Welcome, Claire Cook! (Interview and Fabulous Giveaway)

claire42web_med The Lit Ladies are so excited to welcome bestselling author Claire Cook to our new blog to discuss her latest novel, Time Flies, and about writing in general! She is definitely a literary lady, and just wait until you hear her story! Best of all, if you enter our TIME FLIES giveaway with the Rafflecopter form below, you have a chance to win a hardback copy of TIME FLIES (U.S. mailing addresses only please). So on this late summer, Saturday morning, grab your cup of coffee, sit back, relax, and learn from one of the nicest authors on the planet!

Most of you are probably familiar with the movie Must Love Dogs, starring Diane Lane and John Cusack. Well, guess what? Claire wrote the book that was turned into this movie. It was only her second novel, and even better. . .she didn’t write her first novel until she was 45! She also wrote this first novel while sitting in the minivan, waiting for her kids. FIVE YEARS LATER, she walked the red carpet for the Must Love Dogs premiere.

The Lit Ladies first met Claire at the Missouri Writers’ Guild conference in 2012 in St. Louis, MO. She was the luncheon keynote speaker, and she was fantastic. So, here we go!

Sandwich Lady: Welcome to the new Lit Ladies blog, Claire. We are so honored to have you! You are a true lit lady, following your writing passion and not giving up on your dream of writing books. So, what do you love about being a writer?

Claire: Thanks for having me, Margo! And congrats to all the Lit Ladies on your new blog! As for what I love about being a writer, it’s a toss up between the actual writing and connecting with my readers. Through the magic of social networking, my wonderful readers have begun to help me write my books, which is really fun. For instance, while writing Time Flies, I asked my Facebook and Twitter followers two things: What one song most reminds you of high school and what are you really, really afraid of? I received hundreds and hundreds of responses. It was fun for all of us and provided some great details for the novel.

Sandwich Lady: Awesome! After reading the book, I think I know what one of the “fear” suggestions must have been! Time Flies is about a recently divorced woman who is going to her high school reunion. What made you write a book about this?

time fliesClaire: I started off thinking it would be fun to write kind of a twist on Romy and Michele’s High School Reunion–but for the next stage of life, when you have so much baggage that you can’t just slide on a miniskirt and jump into a convertible. And I think high school reunions are one of those lightning rod issues—you either can’t wait for your next one, or wild horses couldn’t drag you.

I made the narrator a metal sculptor because I like to choose professions for my heroines that I think my readers will find interesting—I often hear from readers thanking me for giving them ideas for their own lives. And I stumbled on the fact that forty percent of women struggle with a full-blown phobia at some point in their lives. And then I started thinking: what if my heroine’s husband has left her and she can finally do exactly what she wants to do, but the stress triggers a latent highway driving phobia and suddenly she can’t? And her best friend wants her to head north for their high school reunion, and an old flame gets in touch to say he’s going, and and and. Ten books in, the way a novel comes together is still a mystery—you just have to trust the process.

Writing Time Flies was such a fun stroll down memory lane for me—all the great music, the bad hair and outfits—and ultimately, I think it’s a book about the power of lifelong friendship.

Sandwich Lady: Yes, yes, and yes! I completely agree with everything you’ve said here! What themes do you like to explore in your novels?

Claire: Reinvention is a theme in all my novels (as well as in my life!), but I have to admit my readers were the first to catch on to this. I tend to be so focused on the characters I’m creating that I don’t see the themes — my version of not seeing the forest for the trees, I guess.

Now I realize it’s the common thread, that the heroines of my novels are all looking for their own next chapters. In Time Flies, Melanie has her career worked out but has to figure out what/who else she wants. In Wallflower in Bloom, the narrator is the personal assistant to her famous brother, which means she basically has no life of her own. She’s really good at social networking and uses his massive online audience to get herself voted onto Dancing With the Stars as a last-minute replacement, the ultimate reinvention. It’s travel and cultural coaching and cooking in Seven Year Switch, buyouts and lavender and clotheslines in The Wildwater Walking Club, makeup in Summer Blowout, sea glass jewelry in Life’s a Beach, etc. There’s nothing rarefied about the lives of the women in my novels. They’re trying to find a creative way to make a living during these swiftly changing, crazy times – just like the rest of us!

