It's day 12! And it's the last Q&A of the event. I hope you've enjoyed these. :)
E.E. Cooper lives in Vancouver, BC with her husband and a rather spoiled dog. You can find her on her website or on Twitter at @eecooperbooks where she spends far too much time.
Q: The summary/premise of Vanished is something I've sort of seen once before (Far From You by Tess Sharpe), a psychological thriller/mystery featuring a lesbian/bisexual POC as the main character. Where did the idea for this book come from?
A: Inspiration from this book came from two long term passions of mine. The first is friendships. I am drawn to exploring by them- how they work, how they don't, how they can be toxic, how they evolve over time, how they can make a huge difference in your life etc. I wanted to write about a group of three friends because interaction between three versus two can make things very interesting. I wanted to put the main character, Kalah, in a situation where she was trying to navigate an unequal friendship with her own confusing feelings about one of the people in that group. My second obsession is psychological thrillers. I have stacks of them in my house. I find people, and what they are capable of doing, fascinating. I wanted to write a dark book that hopefully leaves readers wanting to read one more chapter to see if they can figure out what is happening.
And I've been working on the sequel to VANISHED and having fun seeing if I can twist all those ideas once again!
Q: In the beginning, through Kalah's memories and conversations, we get glimpses of her friendship with Beth and Britney. But it's not always an easy friendship, a healthy one. Was it always your intention to have them start on shaky ground?
A: Friendships can be complicated. In high school our friends are often the people who are the closest to us- they might even know us better than our family. However, it's also a really hard time for friendships as people are growing and changing. You can be close as sisters with someone one semester and the next feel like they're a stranger. Friends changing can feel like a betrayal. I wanted to create a situation where everyone in the friendship was caught in between- in the process of changing- but not quite there. Their friendship doesn't fit and work in a way that it used to and I found that friction really fun to write about.
Q: Kalah is caught between her feelings for Beth and her feelings for her boyfriend. She loves them both, she loves the support and the companionship she gets from them. But it's still so rare to see a bisexual girl as the main character in a YA novel, especially a mystery like this one. Her struggle between the two takes nothing away from the mystery. If anything it increases her need to find Beth, to have her back in her life. How important was to to show this internal battle of Kalah's?
A: I really tortured poor Kalah. I don't think I made anything easy for her. I believe that Kalah (like many of us) is trying to figure out who she is and what she wants from life. Relationships are a part of that. Her attraction to Beth is confusing to her because she's never had feelings for another girl before and as you mention, she's dating a great guy that she also really likes. She wants there to be a clear answer, but there isn't. Unfortunately for her, Beth goes missing before she can sort out her feelings and that being incomplete does increase the tension for her. For her finding Beth is also about her having the opportunity to sort out her own emotions.
Q: The mystery of Beth's disappearance, of her past and her present, is all Kalah can really focus on as time goes by. What is it about this kind of dark, psychological mystery that you think draws in readers?
A: There is something so delicious about the dark side of humanity. I think many of us (myself included) love to read about just how dark some people can get. In real life I want to give those people a wide berth- but when I'm reading I like a peek inside how their brains work. Maybe it's a form of protection- we think if we understand how those people work we’ll be able to keep ourselves safe.
Q: This book goes deep into deception and obsession, into jealousy and envy. Into how some teenage girls focus instead on the negatives instead of the positives, into how others are better than them instead of congratulating them and supporting them. Here, someone's jealousy takes them too far. What do you think it is about being jealous and envious of others that pushes us too far? What do you think we should do to keep it from happening?
A: One thing that it took me far too long to learn is that someone else's success doesn't impact your own. For example- I will sometimes see writers tear down another writer who has had success. "Her book is terrible! How could anyone publish that!" There is an underlying sense that because that person had success that there is less success to go around for the rest of us. The truth is that you don’t have to compete with anyone (in appearance, having money, writing, school etc) you only have to compete with yourself to make you the best you can be. When we celebrate others success not only are we happier, but I believe we have a better chance of being more successful ourselves. All that negative emotion just drags you down. The sad truth is that it is easier to tear down someone else's dream than to build our own.
Thanks so much to E.E. for answering my questions. Vanished is out today so go check it out! :)