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Exclusive Interview with

E.R. Cook

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When did you start writing?

I've been writing since I was a child. My first memory of wanting to be a writer was a book I made for a school project out of sheets of paper that I folded and stapled. It was about a family of bugs who move into a house from the outside to escape the winter. I did all the illustrations myself. From that moment, I was hooked and I've been writing ever since.

E.R. Cook
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What makes writing your passion?

To me it is so many things. It is a way to explore and question the world around me. It is crafting and creating worlds and characters, much like a potter molds clay. It is a stress release for my anxiety and a coping mechanism during my depression, allowing me to work through and deal with trauma and stressful situations in my life through the eyes of my characters. It is an escape exercise during the stressful times and a joy in others. There is nothing that I love better than sitting before a fire on a cold snowy day curled up with my blanket and my laptop getting a few more chapters in. And now that I've finally published a book, its intoxicating. Finally bringing a story to life and having other people read it and enjoy it is the greatest gift I could ever give the world and I can now say that I achieved my dream.

E.R. Cook
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How long have you been writing?

Decades. But it took me until the past five years to gain the confidence to finally push through and finish a book to publish and share with the world. I've done short stories and essays before for different things, and I created a magazine for a school project when I went back to get my bachelor's degree. But mostly I've just started a whole bunch of novels throughout my life and never finished them. But I think that practice gave me all the tools and experience I needed when it came time to finally write the whole book.

E.R. Cook
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What was the feeling when you published your first book?

Exhilarating. It was the accomplishment of a life-long dream that I had so many people tell me I couldn't make happen. Putting the e-book online was one thing, but then I got the paperback and holding it in my hands I was giddy, like a kid on Christmas who got the one thing they really, really wanted but the realistic part of their mind told them would never happen. I know so many people have a stigma against the self-published, but the ability to see my story out there, my way, with my artwork on the cover is an experience I will never forget and I can't wait to repeat.

E.R. Cook
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What’s the story behind your choice of characters?

The story was inspired by a song that used a sound clip that sparked a question in my mind: What if aliens didn't get here in spaceships? How would they get here? What would happen when they made contact with humans? What would our government do? Answering these questions started crafting my scene and the plot. Then I needed characters to fill the roles to drive the story.
They say the best writing is when you write what you know. So I started pulling characteristics from myself, people I've known in my life, people I've had issues with, people I've hated. I started piecing together the personalities I needed to drive the story.
While my book is science fiction, I wanted it to be a psychological story. I love psychology. How we interact with each other. The push and pull between our instinctual emotional minds and our rational ones. How different people react in different ways. The egos, pride, humility that drive us in different ways. How we react to stressful situations. I wanted to bring all of that into my characters. I wanted them to be human. I wanted them to be messy. I wanted them to be real. I wanted the reader to read this book and sees parts of themselves in all of the characters and think about how they would react in this situation.
I also wanted a strong female character to lead the way. Growing up my favorite fantasy books were the ones with a woman fighting against the odds to achieve their dream, be it a dragon rider, a knight or becoming a magician. Reading those books allowed mousy me to grow the inner spark of a warrior inside of me. That spark is what carried me through my darkest days and is something I can still point to as the reason I fought back against my mental health and emotional abuse issues instead of succumbing to them, because I knew that the person I was wasn't who I could be. Who I was supposed to be. I wanted to put that element, that character in my books because that character is an essential part of who I am and if one person reading my books connects to my character in the same way and it helps them, that is the ultimate prize to me as a writer.

E.R. Cook
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What annoys you the most in pursuing a writing career?

I don't really know if anything annoys me. I guess if I had to pick something its the bias against self-publishing, when really its just that self-publishing provides people with a way to get out a book that don't have the money and connections to get in with a big publishing house. I think this will change with writers that start self-publishing getting picked up by publishers and going mainstream, but its still hard because its like 'you're not valid until you're with a publisher we know." But the truth is if a book is good, to you (since we all have different likes and standards what I like and think is amazing you may think is trash), then its good. It doesn't matter if its published or not. There are published books that I regret reading, and self-published books that I love curling up with. But its the first thing people ask when I tell them I'm a published author. "Oh, you're self-published?" Some people don't care, but others you can see the light fade from their eyes and its discouraging. Because its unfair and it hurts as I'm trying to build a fan base because people who could love the book won't even give it a chance because it doesn't have the right label.

E.R. Cook
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How do you get over the “writer’s block”?

There's a lot of things I do. Since a lot of my work is inspired by songs, I play the song that inspired it, or a genre of songs that get me in that mood. I also do the book backwards, creating my cover art first and the back blurb. When I get stuck, I look at that and meditate on the feeling and plot of the story, and sometimes that meditation inspires me to get past a stuck point. I also go take a nap. Sounds weird, but as I'm drifting off to sleep I play the "movie" of the book in my head. As the movie plays, sometimes the next step will come to me. I can either wake up and write it down, or hope I remember it but usually after I do that I can come back and get past my stuck point.

E.R. Cook
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We all know the writer’s path is never easy, what makes you keep going? What advice would you give to new authors?