Sandwich Lady: What’s your writing schedule like? How do you write a new novel and market the latest one at the same time?

Claire: When I’m writing a first draft, I write two pages a day, seven days a week. So, essentially, I’m living in the book, thinking about it all day long. I’ve noticed my best ideas come in the shower, on the elliptical machine at the gym, at red lights when I’m driving, and when I wake up in the middle of the night. I jot things down all day long–on notecards, in notebooks, on the backs of receipts.

I don’t outline, because it would make it feel like a term paper. I try not to think too much or try too hard, because when I do, my writing goes flat. I have a sense of who my main character is; and because my books are written in the first person, my entry point tends to be capturing my protagonist’s voice.

Then, because I’m essentially writing slice-of-life novels, I think about what makes the book begin today instead of another day. Once I find that little explosion, then I have my jumping off point. The characters react to that, and there’s a ripple effect. I just keep following those ripples; and in about six months or so, I have a first draft. And then the real work begins since the truth is: it’s the rewriting – again and again – that makes your novel truly come alive.

My trick to juggling it all is that I get up early and finish my pages before I move onto e-mail, my website, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and interviews like this one. They’re all important; but the most important thing is always the novel you’re writing; because without that, the whole house of cards collapses. So I make sure I give that my freshest energy. If you start the day by checking social networking and e-mail, it’s so easy to get sucked in; and before you know it, you’ve put your creativity into a brilliant tweet instead of a page in your novel.mustlovedogs_ebook-3_med

Sandwich Lady: You are so wise! Thank you for sharing your process with us, too. Everybody, I’m sure, wants to know this. . .what was it like to have one of your novels become a major motion picture? Did you meet the “stars?”

Claire: As a writer, the best part was that the Must Love Dogs movie gave me name recognition. There are so many books out there, so many authors, so it’s great to have an identifier like that. And the Must Love Dogs movie still plays all the time on TV; and whenever it does, it bring me new readers—truly the gift that keeps on giving.

As a person, the best part of the Must Love Dogs movie experience was the whole thing! I was treated like gold on the set–they even gave me my own personalized director’s chair, which the actors autographed to surprise me. I got to hang out with John Cusack and Diane Lane and all the other actors. I did interviews with Access Hollywood and Extra while walking the red carpet at the Hollywood premiere. Even my own kids thought I was cool for a couple of weeks there! It was just a fun, fun experience – one that I truly wish could happen to every author. And if it happens to you, my advice is to just relax and enjoy it – and never once ask what happened to page 38!

Sandwich Lady: Ha! No doubt! Thank you, Claire, for your time today. We love you and appreciate everything you do and give back to the writing community. Anything you want to add?

Claire: Thank you! Wishing you and all the Lit Ladies—and everybody reading this—much joy and success! I hope everyone will stop by my website and check out the writing and reinvention pages. And while you’re there, make sure you sign up for my newsletter, so you don’t miss any of the fun book news and giveaways coming up!

Sandwich Lady: Thank you, Claire! Hey everyone, fill out the Rafflecopter form below and get points to enter the contest for signing up for Claire’s newsletter and checking out her website!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

33 Comments

  • Loved reading “Must Love Dogs” and enjoyed the movie, too. I would love to read your new book, “Time Flies”, Claire!

  • Love all of your books. Have read them all.

  • I haven’t yet had the privilege of reading one of Claire’s novels, but I do have a couple on my TBR list. I did see the movie, Must Love Dogs.

    I’m not a writer – and have never aspired to be one. I’m not really sure *what* my dreams are, or were. I think the self-knowledge is lacking in my case. :) And I don’t know that I could ever re-invent myself or my life.
    We have moved regularly through out my married life — hubby was career US Air Force, and now he’s an active United Methodist pastor — so guess in a way, each place we are is a slight reinvention of my life. :)

    Thank you, Claire, and thank you, Literary Ladies, for this interview.

    • Donna: don’t give up hope to reinvent yourself. :) Read Claire’s books and you will see why. Thank you for stopping by!

  • I have read several of Claire Cook’s books as well as meeting her at an authors luncheon through University of South Carolina at Beaufort. She if a lovely person with a great sense of humor!

