Wes Cook - An Interest in Magic Tricks and a Gift for Psychometry

Wes Cook - An Interest in Magic Tricks and a Gift for Psychometry
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Writing has always been a passion, but life got in the way for a while. Wes Cook spent years navigating through the worlds of technology, broadcast television, and back. He's been honored to work with some genuinely brilliant people and contributed to some truly meaningful work. With the best of them, he was part of an investigative journalist team at a TV station in New Orleans where they won a Peabody Award and two Columbia DuPont Awards for their work. But Wes has also spent time toiling for dead-end companies with dim bosses so incompetent it’s shocking they managed to dress themselves every day. All of these characters have contributed to who he is and how he sees the world, and a few of them show up on a page every now and then. Despite the awards, the fascinating work (sometimes) and even living for a bit in New York City, he couldn’t shake the creative writing bug and the need to move back to the Gulf South to live among his fellow eccentrics. And it’s there he put words on paper and try to bring characters to life. He traded brunches for crawfish boils, rats for June bugs, and the subway for SUVs. And he has not regretted the decision for a second. Although he does know of a great bar in Long Island City, if anyone needs a recommendation.

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Please give us a short introduction to what The Ruiner is about.

It's the story of a guy who tries to help his friends when unexplainable and terrible things start to happen around them. It's also about small towns, magic (both kinds), witches, monsters, flamethrowers, and beer.

Among the themes are loss, friendship, perseverance, and doing the right thing.

What inspired you to write this story? Was there anything that made you want to tackle this?

I grew up a huge fan of suspense thrillers and horror novels and I devoured everything I could find by Steven King, Dean Koontz, Peter Straub, and others like them.

I also grew up gay in the deep south. And even though some of the writers at the time were gay too, none of the lead characters in their novels were.

So I wanted to write a supernatural suspense thriller that would be true to the genre in every way except that the protagonist is gay.

Simple as that. I wanted there to be at least one quality work in the genre that other gay people could read and see themselves as the hero in the story for once.

It's not a huge part of the book and it's one of the least consequential qualities of the main character, but it was important to me to add that representation to a genre I've dearly loved my entire life.

Tell us more about Casey Sparks. What makes him tick?

Casey is searching for meaning. I don't think he knows that exactly, but that's what it's about.

When you first find him in The Ruiner, he's coming off something of a breakup and he's depressed and languishing in his small town and dreaming of something more.

He has a talent for card tricks and mentalism, but he also gets psychic impressions from objects. He's great fun at parties.

Also, as it turns out, he can take a punch.

I think he personifies a huge number of gay people who live in rural places in the US who feel out of place and lonely, but more or less get along OK... Well mostly, anyway.

Don't forget that part about taking a punch.

Besides writing, what other secret skills do you have?

I do pretty well in the vegetable garden, and I can hold my own on the guitar.

Did you always know you wanted to be an author? What moved you to write your debut?

Yes. I can't remember how old I was, but The Hobbit changed my life. It was the first book to transport me fully to another world. After that experience, I became obsessed with reading and trying to create my own stories.

I started a lot of "projects" back then but never finished any. Over the years, I've written songs, poetry, blog posts, and long-form rants. But for a long time, I'd convinced myself I didn't have time to write because of my busy jobs. But I was moved to finally start after re-reading some older Stephen King novels. They reignited that desire in me.

And as it turns out you, can accomplish anything if you have a lot of determination and no social life.

What did you have the most fun with while writing The Ruiner?

It's a close race between the action scenes and the bad guys. Writing terrible people is just such a blast. They give you a vessel to say all the things you could never get away with in the real world and they let you safely explore some of the really dark places we all have but resist entertaining.

I also love writing action scenes. I literally write in an excited state and those passages get written fast. That pace and tension are happening as I put it down almost in real-time. It's a strange thing, but that's how it happens with me.

So, action scenes are probably the most fun because I feel like I'm inside the story more so than with other scenes and because they are so productive.

Readers say this book had them at the edge of their seats. How did you pull this off?

