Tag Archives: bestselling author

A Day in the Life of Bestselling Author Claire Cook

Claire Cook

A Day in the Life of Bestselling Author Claire Cook

by Claire Cook

I wrote my first novel at 5 AM in my minivan outside my daughter’s swim practice, and while I’m thrilled to have moved inside to a home office, I’ve kept the early morning writing habit.

I wake up and spread some whole wheat toast with almond butter while the coffee is brewing, then I head up to my office with a big mug of coffee and get to work. I like to start my day’s writing before I’m fully awake, before the doubt and procrastination set in. Before the rest of the world is awake.

I write two pages a day, seven days a week. This keeps me almost living in the book, following the characters, nudging the story forward.

I start by rereading and polishing the pages from the day before, which helps me find the rhythm again. I try not to go back much farther than that. If I did, I might still be working on the first chapter of my first novel instead of my eighth!

Seven Year Switch 2Sometimes my two pages take only a few hours. Sometimes I wrestle well into the night. My deal with myself is that I’m not allowed to go to bed until I’ve finished my daily quota. Books are fun to start and triumphant to finish, but all those pesky pages in between can really get you into trouble. So this works for me. No matter what else happens in my life, I can finish two pages.

And two pages become four, then six, then eight, and one miraculous day I have the first draft of a novel. And then the revising begins!

For more writing tips, and to win a beach bag filled with all 7 of Claire’s novels, plus a beach towel, go to http://ClaireCook.com.

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Interview with Vincent Zandri, author of ‘The Remains’

The Remains author, Vincent Zandri, is an award-winning novelist, essayist and freelance photojournalist. His novel As Catch Can (Delacorte) was touted in two pre-publication articles by Publishers Weekly and was called “Brilliant” upon its publication by The New York Post. The Boston Herald attributed it as “The most arresting first crime novel to break into print this season.” Other novels include the bestselling, Moonlight Falls, Godchild (Bantam/Dell) and Permanence (NPI). Translated into several languages including Japanese and the Dutch, Zandri’s novels have also been sought out by numerous major movie producers, including Heyday Productions and DreamWorks. Presently he is the author of the blogs, Dangerous Dispatches and Embedded in Africa for Russia Today TV (RT). He also writes for other global publications, including Culture 11, Globalia and Globalspec. Zandri’s nonfiction has appeared in New York Newsday, Hudson Valley Magazine, Game and Fish Magazine and others, while his essays and short fiction have been featured in many journals including Fugue, Maryland Review and Orange Coast Magazine. He holds an M.F.A. in Writing from Vermont College and is a 2010 International Thriller Writer’s Awards panel judge. Zandri currently divides his time between New York and Europe. He is the drummer for the Albany-based punk band to Blisterz.

You can visit his website at www.vincentzandri.com or his blog at www.vincentzandri.blogspot.com.

Q: Thank you for this interview, Vincent. Can you tell us what your latest book, The Remains, is all about?

Thirty years ago, teenager Rebecca Underhill and her twin sister Molly were abducted by a man who lived in a house in the woods behind their upstate New York farm. They were held inside that house for three horrifying hours, until making their daring escape.

Vowing to keep their terrifying experience a secret in order to protect their mother and father, the girls tried to put the past behind them. And when their attacker was hunted down by police over a separate incident and sent to prison, they believed he was as good as dead.

Now, it’s 30 years later, and with Molly having passed away from cancer, Rebecca, a painter and art teacher, is left alone to bear the burden of a secret that has only gotten heavier and more painful with each passing year.

But when Rebecca begins receiving some strange anonymous text messages, she begins to realize that the monster who attacked her all those years ago is not dead after all. He’s back, and this time, he wants to do more than just haunt her. He wants her dead.

Q:  Can you tell us a little about your main and supporting characters?

Rebecca Underhill is an art teacher and painter who might have become a great artist if not for the burden of the secret she shared with her sister, Molly. In a word, her life has always been haunted by the memory of the man who abducted her. Now, with the man released from prison, she has no choice but to confront him.

