Day 20 Claire Cook – Optimistic and Fun

Never Too Late

I might as well jump right in with the embarrassing part: I don’t exactly know what kind of books I write.

Time Flies cover TouchstoneHere’s how it happened: By the time I finally broke through the fear and procrastination and managed to write my first novel, in my minivan in the parking lot outside my daughter’s swim practice no less, I was almost 45. I didn’t really think about genre or category—I just wrote the book that was in my heart. It sold, my next books went to auction, and at 50, I walked the red carpet at the Hollywood premiere of the Warner Bros. adaptation of MUST LOVE DOGS starring Diane Lane and John Cusack. I got completely swept up in that magical experience, and then I rolled up my sleeves and kept writing.

Eventually I casually asked one of my editors how she would classify my books, and she said “upmarket contemporary fiction.” No offense to my former editor, but that sounded way too snobby to me, so when asked I’d dodge the question and keep writing.

Then chicklit was hot, before it was not. When I’d see my novels lumped in, the truth was I felt henlit might be more appropriate given my late-blooming career, but I was too busy writing the next one to give it much thought.

Women’s fiction became a category and suddenly my books were in it. On the one hand, it seemed more age-appropriate, but it also kind of made me itch. I mean, really. Women’s fiction? Like there’s only one kind of woman? One kind of book she writes?

Then I was invited to speak to a big group of romance writers. They were awesome! Feisty. Friendly. Teal streaks in gray hair. Kickass business sense. Names like Raven, Seressia, Delaney, Daisy. (Okay, more embarrassment: I was in my car driving home before I considered the possibility of pseudonyms.)

Wallflower in BloomOf course, I’d read romance before. At least I was pretty sure I had. I don’t think you can be a writer unless you’re an avid, joyful reader, so I’ve always read widely and voraciously, but again, I was category-blind. The cover called out to me, or the title, or somebody told me it was a must-read, or I met the author, virtually or in person, and liked her.

But this time it hit me. Isn’t there a romance at the heart of each of my ten novels? My heroines are all looking for their next chapters, each reinventing herself in some way, and isn’t that also part of a true journey of the heart? And they’re optimistic, those novels of mine, with underlying messages of “it’s never too late” and “midlife rocks.” And they’re fun. I’m pretty sure you get romance points for fun, right?

My name is Claire and I just might be a romance writer after all. And if I’m not, break it to me gently. Because I totally want to hang out with you all.

Recommendations: I just got a lovely email from a debut author named Jessica Topper, whose LOUDER THAN LOVE will be published by Penguin in September. She took the time to tell me that the tarantula-in-the-restroom scene in in my SEVEN YEAR SWITCH and the Sumo wrestling suit kiss in my SUMMER BLOWOUT both made her laugh until she cried. I just so happened to be having a really tough writing day when her email came in, and her kind words lifted me up and made me remember that I can do this. So, thanks, Jessica, and I wish you much joy and success with LOUDER THAN LOVE.


Questions for Claire:

What is the craziest or ugliest object in your house, and why do you keep it?

MLDchairI have a director’s chair with my name on it that’s signed by the actors in MUST LOVE DOGS—John Cusack, Dermot Mulroney (who wrote “Write On!”), Diane Lane, Elizabeth Perkins, Christopher Plummer, Stockard Channing. What’s crazy about it is that when a movie wraps, you’re only supposed to get the canvas backrest part with the movie title on one side and your name on the other—it slides right off. But I was so dorkily excited when they surprised me with my own chair that they decided I could keep the whole thing. I wouldn’t let them ship it in case they forgot, so I clunked along through LAX dragging this massive, heavy, folded chair, and the flight attendants actually let me take it on the plane with me!

If there was a movie made about your life, what would it be called? (And just for fun, who would play you?)

NEVER TOO LATE starring Meryl Streep. Not that she looks anything like me, but she’d find a way.

What is the best non-monetary gift you ever received?

My husband and kids. I know, aww, but it’s true.

If you had to pick one romantic scene or couple to recommend to a first-time reader of YOUR books, which would it be? (Any picks for romance novels in general?)

Maybe the scene in TIME FLIES when Melanie, in preparation for a road trip to her high school reunion, plays spin-the-bottle with scanned high school photos of her former classmates taped to the business ends of a mop and two brooms. Okay, so maybe I’m not a romance writer after all!


