International Writers Inspiring Change feature author: Jeffrey H. Baer, author of The Strickland File

IWIC interview with author, Jeffrey H. Baer

Tell us about yourself

I’m 52 years old and live in Coney Island with my long-time girlfriend Karen. I was diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome in 2002, but I’ve had it and all the trimmings my entire life. Being autistic creates struggles for me where most people succeed, but like others on the spectrum, I’m good at one thing—in this case, putting words together.

What inspired you to write?

I was able to read the Times Square message board at age two, I was so fascinated by the words moving across, I didn’t realize a crowd gathered around me and watched me in amazement. If I’d thought of passing the hat around, I might have made enough money to start a writing career sooner than I actually did.

Is there a message in your book?

As much as I enjoyed reading bestsellers over the years, I always thought the average commuter would appreciate novels about his/her seemingly ordinary life. Fellow writers cringed at the idea of a novel about office politics, which people already endure too much of to read about. But I believe there’s drama everywhere you look, and if you can give it some creative thought, you can elevate a mundane aspect of life to literary heights.

What have readers said about your book?

At the risk of bragging, I found most Amazon reviewers thoroughly enjoyed THE STRICKLAND FILE as well as A SONG APART. Here’s my favorite: 

“1995, Manhattan. Gary Strickland and his girlfriend Angela Wexler live in a Park Slope apartment. The two have recently graduated from the prestigious Baruch College. When we pick up the story, Gary is nervous and excited as he picks out an engagement ring for Angela. The two have been friends since childhood and throughout the book they have a charming chemistry which makes them quite likeable.

Unfortunately, just as he plans the rest of his life, Gary loses his job as an accountant. In fact, despite graduating from such an excellent college, Gary realizes things are tough in the “real world.” Although he quickly finds a new job, working as a collections’ manager for a magazine publisher, his career descends into something of a rat race, with a chaotic boss and a wide assortment of office personalities, some good and some downright annoying.

To illustrate the point that Gary is maturing from youth to adulthood and that the days of college and a carefree life are over, Jerry Garcia, a symbol of hippiedom and perpetual youth, dies, sending one of Gary’s co-workers into a depression.

Along with this reference there are several other allusions to current events of the middle 90’s. Being an ardent basketball fan, I feel like I’m right there as Gary and Angela go to Madison Square Garden for a game between the Knicks and Pacers, who were big rivals in those days, though never a match for Michael Jordan and the Bulls.

Eventually Gary brushes off the Manhattan office and he and Angela, along with their two young children, find happiness away from the drudgery of the Manhattan office scene. Overall, this book is well-written, and I particularly enjoyed the author’s use of dialogue as well as the italicized inner thoughts of Gary, who often sees the irony of his surroundings.”

And for some perspective, here’s a different but amusing three-star view from Goodreads: 

This is such an odd book. I did learn two things: reading about people watching sports on tv is boring. Also, if you are a very, very bad person, when you die you will go to New York City.”

Tell us about your book, The Strickland File

If you’re familiar with AS on any level, you know we struggle to find and keep jobs. Baruch College helped me find work at a small CPA firm in March 1990, but after tax season the employees scraped up work for me. After I was (AHEM) laid off four months later, the college found me a collection position at a trade magazine publisher. The CFO hired me fairly quickly, maybe because I was a recently sacked student angling for the next offer—even for a simplistic and thankless job. The other employees watched the CFO degrade me at every turn for five years and decided they could mistreat me even though I was responsible for the incoming money. I’m not sure I fully healed from the experience, but I learned such workplace behavior is never necessary.

Do you have any upcoming release that you want to mention to readers? A sneak preview? 

I’m four chapters into the rough draft of DESPERATE PEOPLE, a satire of Sidney Sheldon’s work. I actually started writing it in 2010, but I put it aside because 1) researching the nightclub industry and the FBI vs. the Mafia was tougher than I expected, and 2) THE STRICKLAND FILE desperately needed editing.

Visit the author website at  www.jeffreyhbaer.com 

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