Claire Cook

Wall Flower in BloomClaire Cook wrote her first novel in her minivan when she was 45. At 50, she walked the red carpet at the Hollywood premiere of the movie version of her second novel, Must Love Dogs, starring Diane Lane and John Cusack. She is now the bestselling author of nine novels. (Read excerpts and find book club questions at http://ClaireCook.com and follow Claire at http://facebook.com/ClaireCookauthorpage and http://twitter.com/ClaireCookwrite.)

Join us as the talented and generous Beth Hoffman, NYT bestselling author of Saving CeeCee Honeycutt, interviews Claire Cook about her new novel, Wallflower in Bloom, released this week. It’s a June IndieNext pick, and Publishers Weekly called it “fun and inspiring” and said Cook’s “humor and narrative execution are impeccable.”

Beth: I became an instant fan when I first read Must Love Dogs, and have remained one ever since. I’m tickled how we’ve become friends over the past few years, so it’s a special treat to be interviewing you today.

Claire: Thank you so much for taking time out of your busy life to interview me, Beth. You have been such a true blue friend and supporter, and I adored CeeCee and can’t wait to read your next novel!

Beth: Welcome to the South, honey! How long have you been living in Atlanta and how did that come about?

Claire: Well first of all, let me just say that I was born in Virginia, so I think I should get a tiny bit of Southern street cred for that! As for the move, my daughter graduated from Emory University and stayed in Atlanta. I have two sisters and a stepmother here, too. I've always loved Atlanta, and two of my earlier novels have scenes set here.  So I think it felt like home even before my husband and I moved here last November. I love the friendliness of Atlantans and also the fact that they are such huge readers - practically everyone I've met belongs to a book club. And the gardens are amazing - each morning I rush outside to see what else is in bloom. There's a palm tree in my front yard - you don't get that in New England!

Beth: There’s so much buzz about Wallflower in Bloom. What was your inspiration?

Claire: Wallflower in Bloom began in kind of a crazy way: 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 David Sedaris and Jodi Picoult!

I have the most amazingly supportive readers, and they got all excited and started voting like crazy – and I won the popular vote! GalleyCat sent the petition off the DWTS producers. 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 haven’t - yet! 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 find her own fifteen minutes of fame? 

Beth: I love how vibrant and awake to life you are. Your positive attitude is infectious. Do you have a favorite saying?

Claire: Midlife rocks!

Beth: How would you describe your life in only 8 words?

Claire: Totally thrilled to finally be living my dream!

Beth:  Ah, I like that you brought up the subject of dreams. Looking back over your career, can you pinpoint a moment or event when you recognized that your dream had truly become a reality?

Claire: That’s such an interesting question. In some ways, just having the guts to stare down my fear and insecurity and write that first book made the dream a reality. In other ways, being an author is more a journey than a destination, so I just try to enjoy the good things when they happen and not worry too much about whether they’ll ever happen again or let any one thing become the measure of my success. What I focus on is trying to become a better writer with each book, which is really the only thing I can control.

Beth: What is the greatest challenge you’ve faced as an author?

Claire: Hmm, probably finding the time to do it all. I love writing. I love interacting with readers and book clubs and booksellers and librarians. I love interviews and social networking. But I also love reading, and walking, and trying new things, and hanging out with friends and family. Sometimes it’s hard to find the balance.  

Beth: If you had to pick, which book of yours is your favorite?

Claire: The one I haven’t written yet!

Beth:Love that answer! I’m curious, when do you write?

Claire: I write first thing in the morning, as soon as I wake up. I find that the longer I procrastinate, the less creative I am and the harder it gets to buckle down and get to work. It also feels great to know that I’ve accomplished my daily page goal and it’s not still hanging over my head. Then in the afternoons, I catch up on email - and Facebook and Twitter.

Beth: You’ve worked incredibly hard and have enjoyed many years of success. What advice would you give to emerging writers?

Claire: To rise above the negativity. To write the book that only you can write. To read widely and voraciously. And to go to the For Writers page at ClaireCook.com. I truly believe in sharing with up-and-coming writers, so you’ll find lots more there!

Beth: Thank you so much, Claire. This was fun! Congratulations on the launch of Wallflower in Bloom.

Claire: Thank you so much for your kindness and generosity, Beth. Now get back to work on that novel!