Author: Eileen Cook
Pub. Date: June 7, 2016
Publisher: HMH Books for Young Readers
Format: Hardcover, eBook, & audiobook
A read about a teenage girl who wakes up in a hospital bed and cannot remember the last six weeks of her life, including the accident that killed her best friend--only what if the accident wasn't an accident?
Eighteen-year-old Jill Charron wakes up in a hospital room, leg in a cast, stitches in her face and a big blank canvas where the last 6 weeks should be. She comes to discover she was involved in a fatal accident while on a school trip in Italy three days previous but was jetted home by her affluent father in order to receive quality care. Care that includes a lawyer. And a press team. Because maybe the accident...wasn't an accident. Wondering not just what happened but what she did, Jill tries to piece together the events of the past six weeks before she loses her thin hold on her once-perfect life.
1 Did you always know you wanted to be a writer or did you want to be something else?
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.
However, I did feel the need to have a “real job” for a while and I worked as a counselor for people with catastrophic injuries and illness. Which, as it turns out, came in handy when writing this book.
2. How long does it take you to write a book from start to finish?
It depends when you want to officially start the clock. I tend to get an idea and then think about it for a few months, making odd notes here and there, sketching out character details- basically letting the idea ferment in my brain. Then I sit down and write an outline. This outline often takes a couple of weeks to finish. (Keep in mind the final book often doesn’t look like this outline-but I like to pretend at the start of each book that I’ve figured this whole writing thing out.)
Then I start writing and it typically takes me six to nine months to actually write the book. This includes time to realize what I thought was a brilliant outline is in fact horrible and major re-writes are required. Also during this period I give my book to a couple of people to read an early draft and they offer me feedback, which then also leads to more re-writes.
Once I’m done with the book it goes to my agent who might have more re-writes and then finally to my editor who has more re-writes. The moral of this story is that when you set out to write a book it helps to REALLY like the idea and characters because you’ll be spending a lot of time with them.
3. How do you come up with themes for your stories?
I have no idea. I don’t’ start with a theme. Instead I start with an idea. Ideas pop into my head because of a snippet of overheard conversation, something in the news, a discussion with a friend, an old photograph- you name it- they show up and slowly begin to morph into their own thing. I believe there are millions of ideas out there all the time. The trick is to pause long enough to hear them. Then, when you do get one spend some time trying to figure out if it is a worthy idea. Is it worth months (or years) of your time, hundreds of pages, and a reader’s attention?
It took me a long time to become more patient with ideas. I used to get them and then run to my computer to start writing as if I was afraid it was going to get away from me. Now I slow down, turn the idea over in my head, ask a lot of “what if” questions. What would make this situation worse? What if this character didn’t know X or Y? What if this new thing suddenly happened? If I give ideas a bit of a chance to grow they evolve into much more interesting concepts. It’s only when I have a full draft of a book that I can back up and see the themes. In the re-writes I try and make that theme more clear.
4. Do you have a schedule of when you write?
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 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.
5. How are you able to balance other aspects of your life with your writing?
I am a compulsive list maker. I start off each week and each day with a list of what I want to get done. On the list are not only writing goals, but also other things (including fun stuff) that I want to accomplish. When it’s close to the end of the book I tend to let things slip out of balance as I’m mentally really focused on the book, but overall I tend to do pretty well at making sure I leave a bit of time for everything. I love writing, but also all the other things in my life.
6. What elements do you think make a great story line?
I have to be really interested in the characters and what happens to them before I can write a book that is remotely interesting to anyone else. When I find a character or plot that I can’t get out of my head, that I find myself thinking about while at the gym or walking the dog. I know I have a winner.
7. What was the hardest thing about writing a book?
Writing is a marathon, not a sprint. Every time I start a book my feeling is: “THIS IS THE BEST BOOK EVER!” Then about ¾ of the way in I think: “THIS IS THE WORST BOOK EVER!” It’s easy to fall in love with characters and a book idea, but more difficult to stay in love over the months or years it takes to write the book- especially when things become difficult and it seems like there is no easy way to fix various plot problems.
8. How many books have you written so far? Do you have a favorite?
I’ve written eight YA novels, with the most recent, WITH MALICE, being number nine. I’m currently working on a new book, which will be lucky number ten. I love each of them, but the one I love the most is usually the one I’m actively writing. I think that’s because it’s still taking shape, it could be almost anything. I’m spending all my time in those character’s heads with their problems. They’re my current obsession, so they’re my favorite.
9. Do you have a favorite character?
This question makes me realize how parents feel when someone asks them which of their kids they like the best. In WITH MALICE the main character Jill is one of my all time favorites. I enjoyed spending all that time in her head. If I had to pick one for this book, it might be Anna, her roommate in the rehabilitation hospital. She has an inner strength that I admire and also a killer sense of humor.
10. Where do you write?
I write on a laptop so I write wherever I go. I do most of my writing in my office, which was the old sun porch in our house. It has windows on three sides that lets me stare out in the backyard and daydream. (Or watch my two dogs dig holes while I yell at them to cut it out.)
I find when I get stuck in a book I do better if I change up my location. I’ll take my laptop and go to the beach, a coffee shop or the library and try writing there for the day. Sometimes being in a new physical space puts my brain in a new space too.
