Claire, Welcome to Writer’s Corner. We are so glad to have you here. I recently met up with Claire at Barnes and Noble in Atlanta, Georgia. I am excited to have her share about her new book Wallflowerin Bloom.
You share reinvention tips for women on your website, http://ClaireCook.com. What appealed to you about this topic?
Reinvention is the story of my life, so I think it just naturally found its way into my books, and it's the common thread in my nine novels. The characters in my novels are all looking for their own next chapters, each in a different way.
After a decades of procrastination and 16 years as a teacher, I wrote my first novel in my minivan outside my daughter's swim practice when I was 45. At 50 I walked the red carpet at the Hollywood premiere of the movie adaptation of my second novel, Must Love Dogs, starring Diane Lane and John Cusack. I'm now 56 and the bestselling author of eight novels.
I love sharing my story because I think it's important to get the word out there that when it comes to becoming a published writer, there's no expiration date. I don't even think there's a "best by" date. In one of the many gifts of midlife, I've learned that I don't have to write everybody's books, just mine. One of my gifts as a novelist is to make people laugh. And also to recognize themselves and their quirky families and maybe feel a little bit better about them. I play to my strengths. I understand people, so my novels are character-driven. I'm a huge eavesdropper, which has taught me to write dialog that rings true. I know who I am and try to bring those unique qualities to write the books that only I can write.
How does your latest work Wallflower in Bloom follow this theme?
Wallflower in Bloom began in kind of a crazy way. The publishing blog GalleyCat asked its Facebook readers which author they’d most like to see on Dancing With the Stars. Amazingly, I was one of the authors nominated, along with Nora Roberts, Jodi Picoult, Harlan Coban, Ally Carter, David Sedaris, Andy Borowitz, Tatiana Soli, Tishani Dosh and Kathy Patrick.
I have such true blue, incredibly supportive readers, and they got all excited and started voting like crazy – and I won the vote! GalleyCat sent the petition off to the DWTS producers. It was all over Facebook and Twitter, and everyone started asking me if I’d really do it. “Of course, I would,” I said, my knees shaking. “Not just for me, but for midlife women everywhere.” I totally would have done it, shaky knees and all, if Dancing with the Stars had ever called, which they didn't! But I have to admit it was a lot less stressful to turn the experience into the jumping off point for Wallflower in Bloom.
What was intriguing to me was the thought of a non-celebrity suddenly dropped into a celebrity world. And then I started thinking what if the heroine was the personal assistant to her famous brother, who was the family star. And what if she somehow used his connections to reinvent herself and find her own fifteen minutes of fame?
When can we expect your next novel?
Touchstone will publish my next novel, Time Flies, in June 2013. We’ll be doing lots of fun promotions as things get closer, so head over to http://ClaireCook.com and sign up for my newsletter to stay in the loop.
Is there any news about your work coming back to the big screen?
I’ve had several other books optioned for movies, but so far, Must Love Dogs is the only one that has made it all the way. Another one is getting close though, so cross your fingers for me!
How do you advise women to make approach change when considering a reinvention?
1. Rise above the negativity. Whatever the motive, lots of people will tell you why you can’t or shouldn’t do whatever it is you want to do. You just have to decide to do it anyway. You might want to protect yourself a bit in the beginning, too. I didn’t tell anyone about my first novel until it was finished. You don’t need anyone’s permission – just do it!
2. Be who you really are. The big buzz word these days is branding, but I think of it as authenticity. This is the first job I’ve ever had where I wasn’t pretending, or at least trying to pretend, to be a slightly different person. Who I am and what I write are totally in synch. There’s tremendous power in that!
3. Confound expectations. If everybody’s doing it, it’s already been done. Put a little surprise in everything you do. Originality counts!
4. Do something nice for someone. It’s easy to get needy when you’re struggling to figure out what’s next, but many of the great things that have happened to me (including a Today Show feature!) were triggered by something nice I did for someone else. People talk; your actions determine what they say. As one of my characters once said, karma is a boomerang.
5. Get your tech together. Everything you need to know about the world you want to conquer can be found online. Get your computer skills up to speed – fast! Take a class or find a computer mentor. Research. Network. Create an online presence on Facebook and Twitter. The Internet is a great equalizer – and there are so many opportunities out there just waiting for you to take advantage of them!
And, of course, read my novels, which all contain ideas for your next reinvention.
Thank you Claire for visiting Writer's Corner today. You can reach Claire via Facebook , twitter, and on her website.