INTERVIEW: Eileen Cook, Author of With Malice

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If you’re looking for an author who keeps bringing the quality time and time again, you need look no further than Eileen Cook. Born in Michigan but currently residing in Canada, some of her work has been optioned for film and TV, which shouldn’t be a surprise if you’ve read any of her bibliography so far.

Her most recent book, With Malice, released in June 2016, has already won its fair share of fans. We were lucky enough to be able to talk to her about the writing process, life as a writer and, erm, kangaroos.

Hi Eileen, how are you?
I’m doing really well. This is the kind of question where I want to have a much more exciting answer, like I’m a bit tired from recently summiting Everest, or excited to be taking a break through on my effort to create fusion power, but the honest truth is I spend most of my life in yoga pants making stuff up and having full conversations with my dogs. Which, let’s be honest, pretty awesome.

What was the last thing you ate? Score out of 10?
Pain au Chocolate from a local bakery. I am traveling to Paris later this summer and I figure I better practice. I give it a solid 9 as this gives me room to keep taste testing other bakery versions.

Tell us about your work, what do you have coming up for us?
I have had a busy summer promoting my new book WITH MALICE. It tells the story of Jill who While on a school trip in Italy, 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 horrified that the police don’t believe it was an accident- instead they’re tying 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 doing. I was excited as recently Entertainment Weekly picked it as a Summer Scary Read and called it “a creepy, satisfying thriller.”

You can find it here.

When did you realise that you have a love for writing?
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 eleven or twelve. 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.

What’s your writing schedule like? Do you have set days where you force yourself to sit down and write or do you wait until it comes?
There are nothing like deadlines to inspire a person to 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 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 are some of the problems you have faced as a modern author?
In the writing process, the number one problem is the internet. It is far too easy to spend way more time than you planned clicking around on random articles (or cute puppy pictures) and considering that activity as being somehow productive. You can look up reviews of your own books and plot imaginary revenge on those who failed to see your genius, or become despondent and throw yourself dramatically across your desk. Distraction is a dangerous thing to the creative process. You need time and space to write.

In terms of publishing, the number one problem isn’t new, but it’s the challenge of capturing a reader’s attention. There are so many books out there (and many of them are amazing) that you have to work to get a reader to pay attention to yours. In addition to books, your target readers could be spending their time on Netflix, walking their dog, tossing back drinks with friends, stalking ex’s on Facebook, or staring vacantly into space. You have to convince them that your book is worth their time.

Describe a writer’s life in three words.
Imaginative
Insane
Intoxicating

Who else should we be reading right now?
There are so many great books to recommend. I recently read Beware That Girl by Toten and also Behind Closed Doors by Paris. I would give both of those thrillers a big thumbs up. I have a passion for books with psychological twists and turns. I adore messed up people in fiction. Not so much in real life.

Do you have a favourite quote from a novel?
“If you care about something you have to protect it – If you’re lucky enough to find a way of life you love, you have to find the courage to live it.”

― John Irving, A Prayer for Owen Meany

And finally, who would win in a boxing match: a kangaroo with one leg or a baby gorilla with vertigo?
I am going to go with the kangaroo based on the theory that just about anything from Australia can kill you. Have you seen the spiders they have over there? In addition, I have seen multiple cartoons with kangaroos and they are often shown with boxing gloves which leads me to believe they are pros.

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