Interview with writer/author Eileen Cook

Author Eileen Cook joins me today to chat with
me about her young adult thriller, With
Eileen Cook is a multi-published author with her
novels appearing in eight languages. Her books have been optioned for film and
TV. She spent most of her teen years wishing she were someone else or somewhere
else, which is great training for a writer. Her newest book, The Hanging Girl, came out in October
2017. She’s an instructor/mentor with The Creative Academy and the Simon Fraser
University Writer’s Studio Program.
Eileen lives in Vancouver with her husband and two
very naughty dogs and no longer wishes to be anyone or anywhere else.
Welcome, Eileen. Please tell us about
your current release.
While on a school trip in Italy Jill is
in a horrible car accident. She wakes up in the hospital with no memory of the
accident or the six weeks before. Jill is devastated to hear that her best
friend died in the accident and then horrified that the police don’t believe it
was an accident- instead they’re trying to prove Jill murdered Simone. Jill has
to fill in the missing time while trying to decipher if other people’s stories
of what happened are accurate before she’s forced back to Italy and a trial. She’s
forced to question her friendship and more importantly what she’s capable of
What inspired you to write this book?
There were a few things that came
together to form the idea of this book. I’m fascinated with long-term
friendships and how they survive and evolve, or don’t. I knew I wanted to write
about two friends who had been in a relationship for so long that at times it
was hard to tell where the good parts and the bad intersected. I’d also worked
for over twenty years in the field of vocational rehabilitation assisting with
people with injuries and illnesses as an expert for the BC Supreme Court. I’d
done a lot of work with individuals with brain injury and taking the
opportunity to explore identity and relationships when you can’t trust your own
memory was exciting.
Once I wrote a full draft of the
manuscript I knew it was missing something and two other pieces of inspiration
fell into place. The first was that I was planning a trip to Italy and it
occurred to me to set the book there. I felt it would give Jill an extra push
to explore her friendship if they were out of their normal environment. As I
prepared for the trip I started to read more about the Amanda Knox trial and
that motivated me to add the pressure coming from the media- where everyone
else is deciding your guilt or innocence based on very little information.
The final bit of inspiration came from
the first season of the Serial podcast by NPR. (If you haven’t listened-
download it- you’ll thank me.) It’s a true crime story about a murder trial
that happened in the 1990s. With each person that told their story I would
shift my feelings. “He’s totally
innocent! He’s guilty! Wait-he’s innocent!”
I wanted to see if I could
recreate that feeling for readers by providing them with new perspectives that
might change how they felt about the storyline.
What exciting story are you working on
I am one of
those people who is most excited when I’m working on a project. I’m in the
process of finishing up a new book tentatively titled, You Owe Me a Murder. I
was inspired by Highsmith’s books, Strangers on a Train and The Talented Mr.
Ripley. I took that basic premise of two strangers meeting and becoming
embroiled in a murder for hire project, and one of those people is a master
manipulator. The main character, Kim, must figure out how far she’ll go to stay
out of trouble.
When did you first consider yourself a
I always loved books and stories. My
parents have a homework assignment I did in second grade where we were supposed
to practice writing sentences and instead I strung mine together to make a
story. The first time I can remember thinking that writing books was something
I wanted to do was when I was 11 or 12. I’d gone to the library and picked up a
book by Stephen King, Salem’s Lot. The librarian tried to discourage me from
reading it- declaring it too scary. I remember being offended because I was a
very mature kid and I understood the difference between make believe and real
and I figured how scary could something I knew was fake be? Turns out- really
scary! I slept with the light on for weeks. I thought it was amazing that this
writer had made something up, something I knew was fiction, and yet it felt so
real that I had a real emotional reaction. That’s when I knew that is what I
wanted to do.
Do you write full-time? If so, what’s
your work day like? If not, what do you do other than write and how do you find
time to write?
I’m so fortunate as after years of juggling
writing and a day job I’m now in a position where I can write full time. When I
started writing it took me a long time to realize that what works for one
writer might not work for another. I always encourage people to try different
processes and see what fits their style.
What works for me is to spend time
plotting and planning before starting to write. Sometimes this includes writing
diary entries from different character’s point of view, making timelines, and
endless lists. I used to jump in as soon as I had an idea, but I’ve learned
it’s better to let an idea ferment for a period of time. Like wine, it gets
more complex and interesting if it sits for a while.
I usually get up early and walk the dogs
or go to the gym before settling in with a cup of tea and getting to work. I’m
not creative before 8am or after 10pm. I usually have three or four hours of
writing/creative time before my brain gives up. I spend the rest of my day
doing more business things, marketing, teaching, research etc. Also looking at
random things on the Internet, yelling at my dogs to stop digging in the yard,
and drinking endless cups of tea.
What would you say is your interesting
writing quirk?
Do we get
only one? I feel as if I’m the very definition of quirky. I have a thing for
vintage typewriters. I own three and recently a friend got me a vintage
keyboard that uses blue tooth to connect to my laptop- so now as I write I have
the great clickety-clack sound.
As a child, what did you want to be when
you grew up?
I know it
might shock some people – but I always wanted to be a writer. I was also open
to becoming a princess – but alas was born to commoners who never provided me
with the social connections to marry into royalty.
Anything additional you want to share
with the readers?
I’m often asked what is the best writing
advice that I’ve ever been given. It came Canadian writer and storyteller Ivan
Coyote. When I was taking a class with Ivan I bemoaned that I was worried that
if I sent my work out there I would be rejected. Ivan said: “You realize that you’re already not
published, right? The worst thing that will happen is that you still won’t be
This was my light bulb moment. I
realized that while being rejected wouldn’t be fun, I could survive it. I knew
what I would really regret is never having tried at all. I would encourage
anyone who wants to write to do it. Heck, no matter what it is you’ve been
dreaming about – you have to try – you never know what might happen.
Website | Twitter | Instagram | Facebook | Creative Academy
(where I offer mentorship etc.) | Amazon
Thanks for being here today, Eileen.

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