You are reading this essay at ReadARomanceMonth.com. Be sure to visit the About Read-A-Romance Month to learn more, or the Authors & Contributors page to see a list of all the great romance writers who are participating in celebrating the romance genre during the month of August.  Also visit the Awesome Contests page to see how you can register each week to win “A Month of Romance” (31 books), e-readers, and even the Grand Central Grand Prize, an iPad mini. If you love romance, then this is the place to be!

 

Claire is generously donating three autographed copies of TIME FLIES to U.S. readers (apologies to international readers.). U.S. readers, to enter, either leave a comment here or enter the weekly drawing on the contest page. Or both.  (Only one entry per commenter per post, though – multiple comments on one essay does not give you more chances.)  Comment entries must be posted by 11:59pm EST Aug 20 to be eligible, though winners will be announced the following week.


Claire Cook

Claire Cook is the critically acclaimed and award-winning author of ten novels. She’s been a judge for the Family Circle magazine fiction contest, a finalist and a judge for the Thurber Prize for American Humor, and the Beach Read Festival fiction and grand prize winner. “The exuberant and charming Claire Cook is one of the sassiest and funniest creators of contemporary women’s fiction,” according to The Times-Picayune. People Magazine says her writing “goes down as easy as it sounds,” Good Housekeeping calls it “laugh-out-loud,” Redbook “gleefully quirky” and the Chicago Tribune “funny and pitch perfect.” The Today Show featured Claire as a “Today’s Woman.”

Claire was a teacher for sixteen years in a beach town between Boston and Cape Cod before she wrote her first novel. She has recently moved with her husband to the suburbs of Atlanta to be closer to their kids, who are no longer teenagers and actually speak to them again. Visit Claire at www.ClaireCook.com and hang out with her on Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest.

 

Buy Claire’s Books on Amazon or Barnes & Noble

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  • Melanie Backus

    I love your story and I love your book! I am sure keeping my fingers crossed!

  • Lorelei’s Lit Lair

    Claire Cook, you are one cool lady. Loved reading how you started -the red carpet!- and I’ll get back to you on if you are truly a romance writer. I haven’t read your books, but I’m going to fix that. I look forward to reading your stories now.

  • Anne

    Thank you for sharing! I really enjoyed your essay. Keep writing!

  • NicoleWonderlin

    What a delightfully unexpected find – stumbled upon this essay through Twitter and I’m now feeling very positive about life’s possibilities this morning! 🙂

    • lovely, Nicole! Hope you’ll spend some time wandering around ReadARomanceMonth.com – lots of great essays here! xoxo

  • Meredith Richardson

    I love that you wrote your first novel at your daughters swim practice… Just goes to show all new writers that you can write a book anywhere!!

    • right?! no excuses. xoxo (…Bobbi reminds herself…) ;o)

  • Joanne Ozment

    Love the story about the chair.

  • Britney Adams

    Claire Cook writes MUST READ books! They are always so full of wit, humor and charm! I love this post and I love Claire Cook’s writing!!!!!

  • Ketta Peters

    Time Flies sounds like fun, I’m sure I’ll enjoy it as much as Must Love Dogs and Multiple Choice. I love that you’re a “late-bloomer” — gives me hope for myself! ;D

  • Sharlene Wegner

    Lucky you, getting to meet John Cusack! I love him! Loved the movie, too! I like the title Never Too Late. Maybe I could follow that advise!

  • Kareni

    Many thanks for your blog post. (I have a friend whose nickname is Hen, and I’m definitely going to share your term Henlit with her!)

    Write on!

  • CherylR

    Love the picture of you and the chair at the airport.

  • Melissa Cowling Terry

    I love your books!

  • TrishJ

    I must confess I have not read any of your books. I did see the movie though. So now I have another author to try. I am loving this!!

  • Kathy Apa

    Would love to read this

    • Thank you, Kathy! Hope you’re enjoying all of the essays on ReadARomanceMonth.com :o)

  • Dawn Leas

    I so enjoyed WALLFLOWER IN BLOOM and am looking forward to TIME FLIES. Your writing is engaging and interesting, but your back story even more so to me. I am primarily a poet who has one chapter of a novel saved in the recesses of my laptop. I am approaching 45 faster than I ever thought possible, and your story exemplifies the meaning of “it’s never too late…”

    • Right? Loved this essay. And love Claire Cook! xoxo Hope you’re enjoying all of the essays on ReadARomanceMonth.com, Dawn

  • Nova Conover

    love the name of the movie about you plus the actress you would want to be you in the movie!!

