Trish Cook talks about her new book about a spoilt teen that was sparked by an unmade film project set to star Hilary Duff.
1. Can you tell us more about Outward Blonde?
Outward Blonde is about a super-privileged girl who gets in trouble with the police after going clubbing (with a fake ID) in NYC one night. Her parents — who are divorced, a big source of heartbreak for Lizzie — decide the only way to get her back on the right path is to send her to wilderness camp. So they arrange to have Lizzie taken away in the middle of the night — leaving all her awesome and expensive potions, lotions and brand-name clothes behind — and she’s plunked down in the middle of a forest in Utah with a bunch of other kids who are in trouble. At first she tries to do anything to get away from the camp and the kids — she thinks she has nothing in common with any of them and doesn’t need an attitude adjustment. But slowly, she figures out that finding her own strength is actually a good thing, and that maybe the other kids aren’t so bad after all. Like, that maybe we all have more in common than we ever thought. And maybe there’s one guy she might really, really like.
2. Where did you get the inspiration for the character of Lizzie?
Lizzie is just a really sad, vulnerable girl who puts on a “mean girl” exterior to hide how she really feels from other people. She’s a good kid who is trying to deal with a physically absent father and mentally absent mother, and who has too much freedom and money to use without any supervision. She reminds me a lot of the character Kara Souders on Red Band Society, which I was obsessed with at the time I was writing Outward Blonde. Lizzie might seem like a total beyotch at first glance, but she’s honestly got the best heart once you break past those walls she’s put up to protect herself . And Zoe Levin, who played Kara on Red Band, would be a killer Lizzie! (shout out to Zoe! Please play Lizzie!)
3. Do you see yourself in any of the characters in your novel?
I’d say Lizzie. She’d rather appear tough than like she needs anything or anyone at all. I love when she figures out that real, solid, close relationships are built on trust where you show someone your true self, especially the soft, squishy feelings part. It’s a scary, huge leap but so, so worth it. I spent a lot of time as a teen sad that people had hurt my feelings but not wanting to admit I even HAD feelings so … how could they ever know? It took me longer than Lizzie to learn that truly connect with someone you have to let yourself be vulnerable, but better late than never!
4. How did you come up with the plotline?
My publisher, Adaptive Studios, has a really unique way of approaching YA books: They take unmade film projects and ask YA writers to create novels based on them. Outward Blonde was originally a movie set to star Hilary Duff! Adaptive came to me with what they call a “spark page” — just the most basic outline of what the story is: A spoiled, rich New York girl gets in trouble and gets sent to wilderness camp. I never read the script for the movie that was never made. I just developed the story based off the spark page and had so much fun doing it.
5. Do you listen to music when writing? And if so, what kind of music inspires you?
I sadly can’t listen to music while I work — I need complete silence. Even a dripping faucet would make me crazy if I was trying to write. But when I’m running or working out, I love to listen to high energy music with a great beat — Drake always fits the bill.
6. Who are some of your own favorite authors at the moment?
I have a stack of to-be-read books next to my bed a mile high! I’m excited to read Amy Krouse Rosenthal’s Textbook because I was obsessed with her Encyclopedia of an Ordinary Life. I think that’s the one I’ll tackle next.
7. What attracted you to the Young Adult genre?
When I first started writing YA, the genre hadn’t even really been defined as a separate thing yet. I just knew I wanted the main character in my first book to be a senior in high school having all sorts of high school senior adventures. Lucky for me, by the time I was done with that manuscript, YA was just becoming a big thing! Since then, I’ve stuck with YA because it is such a great age — you’re still figuring out who you want to be and experiencing so many firsts. I love the passion, energy and excitement teens bring to their lives, the big drama and even bigger break-throughs. There’s so much there to explore, and I remember it all like it was yesterday.
8. When did you decide to write and what prompted you to start?
I’ve always loved reading and have a super-active imagination. Those two qualities seem to lend themselves really well to the writing life. In grade school, I was always writing short stories. In high school, angsty poetry. In college, personal essays. From there, I really wanted to tackle a novel. It’s all a journey but long story short: I’ve always loved to write and have always done it for enjoyment.
9. What’s next for you?
I have another book coming out in June called Midnight Sun, and I am already hard at work on the next one after that. The plot involves technology gone awry and I think it’s something everyone can relate to and will really surprise my readers!
The story follows sixteen-year-old Lizzie Finkelstein, a hard-partying socialite who lives a charmed life with her mother in Manhattan. After a public drunken escapade results in both an arrest and an embarrassing viral video online, Lizzie’s parents stage a late night intervention. Lizzie finds herself whisked away to Utah to learn a lesson or two about taking responsibility at Camp Smiley, a wilderness survival program for troubled kids.
Camp Smiley is a far cry from Lizzie’s high society life in New York. Without her stable of luxury hair/makeup items, her teacup Pomeranian, contact with the outside world or access to social media, Lizzie must face the harsh conditions of the outdoors. Grouped with troubled campers in which she’s certain she has nothing in common (except Jack, who’s pretty hot), Lizzie must now learn to dig her own toilet in the woods and build a fire by rubbing two sticks together before the camp will ever let her go back to her former existence. She has a choice: get with the program, or get out of there.
Trish Cook is the author of five young adult novels. She is a graduate of the University of Chicago’s Graham School program in Creative Nonfiction, and her essays have been seen in the Manifest-Station, Graze Magazine, and Spittoon. In her spare time, she rows with a masters crew, most recently competing in Masters Nationals and the Head of the Charles Regatta.