So, I’m beyond thrilled to have my first guest blogging contributor, the fabulous YA author, Eileen Cook. Not only is she fantastically talented, but I suspect we may be related in some twisted, obscure way. We both love fabulous shoes, love cooking, love our dogs… the list goes on and on. Most importantly, we both love to write and boy, is she good at it– her latest, The Education of Hailey Kendrick, about a good girl who breaks a big rule in a big way, is out this week.
But let’s go back to the beginning, shall we? What sent Eileen down the road to becoming an elegantly-shod, hysterically funny YA author?
Stephen King made me want to be a writer. When I was about nine I picked up his book Salem’s Lot, at the library, in addition to my usual stack of choose your own adventure books, Nancy Drew mystery, and the latest from Judy Blume. At the check out the librarian took one look at the book and made a face similar to what might happened if you took a big bite of cottage cheese that was months past the expiration date.
“You don’t want to read this,” she said. “This is a nasty book. Nasty.”
Instantly my interest in the book went from mild to passionate. Nasty? How delightful. I didn’t want to read this book, I needed to read it. My mom took the book from me and after reading the flap determined that I could read the book if I wanted, but warned me it would be scary.
I waved off her concern. Pffft. It was just a book. It was all made up. I was a very mature nine. I understood the concept of make believe versus reality. How absurd would it be to be scared of something silly like that? I went home and began the book that very night.
I slept with the light on for at least two months. I’d lay in bed quivering with dread as I heard vampires slowly lurching down the hallway.
The strange thing was that I still knew it was made up. This Stephen King fellow had imagined the whole thing. Even though I knew it wasn’t real, what I felt was real. That was the first time I can remember the distinct plan that I wanted to be a writer. I wanted to create stories that would make people feel. What he had done seemed magical to me- to imagine things and then bring them to life.
When I read Gone with the Wind I wanted to scream in frustration with Scarlett. How could she not realize that Rhett was the far better choice? I cried when Old Yeller died. Giant sucking sobs. I’ve laughed out loud with characters, cheered when they got their happy endings, and felt rage on their behalf knowing the entire time that I cared for nothing more than wisps of imagination.
So even though I knew I wanted to be a writer, for years I didn’t let myself see it as a serious option. It seems like wishing to be a princess or a super hero. A nice idea, but not very practical. I focused on getting a “real job” and let writing be my hobby. In 2000 I took yet another writing class. The instructor encouraged me to start sending my work out. She told me I was good, maybe even good enough to be published. I remember clutching my notebook to my chest and telling her I couldn’t. What if I were rejected?
She looked at me and said: “I hate to be the one to tell you this, but you are already not published. The worst thing that is going to happen to you is that you still won’t be published.”
That was my light bulb moment. If I wanted to make imaginary worlds real, if I wanted to create the kinds of books that I loved to read, then I was going to have to take a risk. Yes it would be scary, but no scarier than Stephen King’s vampires.
And that was how I became a writer. (I’m going to skip over the vast amounts of rejection that came between the inspirational story and final publication)
What book made you want to write? Or what book made you feel those real emotions?