    • Thanks, Nova! Hope you’re enjoying all of the essays on ReadARomanceMonth.com xoxo

  • Angela Crowley

    LOve Timeflies some chapters felt like my life lol

  • kristintahai

    Would love to win a copy – I love Claire’s books! Thanks for the opportunity!

    • Good luck, Kristin.

      Hope you’re enjoying all of the essays on ReadARomanceMonth.com

  • Vinobaby

    I adore Claire’s books. They are always good for a gigggle!

    • Right?! ;o) Thanks Vinobaby — Hope you’re enjoying all of the essays on ReadARomanceMonth.com

  • M Kuxhaus

    I think it’s great you don’t know what genre your books fall under; why limit them to only one reader base?

  • Pamela Harper McNeiece

    I don’t have this yet!!! Want to read it so bad!!! And I would treasure a signed copy!

    • Good luck, Pamela! Hope you’re enjoying all of the essays on ReadARomanceMonth.com

  • Jenny Martin

    What a great giveaway–I have this down on my to read list in case I don’t win!

    • Yay! Hope you’re enjoying all of the essays on ReadARomanceMonth.com

  • Hope Stern

    Read them all and your latest just might be really close to my story of leaving NJ and coming to ATL…..

    • Aren’t they great? Thanks for the comment, Hope!

      Also hope you’re enjoying all of the essays on ReadARomanceMonth.com

  • Ellen Brinegar

    Love your writing!

    • Thanks for being here! Hope you’ll take a peek at all of the essays on ReadARomanceMonth.com

  • Jessica DeLeon

    Thanks for the giveaway!

    • You’re welcome, good luck! Hope you’re enjoying all of the essays on ReadARomanceMonth.com

  • Kathleen Cottone-Fink

    I loved reading Time Flies… it’s one of my favorites!

    • I can’t wait! Hope you’re enjoying all of the essays on ReadARomanceMonth.com

  • Bonnie Franks

    This book has been calling to me since I saw the cover! Hope I win and thanks for the opportunity!

    • Hi, Bonnie! Thanks for the comment! Hope you’re enjoying all of the essays on ReadARomanceMonth.com

  • Kimberly J. Byrd Lucas

    I say who cares what they call it, as long as they keep reading your writing! And they (and I) will because it’s GOOD!

    • Nice! And agreed! Hope you’re enjoying all of the essays on ReadARomanceMonth.com

  • Kim Cornwell

    Who cares! Your books sound like a great read! I will be looking for them. Love meeting new authors! Love your covers too! Thanks for stopping by!

  • Sandra

    I love reading!! I read everything I can get my hands on, lol. I adore Claire’s books. Great contest, thanks!

  • Linda Hewitt

    Claire writes for us “semi-old ladies”! I love her books and would love to read another. She inspires me and helps me deal with everyday life with a sense of humor.

  • Valerie

    I love your chair story! That is totally awesome!

  • Della Taraska

    Claire has become one of my most fave of Authors. 🙂 Love your Time Flies!

  • Mary McCoy

    I love the idea of henlit! Thank you for your books!

  • Meg Staib Munson

    Love Claire’s books!!!

  • Robin Coughlin

    I feel sexy reading between the covers!

  • QuenKne M

    I don’t care what genre you books are in, I love all of them!! And I love that all of them (at least the ones I’ve read so far) have a humorous touch. Keep up the great writing!

  • Martha Franks

    Claire Cook is one of my very favorite authors. I would love to win this book!

  • Tiffany Drew

    I still haven’t had the pleasure of reading one of her books, but hopefully I can start here!

  • Pamby50

    I loved the movie Must Love Dogs. That you doubted what kind of books you write, makes me want to read one.

  • Carolyn Clement McDonough

    I love that I can so easily identify with the characters in Claire’s stories. They could be my neighbors, my friends, my family, or (gasp!) even myself! Her stories show that there is hope for us all!

  • girlygirlhoosier52

    Must Love Dogs was just the best!! Thanks for still writing great stuff!!

  • Marcy Shuler

    Tarantula-in-the-restroom scene? Sumo wrestling suit kiss? LOL Okay, now I have to check out your books!

