Granite Cove, the setting for her mystery series, is inspired by her New England coastal upbringing. Additionally, like her protagonist, Rose McNichols, Cook writes for newspapers and once wrote for a weekly similar to the Granite Cove Gazette.
She is an art school grad who has illustrated her book covers. The next Granite Cove Mystery is Laugh ’til You Die, in which Rose moonlights doing stand-up at nursing homes, something Cook has undertaken.
She lives in coastal Beverly Farms, MA with her husband and cats.
It’s midnight in Granite Cove and only the sea clams are open. Murder creates havoc in this sleepy New England fishing village and Rose McNichols, reporter for the Granite Cove Gazette, is drawn into the case. Who killed Vivian Klinger, Ph.D., a woman too perfect for mere mortals, a woman who had everything but a sense of humor?
(1) Where did you get the idea for your most recent book?
This is my third Granite Cove Mystery. When it appears, I can truly call it a series. In my mind, three books are a series, or at least a sound beginning. In my current book, Laugh ’til You Die, Rose McNichols, my protagonist, is moonlighting as a stand-up comic. Her hours at the Granite Cove Gazette have been reduced. Best friend Betty Ann, activities director at Green Pastures Retirement Center, gets Rose a gig at Shady Nook, a pretty shady facility. There Rose meets Mabel Smithwick, former society maven who’s daughter in law has had Mabel committed to a locked unit.
Mabel tells Rose that she witnessed a drowning at her pool the previous summer. She’s afraid she was seen by the killer, a hooded figure. Rose doesn’t give much credence to Mabel’s fears until Mabel’s roommate dies in a questionable accident while sleeping in Mabel’s bed.
I felt confident writing about Rose’s ordeal as a nursing home stand-up comic because I have done this as well. Working the nursing home circuit is good practice for life. If you can continue your act while your audience falls asleep or walks out in disgust, you have conquered pride.
(2) How do you get inspired to write?
At 17, I was hired by the Cape Ann Summer Sun, a seasonal supplement to the Gloucester Daily Times. I was a correspondent, covering Long Beach in Rockport, where my family lived. I also drew cartoons, illustrating some aspect of my column. It was the first time my cartoons appeared in print. In any event, not much happened during those summers in the mid ‘60s. I wrote about the Red Cross swim classes and the dances at the old wooden hotel at the end of the beach. Occasionally I’d mention their dinner specials. I also covered the August jellyfish invasions, including who got stung.
For decades I’ve written a (humor) column for The Salem News, which is now, ironically, a sister paper to the Gloucester Daily Times: LINK
Writing a humor column is much more interesting than writing news stories. In college (where I was an adult, non-traditonal student), I was an editor for the campus newspaper. This was great because I drew a lot of cartoons and never rejected my stuff.
(3) What are you currently working on?
I have finished my third Granite Cove Mystery: Laugh til You Die. Right now I’m editing it, going back over every chapter, which is a lot easier than having to write original stuff every day(!) Once I’m finished, I give it to Linda Ellis, a professional copy editor who not only picks up grammar errors, etc., but also offers advice on content. Writers need objective, experienced input. I’ve worked as an editor and have an MFA in writing, yet I know to seek others’ opinions.
(4) What’s your advice for aspiring writers?
Read the above about seeking professional help to make your book as “perfect” as it can be. Also, I’m always amazed by what happens when I put my manuscript away in a drawer and take it out two weeks later–or longer. The errors fairly jump off the page. I’d advise everyone to do this. I’d also add that it’s probably better to write to your strengths. If you like “cozy” mysteries but think you should pen a thriller because that’s what’s popular, go ahead and do it. It will probably feel like you’re slogging away. I think you must be totally invested in your writing. Otherwise your readers will yawn and nod off.
(5) What’s the best thing about being a writer?
You get to sit a lot, which is also one of the worst things about being a writer. What I love is creating a town–in my case Granite Cove, a “sleepy New England fishing village”–and populating it with “real” people. By the time you’ve written your third book, you see these characters. You know them intimately.
(6) How do you deal with writer’s block?
I went to Bennington College in Vermont for an MFA in writing. It was a low-residency program where we were on campus for two weeks every semester. When we returned home we had to write chapters of our novel, or in my case, short stories. This was pre-email days when we’d send our packets off to our faculty advisor who would make comments, etc. We had a deadline for sending our work in. Teachers wouldn’t accept excuses. Additionally, I used to write a column for another newspaper, a local weekly, in the ’90s. I had to submit my column every week, no excuses. Needless to say, the experience helped alleviate writer’s block.