Today we are lucky to have superstar author Ms. Caroline B. Cooney. She has written more than 75, let me repeat 75 novels for young adults, which have sold over 15, yes let me repeat again 15 million copies worldwide. Her series The Face on the Milk Carton is well known by many, and even made into a television movie. Her recent titles have won many honors, including a Christopher Award, Church and Synagogue Library Association Award, a nomination for Best Book for Young Adults, and National Science Teachers award. As if that wasn’t enough to keep her busy, Ms. Cooney is the mother of three grown children and three grandchildren. I had the great honor of interviewing her and without further ado… I present… THE INTERVIEW!!!
CZX: Why did you choose to write for young adults?
CBC: I wrote eight books – suspense novels, family sagas – which never sold. Then a short story sold to Seventeen Magazine, and shortly I had sold more to other teen magazines of the day. An editor at Scholastic asked me to use another short story I’d written for Seventeen as the outline for a teen romance novel. I loved writing that and I stayed with YA books.
CZX: What is the most challenging aspect of writing for you? What is the most rewarding?
CBC: I enjoy writing. I always have too much to say and too many plot lines and too many thoughts. The problem is forcing myself to discard the bulk of this – it’s just clutter – and settle on the one true story I’m trying to tell. It can take a lot of pages before I can discern what that is.
CZX: How do your initial ideas change and evolve during the writing and revising process?
CBC: The original plot scarcely ever stands. Almost every week, on my computer folder marked “outline” I do a total rewrite based on what I have accomplished and what I now see awaiting me.
CZX: How do you overcome writer’s block?
CBC: Writer’s block …. Think about it: dentists don’t have dental block and teachers don’t have teaching block and daycare helpers don’t have toddler block. They just go to work regardless of whether they’re in the mood. You too simply have to sit down and work.
CZX: What projects are you working on right now? What’s coming soon?
CBC: I’m writing a suspense novel but I find it difficult to talk about books that don’t exist yet. I don’t myself know precisely where this book is going or even who the important person in the book is. So instead I’ll tell you that my just finished book is called Three Black Swans. Missy and Claire are cousins with an eerie resemblance to one another. Missy hears an interview on a radio station and suddenly knows something she had never guessed and now she wants to know more. She coaxes Claire to get involved with a high school video and has half-thought-out plans for how to use that video to get more information. The video is immediately put on YouTube and yes, other people do have more information. But the truth about the cousins’ resemblance is shocking, and now that it’s revealed, Missy may have destroyed her family.
CZX: If you weren’t a writer, what would your occupation be?
CBC: Luckily for me, I am a writer, because I have few other skills. I type well That’s it.
CZX: Can you give us a walkthrough of a typical day in your life?
CBC: I believe keeping to routines is crucial to producing anything. After coffee and newspapers, I go to the computer and write during the morning. Afternoons I get in a good long walk during which I try to plan what I will write the next day. The rest of the time is family time.
CZX: Any advice for writers who are trying to break into publishing?
CBC: As to breaking into publishing, my advice would be dated – I arrived decades ago and the world has changed. I can only tell people to keep trying, keep polishing, the minute you finish one project, start something new, never give up – my first 8 books were never published, nor were many short stories, nor have I ever sold a single picture book idea (out of tons.) Be your own editor, be hard on yourself, give yourself strict deadlines – and then have fun! (which sounds contradictory, but isn’t; writing – or at least, rereading what you’ve written – should be joy.)
One Word Bonus: What was your weakest subject in school?
Art was my worst subject. Then a decade ago I took a Watercolor class and found that sloshing color around is delightful. I am a better writer for learning how to see the world through paint.
Thank you very much for the delightful interview Ms. Cooney! Do you hear her writers? There is no excuse for “writer’s block,” just sit down and do your work. ^_~ Please visit Caroline’s website, where you can read her detailed autobiography (with numerous amusing anecdotes), take a peek at the covers of her upcoming works, and send her an e-mail. Ms. Cooney is very friendly and does not bite or bark. ^_^