  • Courtney Cogswell

    Love your books and of course, Must Love Dogs is one of my favorites since I myself am the proud dog mom of five rescue dogs. I love romance as a genre but I’ve found so many other books I enjoy as well over the years by not feeling beholden to one particular genre. However, I always seem to gravitate to stories with at least a hint of romance at their core. No matter what category your books get lumped into, I definitely put them in a favorite category for myself. Thanks so much!

  • Jencey Gortney

    Claire you truly are an inspiration! 🙂

  • Courtney McGowan

    Hi Claire! I’m from Scituate too. 🙂 Your books are a great escape into a world we can all relate to; feeling stuck, wanting a change, reinvention, etc. I love them!

  • queen17

    I would love this book

  • Larena Hubble

    great post. I enjoy reading pretty much everything too though my favorites are always romance.

  • MaryC

    Love your books!
    I’ve always wondered why there isn’t a men’s fiction category.

  • Sue G.

    Yay for middle age! I hope to win. Thanks for the chance.

  • Susan Coster

    Oh, Claire, I would love to win your new novel, Time Flies……

  • DarcyO

    This one’s on my TBR list. Claire Cook writes the funnest books!

  • Becky Rabalais

    Oh gosh, I live in a suburb of Atlanta. We might be neighbors. Might have stood next to you in the grocery line:)

  • Martha Lawton

    LOVE the term henlit!

  • Jennifer Huelsebusch

    I would love to read this!

  • Karen Gallagher

    I know this is about books, but I really want to hear about John Cusack. 😉

  • Wow, what a lovely post, Claire! Thank you for the sweet words and recommendation, truly. I agonized over wording that email, not wanting to appear like a pest or a random crazy chick. LOL Glad it had the opposite effect. 🙂

    I imagine launching a book out into the world is a little like sitting on a desert island, waiting for someone to come find you. And your well wishes today felt like a message in a bottle. Many thanks once again!

  • Kristen Pfister

    Such a huge fan! Thanks for the chance to win! “Write On”

  • Ann

    Write on! is right!!!

  • Laurie Lawton

    you are a great author and I enjoy your books… keep up the good work!!

  • Glenda

    The directors chair story is a perfect example of how something may be a little thing for some people but a major thing for others. Romance, and other novels of undetermined or unlabeled genres, definitely fit this bill. Thanks for making a difference in peoples lives.

  • leah g

    I love your post. I always sort of wondered what ChickLit is myself. Is it weird that people often get offended when you call them a ‘chick’ but ChickLit is ok? I like henlit much better I think.
    OH and I love your books whatever they may be categorized as.

  • Pam

    Hi Claire! I’m from Scituate, and in the final throes of my first novel (based in Scituate) (at 52!). I’ve been accepted to a few residencies and have my fingers crossed it will find a publisher. But first I guess I’ll have to figure out whether it’s literary fiction, mass market, mystery, crime, chick lit, contemporary upchuck, whatever, to write the scores of query letters I’ll need. I’m wondering, how about the hoping-people-like-it category? That might work, with a little luck. Clearly, whatever people deem them, yours are in the people-love-them category. Congratulations on all your success. You’re an inspiration!

  • BookLady

    What a wonderful post! I enjoyed reading about your writing experience as a romance author. Loved the story about the director’s chair. Thanks for sharing.

  • What a great post 🙂 Thanks, Claire! I need to read your books!

  • Karin Anderson

    We’re a pretty welcoming lot, so jump on board!

  • Kim

    Thanks for sharing! I love the director’s chair!

  • Flora Segura-Buchler

    Write on, indeed! I’m so glad that you kept your director’s chair, Claire. I’m also glad that I was not drinking anything while I read that part of your blogpost because my computer screen and keyboard would be such a mess right now!

  • rebecca moe

    *I* think you’re a romance writer, FWIW. And I love your director’s chair story!

  • Holly Manes

    I love all of your books, but this one is my very favorite!! Please pick me! 😀

  • Jen C

    Great post! 🙂

  • Stephanie M.

    Thank you for making me laugh today. I needed it. Loved your essay.

  • Karen Waskewich

    Love your books! And would love to win this one!!

  • Justrinelev

    Lol – I’m so glad to have happened on this post. I’ve not read any of your novels, but was looking into the author who’s being interviewed by Elaine Charles tomorrow on the Book report radio show – and now I’m really really looking forward to it – you are super fun girl!