Interview with Carol Cooper

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Author Talk: Richard Lowe Interviews Carol Cooper

Today’s guest is Dr. Carol Cooper, a general practitioner and writer. Carol has been writing for major publications for many years, has published a series of non-fiction books and now has written 2 contemporary romance fiction novels.

In this fascinating interview she in addition to telling her story and giving great tips for authors, she tells how she got her self-published books into bookstores and how that affected her book sales.

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Interview Transcript Carol Cooper

Richard Lowe  00:00

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Welcome to author talk with Richard Lowe. I’m talking to Carol Cooper. She’s a highly successful medical professional, who has lots of medical and healthcare books, trade publishing, she also self published his her novel about contemporary London life. She has an interesting background, which we’re going to find all about, was raised partially in Egypt, in Switzerland, and possibly elsewhere, too. Thank you for coming to the show, Carol.

Carol Cooper  00:23

It’s my great pleasure, Richard.

Richard Lowe  00:33

And again, thank you for coming, Carol. Appreciate the opportunity to interview. What is your story?

Carol Cooper  00:39

Well, my story is that I’m London based. I live in North London, where I’m a doctor, and medical journalist, and broadcaster. And I teach medical students and I interweave all of that with writing my books. And as you could imagine, that is actually quite an entertaining, busy life. And what I find is that everything, males, and it’s in together with all the other activities,

Richard Lowe  01:06

I see and or your books and medical related.

Carol Cooper  01:10

Well, most of my first 10 or so books, where I began writing nonfiction, over 20 years ago, and I wrote books on things like keeping healthy at work. And then I read a lot of books about raising children. I think probably my best selling book is on raising twins, which are apparently from personal experiences, as you might appreciate, and then that are followed on from that, to writing novels.

Richard Lowe  01:41

I see what kind of novels do you write,

Carol Cooper  01:43

write novels about relationships, that contemporary fiction and set in London, and they involve a number of different characters. And the characters have multicultural as you’d expect from the great bustling city of London. And they’re set in places that people would recognize if you know anything about London. They just normal is called Hampstead fever. And conveniently, I do live in cast it. And that’s exactly where except

Richard Lowe  02:11

what a strange coincidence. Yeah,

Carol Cooper  02:14

I’m Cat, isn’t it? Yes.

Richard Lowe  02:17

Yes. So you’ve you self publish your books, you say,

Carol Cooper  02:21

I self published my novels, every single one of my nonfiction books, which actually also because a couple of textbooks of medicine. Were there all commissioned publishers actually approached me and asked me to write to write these books. But when I eventually turned to writing fiction, not a single one of those lovely publishers that actually phoned up and said, Carol, you know, you’re writing so fantastic, well, and she wrote a juicy novel. And I thought, well, it would take quite a long time to bring a novel to market, I had an agent, but again, it was it was gonna be a long, long road. So I then looked around, and I could see that self publishing was becoming much more acceptable and much more professional, as well as actually easier to do. You know, it’s called self publishing. But I’m sure as it’s already evolved, some of the some of the interviews you’ve done, they’ve probably brought out the fact that when you self publish, you’re not doing everything on camera. So I realized that I would not be doing it all on my own if I chose to Self Publish. So that’s quite a good thing to do. Let me try

Richard Lowe  03:34

that. Very good. And how successful were you at that?

Carol Cooper  03:39

I will say I made a lot of mistakes with my first novel, which is one night a check around that and made a huge number of mistakes. Firstly, with the cover, I thought that the cover I had devised using an Amazon template, and quite a high res photo, a pair of red suede shoes would actually scream novel about relationships. And actually, we really screen was amateur. So I got that redesigned by my professional cover designer, Jessica Bell, and I made mistakes. Also with my choice of proofreader. I didn’t choose someone who was particularly experienced, and that was a big mistake. And of course, you know, it looks like the manuscript looks alright. But the moment you set it up, send it off, and immortalize it, publish it, then you look at it again, and all states literally jump off the page at you because that’s exactly what happened. So I republished pretty quickly a corrected edition with a with a much nicer cover.

