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Spring 2016 Publishers’ Preview: Five Questions for Eileen Cook

Publishers' Previews

This interview originally appeared in the March/April 2016 Horn Book Magazine as part of the Spring Publishers’ Preview, a semiannual advertising supplement that allows participating publishers a chance to each highlight a book from its current list. They choose the books; we ask the questions.

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In Eileen Cook’s With Malice, Jill, awakening in a hospital, doesn’t even remember her trip to Italy, much less that her best friend Simone was killed there in a car accident. And much less that she is accused of murder.

cook_eileen_21. So, Amanda Knox: guilty or innocent?

EC: Guilty of bad decision making — but innocent of murder. Her decision to go to Italy was genius. I loved my trip there. I also love traveling and getting to call it research.

2. Suspense stories seem to require so much planning. Did you know the ending when you began?

EC: I went through four drafts of the novel, and the ending was different in each one. By the time I finished there were index cards, color-coded systems, maps of Italy, and lists of random details all over my office — it looked a bit like a scene from A Beautiful Mind. Creativity is messy. I advise significant investment in office supplies if you plan to be a writer.

cook_with malice3. What’s with the human need to read tales of people in terrible trouble?

EC: Reading about trouble allows us to see whether we are clever enough to figure out a solution before the main character does. You can channel your inner Sherlock without changing out of your yoga pants or leaving home. There’s something about understanding what motivates the dark side of humanity that appeals to all of us.

4. Whose books keep you up late into the night?

EC: I often fall victim to the “just one more chapter” theory of reading. And I read a bit of everything: I really enjoy Gillian Flynn (I feel smug pointing out I read her before Gone Girl, as if this makes us BFFs), Louise Doughty, E. Lockhart, Megan Abbott, Stephen King, Patricia Highsmith. And the list goes on…

5. Do you know what really happened between Jill and Simone?

EC: I do, but I’ll never tell. I think part of the fun of the novel is for readers to decide whether Jill is guilty, and if yes, determining if she was justified.

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Roger Sutton About Roger Sutton

Roger Sutton has been the editor in chief of The Horn Book, Inc, since 1996. He was previously editor of The Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books and a children's and young adult librarian. He received his M.A. in library science from the University of Chicago in 1982 and a B.A. from Pitzer College in 1978. Follow him on Twitter: @RogerReads.

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