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FAQ 2009 Hollywood Book Festival

Interview with Claire Cook, winner of the 2010
Beach Book Festival.

Seven Year Switch is bestselling author Claire Cook’s seventh novel. It has received beach read praise from People, USA Today, The New York Times, and The New York Post. According to Kirkus, “a beach tote couldn’t ask for more.”

It’s the story of a single mother whose husband ran off to join the Peace Corps, leaving her with a three-year-old. Seven years later, just when they’ve figured out how to make it on their own, he’s ba-ack – proving he can’t even run away reliably! Now Jill has to face the fact that there’s simply no way she can be a good mom without letting her ex back into her daughter’s life. They say that every seven years you become a completely new person, and it takes a Costa Rican getaway to help Jill make her choice – between the woman she is and the woman she wants to be.

The Beach Book Festival caught up with Cook before she headed off on her Seven Year Switch book tour.

BEACH BOOK FESTIVAL: Is there a common thread in your novels?
Yes, the common thread is reinvention, though 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. But I kept getting email from people saying that the characters in my novels had not only inspired them, but had given them some great ideas for their own lives.

My characters are all looking for their own next chapters, and often there’s an entrepreneurial twist. Travel and cultural coaching and cooking in Seven Year Switch, buyouts and lavender and clotheslines in The Wildwater Walking Club, etc. There’s nothing rarefied about their lives. They’re trying to find a creative way to make a living during these swiftly changing, crazy times – just like the rest of us!

BEACH BOOK FESTIVAL: What appeals to you about this theme?
Reinvention is the story of my life! So I think it just naturally found its way into my books. After a lifetime of fear and procrastination, I wrote my first novel in my minivan outside my daughter's swim practice when I was 45. It sold to the first publisher who asked to read it, and at 50 I walked the red carpet at the Hollywood premiere of the movie adaptation of my second novel, Must Love Dogs, staring John Cusack and Diane Lane. I love sharing my story, because I think it gives hope to so many people out there with buried dreams of their own. My advice: Dust them off and go for it!

BEACH BOOK FESTIVAL: Do you have a Jill Murray in your life?
Not at all. That’s the joy of writing fiction – you get to make up stuff for a living! While writing each of my novels, I’ve had the vicarious thrill of inhabiting a life very different from my own. I’ve been married forever (to the same guy, no less!), I have two kids, one dog. Lives like mine are great to live, but make for really boring novels. While writing Seven Year Switch, I spent lots of time talking to single mothers, and I also took a research trip to Costa Rica. Tough work but somebody’s gotta do it!

BEACH BOOK FESTIVAL: What do you think of electronic books and readers?
I’m all for anything that keeps people reading, and I’m thrilled that my novels are available electronically. That being said, I spend far too much time staring at a screen already, and I love the tactile joy of flipping through an actual book. So I’m not rushing to jump on board personally, but I think there’s no doubt that publishing is moving in that direction.

BEACH BOOK FESTIVAL: What will you be reading on the beach?
Ha! The truth? I’ll be reading the edits on my eighth novel. The first draft was due the day Seven Year Switch came out, and when I get home from book tour, the edited manuscript will be there to greet me. Because it takes about a year from first draft to publication, writing beach books seriously cuts into my time for reading them. Somehow that doesn’t seem quite fair!

BEACH BOOK FESTIVAL: What’s the secret to being a successful author?
That it’s all about your readers! My readers have made this midlife career of mine possible. They talk up my books to their family and friends and book clubs, and get the word out on the Internet. And they’re the best writing assistants ever! Whenever I’m stuck for a name for a minor character or can’t decide what song should be playing in the background of a scene, I put the word out on Facebook and Twitter – and presto! – I have enough suggestions for the next seven novels. I also get lots of email about my books, and hearing what resonates for my readers has helped me grow as a writer.

To show my gratitude, I have reinvention and writing pages at ClaireCook.com, where I share everything I’ve learned. As one of my characters says, karma is a boomerang!

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