Her ex-husband and detective novelist, Michael, also plays a pivotal role in the novel. Even though the two are divorced they can’t get over the fact that they are soul mates, which means they are together all the time. Michael protects and helps Rebecca confront her worst fears. He also becomes her lover once more.

Also assisting her is an unlikely character by the name of Francis Scaramuzzi. A 48 year old autistic savant and painter, Francis is somehow able to channel into Rebecca’s nightmares. He warns her about the dangers that are about to confront her by creating a series of paintings, each of which represents one of the five senses.

The warnings aren’t limited to the living either. Despite the fact that Rebecca’s twin sister Molly has been dead these past nine years, she can still feel her presence. At times, she will borrow from her sister’s strength in order to stay alive. Molly might be dead, but she is very alive in The Remains.

Q: Do you tend to base your characters on real people or are they totally from your imagination?

This novel originally began with Francis Scaramuzzi who was a real man from Albany, New York, and who worked as a janitor at my old high school, The Albany Academy. Not until close to his death was it discovered that the mentally challenged Francis was a very accomplished painter. It shocked the entire academic community, as well as the local arts community as well. Here was a man who lived extremely simply and anonymously, and who was assumed to barely be able to read. Yet inside his secret world, he was producing beautiful works of art. I’d been trying to wrap a novel around his extraordinary life for years.

Q: Are you consciously aware of the plot before you begin a novel, or do you discover it as you write?

I try and work out some of the plot details prior to writing even a single word. I also write character sketches and a loose chapter by chapter outline. However, I never stick to the outline since a plot that seems to be moving along is a plot that is moving along organically. As a writer, you don’t want to get in the way of the natural course of events. In the end, my first draft is usually serves as an elaborate outline.

Q: Your book is set in Albany, New York.  Can you tell us why you chose this city in particular?

Albany is where I was born and bred. It’s the city I know the best and therefore I feel that I can write about it convincingly. Lots of my fan now have come to identify me as an Albany writer, even if I do end up writing lots of my books outside the country in Florence, Italy, for instance, where I stay every fall. One interesting note is that every year, a local alternative magazine runs a “Best of the Capital Region” reader’s poll. For the past three years, two authors have earned the two highest spots. Myself and another, far more well known, Albany, writer: William Kennedy. You might say I’m gaining on the old master!

Q: Does the setting play a major part in the development of your story?

Naturally. Albany is a small city and everyone tends to know one another, or at least about one another’s business. Or if they don’t know, they are apt to make something up. Thus the tongue-and-cheek moniker, “Smalbany.” It’s a place of long hard winters and short, but hot summers. It also rains a lot, and the weather always plays a roll in my stories. The weather and the rugged surrounding countryside in The Remains, are as much villains as is Joseph William Whalen, the man who abducted Rebecca and her sister three decades ago.

Q: Open the book to page 69.  What is happening?

Rebecca is observing a painting that Francis created for her the day before. It resembles in almost every detail a recurring nightmare she’s been having. Yet she doesn’t want to believe something like that is possible. Still, the painting draws her in, almost obsessively.

Q: Can you give us one of your best excerpts?

October 2, 2008
Albany, New York

In the deep night, a woman sits down at her writing table. Fingering a newly sharpened pencil, she focuses her eyes upon the blank paper, brings the black pencil tip to it.

She begins to write.

Dear Mol,

I’ve been dreaming about you again. I don’t think a night has gone by in the past few weeks when I haven’t seen your face. Our face, I should say. The face is always in my head; implanted in my memories. The dream is nothing new. It’s thirty years ago again. It’s October. I’m walking close behind you through the tall grass towards the woods. Your hair is loose and long. You’re wearing cut-offs, white Keds with the laces untied and a red T-shirt that says ‘Paul McCartney and Wings’ on the front. You’re walking ahead of me while I try to keep up; but afraid to keep up. Soon we come to the tree line, and while my heart beats in my throat, we walk into the trees. But then comes a noise—a snapping of twigs and branches. The gaunt face of a man appears. A man who lives in a house in the woods.

