Monday, 16 May 2011

Interview: Eileen Cook (Getting Revenge on Lauren Wood)

So today I have Eileen Cook here at Writing from the Tub, talking about her life as a writer and her latest novel, Getting Revenge on Lauren Wood - which I absolutely loved. Without further ado, on with the interview!

Hi Eileen! It’s so good to have you here at Writing from the Tub so thank you for stopping by. First, talk me through an average day when you’re working on a novel. Do you have a set number of words you have to write per day or do you set yourself different targets?

I really want to be one of those writers with a set schedule and plan- but for some reason my life never works out that way. I do tend to set a weekly word count goal that allows me to either write for hours and hours one day with only a few moments on another, or to spread it evenly over the week. I do find spending even a few minutes a day on the book allows me to stay in touch with the story.

In young adult fiction in particular, it’s important that readers bond with the characters - what do you think is the most important thing to get right when you're creating a character?

Honesty. You can’t set out to write a character with a particular message or point. You have to approach how a character would respond in different situations in an honest way. Readers, in particular YA readers, have a highly tuned BS detector. They are looking for real characters dealing with real emotions and issues- even in the setting is paranormal. When you are done with the book you might realize there is a message or theme in the work, but don’t set out to write a lesson, write a story.

Do you own a Kindle or other e-reader? What’s your opinion on them?

I own an iPad. I love “real” books- from the smell, the heft, to the feel of them. Having said that, it is hard to argue with the immediate gratification of an e-reader. If someone recommends a book I can be reading it a second later. They’re also great for travel. I used to be that person who always had an extra carry on full of books for a vacation.

I think what is important to remember is that the story is not the medium. It doesn’t matter if a story is print or e-published, provided it is a good story that captivates the reader. As writers- we need to worry less about the medium and more about making sure we create great stories.

What reading for pleasure do you prefer to read standalones or series? Why?

I love reading EVERYTHING. Non-fiction, mystery, YA, horror, romantic comedy, literature, etc. I tend to read more standalone books versus series. I think there are some series that go on too long, stand alones almost always leave me wanting more, wondering what would happen next. Having said that I loved The Hunger Game Series and The Forest of Hands and Teeth.

The YA book market is a competitive place, what do you think sets your books apart from the pack?

I’m not sure if I am the best person to answer that question or if a reader would be. I suspect I am not the most objective when it comes to my own work. I have a tendency to swing wildly between hating it and loving it, often on the same day. It is difficult to define “voice,” but I know that my books tend to have a certain feel and voice.

So, getting slightly off topic – you mentioned you’re a fan before so I have to ask, what is your favourite bad horror movie?

Oooh hard question, does it have to be bad? I saw the Nightmare on Elm Street series in high school and remember being terrified. Dreams are very powerful and the idea that they could also be dangerous freaked me out. I also love Sean of the Dead because it is both scary and funny as hell. 21 Days Later also scared the pants off of me. I tend not to enjoy straight slasher/gore films such as Saw.

Some writers relate take great inspiration from music while they’re writing. Do you listen to music while you’re writing? If so, what artists/bands do you like to listen to while you write?

I download tons of film soundtracks. If I’m listening to music that has words I can easily start singing along. (This is most likely not pleasant for anyone.) Soundtracks are designed to bring about emotions, so if I match the music to the scene I’m writing I find it helps. You should see me bouncing in my seat to the theme to the Indiana Jones movies.

Are you a plotter or a pantser? Have you always been this way?

I am a panster by nature who has had to develop plotter skills. I am now somewhere in the middle- I now start books with an idea of the beginning, middle and end, but only a vague idea of how these will connect.

One of the more important pieces of advice I can give is to not worry about how others write books and instead focus on what works for you. There is no right way or wrong way, only what works for you. I’m a firm believe that you do the same amount of work- either you spend the time plotting it out before you start, or at the end fixing the draft at the end. There are no shortcuts.

How important do you think social media (i.e. Twitter/Facebook/blogging) is in today’s market for a writer?

I would make a great hermit. I hate blowing my own horn, but in today’s book market writers need to have some degree of comfort with participating in social media. Readers are hearing about books in multiple different ways- you need to be willing to talk about your book.

However, I think there are authors who have confused their role. The most important thing you can be doing is writing. Write the next book - make it better than the book you wrote before. Yes, market your book, participate in social media, but spend the bulk of your time on the craft of writing.

What advice would you give to writers who want to make the leap from writing as a hobby to actively pursuing a career in writing?

Several years ago I was taking a writing class. My instructor encouraged me to start sending my work out for consideration. I told her I wasn’t sure I could- what if I was rejected. She looked at me and said: “I hate to be the one to tell you this, but you’re already not published. The worst that will happen is that you still won’t be published.” For me, that was the beginning of taking my writing to the next level.

If a writer doesn’t want to pursue publication they shouldn’t. It can be a tremendously frustrating business where effort is not always rewarded. However, if you think you want to make the leap you have to accept that trying and not making it to the shelves would be infinitely better than never having tried at all. After all, you never know.

The cover art for Getting Revenge on Lauren Wood is pure genius; did you have much of a say in the design?

Thanks! I love that cover too. I am very lucky; the entire publishing team I work with is very collaborative. Early in the process the cover designer, my editor and I have a discussion where we toss around different cover ideas. There is a scene in Getting Revenge where the main character chucks a Barbie doll into a wood chipper. I had suggested a cover where someone was holding Barbie by her hair and slowly lowering into the chipper. However, Matel (the makers of Barbie) frown on people torturing their doll on book covers. The publisher loved the idea and special ordered a doll from China that we could stab.

Thanks so much for taking the time to talk to me, Eileen. Before you go, are there any projects in the pipeline we can look out for?

Thank you for having me! I love talking about books and writing so it always feels like a treat to do an interview. I have two projects on the go. The first is a middle grade series that will be out this spring for readers ages 8-10. It’s called The Fourth Grade Fairy.

I’m working now on edits for a new YA, Unraveling Isobel. I’m super excited for this book. It’s a gothic story with a crumbling old house, family secrets dating back centuries, a hot romance, and a possible ghost. It is planned to come out in January 2012. They’re working on a cover now and while I can’t share any secrets yet - I can tell you I love it.


So, have any of you guys read What Would Emma Do? or Getting Revenge on Lauren Wood, what did you think? It was great to speak to Eileen (who is LOVELY) and I'd like to say a big thanks to her for stopping by :).

1 comment:

  1. Great interview, I haven't heard of this book or this author before but I am off to add it to my wish list!


Thank you kindly for the comment, you sweet thing.