Guest Authors

Interview with Author Jeffrey Cook


Jeffrey Cook lives in Maple Valley, Washington, with his wife and three large dogs. He was born in Boulder, Colorado, but has lived all over the United States. He’s contributed to a number of role-playing game books for Deep7 Press out of Seattle, Washington, but First Light is his first novel. When not reading, researching, or writing, Jeffrey enjoys role-playing games and watching football.

Jeff’s early-era Steampunk novel, Dawn of Steam: First Light, is now available in paperback and Kindle.
Gregory Conan Watts has been hired to prove the impossible. To do so, he’s expected to assemble a crew that includes war heroes, carnies, respectable women, and one wilderness scout who may or may not be entirely insane. They’ll have the best of 1815 technology: a state-of-the-art airship and the steam-powered battle suit that almost single-handedly brought down Napoleon’s alliance. Finding vast uncharted wonders Gregory’s not even sure are there sounded complicated enough; he wasn’t expecting natural disasters, outright sabotage … or another war.

You can follow the book on Facebook, Twitter, and Goodreads

Jeffrey, Keep Calm and Answer These 25 Questions 

Do you consider yourself a logophile? If so, have you always been? I wouldn’t say so. From very early on, I developed a love of stories. Appreciation for words and wordplay came later, with poetry classes and Kerouac, but even then, narrative, imagination, and the exchange between writer/narrator and audience were my first loves, and remain so.

What is your favorite color? Blue.

Where were you born? Where did you grow up? I was born in Boulder, Colorado. Then I grew up everywhere else. Okay, mostly the central and western United States and Canada, but I moved around a lot. Washington State is my home, though.

What is your favorite football team? The Seattle Seahawks and Denver Broncos share the distinction. I was indoctrinated into the Bronco fanaticism early – at two years old, I had my pads, helmet, and Orange Crush jersey. Washington is my home now, though, and I’ve been a Seahawks fan through a lot of thin to get to the current thick.

Who is your favorite author? C.S. Lewis wrote my first real novels, and I will always have an appreciation for Narnia.

What is your favorite book? Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein.

What do you do when you are not writing? I’m a huge football fan and a general sports fan to a slightly lesser degree. I’m also a lifelong role-playing game fan.

Do you have a day job as well? I did when I started writing. I’ve since been laid off, and now write full time. Between writing, editing, and learning this marketing thing, it’s consistently an 8+ hour-a-day occupation.

Do you have any advice for aspiring authors? Have help. I’ve had plenty from various people. The best thing that happened to me in writing is finding my editor. She has done wonders in making my writing better and, just as importantly, providing an outside perspective on my work. It’s very hard to be unbiased about your own work, whether that’s biased in favor of or against. A good editor is worth their weight in gold, or in my editor’s case, double that, because she’s small. (I have been informed that I am simply too tall to know what a normal height is. As I said, different perspectives).

Is being a writer a curse or a gift? It’s a gift. It’s more work than you’d think, but I can’t imagine any work I’d rather be doing.

Where do you write? Most often, in my recliner at home, on my laptop. That said, either my laptop or a notebook is always in reach wherever I go.

Do you prefer silence or some noise while you write? Every novel has its own playlist. I need music for best results.

What do you typically drink while writing? Water. Lots and lots of water.

What challenges have you had in regards to your writing life? I love writing. I love telling stories. I do not like editing my own work at all. I may possibly dislike marketing even more, outside of the aspects of actually meeting people and talking about books. I’ve never been a big social media person, so it’s been a very big learning curve.

When did you first start and when did you finish your book? I started my first book in November of 2009, and finished the rough draft – of the entire trilogy, in fact – that month. I only published this February, but I also have the next two volumes and another book in rough draft stage, so I’ll have a couple books out per year.

