I’m delighted to be hosting Eileen Cook in my hot seat today chatting about The Hanging Girl.
Find out Eileen Cook’s inspiration for her novel, her research, fabulous tips for new writers and more.
Publisher: Hot Key Books (19 Oct. 2017)
Two girls, one fatal reading . . . because the truth always lies in the cards.
Skye’s mother believes she has ‘the gift’ – the ability to see the future. Skye however can only see the opportunity to make money – and happily fleeces her gullible classmates into handing over their cash to hear their futures through Skye’s well-worn tarot cards. But it’s all for a good cause, right? Skye needs to save her hard-earned cash to go to New York with her best mate Drew.
Then the local mayor’s daughter, Paige, disappears – and Skye has a tip off about her whereabouts. Skye is uncomfortable about the source and masks the tip off as a vision.
But things get wildly out of control when Paige is found murdered and Skye is a prime suspect . . .
Available to purchase in digital, hardcover and paperback formats.
Welcome to Jera’s Jamboree.
What was the idea/inspiration for your novel?
The initial inspiration for THE HANGING GIRL came after I went to a conference put on by The Committee for Skeptical Inquiry. They’re a group of people who use science to investigate various topics- including psychics. The session I went to covered how easy it is to fool someone into believing you have psychic ability. I found that fascinating and filed away the information knowing it would be useful for a character.
The second bit of inspiration came after talking to a good friend about lies. I started to think about a character who tells a lie (for a good reason) and how that leads to more lies, until she is in so deep that she has no idea how to get free. I think many people have told a lie to try and make a situation better, that ended up leading to more trouble. (Hopefully not as much trouble as it got the main character, Skye, into!)
Did you do any research for your book Eileen?
One of the things I enjoy best about the writing process is the chance to do research. I love learning things. Sometimes this can become a procrastination technique (I also can spend hours on social media) but I also believe it’s important to making the story feel more three dimensional. As I mentioned above, I went to a conference that included a session on how psychic ability could be faked. That led me to several books on the topic and I also went to several psychics to have my own future told and so I could see how they approached readings.
I felt if I was going to write a character who read tarot cards then I felt it was something that I needed to understand. Especially because reading the future was so important to Skye and her mom. I wouldn’t say I’m very good at it- but I did like learning about the history of tarot and the meanings of different cards.
People ask me if after all this research if I believe in psychics. I want to believe, but I am cynical. I do know that no one has ever been able to demonstrate psychic skills under scientific conditions. This despite the fact, that there is a million dollar offer for anyone who can do it. Having said all that- I love the idea of magic existing in the world so I will always leave that door open.
Who would you cast in the role of your characters if your book were optioned for a movie?
I’m terrible at this question because I tend to want to list actors I’d love to meet versus thinking of who would be a good match for the roles. I’d love to meet Helen Mirren because she’s such a class act and I am pretty sure Jennifer Lawrence, Reese Witherspoon and I would get along great. Ryan Reynolds is a fellow Canuck and is a favorite of mine- all of this has zero to do with my book.
If I’m lucky enough to have a book of mine made into a movie I hope that I have the wisdom to back away and let the people who know what they’re doing when it comes to making a film take the lead- including casting. Having said that, I really want to be invited to the set so I can sit in a fancy director chair that has WRITER emblazoned on the back. And if it’s nominated for an award I want to go to the show so I can get one of those amazing gift bags I always hear about when reading InStyle magazine.
What inspired you to write Eileen?
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. I figured how scary could it 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. Ever since that moment I’ve been writing and on the days that I don’t feel inspired I try to remember that feeling- that magic- and then sit my butt back down in the chair.
Panster or plotter?
The very first book I made up as I went along, but I found that process frustrating. 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 while. Like wine, it gets more complex and interesting if it sits for some time.
The truth is that writing a book is never easy. You either spend a lot of time in the outlining stage trying to get the story right or you write a draft and then must spend the same amount of time fixing all the wrong directions that you chose.
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.
In terms of my process, 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. Of course, there’s also plenty of looking at random things on the Internet, yelling at my dogs to stop digging in the yard, or plotting to buy more shoes.
Which authors have influenced your writing?
This is a hard question because there are so many great books out there. As a kid I loved Roald Dahl (Charlie and the Chocolate Factory), The Mixed Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler, and anything by Judy Blume. Other authors that I like include Stephen King (he still scares the pants off of me) Gillian Flynn, Kate Morton, E Lockhart, Chevy Stevens, Ruth Ware, and Donna Tartt. While I don’t have one favorite book- A Prayer for Owen Meany is one I have read multiple times.
Have you joined any writing groups?
I’m a part of a group called The Creative Academy. (https://ccscreativeacademy.com) This online group has courses, office hours, free resources and is also a great way to connect with other writers.
Are there any tips you could share with new writers?
Read and write a lot. Books, both those you love and even those you dislike, are great teachers. Give yourself permission to read as many as you can! As you start to read as a writer you realize all the choices the author makes- whose point of view, when the story starts, what backstory you know etc. If you like a character try and figure out why. If you find yourself flipping pages like crazy or becoming bored, try and dissect what’s happening that is causing you to feel that way.
The second half of my advice is to write a lot- writing is a craft. You get better the more you do it. It can be discouraging at first because the idea in your head is perfect and shiny and wonderful and your first draft is not. The secret is to push through that process.
Finally Eileen, can you share with us what are you currently working on?
To be honest I am always happiest when I have a project on the go. I love the process of making things up. My current project is called You Owe Me a Murder. It’s a modern spin on the Highsmith/Hitchcock Strangers on a Train. Two young women meet on a flight to London England and this chance encounter leads to murder and blackmail. I’m having so much fun with it! Not the least because it gave me another excuse to return to London which is one of my favorite cities in the world.
Thank you for being my guest.
Wishing you success with all your writing projects.
Eileen Cook is a multi-published author with her novels appearing in eight languages. Her books have been optioned for film and TV. She spent most of her teen years wishing she were someone else or somewhere else, which is great training for a writer. Her newest book, THE HANGING GIRL, came out in October 2017. She’s an instructor/mentor with the Simon Fraser University Writer’s Studio Program.
Eileen lives in Vancouver with her husband and two very naughty dogs and no longer wishes to be anyone or anywhere else.
Connect with Eileen Cook
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