Richard Lowe  04:51

What makes for good cover in your opinion?

Carol Cooper  04:55

I think it has to tell you what the genre of the book is. And I think it has to be In my view has to be colorful.

Richard Lowe  05:03

Okay, and I found that the cover sells the book if you don’t have a good cover, it doesn’t sell. Did you find that?

Carol Cooper  05:09

Exactly. But I think I think it’s the unexpected. I suspect if you have a book with a completely monotone cover, it would stand out from the other covers in the bookstore. So if you had a book that was just maybe blue with one white.on it for example, it was standard. It’s exactly the same with bakeless double white albums to that from the other record covers at the time.

Richard Lowe  05:38

Where do you get your covers created?

Carol Cooper  05:40

Well, by Jessica bellows designed both of my covers if I can show you one of them now, please do. This is this one this one? Irsay is one night, Jacaranda? I think it tells you that it’s set in London. And there’s probably some dating involved. And that was the first convergence. For me this is fever, which, again, it does suggest something about romance, maybe dating maybe summertime. And it is actually set in a heatwave and set pictures to a London that that’d be a fairly iconic picture of Hampstead that doesn’t have my other house to advance.

Richard Lowe  06:29

Very attractive covers. I like them.

Carol Cooper  06:32

I love it. And they are colorful. I mean, I think it does stand out. But they don’t really look like exactly all the other covers that contemporary novels have. But I think they do tell you what the genre and then yes, it’s turned out to say,

Richard Lowe  06:48

well, nobody wants to look like everybody else being. Yeah. Do you have your own unique style? And how did you develop it?

Carol Cooper  06:57

My writing style? Yes, I think? I think so. And I think both books are about contemporary relationships. But they’re not just about romantic relationships are about relationships with work with offspring, with exes with aging, parents, and so on. So there’s, there’s a whole gamut of relationships there. And these two novels are written from multiple points of view. So there are equal numbers of male voices as there are female voices, which is why I don’t think I would call them women’s fiction. And I think you get different scenes from different people’s points of view. And the characters are, it’s not just the quantity of characters, I think quality, they’re complex characters. And I do want a cookie cutter characters. And I think, what I’ve been asked, Well, why can’t Why do you write like this? And I say, well, that’s how I write. That’s how that’s my voice. And I thought about it. And of course, it actually goes back to my work as a family doctor. Because as a busy family doctor, I see a different patient, every 10 or 15 minutes, completely unexpected, quite often, they come into my consulting room to sit down and for the time that they’re there, I’m trying to put myself in their shoes. And I try to understand their problem and obviously, to try to alleviate in some way. But I think that’s that’s where my style evolves from.

Richard Lowe  08:35

Very interesting, very interesting. So your medical background has actually helped your writing.

Carol Cooper  08:39

It has it has very much so I have adopted in each of my books, I decided that some time ago that I would have at least one doctor character in all of my fiction,

Richard Lowe  08:50

okay, and your fiction tends to be lean toward romance you say? Yes,

Carol Cooper  08:55

these two novels are sort of romantic. I don’t think that’s the typical happy ever after ending, but it is an appropriate ending in each one. And yes, it is about it is about romantic problems. The first one one night at the Jacaranda I was influenced by books that are actually not romances. I was a big fan of Mary McCarthy, which the group and things Catherine airports ship befalls, and run a Japanese class reunion. And in all of those books, there is a there is a place in time where all the characters get together. And that’s a device where they then set the characters that have separated go their separate ways, back and so on. And I thought that kind of device would be great. And that’s also been used. It’s not that original. It’s been using the acopian building by our swami who writes in a building in Cairo. And I thought, well, that would be great. How do I get disparate people who don’t know each other into to the same place. And actually, I, it was an easy choice, a seven speed dating in that novel, but to not all there to find someone that they have different motives for for going speed dating, but it does actually get them into the same place at the same time on one particular evening.

