Cory Putman Oakes answers some questions about her forthcoming book,
What made you want to be a writer?
As a kid, I read constantly, but it never occurred to me to actually try writing something of my own until my sixth grade teacher assigned us Alanna the First Adventure (by Tamora Pierce) and The Blue Sword (by Robin McKinley); after I read those two books, with their gripping story lines and their strong female heroines, I knew that’s what I wanted to do one day. I wanted to write a book like that. I took a few detours along the way – I studied Psychology in college instead of writing and I went to law school. I even worked at a law firm for a while. Then one day I realized that if I kept doing what I was doing, I’d probably turn out to be a pretty good lawyer, but I’d never get a book published. And I didn’t want to one day be 80 years old and wonder what would have happened if I’d tried – really tried – to get a book out there. So I took a chance – I quit the law firm and I’ve never looked back.
Why did you set The Veil in your hometown of Novato, California?
The Veil began as a writing exercise. At the time, I was writing another book and I was feeling really burned out, so I gave myself a week break to write anything that I wanted. I had always wanted to write a book about Novato (and San Francisco) and I had this really vague idea about a Guardian Angel-type story, so I just started writing. No one else was ever supposed to see it, so I felt very free to populate the book with people and places and things that had been hanging around in my head for years. A week turned into two weeks, then three, and I finally ended up writing for a solid month. It was a very intense experience, and at the end I knew I had something very special.
How long did it take you to get published?
6 years. I have a huge, sad drawer full of hundreds of rejection letters.
How did you finally find a publisher?
You know how they say that you find love when you stop looking for it? It was kind of like that. I wrote the first draft of The Veil in 2007 and I knew it was something special. By 2011, I had finally given up on getting a publisher – I was fully committed to going the self-publishing route, and it was my confidence in my book and the fact that I was willing to go so far, on my own, that convinced Octane Press to give me a shot. All those years, I was looking for someone to bet on me when really, I should have been betting on myself.
Are you nervous about what reviewers will say about your book?
Yes. The thought makes me want to crawl under a table and never come out.
Who is your favorite character in the book?
All of the characters are very close to my heart, but I am especially fond of Nate. I can’t tell you why, not without giving away an important part of the story, but let’s just say that he is very sincere and has a wonderful heart. It’s hard not to love Nate.
You grew up in Novato, California and attended Marin Catholic High School. Addy, the heroine of The Veil, grew up in Novato, California and attends Marin County High School. Is Addy really . . . you?
(Laughing) No. But for what it’s worth, I think Addy and I would have been friends in high school.
Why is there so much food in your books?
I love food! Also, it is one of the major ways I deal with writer’s block. While I was writing The Veil, I cooked a lot of risotto – the endless stirring helped me to think (and provided the inspiration for Gran’s obsession with Italian food). Baking is another passion of mine – I am fascinated by the weird chemistry of it. Experimenting with different brownie recipes (which eventually led to the recipe for Writers Block Brownies on my website) was a great way to take my mind off of writing for a bit, which was sometimes exactly what I needed in order to get a really good idea. And a tasty snack.
You have a very young daughter – how do you get anything done during the day?
I wrote The Veil before my daughter was born, but I’ve had to put in a lot of time editing and doing publicity in the past year. Basically, her naptime = my go-time. Plus there have been a lot of late nights. I also have wonderful baby-sitters and neighbors who are very generous with their time.
What advice do you have for aspiring writers?
Do. Not. Give. Up.
Read. Everything you can get your hands on.
Learn those annoying grammar rules that make you want to gag.
Do. Not. Give. Up.
How does it feel to be publishing your book in one of the most unpredictable publishing climates ever?
I feel very, very lucky to be publishing my book right now. The rise of eBooks and the demise of Borders have definitely thrown people for a loop, but I think that’s a good thing. There is a lot of opportunity out there right now for motivated writers to make their mark. The way books get published is evolving right before our eyes – how exciting is that? And hopefully, the new publishing “rules” will be written by people who are passionate about helping good books reach readers who will fall in love with them. Who cares what form a book comes in, eBook, print, etc, as long as that kind of spirit is moving the industry?