By treating my characters so poorly. They really can't catch a break. Even when things seem calm, they usually aren't. And they rarely get out of a situation with ease. When you make them fight and claw for everything it tends to ratchet up the tension.

This book forms part of a series. Can it be read as a standalone? How do the other books in the series tie in with this one?

This is the first in the series. The second is on track to release late this year. The idea is for these to be standalone.

I want these to be more Sherlock Holmes than Harry Potter if that makes sense.

Though having said that, Casey will pick up new talents along the way (as he does in The Ruiner), and reading them in order would probably provide the best experience.

Why did you pick a tiny rural town as the backdrop for your story?

I wanted to start Casey off somewhere small to give him strong, mysterious roots. There is something about tiny towns that is more intriguing than cities for a lot of people.

There is an odd reverse claustrophobia so many city folk seem to have when they are in the country. I've seen it a lot. There's a fear there. I don't know if it's a fear of nature or hillbillies or what.

But I wanted Casey to be from a place where any sort of strangeness could be believable.

When starting on a new book, what is the first thing you do?

It depends on the project. For The Ruiner, I simply started writing. I knew who I wanted Casey to be and I knew I wanted to start at the trailer. That's not how it ended up in the final version, but that was the beginning. It was my first attempt at a novel, so I leaped into the deep end and just started swimming.

In the case of the second Casey Sparks novel, I started by making an outline. I am a plotter, but I don't always stick to the map. So, I don't write out detailed character backstories or strict outlines.

But I find it helpful to have a general idea of how the whole thing is going to flow before I start the main writing.

Do you have any interesting writing habits? What is an average writing day like for you?

One habit I have I picked up from Stephen King's On Writing (which is fantastic, by the way). The idea is to end every writing session with a bit of a paragraph or thought unfinished.

That way, when you get back to writing the next time, you have an easy starting point. And for me, once I start, I'm good. It's the getting started that's hard. So that tip changed everything for me and now when I start a session, I hook right in.

I tend to write at night. And I almost always listen to nature sounds, mostly thunderstorms. Sometimes I light incense, too. All of those things help me relax and be in a better headspace to focus.

I usually have some goal in mind other than wordcount or time when I start a session. Typically, it's to finish a chapter or to figure out how to get myself out of some jam I've let my unruly characters get me into. I don’t like wordcount goals because I found I would subconsciously cheat by adding filler words and overly descriptive drivel. Also, it makes writing feel more like work than art.

Some days I get a few paragraphs out and that’s all I have in me. Other days (weekends, especially) I find myself going strong for 6 or 8 hours. So, I just go with the flow. As long as I have the discipline to sit down in the first place, I trust I’ll finish whatever project I’m working on when it’s meant to be done.

What are you working on right now?

I am working on two projects. The first is the second Casey Sparks novel. I'm hoping it will be ready for release late this year.

I won't go into much detail here, but Casey will spread his wings a bit more in this one. He takes a little trip to the Big Easy where he finds himself in another dangerous situation.

I'm also writing a Kindle Vella novel. For the unfamiliar, it's a platform where authors can publish serialized stories (or chapters of a novel) piece by piece.

I am waiting until I have 5 or 6 chapters ready before publishing those installments, and I should have that ready in about a month.

That story is about a group of people surviving together after a cataclysm partially destroys earth. There are heavy supernatural elements, horror, but also humor.

It's an interesting exercise to write a novel this way. It forces you to stay on point and keep things interesting.

Where can our readers discover more of your work or interact with you?

I have a facebook page here, https://www.facebook.com/wescookwrites and I also keep my website up to date: http://www.wescookwrites.com

Either of those places will have announcements and ways to contact me.

The Ruiner

Wes Cook
Casey Sparks is a fry cook with a talent for magic tricks and a gift for psychic visions. When a friend disappears and he spots a strange creature on his land, his search for answers leads to a world of witchcraft, cults, and the supernatural. He must navigate this new world while also avoiding a homophobic roommate and a suspicious preacher before time runs out and there is nothing left to save.
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