In today’s interview I talk with Heather Cumiskey, the author of compelling coming of age YA novel, I Like You Like This, about the journey to releasing her successful debut novel last year.
Growing up in Garden City, New York on Long Island, USA, Heather spent her formative years as a competitive baton twirler and journaling to help make sense of life and relationships. Whilst her love for the baton waned, her interest in a career in writing grew when she realised that unlike the land of suits and number crunchers on the floor where she worked, the corporate advertising department was filled with loud music and colourful creative types.
Heather, thank you for joining me today. I have to ask about the competitive baton twirling.
The experience taught me to go out and face my fears even on wobbly legs. My mom made all of my costumes and coiffed my hair into a very serious bun for competitions.
You managed to make a writing career for yourself, how did that start?
I began to freelance as an advertising copywriter in 1995. I didn’t know what I was doing and faked it until I made it. I still freelance for companies. My storytelling capabilities come in handy when it comes to building brands and marketing content. I also conduct teen writing workshops at bookstores, libraries, and high schools. I love working with young writers and helping them find their voice. Their energy and enthusiasm is contagious. Their stories are powerful.
How did you make the transition from working in the corporate world of copywriting to fiction?
After 20 years in that world I took a creative writing class with Gotham Writers in New York City and wrote my first novel from one of my writing assignments. Julia Cameron’s The Artist Way helped me transition from believing I could only excel in a corporate world. I definitely lacked confidence at first trying to make it as a creative. It was my mindset that I had to overcome. I felt so far removed from my college writing days after having worked in a field where I didn’t write at all.
Do you have any advice for new writers?
Instead of showing up to write, show up to play. Worry less about what the page turns into or who will read it. Create without expectations and don’t take those first drafts too seriously as an indicator of what you can do.
Tell me about your first novel, I Like You Like This?
Published November 2017, it’s the first book in a duology, with the second coming out in Fall 2019. It’s a raw realistic portrayal of teens coming of age in 1984. It’s about addiction, sexuality, peer pressure, and first love. Sixteen-year-old Hannah wants to change her sad and pathetic life by trying impress a group of popular girls and instead captures the attention of a dark and mysterious boy and an unlikely romance ensues.
Those are hard hitting subjects, did you feel any pressure to give it the right treatment?
Definitely. In the book, Hannah takes LSD by herself in her basement and experiences a terrifying and emotionally revealing drug trip. I spent a lot of time researching LSD trips and watched a bunch of YouTube videos of people on Valium. I also read about children of addicts and what it’s like to grow up with addiction in the home. They were hard to read. I wanted to get those messages right in my book and be respectful to those who have experienced it first hand.
Tell me a bit about how the book was published.
Through a hybrid publisher, She Writes Press, which means part traditional, part independent. It’s an imprint of Spark Point. I can’t say enough about my experience with them. They are wonderful for first time authors. They take you under their wing and educate you on the world of publishing. There’s also a large She Writes community of authors that I can reach out to anytime. Many have become friends.
I Like You Like This has had some great reviews, here are a few.
“Hannah’s story is primo, and the surprise twist of the epilogue will have readers stoked with anticipation for a sequel. Overall, a tubular story for readers looking for their next great melodramatic love story.” —Kirkus Reviews
“The two teens’ unpredictable melting pot of emotions and attempts to find their place resonates.”—Publishers’ Weekly
“A poignant coming-of-age read full of heart-pounding drama and a swoon-worthy romance, I Like You Like This is guaranteed to captivate readers from beginning to end. Think Riverdale, but set in the 80s.”—BuzzFeed
“This teen narrative will pull at your heartstrings . . . I Like You Like This is a book you’ll definitely like!”—RT Book Reviews
“The romance between Hannah and Deacon, the unexpected ending, and Hannah’s transformation make this book a compelling read.”—Readers’ Favorite, Five Star Review
Thank you Heather for your time. The first in the duology is available from Amazon now, with the second instalment due out on 20th August 2019. It just leaves me to wish you the best of luck with the series.
If you enjoyed this interview then why not follow my blog where I’ll be posting more interviews soon and I regularly provide an insight into my own experiences as I work towards publishing my debut novel, In The End. If you’re an author, or you’ve just got an interesting story to tell and you’d like to be interviewed, just drop me a line on firstname.lastname@example.org