Literary First Love – Claire Cook

Today’s post by this month’s featured author, Claire Cook | @ClaireCookWrite

Claire Cook

When my mother died suddenly just before my eleventh birthday, I decided that spending time with Nancy Drew was preferable to inhabiting my own life. So I disappeared into my mother’s worn blue copy of The Mystery of Lilac Inn and quickly worked my way through the rest of her collection. I liked to close my eyes and pretend the pages smelled like my mother, though they actually smelled more like mildew. Even then I knew you could always imagine something better than reality.

I think you have to be an avid, joyful reader before you can become a writer, and when I was teaching writing to middle schoolers, some of the kids just weren’t big readers. So we all lugged in a crazy assortment of things to school — novels, magazines, comic books, manga. We swapped everything around and curled up in corners all over the room and read. I brought Nancy, and a couple of my students really took to her.

I revisited Nancy Drew a third time just before I finally pushed aside decades of fear and self-doubt and wrote my first novel in my minivan outside my daughter’s swim practice. I dusted off my entire collection and reread them all one after another, even though they had no real connection to the novel I was hoping to write. They taught me to jump right into the story and to end each chapter in a way that the reader simply has to find out what happens next. And my old, dog-eared Nancy Drew mysteries reminded me once again that once you really, really fall in love with a book, or a series of books, you’re a reader for the rest of your life.

Claire Cook is the bestselling author of nine novels, including WALLFLOWER IN BLOOM and MUST LOVE DOGS, which became a movie starring Diane Lane and John Cusack. She shares writing and reinvention tips at

About Ariel Lawhon

Ariel Lawhon is the author of THE WIFE THE MAID AND THE MISTRESS (2014), FLIGHT OF DREAMS (2016), and I WAS ANASTASIA (2018). Her books have been translated into numerous languages and have been Library Reads, One Book One County, and Book of the Month Club selections. She is the co-founder of and lives in the rolling hills outside Nashville, Tennessee, with her family.

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4 Responses to Literary First Love – Claire Cook

  1. Audra August 17, 2012 at 10:17 pm #

    Oh — loved this as I adore vintage Nancy Drew. I’m all nostalgic for those covers now!

  2. Ariel August 17, 2012 at 10:17 pm #

    I have to admit, this post tore me up. I’m a mother of young children and I had to wonder if they would turn to my most beloved books if they ever lost me. What a beautiful and terrifying thing to think about.

    Thanks so much for sharing this, Claire!


  3. Alison Law August 17, 2012 at 10:17 pm #

    My mother instilled in me a love of reading before I even knew how to read just because I always saw her engrossed in a paperback book. I wanted to know all that she knew and experience what she was experiencing in those books.

    What an incredible gift that she gave you, Claire. And my how you have paid her tribute – as a reader and writer!

    Now that we’re both adults, my mom and I talk about books and exchange books with each other. I think I’ll lend her my copy of Wallflower in Bloom when I see her this weekend. 🙂


  4. Pratikshya Mishra January 6, 2014 at 10:17 am #

    i too loved the Nancy Drew series… Lilac Inn was good too… 🙂

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