• Birth—February 14, 1955
• Where—Alexandria, Virginia, USA
• Education—B.A., Syracuse University
• Currently—Scituate, Massachusetts
Raised on Nancy Drew mysteries, Claire Cook has wanted to write ever since she was a little girl. She majored in theater and creative writing at Syracuse University and immersed herself in a number of artistic endeavors (copywriter, radio continuity director, garden designer, and dance and aerobics choreographer), yet somehow her dreams got pushed to the side for more real-life matters—like marriage, motherhood, and a teaching career. Decades passed, then one day she found herself parked in her minivan at 5 AM, waiting for her daughter to finish swim practice. She was struck with a now-or-never impulse and began writing on the spot. By the end of the season, she had a first draft. Her first novel, Ready to Fall, was published in 2000, when Cook was 45.
Since then, this "late starter" has more than made up for lost time. She struck gold with her second book, Must Love Dogs. Published in 2002, this story of a middle-aged divorcee whose singles ad produces hilariously unexpected results was declared "funny and pitch-perfect" by the Chicago Tribune and "a hoot" by the Boston Globe. (The novel got a second life in 2005 with the release of the feature film starring Diane Lane and John Cusack.) Cook's subsequent novels, with their wry, witty take on the lives of middle-aged women, have become bestsellers and book club favorites.
Upbeat, gregarious, and grateful for her success, Cook is an inspiration for aspiring writers and women in midlife transition. She tours indefatigably for her novels and genuinely enjoys speaking with fans. She also conducts frequent writing workshops, where she dispenses advice and encouragement in equal measure. "I'm extraordinarily lucky to spend my time doing what I love," she has said on countless occasions. " The workshops are a way to say thank you and open doors that I stumbled through to make it easier for writers coming up behind me.''
From a 2004 Barnes & Noble interview:
• I first knew I was a writer when I was three. My mother entered me in a contest to name the Fizzies whale, and I won in my age group. It's quite possible that mine was the only entry in my age group since "Cutie Fizz" was enough to win my family a six-month supply of Fizzies tablets (root beer was the best flavor) and half a dozen turquoise plastic mugs with removable handles. At six I had my first story on the "Little People's Page" in the Sunday paper (about Hot Dog, the family Dachshund) and at sixteen, I had my first front page feature in the local weekly.
• In the acknowledgments of Multiple Choice I say that even though it's probably undignified to admit it, I'm having a blast as a novelist. To clarify that, having a blast as a novelist does not necessarily mean having a blast with the actual writing. The people part—meeting readers and booksellers and librarians and the media—is very social and I'm having lots of fun with that. The writing part is great, too, once you get past the procrastination, the self-doubt, and the feelings of utter despair. It's all of the stuff surrounding the writing that's hard; once you find your zone, your place of flow, or whatever it is we're currently calling it, and lose yourself in the writing, it really is quite wonderful. I've heard writers say it's better than sex, though I'm not sure I'd go that far.
• I love books that don't wrap everything up too neatly at the end, and I think it's a big compliment to hear that a reader is left wanting more. After each novel, I hear from many readers asking for a sequel— they say they just have to find out what will happen to these people next. I think it's wonderful that the characters have come to life for them. But, for now, I think I'll grow more as a writer by trying to create another group of quirky characters. Maybe a few books down the road, I'll feel ready to return to some of them—who knows?
• When asked what book most influenced her life as a writer, here is what she said:
I get asked this question a lot on book tour, and I'm always tempted to say anything by Jane Austen or Alice Munro, just so people will know I'm well read, and sometimes I'm even tempted to say something by Gogol, just so people will think I'm really, really well read. But, alas, ultimately I tell the truth. The Nancy Drew books influenced me the most. I think they taught me a lot about pacing, and about ending chapters in such a way that the reader just can't put the book down and absolutely has to read on to the next chapter. I also think these books are responsible for the fact that I can't, for the life of me, write a chapter that's much longer than ten pages.
There's another variation of this question that I'm asked all the time on book tour: Who are your favorite authors? I always answer it the same way: My favorite authors are the ones who've been nice to me. It's so important for established authors to take emerging authors under their wings. Two who've been particularly generous to me as mentors and friends are Mameve Medwed and Jeanne Ray. Fortunately, they both happen to be very talented—and funny—so if you've somehow missed their books, you should read them immediately.
(Author bio and interview from Barnes & Noble.)
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