This month we welcome Cory Putman Oakes to our interview series. She is an active member of Austin SCBWI, a huge supporter of other writers and illustrators, and a self-avowed "book junkie" who says there's always something more to learn. Read on to learn more about Cory, her process, inspirations, and daily life.
Where did you grow up, and did that place (or those places) shape your work? If so, how?
I grew up just north of San Francisco, California, and I was very lucky that I always had teachers and librarians who helped foster my love of books. San Francisco is a very evocative place. I’ve always been inspired by the area around the Golden Gate Bridge, with the cliffs and the fog, and I used that setting in my first book, THE VEIL.
Did you always want to be a writer, or did that come later?
I’ve wanted to be a writer since sixth grade, but I wanted it so badly (and I was so afraid of failing at it) that it took me quite a while to actually give it a try. I also knew that being a writer was a tricky career path, so I decided to go to law school instead so I would have a “Plan B” to fall back on. After a year at a law firm, I realized that my “Plan B” was going to become “Plan A” unless I did something drastic – so I quit and became a full time writer. It was the scariest and best decision I ever made.
If someone were to follow you around for 24 hours, what would they see?
My husband and I have two kids – Sophia (who is six) and Alex (who is four), so our house is always very loud and busy. There is always something going on – a holiday, a school project, a sports event – so probably the main thing you’d see is chaos.
How does your everyday life feed your work?
Ever since the kids came along, my writing time has been more limited. I rarely get an entire day to write – instead, I have to write in short, concentrated bursts and that definitely changed my process. But it also forced me to prioritize writing. I value my writing time now in a way that I didn’t before, and I’m always very aware that I have to make it count. I think that has helped focus my work a great deal.
Tell us about some of your accomplishments that make you proud (work and/or otherwise).
I’m proud of my brief legal career – graduating from law school, passing the California Bar Exam, and working at Sullivan & Cromwell were all great character-building experiences that I can’t imagine my life without them.
I’m very proud of my four published books – THE VEIL (2011, Octane Press), DINOSAUR BOY and DINOSAUR BOY SAVES MARS (2015/2016 Sourcebooks), and WITCHTOWN (coming July 18, 2017 – Houghton Mifflin). I love them all, and I can’t wait to add more to the list. I’m like a book junkie now – I can’t stop!
And even though they’re not technically an “accomplishment” I’m also extremely proud of my family. My husband and kids never cease to amaze me with their awesomeness.
What surprises you about the creative life?
I used to think that there’d be a point in my writing career where I could sit back and say, “Ok. Now I know what I’m doing.” That hasn’t happened yet – and I strongly suspect it never will. The craft of writing is like a bottomless pit; I’ve been at this for a decade now and I definitely know more than I did at the start, but I also know there is so much more I have to learn. Depending on the day, that can be either very comforting or very frustrating.
Your work is like a gift for your readers. When they open it, what do you hope they find?
As a reader, I love it when an author surprises me. I love when I’m presented with something that I didn’t see coming, or a twist that comes out of nowhere. It doesn’t have to be a big surprise with explosions or anything (although those are fun too!), it can be a quiet shift or change of pace that catches me off guard. I always try to give my readers something like that – something that makes them go, ahhhh, and think that there’s more to this book than meets the eye.
Author Bio: Cory Putman Oakes is a children’s book author from Austin, Texas. She’s written two middle-grade books, DINOSAUR BOY and DINOSAUR BOY SAVES MARS, and two young adult books, THE VEIL (out now) and WITCHTOWN (coming July, 2017). Cory is an ex-lawyer and when she’s not writing, she enjoys running, baking, and hanging out with her husband and kids. You can find Cory on Twitter and Instagram (@CoryPutmanOakes), Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/cory.oakes.7), and her website (http://www.corypoakes.com)