Then, just like that, the dream shifts and I see you kneeling beside me inside the dark empty basement. I hear the sound of your sniffles, smell the wormy raw earth, feel the cold touch of a man’s hand. You turn and you look at me with your solid steel eyes. And then I wake up.

We survived the house in the woods together, Mol, and we never told a soul. We just couldn’t risk it. Whelan would have come back for us. He would have found us. He would have found mom and dad. Even today, I know he surely would have. He would have killed them, Mol. He would have killed us. In just five days, thirty years will have passed. Three entire decades and I’m still convinced we did the right thing by keeping that afternoon in the woods our secret.

When I see you in my dreams it’s like looking in a mirror. The blue eyes, the thick lips, the dirty blond hair forever just touching the shoulders. My hair is finally showing signs of grey, Mol.

I wonder, do you get gray hair in heaven? I wonder if Whelan’s hair burned off in hell? I wonder if he suffers?

All my love,

Your twin sister,

Rebecca Rose Underhill

Exhaling, the woman folds the letter neatly into thirds, slips it into a blank stationary envelope, her initials RRU embossed on the label. Running the bitter sticky glue interior over her tongue, she seals the envelope, sets it back down onto the writing table. Once more she picks up the pencil, brings the now dulled tip to the envelope’s face. Addressing it she writes only a name:
Molly Rose Underhill

The job done, the woman smiles sadly. Opening the table drawer, she sets the letter inside, on top of a stack of nine identical letters-never-sent. One for every year her sister has been gone.

Closing the drawer she hears her cell phone begin to vibrate, then softly chime. Picking it up off the desktop, she opens the phone, sees that a new text has been forwarded to her electronic mailbox. Fingering the in-box, she retrieves the message.

Rebecca is all it says.

Punching the command that reveals the name and number of the sender she finds “Caller Unknown.” The sender’s number has been blocked. Closing the phone back up, she sets it down on the desk. That’s when the wind picks up, blows and whistles through the open window.

“Mol,” she says, staring out into the darkness. “Mol, is that you?”

Q: Thank you so much for this interview, Vincent.  We wish you much success!

Thank you for having me.

The Remains by Vincent Zandri



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Television show host Paula Deen on virtual book tour August ’10

Paula Deen 2Join Paula Deen, author of the home and garden decorating book, Paula Deen’s Savannah Style (Simon & Schuster), as she virtually tours the blogosphere in August ‘10 on her first virtual book tour with Pump Up Your Book!

She is the quintessential American success story, a best-selling author and a television show host, a tastemaker to the stars and to the everyday housewife and family. She is Paula Deen, a down-home, strong willed mom who overcame personal tragedy, long odds, financial and physical challenges to carve one of the most effective and wide ranging entertainment brands that exists today. A brand that is idyllic, inspiring, fun and very much American.

For all her success, the Albany, Georgia native has remained very grounded, in part due to her down home Southern upbringing. She married her high school sweetheart, became a young mom to two sons, and appeared to be living the life she desired, before a series of tragedies, from the death of her parents and the failure of her marriage to a prolonged battle with agoraphobia changed the course of her life forever.

However out of those changes came the success that laid the foundation for the Paula Deen of today, someone who inspires millions through her regular appearances on Oprah, cooks for world leaders, is a best-selling author, and is seen concurrently on three shows running on The Food Network.

The one constant in Deen’s life has always been cooking. It was a staple of her young upbringing, and when times became difficult it was what she knew and could turn back to. In June of 1989, with a $200 budget and the help of sons Jamie and Bobby, she became “The Bag Lady,” creating a home-based meal delivery service in Savannah, Georgia that started the rise. From there, Deen moved to preparing meals at a Savannah Best Western, and followed that five years later by opening her first restaurant, The Lady and Sons, in Savannah.

The popularity of the restaurant led Deen into publishing. Her 1997 cookbook, The Lady and Sons Savannah Country Cookbook, gave her growing fan base the opportunity to try Deen’s recipes at home for the first time, and led to her first appearance on QVC, which took the brand from regional to national and began a stretch of consecutive New York Times best selling cookbooks. The growth continued unabated, and in 1999 USA Today food critic Jerry Shriver named The Lady and Sons International Meal of the year.

