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Catherine Cooper Interview

Posted on 12 September 2013. © Copyright 2004-2024 WriteWords
A longer version of this interview is available to WriteWords Full and Community Members.
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WriteWords talks to fiction writer and journalist Catherine Cooper, aka WW member cacooper

What have you written?

One chick lit novel, four YA novels, and a non-fiction book about Travelling with Children, which is the only one that has been published. Plus I’m a journalist, so a lot of features about everything from hair mousse to cancer. My main journalism areas are health, parenting and travel. This is my journalism website: http://www.catherinecooper.net

What are you working on right now?

My fifth YA novel which I’m desperately hoping will be “the one.”

You’re a journalist- how does this influence your fiction writing?

I’m not sure it does really. Actually – thinking about it – some of my books include an element of press interest in various characters for one reason or another because it’s a world that I know. I used to be a court reporter and one of my books has a long court scene in which I really enjoyed writing. I suppose I am quite a stickler for accuracy in my fiction –maybe that comes from being a journalist.

How, when and why did you first start writing?

I’ve always enjoyed writing since I was a child. I had my first short story published when I was at university in Just 17. I was beside myself – I’d only sent it off to get a rejection slip because I thought it would look like I was making an effort to get things published when I applied to do my post-grad pre-entry course. It was the first thing I had ever submitted for publication so because it was accepted, and because I was 19 and therefore invincible – I assumed I was majorly talented. I didn’t have another short story published for many years – and even that one was a kind of grown up version of my original teen story. Not a genius after all….

Who are your favourite writers/books/influences?

It changes almost daily but books that have stayed with me lately include Room, Gone Girl, Kiss Me First, Torn by Cat Clarke, Heart Shaped Bruise by Tanya Byrne, My Sister Lives on the Mantlepiece. I read a lot – there is some amazing stuff out there but also, if I’m honest, some stuff I think is pretty poor too.

How did you get your agent?

I’ve actually had two. When I was in my late 20s I started writing a chick lit novel and then got pregnant. I kind of thought “it’s now or never” so even though I’d only done a few chapters, sent it off to various agencies. One (an agent at Darley Anderson) liked it and asked to see the rest. She didn’t seem bothered by my rather lame “oh it’s not finished yet” but obviously my pregnancy gave me a natural deadline, so I worked hard and submitted it just before my son was born. The phone rang as I came home from hospital to say that she loved the book but it was too short. So I wrote another 20,000 words in Toby’s early days during his naps and she took it on. She was incredibly enthusiastic about it but unfortunately, the publishers weren’t.

I started a few books in the next few years but nothing really clicked. I discovered YA just a few years ago after bidding for mentorship from YA author Keris Stainton in her Authors for Japan auction following the earthquake and found I totally love it. I wrote a book with her helping out (she was very helpful even though she didn’t really rate the book!) I sent it to a few agents and it was picked up by Sheil Land by an agent there who was building up a children’s list. I think basically she liked my style but not the entire book – I totally redrafted it and eventually she took me on. She’s now submitted three YA books for me – we’ve had a few near misses but no hits so far.

What's the worst thing about writing?

Waiting. I’m not a patient person and find the pace of the submissions process soooooo sloooooooow.

And the best?

When you suddenly have an amazing idea which makes whatever you are writing click into place. I tend to start out with only the vaguest idea of where my books are going, which I’m not sure is a good or bad thing (probably bad.)

A longer version of this interview is available to WriteWords Full and Community Members.
Click here to learn more about becoming a member.

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