YAYA: How did you start writing?
Eileen Cook: Both of my parents are big readers. Weekly trips to the library were a part of our family routine and we’d come home with stacks of books. I’ve loved books and reading as long as I can remember. As soon as I understood that there people who got to make those stories up I knew that I wanted to do that. My parents saved an English homework assignment I did in second grade where the teacher wrote at the bottom “Someday I’m sure you will be an author!” When my first book came out my dad hunted down this teacher. She was over 90 years old and lived in a nursing home. We went out to visit her and my parents were hoping for a big meaningful moment- but she spent the whole time talking about her bunions.
Do you have any advice for aspiring authors?
1) Read- read a lot. You can learn so much about writing this way. Read books you like and books you hate. Break them down to see what works and what doesn’t. Underline or highlight passages/dialog you really like (assuming that this isn’t a library book). It isn’t about trying to write like someone else, it is about discovering the process of what makes a story work.
2) Keep Writing: A lot of people talk about writing, but don’t do it. With every thing you write you get a bit better, you learn a bit more. If you give up then you won’t be published. If you keep trying- then who knows?
3) Seize the day: You won’t have anything to write about if you never leave the house. Try new things, meet new people, travel, you never know what will lead you to the next story.
What’s your writing schedule like?
People have a schedule? I really should get one of those.
I love the idea of having a set routine or process, but I find my life keeps getting in the way. Sometimes I write at home and other times I like to be in a coffee shop or at the library. I write in the morning, afternoon, or evening- depending on when I have the time. I still work another job part time so writing has to fit in with everything else. The only consistent would be that when I am in the middle of the story I find I need to write at least a small bit every day or I lose track of the story.
You tackle some pretty big issues in your novel -- especially religion. Did you experience any feelings of trepidation?
Here is a wishy washy answer for you, yes and no. I know that some of the topics I covered are very important to people and I didn't want to offend anyone. However, when I'm reading the books I like are those that have something to say on big issues. I don't mind if people disagree with me, but I think it is important that we have the discussion. If we don't how will we ever see different points of view?
Some of my favorite books are banned so if WWED is ever on the list at least I'll be in great company!
Have you spent a lot of time in a small town?
I grew up in a small town in Michigan called Traverse City. It isn't that small anymore! It's grown a lot.
Do you have thoughts on the growth and evolution of YA as a genre?
I am HUGELY impressed at what is now available in YA. While there were some great books when I was a teen, there were also a lot of books that clearly had "a lesson." You would be reading along and suddenly it would be all "...and that is why young reader it is important to always think of the golden rule." It used to drive me nuts. I started reading more adult fiction because I wanted books that didn't always have a nice tidy outcome. YA books now reflect that teens are aware and facing a range of situations. There don't appear to be any topics that are taboo. It lets the reader decide what they want to pick up.
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