Hey! Essence here! I am joined today by Eileen Cook, a woman who loves adventure, suspense, and fancy shoes! The Hanging Girl hit the bookstores earlier this week so don't miss out, go get it! Most likely you remember Eileen from her previous book, With Malice. Well, I don't want to leave you all “hanging.” Let's get this interview started!
Essence: Hey Eileen! Thanks so much for joining us today. How did you come up with the story line for The Hanging Girl? What were some of your influences?
Eileen: Book ideas are slippery things. For me, there are usually a lot of odds and ends swirling around in my brain until they form one full idea. For The Hanging Girl, there was first my lifelong interest in things like tarot cards and Ouiji boards. I’ve always thought it would be fascinating (and terrifying) to be able to see the future. However, I am also married to a total skeptic and engineer who thinks all of those things are just made up. A few years ago we went to a conference put on by the Committee of Skeptical Inquiry where one of the sessions was on how easy it is to fake psychic ability. (There was also a session put on by a biologist on how you can tell that there is no Bigfoot because there’s been a lack of Bigfoot poop- I am not even making this up.) I was fascinated by the idea of people who would make their money by faking psychic ability. The speaker mentioned that one of the reasons that this con works is because clever psychics tell people what they want to hear. That line stuck in my head and I found myself thinking about it and how it might be included in a book.
The next bit of inspiration came from a discussion with friends about times when we had done something we shouldn’t have (from sneaking out of the house, to cheating on a test to stealing a lipgloss) and how there was this impulse to lie and cover up what you’d done. Then comes that awful feeling where you’ve put one lie on top of another and you know that you can’t keep it up and that the truth is going to come crashing down at some point. I wanted to write about someone who makes one mistake, but how that keeps leading her down a darker and darker path.
With those two ideas in my head the story of The Hanging Girl started to grow. Then a few zillion drafts later I had a book.
Essence: This book reminded me of a lot of songs, especially in regards to the relationship with Drew and Skye. What song would you choose to capture their relationship?
Eileen: I’m fascinated by friendships- how they grow and change. Your friends are the people you count on, who push you to do better, and are there to cheer you up when things go badly. However the end of high school can be a hard time for those relationships when you find yourselves going in different directions. You’re happy for them, and sad, and everything is all mixed up. Drew and Skye love each other- they’ve been friends forever, but they are also trying to figure out how each of them will fit into each other’s life going forward. If I could pick one song I might choose Wonderland by Ke$ha because it's about that wishing for a time that is gone. But Umbrella by Rihanna also touches on how you stick together when things are good and when they’re bad, and A Beautiful Lie by Thirty Seconds to Mars is about that mix of lies being both dangerous and a game. I think it captures how we also lie to ourselves- which works well with the book.
Essence: What do you think about Skye's mom? Is she crazy or is she just someone who's willing to do anything for her child?
Eileen: I love Skye’s mom. (And I say this knowing she’s a complicated character) She hasn’t had an easy life, being a teen mum and having to raise a kid on your own isn’t for the weak. What I admire is that despite how hard things have been she still sees all this magic in the world- from fairies to psychics. She believes that something amazing could happen at any moment. She and Skye have a challenging relationship, but she loves her daughter with every fiber of her being. She’s always been willing to do what needs to be done- the real question is if it is totally selfless, or if a part of her is doing what she needs to because she believes she deserves some of that magic in her own life.
Essence: If this book became a movie, who would you choose to play the main characters? Why?
Eileen: I am HORRIBLE at this- it's clear I will never become a Hollywood casting agent. I want to cast people simply so I could meet them rather than because they would want to take on the role. For example, I would love with the passion of a thousand suns to have Michelle Obama play Drew’s mom because I have this huge girl crush on her. I would love to sit down and talk about everything with her for hours and she captures that strong, capable, put up with no BS attitude I pictured for Drew’s mom. However, I’m pretty sure Michelle Obama not going to go into acting just to make this dream come true for me- but I’m totally open if she changes her mind. Then I would make Jennifer Lawrence Skye’s mom because she plays complicated women so well. For Drew, Skye and Paige I would love to choose unknown actresses so that the audience has no preconceived ideas of who they are. Anyone out there interested in acting?
Essence: I really enjoy suspense and horror books. I would like to read more of your books. Which book would you recommend me to read?
Eileen: Of my books the one that is most similar in that creepy tone is WITH MALICE. The main character Jill wakes up in a hospital. She was on a school trip to Italy when there was a car accident. Because of hitting her head in the accident, she has no memory of the accident or the six weeks before. She’s crushed to hear that her BFF, Simone, was killed in the same accident. Then she’s freaked out because the police don’t believe it was an accident- they think she murdered her best friend and was then trying to kill herself. She has to figure out what happened in the six weeks she can’t remember before it’s too late.
Essence: What are some other titles you'd recommend?
Eileen: Oh- there are soooo many great books out there by so many great writers. I’ve written a bunch, but there are some I have to recommend. It’s hard to choose just a few. I would suggest: Complicit by Stephanie Kuehn, The Darkest Corners by Kara Thomas, and Behind Closed Doors by B.A. Paris. This last one is an adult title- but it’s nice and twisty.
That’s it for today’s interview with Eileen, but don’t leave just yet. We’re teaming up with Eileen to give away a hardcover of The Hanging Girl. Just click on the image below and enter to win a copy for your bookshelf or classroom. The contest ends on Tuesday, October 10th, and the winner must live in the United States. Good luck!