Claire Cook continues to inspire those around her, from her debut novel Must Love Dogs being adapted into a movie to becoming a bestselling author and sought-after reinvention speaker.
We sat down with Cook and asked her our 20 most pressing questions about her recent novel Never Too Late: Your Roadmap to Reinvention (Without Getting Lost Along the Way) and her incredible journey as an author.
SheKnows: What was your biggest inspiration for writing Never Too Late: Your Roadmap to Reinvention (Without Getting Lost Along the Way)?
Claire Cook: Reinvention is the story of my books and my life. I wrote my first novel in my minivan at 45. At 50, I walked the red carpet at the Hollywood premiere of the movie adaptation of my second novel, Must Love Dogs, starring Diane Lane and John Cusack. I’m now the author of 12 books, and wherever I am — on book tour or at speaking engagements or online — reinvention has become the thing that everyone wants to ask me about.
One day it just hit me that even if I kept traveling and traveling, I wasn’t going to meet everyone in person. So I decided it was time to share everything I’ve learned on my own journey that might help other women in theirs. And that’s how Never Too Late, my first nonfiction book after 11 novels, was born.
If you have a buried dream, trust me, it is never too late!
SK: What is usually on your nightstand?
CC: A staggering pile of books and two alarm clocks, because the day is never long enough!
SK: In Never Too Late, besides sharing your own story, you profile other women who have reinvented their lives. Can you tell us about a few of them?
CC: I found them all really inspiring, so it’s hard to narrow it down! In the book I take readers with me on a trip to We Move Forward, an incredible women’s conference on Isla Mujeres, Mexico, which was founded by Janeen Halliwell to help other women find their passion and purpose. Ann Roth of Ann Roth Shoes is a talented shoe designer who tells a great story about how she fell in love with shoes and is also really honest about the mistakes she’s made along the way. Lian Dolan of the Satellite Sisters has some great things to say about hanging tough in a changing world.
SK: What are your five biggest tips for someone reading this who is ready to reinvent her life?
CC: 1. Rise above the negativity. Whatever the motive, lots of people will tell you why you can’t or shouldn’t do whatever it is you want to do. You just have to decide to do it anyway.
2. Be who you really are. The big buzzword these days is branding, but I think of it as authenticity. This is the first job I’ve ever had where I wasn’t pretending, or at least trying to pretend, to be a slightly different person.
3. Confound expectations. If everybody’s doing it, it’s already been done. Put a little surprise in everything you do. Originality counts!
4. Do something nice for someone. It’s easy to get needy when you’re struggling to figure out what’s next, but many of the great things that have happened to me were triggered by something nice I did for someone else. People talk — your actions determine what they say. As one of my characters once said, karma is a boomerang!
5. Get your tech together. Everything you need to know about the world you want to conquer can be found online. Get your computer skills up to speed — fast! Take a class or find a computer mentor. Research. Network. Create an online presence on Facebook and Twitter. The internet is a great equalizer — and there are so many opportunities out there just waiting for you to take advantage of them!
SK: What is your favorite quote from Never Too Late?
CC: I talk a lot about fear — both fear of success and fear of failure — in the book, and the quote that seems to be really resonating for readers is “Fear is a fact of a well-lived life.” One woman even emailed me to say she was going to get it tattooed!
SK: After being published by the big New York publishers, you’ve become a hybrid author (both traditionally and independently published) and started your own publishing company, Marshbury Beach Books. Why?
CC: I tell the whole story in Never Too Late, but the short version is that I’m grateful to have had a wonderful ride with the big publishers, but publishing has changed dramatically in the last few years. The good news is that authors have never had more options. I wanted more control of my own career, both creatively and business-wise, so it’s been a great move for me. I can also control price now, which makes my readers really happy!
SK: Name one of the biggest obstacles standing in the way of someone trying to reach a dream.
CC: Perfectionism. You have this perfect, beautiful image in your head of what you’re trying to achieve, and when you try to get there, the results just don’t measure up. You’re devastated. You’re embarrassed that this pathetic attempt is your best shot. Maybe you can’t do this thing after all. Maybe you don’t even want to.
That kind of perfectionism is deadly, and it can absolutely poison your dream. So don’t allow yourself to judge your early efforts. Just keep going. As you improve your focus and your aim, you’ll get better. You have to give yourself permission to really stink at this thing you want to do until you figure it out. If you nitpick yourself every step of the way, you’ll never get far enough down the road to be able to find out what you’re capable of doing.
SK: What is something your readers would be surprised to know about you?
CC: If my readers have read all 12 books, I think they pretty much know it all!
SK: Where is your favorite place to write?
CC: In my office with the door closed and blinds pulled down with the real world completely blocked out.
SK: What did you want to be when you grew up?
CC: I knew I wanted to be a writer from the time I was a little girl, but didn’t have the guts to go for it until I was in my mid-40s. Since then, I’ve met lots of other late-bloomers like me. I love being able to tell them not to worry — they still have plenty of time!
SK: What is your favorite book of all time?
CC: As a mom and a former teacher, I simply can’t pick favorites. I’d worry too much about the self-esteem of the books I didn’t pick!
SK: When is your birthday?
CC: Valentine’s Day. Aww.
SK: What is your dream vacation?
CC: Anywhere with a beach!
SK: Describe your writing style in three words.
CC: Fun. Heartfelt. Real.
SK: When naming your characters, do you give any thought to the actual meaning?
CC: My characters are everyday women living everyday lives, so I try to give them everyday names that your next-door neighbor might have. As an author, this can be surprisingly challenging. I mean, how much fun would it be to get to name a character Vanellope? OK, maybe not Vanellope, but you know what I mean!
SK: As you walk the streets of Isla Mujeres, Mexico, in Never Too Late, lots of songs go through your head. Do you have a favorite?
CC: For some reason, the songs playing in my head as I walk tend to be pretty retro, and the one that probably best fits that trip is “Walking on Sunshine” by Katrina and the Waves. And now I can’t get it out of my head!
SK: Any recent works that you admire?
CC: There are so many talented authors out there, but again, I hate to play favorites!
SK: What will you write next?
CC: I’m working on Book 3 of the Must Love Dogs series, and I’m having a blast with that. But I was surprised I enjoyed writing nonfiction so much, so I think I’ll be doing more of that in the future, too.
SK: How have your personal experiences affected your writing?
CC: If you met me at the grocery store, or at a fancy cocktail party, or on the pages of one of my books, you’d meet the exact same person. Who I am and what I write are totally in sync, and I think there’s real power in that.
But it’s not just my own experiences that affect my writing. More and more, my readers weigh in, too. I reach out to them on Facebook and Twitter with questions all the time. I get great authentic details for my books, and it’s fun for my readers to get the chance to be a part of my books.
SK: What is your writing process?
CC: When I’m writing a book, which is pretty much always, I write two pages a day, seven days a week. Whatever is or isn’t happening in my life, I can get that done.