Nigel Jay Cooper is fascinated by what motivates people - why they act the way they do, and this shows in the way he creates his characters. Beat the Rain is an interesting story about a complex relationship between a woman and her deceased lover's brother. The book impressed readers and critics alike, earning a couple of awards and nominations. As our Author of the Day, Cooper reveals why he wrote this book, how he wrote the ending first and why the next book he wants to write is terrifying him.
Please give us a short introduction to what Beat the Rain is about.
Beat The Rain isn’t a love story, it’s a modern-day ‘fall out of love’ story. It charts the demise of a dysfunctional relationship from its unconventional beginning to it’s inevitable end.
The couple – Louise and Adam – should be happy with one another, but somehow neither can move on from their past or their own emotional baggage.
What inspired you to write this book?
I’m fascinated by what motivates people – characters. Why do people do the things they do, act the way they act?
I did an MA in creative writing way back in 2000 and as part of that, I wrote a short story called ‘The Unsaid’. It was a love story about a woman whose boyfriend dies and she ends up in a relationship with his brother.
For some reason, the story never felt quite finished to me. It niggled away at me and something in my mind kept saying: ‘That relationship probably didn’t work out.’ In the end – 15 years after writing the short story – I decided to explore where their relationship went. The result was Beat The Rain.
Beat The Rain won a couple of awards. What was the experience like, publishing your first novel?
Getting the Goodreads Choice Awards nomination for Best Debut Author as huge – and to become my publisher’s best-selling fiction title that year was completely unexpected.
I’m not a recognisable name, I’m not with one of the big publishers and I don’t have an agent, so I didn’t expect to get noticed at all. To be honest, I am still shocked the book is still selling well and getting such a positive reaction – it was a risk writing a book where neither character is always likeable, but it seems to have paid off.
It’s hard to put the experience of getting published into words – exciting, frustrating, nothing like I expected and everything I expected all at once.
Between being a CMO, training for marathons, acting and singing, how do you make time to write?
Mostly I do it in the evenings after my children are in bed. I wrote most of my second novel, The Pursuit of Ordinary, in October last year. I wrote until one or two in the morning every night for a month. I was like the living dead by the time I had a finished first draft.
How much of a challenge was it for you to take on women's fiction as a male author?
It wasn’t something I thought about – I didn’t sit down to write women’s fiction and it’s still not how I’d describe it.
I didn’t even think about genre when I wrote it - I wrote the book I felt compelled to write. After it came out, a number of reviewers began saying ‘this is fresh, a man writing women’s fiction’ and the label kind of stuck.
In which way is Beat the Rain different from other love stories?
It’s not a love story, it’s a story about two people who should be able to love each other can’t. It’s a tale of two damaged people who can’t allow themselves to be loved – and how that affects them and those around them.
Your book contains a lot of twists. Did you plan them all out before you started writing?
This probably sound weird, but not really. I wrote the end of the book first, so the rest of the novel was exploring how the characters came to be there. I’m quite an organic writer, I generally find if I do too much plotting beforehand, when I get to it, the characters won’t do what I want them to… so in general, I try to let them tell the story and see where it takes me.
Besides writing, what other secret skills do you have?
Secret skills? I don’t think I have any…
You write from different characters' viewpoints. Why did you take this approach?
I don’t seem to be able to tell a story from only one perspective – it grates on me if I try. Sometimes I wish I could, though, I think it might be easier to write.
Readers describe the book as an emotional rollercoaster. Was this intentional?
I think that’s who I am as a writer – I write emotional, character-led stories. Before I sat down to write my second novel, I said to myself ‘don’t write something that is emotionally gruelling to write this time’. I don’t think it’s a spoiler to say that I failed miserably in that respect.
Do you have any interesting writing habits, what's your average writing day like?
I don’t write full time, so my average day is getting the kids up and ready for school, then going to the office, then picking the kids up from school and doing their dinner etc… then when they are in bed, I write.
What is the best writing advice you’ve received?
Don’t listen to writing advice, every writer is different :D
What are you working on right now?
My second novel, The Pursuit of Ordinary, is now in production and I’m just starting to work on my third adult novel. My two children have talked me into writing a children’s book for them as well – and frankly, that terrifies me, it’s completely out of my comfort zone.