Richard Lowe  10:21

So you use multiple viewpoints is what I think I heard you say,

Carol Cooper  10:24

absolutely multiple viewpoints all the way through third person, but then multiple viewpoints.

Richard Lowe  10:31

Very interesting. And why did you choose romance?

Carol Cooper  10:37

I guess? I guess I don’t actually have an answer to that question. It, it may be it chose me. I’ve always been fascinated about human relationships and what makes people tick. And I guess that’s why I write about relationships. in the broader sense. I’ve said it’s not always about a romantic relationship. It’s about the relationship people have with their colleagues, with their families, and so on. And it’s strange, I started writing my first novel one night at the Jacaranda when I was on a plane. And I was on my way to my father’s funeral nearly 10 years ago, and it was a stressful time, I just traveled with my eldest son to go his funeral. So we were flying to Newark. And I thought I needed a gin and tonic, I sat with a gin and tonic. And I’d been given this paper napkin by the cabin crew. And I started writing this idea for a novel. And I then had to ask her for another napkin, because I needed more paper. So the idea literally came to me out of the blue at 37,000 feet, when I was on my way to my dad’s funeral. And, interestingly, that he had nothing to do with writing. He was he was an actuary. So pensions and life insurance. And, but he, he’d always wanted to be a writer. And he’d never had. And I wonder if that was really the shove, I needed to develop this idea. I’ve tried writing novels before, but never really developed them to the extent of spending that much time on Monday getting critiques getting editorial help, and so on and pushing them out into the world. And I wonder if that was, that was really the impetus that I needed. But I didn’t realize it at the time in any conscious way.

Richard Lowe  12:37

So you literally started you’re writing your book on a napkin? I did. Fascinating. That’s always fascinating story. I’ve heard about starting a novel. Do you have any tips that you can give to help writers succeed? Oh, yes.

Carol Cooper  12:53

I don’t have any I don’t have any tips that will turn them into millionaires. And I’m often asked by usually by young doctors who say, I want to be a media doctor and say, Well, what kind of media to be? And they say, I don’t know. I said, geology, writing or broadcasting or what kind of thing? I don’t know. And they’re actually really telling me I want to be famous. They don’t mind how, and I think if someone’s tried to write just to a lot of money or be famous, they’re probably going the wrong way. But I do have advice that could help people right. And that is to keep writing, to not give up. And and also to keep reading. And I don’t think that anybody should ape other writers. But I think there’s a lot to be learned from, from good writing, from good novels, and, and also from good books about writing. So Stephen King has written a fantastic book about writing. I also loved Somerset, mom’s a writer’s notebook and Dorothea brands book, the name escapes me about writing. And so keep reading, but eventually develop your own voice. And I think that’s absolutely key, as I think that I think is what keeps writing. And I’m sure you’ve found exactly the same with your own writing, you do develop your own voice. And I think that’s what, that’s what makes the writer readable. People don’t necessarily want to read a carbon copy of another writer, they want to read about you about your story. And I think developing your own voice keeps it authentic. It’s not gonna surprise you that I advocate writing as well.

Richard Lowe  14:46

I understand. Yeah, when I when I want to read Stephen King, I pick up a Stephen King novel, not somebody who kind of writes like Stephen King.

Carol Cooper  14:53


Richard Lowe  14:56

Well, what do you do when you don’t want to write

Carol Cooper  15:00

Do you mean when I’m trying to write it doesn’t come? Yes, yeah, yes. Well, I hate to call it writer’s block. But there are definitely times when I don’t have any energy from writing. And funnily enough, I have plenty of energy for gardening or for going for a walk, or whatever. But I often have no energy whatsoever for writing. And it’s, it’s difficult it I find it really hard to force myself to write if I do I, maybe we’ll produce a paragraph or two of completely dubious worth. And I think doing something else is, is a great help. And the book by Dorothea brand, and I was trying to remember the title of I still can’t, but it’s mentioned that often inspiration strikes when you’re lying in bed. So keep an open mind if you’re soaking in the bath. So Ditto. And if you’re on a bus, I think she said Bed Bath and baths. And I think going to do something else is is quite a good way of stoking the writing fires.

