Either way, you will love this book - Grandma Sue is now reading my copy of The Bunko Babes and she told me yesterday, "I am really enjoying this book - the ladies are so real and their situations are so true. I am just really liking it!" That is high praise from Grandma Sue and I just have to second it so - make sure you sign up to win!