Deen’s success in publishing, where she has sold over eight million books, then translated into the magazine world, and Cooking with Paula Deen, her bi-monthly title, launched shortly thereafter, growing to a circulation of over one million.

Not to be outdone with print and restaurant success, the Deen brand then moved to television. “Paula’s Home Cooking” premiered on The Food Network in November of 2002, to huge audience success, and spawned her second show, “Paula’s Party” in 2006. Today Deen has four shows running concurrently on the Food Network, including the latest, “Paula’s Best Dishes“, which launched in 2008.

The next evolution of the brand took place in March of 2008, when Meyer Corp launched the line of Paula Deen signature cookware, bakeware, kitchen tools and accessories both online and at retail, continuing the immersion experience for the brand with consumers.

In 2009, the Deen brand underwent further expansion with an added group of quality strategic partners. Wal-mart launched a new, exclusive line of affordable baked goods, while Smithfield, Kaleen, Nitches, Meyer, Universal, B. Lloyd’s, GOBO, Harrah’s, Quality foods, International Greeting and Cooking.com also began new or expanded partnerships in a host of categories. A compete digital relaunch, the expansion of special edition publications featuring both herself and her brand partners also came into play, making sure the Paula Deen name stayed fresh, relevant, and timely with a growing and more diverse consumer.

Even with the continued expansion, and more planned on a global level in 2010, Paula Deen has remained true to her fans, viewers and readers that look to her name for style, taste and inspiration in the kitchen and the home, all reflective of a climate where quality does not have to be sacrificed due to a challenging economy.

Paula Deen's Savannah Style

In this gorgeous, richly illustrated book, Paula Deen shares a full year of Southern living in her latest book, Paula Deen’s Savannah Style. Whether it’s time to put out your best china and make a real fuss, or you’re just gathering for some sweet tea on the porch at dusk, Savannah style is about making folks feel welcome in your home. With the help of decorator and stylist Brandon Branch, you’ll learn how to bring a bit of Southern charm into homes from Minnesota to Mississippi. For each season, there are tips on decorating and entertaining. In the spring, you’ll learn how to make the most of your outdoor spaces, spruce up your porch, and make your garden inviting. In the summer, things get more casual with a dock party. Sleeping spaces, including, of course, the sleeping porch, are the focal point of this chapter. In the fall, cooler weather brings a return to more formal entertaining in the dining room, and in the winter, attention returns to the hearth, as Paula and her neighbors put out their best silver and show you how they celebrate the holidays.

With its lush gardens, stately town houses, and sprawling plantations, Savannah is the epitome of old Southern style, and who better to give you the grand tour than Paula Deen, the city’s most famous resident and anointed Queen of Southern Cuisine?

Paula loves getting a peek at her neighbors’ parlors, so she’s included photographs of some of Savannah’s grandest homes. From the vast grounds of Lebanon Plantation to the whimsically restored cottages on Tybee Island, you’ll see the unique blend of old-world elegance and laid-back hospitality that charmed Paula the moment she arrived from Albany, Georgia, with nothing but two hundred dollars and a pair of mouths to feed. And she isn’t shy about giving you a window into her own world, either. From her farmhouse kitchen to her luxurious powder room, you’ll see how Paula lives when she’s not in front of the camera.

Packed with advice and nostalgia, Paula Deen’s Savannah Style makes it easy to bring gracious Southern living to homes north and south of the Mason-Dixon Line.

If you’d like to follow along with Paula as she tours the blogosphere in August, visit her official tour page at Pump Up Your Book. Lots of fun in store as you travel the blogosphere to find out more Paula’s newest book. Join us for the Paula Deen’s Savannah Style Virtual Book Tour ‘10, y’all!

Visit her website at www.pauladeen.com.

Pump Up Your Book is an innovative public relations agency specializing in virtual book tours. You can visit our website at www.pumpupyourbook.com.

