“Reading Claire Cook might be the most fun you have all summer.”
–ELIN HILDERBRAND, bestselling author of The Castaways
Although Elin Hilderbrand’s quote may sound somewhat exaggerated, what would be more fun this summer than sitting on a beach with your arms spread wide to embrace sand, surf, and blue sky? In fact one might imagine that’s how Claire Cook (Must Love Dogs, Life’s A Beach, and the rest in Bibliography) enjoyed her trip to Costa Rica where she researched Seven Year Switch.
Simply put, this bestselling author of seven book believes in having fun while embracing life and her characters reflect that attitude….at least by the end of their tales. Is this art imitating life? Well in her recent post, Guest Claire Cook on Buried Dreams and YOUR Seven Year Switch, she admits that before following her dream: “…I pretended I wasn’t feeling terrible about not writing a novel, and did a lot of other creative things.” However, during the July 9, 2010 LitChat — where the topic of the week was reinvention — Claire explained further:
Change is hard, so I think being miserable is good incentive.
For me the procrastination became more painful than actually writing a book.
I majored in film and creative writing in college, then totally choked. I hid from it for
over two decades.
I’d gotten by on potential and suddenly I actually had to do something.
Those are all insightful and wise statements from a successful author thrilled to have her novels labeled as “beach reads.” However, when dipping into the pages, readers discover the content is anything but shallow. Instead Claire Cook writes: “The main characters in my novels are all trying to find a way to their own next chapters. I’m not sure any journey feels “‘standard'” when you’re the one who has to go through it, fictionally or in reality!”
It’s also not an easy journey when change is forced upon you as it is in Seven Year Switch, described here in the author’s own words:
Seven Year Switch is the story of a single mother whose husband ran off to join the Peace Corps, leaving her with a three-year-old. Seven years later, just when they’ve figured out how to make it on their own, he’s ba-ack – proving he can’t even run away reliably! Now Jill has to face the fact that there’s simply no way she can be a good mom without letting her ex back into her daughter’s life. They say that every seven years you become a completely new person, and it takes a Costa Rican getaway to help Jill make her choice – between the woman she is and the woman she wants to be.
Knowing that Claire’s books are more about the characters rather than about theme, setting, or plot, The Divining Wand asked where Jill Murray came from? Delighted with the author’s response on her free association imagination, it’s only fair to share her thought process:
“Seven novels in, I stop to think what haven’t I tried before, and I realized that while some of my narrators have been single women, I’ve never written from the point of view of a single mom. I’ve been married for a zillion years (to the same guy, no less!) so I started reaching out to friends and friends of friends who were single moms. I was a teacher for sixteen years, and I remembered some of my students’ experiences as their families navigated the waters of divorce. Then I started thinking about how our lives never turn out quite the way we planned. And I’ve always been fascinated by other cultures, and I was dying to take a research trip to Costa Rica. And it was my seventh novel, so I started thinking about the significance of the number seven. And somehow into all this Jill was born! I’m never quite sure how it all comes together — I just feel my way through.”
With such natural common sense, it’s not surprising that Claire confesses her writing goes “flat” if she analyzes too much. Analytical and critical thinking is saved for revisions, but in the first draft she needs to feel it, not think it. Hmm, a gift of talent? All the author knows is she was surprised to learn that everyone’s brain doesn’t function the way hers does. And, while other writers can’t understand how her process can be successful, she just loves that this proves there is no one way to write a book.
Skipping the beach scene to read Seven Year Switch within the air-conditioned comfort of home did prove to be fun as well as thought-provoking. In truth this story focuses on Jill Murray’s two reinventions, the first brought on seven years earlier when her husband left. Literally abandoned, without an income and their three year old daughter to support, Jill transforms herself into a survivor and earns her dues to be startled and confused — though stronger and wiser — on his surprise return. And that’s when the time comes for another seven year change.
The writing showcases an entrepreneurial single mom who is bright, bold, and determined to do what’s best for her child. Also the serious issues of a “deadbeat Dad,” scrimping to get by, and a child missing/loving her father are treated with a respectful light touch. How? Well the author has infused her protagonist with humor, sass, and enough quirky supporting characters to brighten the journey and even create laugh out loud moments — Great Girlfriend Getaways’ headphone, Cynthia, Spanx….
Delivering her message of reinvention, with more than a spoonful of sugar, Claire Cook allows the reader to have fun with Seven Year Switch, while perhaps thinking of changes in their own future. Hmm, enjoy!
Announcement: The winners of Keetha DePriest Mosley’s Culinary Kudzu(s) are: Alicia and Elizabeth Varga. Congratulations.
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Book Giveaway: The Divining Wand is giving away one copy of Claire Cook’s Seven Year Switch in a random drawing to anyone who comments only on this specific post. Comments left on other posts during the week will not be eligible. The deadline is Wednesday, July 28, 2010 at 7:00 p.m. EDT with the winner to be announced here in Thursday’s post. If you enter, please return Thursday to possibly claim your book.