11. When deciding on how to publish, what directed you to the route you took?
When I wrote my first book, indie publishing wasn’t really the option that it is today. I knew I wanted my books in bookstores and libraries so I targeted larger NY publishers that I thought could help me reach my dream.
Writing is a solo activity and an art, but publishing is a team activity and a business. I am so grateful for the great group of people I’ve worked with at HMH from my editor Sarah to the book designer and marketing people who have all helped out.
12. Have you gotten feedback from family about your book(s)? What do they think?
My parents are my best booksellers. When they travel on vacation they take an extra copy or two of my latest book and then end up passing it off to various people that they meet. I think they’re impressed that all those years of me making stuff up and spending all that time inside my head with imaginary friends is finally paying off. I suspect when I was growing up they wondered what the heck I would end up doing.
13. What kinds of things do you like to do outside of writing?
It’s probably not too surprising that one of my favorite things to do when I’m not writing is to read. I am pretty sure someday I will be killed when one of the million stacks of books I have in the house falls over and crushes me.
I’m also a big knitter, I always loved crafty things, so when I found one I could do while watching movies or listening to audio books I was hooked. If you are friends with me at some point you’ll end up with a scarf or socks. I enjoy the process of making something that I can see grow. Often with writing you can work for a long time, but not make a lot of progress. When I knit I always have something to show for it.
Lastly I love spending time with friends. I enjoy throwing dinner parties and I often have huge board game nights where we play until the wee hours.
14. What kinds of advice would you give to someone who wants to start writing?
Read and write a lot. Books, both those you love and even those you dislike, are great teachers. Give yourself permission to read as many as you can. Look at how the author chose to tell their story, what made you like (or dislike) a character, was there a section where you found yourself compulsively turning pages?
The second half of my advice is to write a lot- writing is a craft. You get better the more you do it. It can be discouraging at first because the idea in your head is perfect and shiny and wonderful, and your first draft is not. The secret is to push through that process.
15. What is your favorite book? favorite author? Do you have an author that inspired/inspires you to write?
This is a hard question because there are so many great books out there. As a kid I loved Ronald Dahl (Charlie and the Chocolate Factory), The Mixed Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler, and anything by Judy Blume. Other authors that I like include Stephen King (he still scares the pants off of me) Gillian Flynn, Kate Morton and Donna Tartt. While I don’t have one favorite book- A Prayer for Owen Meany is one I have read multiple times. And who doesn’t love Harry Potter?
16. Do you have any go to people when writing a book that help you with your story lines as well as editing, beta reading and such?
I don’t typically talk to anyone about my book until I have a first draft written all the way from start to finish. I find a new idea is too vulnerable to other’s opinions until I know what it is that I want to say. Once I have a draft I have a group of friends who will read early drafts and give me feedback. That’s when I want their thoughts on what works and what doesn’t- that gives me the push and direction I need to start re-writes.
17. Are you working on anything now?
Yes! If I’m honest I am the happiest when I have a book project underway. During the periods when I’m not writing I feel a bit adrift and purposeless. I love the day-to-day process of trying to get an idea from my head onto the page and seeing how it evolves and changes.
My current book involves a young woman who is a fake psychic. This has given me an excuse to do a whole bunch of random research including the fact that I am getting to be pretty good at reading Tarot cards. I can’t tell you too much about the book at this point, but it involves a missing girl and a bunch of lies that cause more trouble than the main character ever imagined possible.
18. Tell us 5 things that make you smile
· Dogs- I am a total dog nut. Watching them play, snore, or chase a toy around is endlessly amusing to me
· My husband, who can make me laugh in almost any situation- that’s partly why I married him!
· New yarn for a knitting project
· Good friends
· A cup of hot tea on a cold day with a good book while curled up on the sofa
19. Tell us 5 things that make you sad
· Some Adele songs make me cry
· Watching the TV news (honestly- what is up with people sometimes?)
· If a dog (cat, horse, pet of any kind,) dies in a book
· I cry at over the top dramatic old movies, for example Casablanca.
· When I start a book and realize a few chapters in that I’ve already read it.
20. If you could travel anywhere in the world to visit a place so you could use it as a background for a book, where would it be?
Can I go back to Italy? I went there to research WITH MALICE and fell in love with the country. I am currently planning a trip to London and Paris as I have the very beginning of an idea that might become my next project. I’m counting on some inspiration!
Thanks so much for stopping by today!
Eileen Cook is a multi-published author with her novels appearing in eight different 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, WITH MALICE, will be out in June 2016. She’s an instructor/mentor with the Simon Fraser University Writer’s Studio Program.
You can read more about Eileen, her books, and the things that strike her as funny atwww.eileencook.com. Eileen lives in Vancouver with her husband and two very naughty dogs and no longer wishes to be anyone or anywhere else.
5/30/2016- - Interview
5/31/2016- - Review
6/1/2016- - Guest Post
6/2/2016- A Gingerly Review- Review
6/3/2016- - Interview
6/6/2016- - Review
6/7/2016- - Guest Post
6/8/2016- - Review
6/9/2016- - Interview
6/10/2016- - Review