If your book is made into a movie, which actors/actresses do you envision playing the parts? I love this question, while admitting that I’m terrible at actually putting known faces to the characters. I’ve considered Liam Hemsworth as Sir James Coltrane, but a lot of easy Hollywood casting would be tricky, especially with a couple of multi-racial characters. The big thing for me if Dawn of Steam was ever made into a movie would be having a voice in casting Sam Bowe. She needs to actually be a female capable of passing as a male, not Hollywood-tomboyish. I could see someone with a general look akin to (current contestant on The Voice) Kristen Merlin, maybe. There’s not a lot of Hollywood types who could do it, which is part of the problem.

What does your protagonist think of you? Would he/she want to hang out with you? Which one? Dawn of Steam has a fairly large-ish cast, and the narrator is intentionally not really the main character, so much as he’s telling their story via his letters and journals. Gregory is easy to get along with and likes most people, so I imagine we’d get on fine.

How do you market your book? What avenues work best? I’m learning. Tumblr, Twitter, Facebook, Goodreads and other sites have been a good start, and led to some useful contacts, at least. I do best when I can get out and talk to people about the book, though. Working on getting into some local bookstores and libraries for readings and working out other little events like that may be slow, but I certainly like it a lot more than tweeting, and the sales feel more productive.

What has been the toughest criticism so far? I really haven’t had any criticism that I’ve had a negative reaction to. My editor and beta readers had things they didn’t like, and while I kept some things, for the most part, I thanked them profusely for their time and investment in my work and made adjustments. I’m okay with people saying they don’t like some part of the book, as long as they also tell me why. That’s productive, and it means they cared. In all honesty, though, our worst review so far was 3.5 stars — the commentary really has been pretty positive.

What has been the best compliment? I’m a little torn between the comment that the book is a mix of League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, Sherlock Holmes and Jane Austen… or the comment that ‘This is a book for readers. You can’t just skim it and expect to come away with the story.’ I really like both of those, for different reasons.

Is anything in your book based on real life experiences or purely all imagination? The travels through the American West are very much tied to my childhood, which involved a lot of long road trips, and passing the time on the road telling cooperative stories with my father. Both the travel itself, and learning the love of stories via contributing to them in those long, little-kid stories had a huge and lasting impact on my life.

How did you come up with the title? In addition to being an adventure/travel story, one of the big premises of the series is that it sets up a lot of the tropes of the Steampunk genre over the course of the books. Dawn of Steam is intentionally set in the Regency era, not the Victorian, and hasn’t yet gained a lot of the typical Steampunk world look or feel, but helps progress the world towards some of the common divergences from history you see in the genre. I’ve been told a few times by non-Steampunk readers that its a very good “soft landing” into understanding Steampunk.

Will there be a sequel? First Light is the first book of the initial Dawn of Steam trilogy. The second book, Gods of the Sun, is due out late this year.

What project are you working on now? I’m currently working on the fourth book in the Dawn of Steam series, which will start a new trilogy that can stand alone from the original three books. It has a few characters in common, but it’s set 5 years after the last book of the first trilogy ends. I’m also starting work on a fantasy novel set in the world of Deep7 Games’ Arrowflight universe. I write for them part-time, so it’s a world I’m fairly familiar with.

What question did I leave out that you’d like to answer? Aside from buying the book, what can readers and fans do to help out indie authors? Whether it’s my book, or a friend’s book, or you just want to support indie press in general, there’s a few things that are tremendously helpful, and often free. Leave a review on Amazon. Those help so much. Find two or three friends with library cards, and go to your local library and ask them for a request form. Many libraries have them, and will order a book if enough people with local library cards ask for it. Finally, if you like a book, recommend it to other people. Indie authors don’t have the push to get into bookstores and libraries that traditional publishing has. We depend on the people who like what we write to give us a little extra push — and appreciate it when people do.

Please fill in the blank: Keep Calm and Trust in The Force.

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  1. Thank you, Kristy, for this interesting post.

    Best of luck with your book, Jeffrey. I thoroughly agree with Jeffrey about supporting indie authors. We do need word of mouth to spread our work and that a review is appreciated.

  2. Pingback: First Light | Interviews

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