  • I have never read anything by you. But after my girlfriend is done with Life’s a Beach, she is passing it on! I really enjoyed the interview and what goes through your mind and the process when writing your books.

  • I don’t outline either and it is soooo nice to hear successful authors say they don’t. I’m a total ‘pantser’.
    Great interview! I’m enjoying this new blog quite a bit :)

    • Rose–thank you so much for the compliment about our blog. It is a work of love. :)

  • Love the interview! Thanks! I am a big Claire Cook fan!

  • I think the only book I’ve read is Best Staged Plans! I’m so embarrassed to admit that! BUT, I will definitely buy and read more! Please put me in for the drawing! I would love to win!! Thanks for a great interview, Literary Ladies!

    • @Caryn, @Becky, and @Martha:

      Thank you so much for stopping by and checking us out. Thanks for entering Claire’s contest!

  • I love that you didn’t start this gig until you were 45. I started on my journey at 47 and haven’t made the progress you have so far, but I’m finding my way. You also poked at an area I need to be more disciplined about: writing BEFORE social media. It’s too distracting, not only with time, but with my mental space. Great interview– cheering you on with this wonderful sounding book.

    • Hey Julie! I’m so glad you mentioned age in your comment. I meant to say, too, how wonderful I think it is that Claire began writing when she did….and in her van, no less!! I, too, am a late bloomer! I’m so happy for Claire and her success, and wish the same for you, Julie! (and me, too, I must admit!)

    • Me too–writing BEFORE social media!

  • I have read several of claire cook’s books and her latest one times flies is a great read. also enjoyed the interview.

  • Claire is such a genuine person; I got to meet her at the 2012 conference when my very pregnant self got sandwiched into a picture with her and then very pregnant author, Susan McBride. Claire’s keynote speech was so uplifting and motivating, as is this interview. Thanks :)

    • Completely agree! :) I would love to see that photo. You should post it. 😉 LOL

  • Hey, S. Lady and Claire!
    I loved Time Flies and loved that it came out THIS summer – my 40th class reunion is coming up this Friday. What will it bring? Fun, catching up with old friends, good memories…. I’m excited and can’t wait!

    Claire – love your books and loved meeting you in St. Louis. Hope to see you again!

  • Great interview Sandwich Lady, and Claire thanks so much for sharing with us. I like that the best part was the whole experience. Sounds like the movie experience was a blast. I wish you all the best.

    Sue

  • Thank you very much for sharing your writing “process” with us. I’ve written short stories, but I am overwhelmed when I think about writing a book. I can’t envision how I get from my idea to the finished product…so, I especially appreciate it when someone shares their process with me!

  • What a fun interview! I love this, “… the most important thing is always the novel you’re writing; because without that, the whole house of cards collapses. So I make sure I give that my freshest energy.” YES. Definitely needed that reminder!

  • Claire,

    So encouraging to me (a 40-something) that you didn’t write your first book until 45!

  • Claire is definitely a very impressive author. She works her butt off and it shows, and she is so responsive and communitive with her readers/fans. It’s amazing. Claire has responded to me on Twitter and always been so thankful to connect with readers. She seriously shows us what an amazing author can look like and I love it. Thanks Claire and thank you Lit Ladies for sharing this interview! New to your blog, but love it already! -KT

    • Katie: Completely agree. You can tell that Claire has a genuine love for her job as a writer and appreciates and understands her readers. We can all learn from her!

  • Thank you so much for visiting–everyone! We are overwhelmed and so pleased with everyone coming to cheer Claire on! We are trying to visit everyone’s blogs, too. :) Thank you, thank you, thank you! The winner will be revealed soon! :)

  • I did ‘read’ Must Love Dogs on audio. I’m not a movie person, so I did not see the movie. I enjoyed reading about your writing process!

    • Kim: Thanks for stopping by. That’s how my “husband” reads all his books.

  • Love your books!!

  • Really lovely interview – so much energy and positivity. I’m looking forward to listening to Claire talking on the Book report radio show tomorrow, and I’m somewhat hoping Elaine Charles (host) will be asking her more about the marital bed scene. Also, why does BJ get burnt in the end – an opening for a friend to reciprocate?

So, what do you think?