I keep going because it is a part of me. I've been doing it as a kid. Even when I've taken breaks from writing because my lack of self-confidence had convinced me "You're no good, this is a waste of time, what are you doing" I was still continually daydreaming and creating stories in my head. The writing doesn't stop just because I physically stop writing.
The advice I would give to new authors is believe in yourself, even if no one else does. Do you have a story? Does it bring joy to your heart to see your words on the screen? Do you love what you've crafted? Then you are a writer. Even if you have to have a day job doing something else, you are a writer. Your story is worth the effort. Even if no one else ever reads it, you know you had the confidence and the guts to put your story out there and do something most other people only wish they could do. Surround yourself with people who will support you, even if its only joining with other authors online. Take constructive criticism from people, but stop trying to please everyone. You can't. But there's billions of people in this world. Pretty sure you will find someone else who thinks your story is as amazing as you think it is. So don't give up on yourself. Ever.

E.R. Cook
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If you could go back in time and talk to your younger self, what would you say?

Don't wear masks to please other people. You are not broken (I suffered from anxiety and depression at a young age in a time when that wasn't talked about). Feed your inner fire and go for what you want, not what other people want. Read and explore and experience the world, no matter what other people tell you. Open your mind and don't just blindly believe in things because you think you have to. You are amazing and wonderful and beautiful and you can do anything in this world. Don't let people tear you down just because it makes them feel better.

E.R. Cook
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Do you read your book reviews? How do you deal with the bad ones?

Well I just started so I only have three reviews and they've all been good. I think that I will probably stop reading reviews as I get more established just because I know there are a lot of trolls out there who like tearing people down just because they can. Also I know my book will not appeal to everyone, and people can find fault with anything. If there is any constructive criticism, I will of course take it because I love learning and growing and I am not an expert. There is always more to learn and take in. But I'm also not going to beat myself up because someone hates something. It's a lot easier to hate than love and it seems like in today's world people like leaning into the easy.

E.R. Cook
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What is the feeling when you get a good review?

It's amazing. It's validation that I crafted a story that not only speaks to me, but speaks to someone else. That's what I want my books to do, speak to people. Get them to ask questions. When I read reviews about how they experienced the book, especially people that might not be into my genre of writing but picked it up because they know me or thought it looked interesting, but really get into it and say they can't wait for the next book it makes me feel amazing. It's a high that's better than anything else in this world, and makes me enthused to get back to writing and get the next one done.

E.R. Cook
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Have you ever incorporated something that happened to you in real life into your novels?

Not events. But I've definitely used emotions and places. The character with anxiety. The character dealing with emotional abuse. The beaten down warrior trying to rise back up. It's all emotions I've dealt with over the years. Happiness, sadness, anger, it all goes into my characters. Writing has always been a way of dealing with trauma that I couldn't really deal with talking out loud. Seeing it through my characters eyes, how they deal with it, helps me. Now, I also see it as making my characters human. I've dealt deep into my own emotions, and that self-awareness of the emotion, how it feels mentally/physically/how it manifests helps me write better emotion into my characters which lets my readers connect better with them and the story.

E.R. Cook
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Which of your characters you can compare yourself with? Did you base that character on you?

None of them are based on me. But at least the female characters all carry parts of me, different things I've dealt with, different aspects of my personality. I think all my characters have a part of me in some way, or have aspects of people I've known throughout my life. Having that connection to my characters allows me to write them in a more authentic and realistic way.

E.R. Cook
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What do you think, the book cover is as important as the story?

To me, the book cover is everything. It's what draws people's attention, its what sets the tone for the book. My writing starts with the book cover, because creating and crafting the cover and the blurb on the back gives me a starting point for the atmosphere of the story and starts getting the wheels turning as to the plot and characters. Whenever I get stuck, I meditate on my book cover and usually something will pop in my brain that will get me unstuck.

E.R. Cook
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Do you connect with your readers? Do you mind having a chat with them or you prefer to express yourself through your writing?

As I'm just entering the professional world, I haven't had a lot of contact with my readers yet. I always prefer chatting through writing because I spent most of my life feeling very socially awkward and being able to write my thoughts first, even if its just preparing to talk to someone, helps me organize my thoughts better and I don't stress about the encounter as much. But as I've worked through that, I've grown to be more comfortable talking to people, so in the future I see myself feeling good either way.

E.R. Cook
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How do you feel when people appreciate your work or recognize you in public?

It feels really good. It makes the effort worth it, and its great to hear that they are connecting with the book. Some of them connect with it in ways that I never even thought of. It makes me look at my book in a new way, which is great because sometimes after editing it and re-reading it a hundred times I lose what makes the story special.
I haven't been recognized in public yet, but I'm looking forward to that day.

E.R. Cook
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Who is your favorite author? Why?

Oh, I have a lot of favorite authors. Growing up it was Anne McCaffrey, Tamora Pierce and Jane Lindskold because they combined these amazing fantasy stories with strong female characters, all bound to dragons and animals and magic which were things I resonated strongly with as a child. They were my escape as well as my cheering squad. If they could do it, so could I. I also loved the Cat Who series by Lilian Jackson Braun because well, cats. Cats with attitude. What's better than that?
Now my favorite author probably is Jim Butcher. I love the characters in his Harry Dresden series, and how he blends worlds together that shouldn't make sense but they do. I love how real and scarred and funny his characters are but they always rise up to meet the challenge. I'm also recently into the Preston and Childs stories with Agent Pendergast because of the blend between supernatural and the real world. And as always I love my cozy cat mysteries like Rita Mae Brown and the Joe Grey mysteries by Shirley Rousseau Murphy because, well . . . cats!

E.R. Cook