I had the wonderful opportunity to interview YA author Trish Cook about her writing and her new novel, Outward Blonde, which will be released on Oct. 18, exclusively at Barnes and Noble. Check out the interview below and make sure to grab a copy of her new book.
What made you first start writing?
I’ve always loved reading and have a super-active imagination. Those two qualities seem to lend themselves really well to the writing life. In grade school, I was always writing short stories. In high school, angst poetry. In college, personal essays. From there, I really wanted to tackle a novel. It’s all a journey but long story short: I’ve always loved to write and have always done it for enjoyment.
What is your writing process like?
My process is that an idea captures my imagination, whether it’s a wild story I heard that happened to someone or something in the news or just a snippet that comes to me organically. I use whatever idea has sparked my interest as a jumping off point and the story starts to shape around that. Once I have a general idea of the plot—maybe I’ve let the idea run around my brain for a good week or so—I sit down at my computer in my neon green, hot pink, and orange office and start to write. I don’t outline or try to get too down and dirty with details in the beginning, because I like to see what turns the story takes naturally as it goes along. My characters often surprise me and I love it. That’s one of the most exciting and interesting parts about writing for me.
Your latest novel, Outward Blonde, is about a teen sent to a kind of rehab camp. How did you come up with that idea?
My publisher, Adaptive Studios, has a really unique way of approaching YA books: They take unmade film projects and ask YA writers to create novels based on them. Outward Blonde was originally a movie set to star Hilary Duff! Adaptive came to me with what they call a “spark page”—just the most basic outline of what the story is: A spoiled, rich New York girl gets in trouble and gets sent to wilderness camp. I never read the script for the movie that was never made. I just developed the story based off the spark page and had so much fun doing it.
If you had to summarize Outward Blonde in three words how would you summarize it?
Funny, fierce, and deep.
You’re currently writing a memoir. How is writing that different than writing YA novels?
Writing a memoir is actually pretty similar to writing a YA novel. For both, you have to create a definitive story arc, complex characters, interesting dialogue. Where they differ, though, is that you have to try and recreate moments exactly as they happened in a memoir, as closely as you can—you are going for total truthfulness. In YA, you can let your imagination run wild and make up whatever you want to. But they are both fun in different ways!
You also co-wrote A Really Awesome Mess with Brendan Halpin. How was co-writing with someone different than just writing by yourself?
Writing with Brendan was awesome. He is married to my best friend from junior high school! We live in different cities, halfway across the country from each other, so we did it all over email. We wrote in alternating chapters, with him writing the guy’s part and me writing the girl’s part. It was like improv. I would hand him off a chapter and wait. I never knew what was going to happen next and it was always such a surprise because all sorts of things I never expected happened. I loved having to be flexible and just go with whatever he’d thrown out there, and vice versa.
I thought collaborating would be this easy and fun no matter who your writing partner is but as it turns out, no. I’ve tried co-writing with other people and it’s never matched the experience/vibe/flow I have with Brendan.
Are you working on any other YA novels right now?
I am! I have this big idea I’m just starting to put on paper that was sparked by a crazy news story. It’s still very much at the fledgling idea stage so we’ll see if it works out!
Who are some of your favorite authors right now?
In YA, favorites right now are Joelle Charbonneau, Christa Desir, and John Green. If we’re going old school, Judy Blume. My favorite book in high school was The Cheerleader by Ruth Doan MacDougall, which no one has ever heard of but it was thrilling to me, to think teens back in the 1950s were the same as teens when I was growing up, which are the same as teens now. The milestones you have to go through are universal, no matter what generation you grow up in. Also, the best book I’ve read lately, while not strictly YA, is a memoir called Look at You Now by Liz Pryor. It’s about a pregnant teen sent to a lock-up facility to have her baby, and it is beautifully written and so compelling.
Besides writing, what other hobbies are you interested in?
My biggest hobby outside of writing is that I row with a master’s crew. Right now, we’re training for the Head of the Charles regatta in Boston. I also love traveling, going to concerts, watching the Chicago Blackhawks and high school/college field hockey, [eating] sushi, and hanging with my family.
Do you have any advice for aspiring writers?
OMG YES. Write. And keep on writing. And don’t let anyone make you stop. Share your writing with friends you trust, or find an online community. Writing is a lonely sport, but we do it to connect with others through words. So let someone see what you’re doing. You’ll get better because of it and find a sense of camaraderie too. Join clubs at school, like the newspaper or literary magazine, and share your talents with others. Be brave and submit your writing to contests. There are even summer programs and literary conferences that are like writing camps where you can go and bond with other creative people. Dream big. Why not? You never know what you can do unless you try. Trust that you know yourself well enough that you’re probably not going to grow out of whatever it is you dream of doing. If you’re scared—even more reason to give it a shot. That just means you’re stepping out of your comfort zone and that’s okay. Be brave. Start now.