Pattie Palmer-Baker is a recognized award-winning artist and poet. Her artwork has been exhibited in galleries throughout the Pacific Northwest. Locally and nationally she has won numerous awards for her art and poetry.
An accomplished poet, Pattie had been nominated for the Pushcart Poetry Prize. Her work has appeared in many journals including Calyx, Voicecatcher, Military Experience the Arts, Minerva Rising and Phantom Drift. In 2017 she earned first prize in the Write to Publish contest, and in 2019 she won first, second, and the Bivona prize in the Ageless Poetry contest. She has served as the poetry co-editor for VoiceCatcher: a journal of women’s voices and visions.
Del Sol Press awarded MALL first prize for the most promising first novel in 2017.
Pattie lives in Portland, Oregon with her beloved husband and rescued dachshund.
Her website is www.pattiepalmerbaker.com/.
You can follow her at Facebook at https://tinyurl.com/yykrz36e.
As a book bloggin’ and book luvin’ Princess, I’m always curious to find out how authors got the ideas for their books. Can you tell us how you got the idea to write your book?
Years ago, a city planner friend and I were talking about different ways to organize cities. He mentioned grouping residences close to malls. And it came to me. What would it be like if people lived inside malls? The more I thought about it, the more complicated this alternative world became. Too unwieldly to keep straight in mind, I decided to write my ideas, and before I knew it, my writing took on the form of a novel.
Can you tell us a little about the main characters of your book?
Nona, the beautiful mental health practitioner in the alternative world of MALL is secretly bored. How could that be? With all the pleasure available including gorgeous attire; nonaddictive drugs, holographic adventures, sex, parties, etc.? Yet something is missing. Could it be because the MALL Code forbids close and deep attachments, the root they believe, of all suffering? Maybe. When Sara from our world somehow enters MALL, her outlandish behavior, unorthodox beliefs, and intense feelings exhilarate Nona. She begins to care more for her than is permitted and is willing to risk her professional standing and even her freedom to help Sara fit in and to keep her in the world of MALL.
If you could tell your younger writing self anything, what would that be?
Write! You have a good imagination; learn the craft of writing and don’t let rejection stop you.
What would you say is one of your interesting writing quirks?
Hmmm. I’m not sure if I have any quirks, although I will say that anxiety sometimes keeps me from writing, especially at the beginning. I find putting those first words on paper excruciatingly difficult.
Do you hear from your readers? What do they say?
I have received some positive feedback. Most people seem to like how I describe the setting and the appearance of the characters. Many seem understand the parallels between MALL and our world.
What is the toughest criticism given to you as an author?
After MALL won the prize for the Del Sol Press most promising first novel, the editor insisted I do a lot of work, such as adding more action and sex (phew, that was not easy), changing the chapter divisions, omitting extraneous characters etc. I complained (big mistake) – why all this work when I won the prize? Because, the editor pointed out, it was a prize for the most promising book. She also added that almost all writers have to revise and revise. I was so naive!
What has been your best accomplishment?
I won first and second prize and best overall entry in the 2019 Ageless Authors anthology contest for my poem, Gangster Crows.
Do you Google yourself?
Once in a while.
How many unpublished and half-finished books do you have?
MALL is the only novel I wrote. I might have considered writing another if I were younger. I have completed a chapbook, The Color of Goodbye, which as yet is unpublished.
Fun question – if you were princess or prince, what’s one thing you would do to make your kingdom a better place?
Find a way to help people to work together to solve the climate crisis.
Do you have anything specific that you would like to say to your readers?
I don’t think I have anything specific. In general, I ask people to not shy away from books because they dystopian. It’s a genre that can shake your habitual way of perceiving the world. I certainly had that in mind!
A Novel by Pattie Palmer-Baker Winner of the Del Sol Most Promising Novel, 2017
MALL is a sparkling alternate world where everyone is beautiful, employed with enough income to consume and to experience a myriad of pleasures including drugs, gambling, theater, holographic adventures. No poverty and little or no crime. A lot of sex.
But what about the Mall Code? And what happens when Sara, a 21st century woman, accidentally finds her way into this alien yet familiar world? Nona, a MALL mental health practitioner treats Sara upon her arrival and goes against the Code to help her acclimate. Sara seems to be just what she needs, an antidote to Nona’s secret and growing boredom.
At first Sara desperately wants to get home, and, as she seeks a way out as well as answers about her new reality, Nona begins to see MALL in a new light. Is abundant gratification enough?
Things aren’t all beauty and pleasure. Sara experiences dancing in a dangerous orgiastic dance club on a lower level. She attends a gambling session where people bet on living more years when their “number’s up” and a “passing ceremony,” where Mallites are supposedly resurrected into a new life.
Junkers, outsiders lurking on the fringes of MALL, have been fighting Mall Management’s control by creating increasingly dangerous disturbances. For years they have struggled to discover an exit, based on rumors of those who made it Outside and were never heard from again. Through them Sara and Nona meet someone who might help them escape. They both must make the choice that will change their lives forever.
Who will risk leaving and who will decide to stay?
MALL by Pattie Palmer-Baker was recently published by Del Sol Press and winner of the Del Sol Press Most Promising Book, 2017.
What a suspenseful journey Mall was—a real “page-turner”- imaginative with firm command of psychological expression and dialogue! Pattie Palmer-Baker captures some of the sexual contradictions, insecurities, and darker motivations of her female characters, and the complex relationships between women. The “surface” allusions to sex and violence throughout the story line work well with the superficial world she describes. Sex all the time—and yet, really, not much explicit writing about actual sexual encounters—the same for violence. This tension of content and form works well for me. What gives pleasure? What gives pain? The many hallways and mirrored rooms give the setting a creepy fun-house effect and increase the sense of a closed world and claustrophobic doom. Her descriptions of the Mallites’ physical appearances and their individual choice of costume in this strange place is creative—a breath of lightness in this frank examination of our quandary about the meaning of freedom in an existential existence. What is real? I was “on the run” with Sara for the entire read! And what a turn at the end!
— Cathy Cain, Portland poet and artist