This month’s guest is Eileen Cook who is a multi-published author whose work has appeared in eight different languages. Her books have also been optioned for film and TV. When she is not writing, she is an instructor/mentor with the Simon Fraser University Writer’s Studio Program and The Creative Academy. She currently lives in Vancouver with her husband and two dogs.
Let’s welcome her to the blog!
Thank you, Eileen Cook, for joining us, can you give a brief introduction of yourself?
Hello! Thank you so much for having me on your blog. I’m a writer, writing mentor, knitter, dog lover, and possibly the most uncoordinated person you’ve ever met. I’ve been writing since I was young. My parents had a homework assignment I did in second grade where the teacher wrote on it: I’m sure you’ll be a writer someday. This proves that teachers can inspire and may have psychic abilities. However, it still took me countless short stories, a period of really bad poetry, and several novels (not even counting those I started and never finished) before I would finally publish in 2008.
Tell us about your latest novel, The Hanging Girl, which was released in October 2017.
The Hanging Girl tells the story of Skye Thorn. She’s given tarot card readings for years in her small Michigan town squirreling away money in a hope to escape to NYC after graduation. When the town’s golden girl goes missing she tells the police about a psychic vision she’s had that helps with the investigation. It’s no challenge—her readings have always been faked, but this time she has some insider knowledge about the abduction. The kidnapping was supposed to be easy—no one would get hurt and she’d get the money she needs to start a new life. But a seemingly harmless prank has turned dark, and Skye realizes the people she’s involved with are willing to kill to get what they want, and she must discover their true identity before it’s too late.
You also have 12 other novels listed on your website, including With Malice, do you have works elsewhere as well?
My website lists all my books, but of course I have a current book on the go. It’s tentatively being called You Owe Me a Murder, which will be out in early 2019 (assuming all goes to plan!)
Most of the blog readers are writers, can you share a bit about your work being optioned for film and TV? How did this come to be?
I’m very fortunate to have an amazing agent in my corner, Barbara Poelle. The agency that she works for has a connection to a film agent. This person pitches our books to various people in the film and TV industry hoping to make a match. So far nothing that I’ve had optioned has made the final step to going into production- but this in no way stops me from planning to go full Hollywood with oversized sunglasses and a small dog in my purse. I’ve found even the option process to be fascinating.
If possible the film and TV world is even more random than publishing. I suspect it comes down to a matter of luck and being on the right person’s desk at the right moment. I don’t believe you can write with a goal of having your work adapted for the screen, but if it is a goal, it’s worthwhile to consider how difficult it would be to make your book into a screenplay which relies on dialogue and action versus a lot of internal thought.
You also offer other services such as speaking and mentorship, can you share about your services?
I may be one of the few people on the planet who doesn’t mind public speaking, which is odd given that by nature I’m a total introvert. I’ve been fortunate enough to speak at a number of conferences, schools and various writing workshops.
I love working with other writers to assist them in finding how to best tell their story. I started doing more formal mentorship of writers with Simon Fraser University’s: The Writer’s Studio. This is an online program that combines downloadable modules with bi-weekly workshops over ten months. I so enjoyed mentorship that I started The Creative Academy with two other writers. The Creative Academy combines workshops, office hours, and coaching. If you’re looking for more resources, pro-tips, tutorials, coaching and a thriving writing and publishing community, you can visit me at The Creative Academy. Our free resource room is a great starting place.
What’s next in your writing career now that The Hanging Girl is released?
I am one of those people who is the happiest when I have a project on the go. When I’m not writing I can feel myself starting to get weird. (Or perhaps getting weirder would be more accurate.) As I mentioned above I am in the final stages of another YA thriller, You Owe Me a Murder, which is a bit of a retelling of Hitchcock/Highsmith’s tale Strangers on a Train.
In addition to that I’m working to create more content for The Creative Academy and I have an urge to write and adult thriller as well. I have an idea that is beginning to take shape, so I’ll be excited to see where that goes.
For aspiring writers, what would be one piece of advice you would give them?
I have so many thoughts on this! The first would be that there is no “right” way to write. New writers can be flooded with advice. They should feel free to pick and choose among what they hear to find what works for them. You don’t have to outline, or write in a particular way, or take any certain class/program in order to write. What I do believe is the most helpful is to read. Read a lot. Read not just for your own enjoyment, but also pay attention to how that writer crafted their tale, what choices they made in terms of structure and plot. I truly believe books are our best instructor.