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Bestselling author Claire Cook on virtual book tour July ’10

Claire CookJoin Claire Cook as she virtual tours the blogosphere in July ’10 to promote her new book, Seven Year Switch (Hyperion), which is the perfect beach read this summer!

Claire is the bestselling author of seven novels including Must Love Dogs which was adapted into a Warner Brothers movie starring Diane Lane and John Cusack, The Wildwater Walking Club, Life’s a Beach, and her latest, Seven Year Switch. Her reinvention workshops have been featured on The Today Show, and she has been a judge for the Thurber Humor Prize and the Family Circle fiction contest. Her books have been featured on Good Morning America and in People, Good Housekeeping, Redbook and more. She has two kids, seven brothers and sisters, and one husband. She lives in Scituate, MA.

Seven Year Switch 2Seven Year Switch centers on Jill Murray who is perfectly happy living a man-free existence. She’s got Anastasia, her ten-year-old daughter, and a sweet little bungalow to call home. Life as a cultural coach didn’t turn out quite the way she planned, but between answering phones for Great Girlfriend Getaways and teaching Lunch Around the World classes, the dust in this Jill-of-all-trades life is starting to settle.

Then her ex-husband comes back.

They say that every seven years you become a completely new person, and Jill has long ago stopped wishing her deadbeat husband would return. Now she has to face the fact there’s simply no way she can be a good mom without letting Seth back into their daughter’s life. But why can’t she seem to hold herself together around him? And then there’s Billy, the free-spirited, bike-riding entrepreneur who hires Jill as a consultant. When their business relationship seems destined for something more Jill’s no-boys-allowed life is suddenly anything but.

It takes a Costa Rican getaway to help Jill make her choice — between the woman she is and the woman she wants to be. It’s a wild ride, sure to thrill Claire Cook’s many fans, complete with laughter, revelations, and one heckuva big tarantula.

People Magazine says, “Bestseller Cook charms again with this lively warm-hearted look at changing courses mid-life.”

Publishers Weekly says, “Cook creates an impossible-not-to-love cast of imperfect, funny, wistful, and wise characters.”

Kirkus Reviews says “Cook hits her marks…a beach tote couldn’t ask for more.”

If you’d like to follow along with Claire as she tours the blogosphere in July, visit her official tour page at Pump Up Your Book. Lots of fun in store including giveaways. Find out things about Claire you never knew before on her Seven Year Switch Virtual Book Tour ’10!

You can visit Claire’s website and find reinvention and writing tips at http://www.ClaireCook.com. Friend her on Facebook at http://facebook.com/ClaireCookbooks/. Follow her on Twitter at http://twitter.com/ClaireCookbooks/.

Pump Up Your Book is an innovative public relations agency specializing in virtual book tours. You can visit our website at www.pumpupyourbook.com.

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Claire Cook’s ‘Seven Year Switch’ book giveaway for reviewers!

Seven Year Switch 2Claire giveaway

Claire Cook, author of the just released women’s fiction novel, Seven Year Switch, is offering a super giveaway for those lucky readers who are willing to post a review at Amazon, Goodreads, Facebook or Barnes & Noble! Here are her details:

Because I know it’s the power of my incredible readers spreading the word to your friends and family that will make this book take off, we’re going to have another giveaway!

All you have to do is read SEVEN YEAR SWITCH and post a nice review on Amazon (buy locally, review globally is my motto!) Goodreads or Facebook or Barnes & Noble or even your own blog, and email the link to the review to Claire @ ClaireCook.com. (Just make sure you put REVIEW in the subject line so I don’t think it’s spam.)

You can post the same review on as many sites as you want – in fact I hope you will! – and each one counts as another entry! The prize is pictured above: a beach bag filled with a complete autographed set of all seven of my novels – and a beach towel, of course!

If you already own signed copies of all my books, you can donate the whole thing to a fundraiser for your favorite charity or use them as birthday presents.

Thank you — your support is what has made this midlife career of mine possible, and I appreciate it so very much.

— Claire Cook

Visit Claire Cook’s website at www.clairecook.com.

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