Richard Lowe  16:20

I agree with you. That’s what I do I get up and walk I usually find writer’s block is caused by staring at the screen for too long. Yes,

Carol Cooper  16:26

exactly. You know, you’re getting square eyes and nothing’s happening.

Richard Lowe  16:31

That’s exactly what I call it his computer screen.

Carol Cooper  16:37

Absolutely. And sometimes I sit and stare at it for so long. I think there could be a spider’s web between myself and the screen.

Richard Lowe  16:44

What it seems to cause me is to introvert into the computer itself my mind and have to pull myself out. Okay, now, the elephant in the room among all writers that I’ve known is how do they promote their books? What do

Carol Cooper  16:59

I find it very difficult, because despite having had a fairly international upbringing, I still have that British reserve. And I cannot blow my own trumpet, I have to get someone else to vote. And the other thing is, I don’t want to ask them to vote for me. So they’re gonna have to get the idea on their own. You know, that doesn’t really fair enough. It’s hard, I think the best thing that happened, promotion wise, was getting my second novel Hampstead fever into major bookstores. That really, really helped. And that kick started it and, and in fact, I sell more of Hampstead fever in bookstores. Whereas with my first novel, I sell more online take you through.

Richard Lowe  17:52

You actually have a self published book in bookstores. I certainly do is this one? And how did you do that?

Carol Cooper  18:00

I had a I used a publicist to get me interviews. But as she basically what it was, I think the best thing I did was naming it Hampstead fever. And it was set in Hampstead where I live, as I said, and that may have a huge local interest. So it was it was promoted in the local press. I had my launch in a happened to be across the street from that scene that you see on the cover of the book. So it it made waves and then people asking for it in bookstores. So people in other bookstores were asking for wanting to buy it. And then went into Waterstones Piccadilly, which is one of the very largest bookstores in the country, and asked if it might, they might like to stop it. And this rather bored I thought lucky gentleman said, All right, tell me what your books about. And this is the bit at which most authors stumble and can’t find the right words. And I just told him two sentences. Right. And the next time and let him a card. And the next time I went to the bookstore, I’ve had a friend of mine. She said your book is out on the table next to David Nichols and whoever else. That helped a lot and then I got I got WH Smith, which is a major retailer in this country and to promote it on in front of store promo last year over the eastern standard period. And I happen to have met the then buyer for ws travel bookshops, and I thought, well, I’ll get in touch with him and see whether he likes the idea of my book. And I had no I had no idea at the time that this is If you have a book that’s being promoted, you have to pay a huge marketing fee, which is why these promotions are usually only open to the large publishers. But I thought, you know, I’ll give it a try. So he said, Yes, it sounds interesting, send me a copy. And I sent him a copy. And I heard nothing whatsoever. And then I happen to run into him at a party at Christmas. Still, having heard nothing from him. And I thought, No, I’m not gonna say anything. I’m gonna slink away. I actually am not very good at parties. And I thought, My feet are killing me. I am going to go home. And I sort of know why I’ve got to stay on Intermat. So stopped and said that and says, I owe you an email, don’t I? I said, Yeah, you may do. I didn’t know if you do remember me. But yeah. He said, No, you’ve got to, you’ve got an email in email me in the morning and nudge me. And I said, Well, I don’t do that kind of thing. Quite self effacing. I mean, if I’d be the guy that probably eaten my tie at that point. He said, No, no, you’ve been imagining. So I emailed him next day. And he said, Yes, we want to take 500 copies in the first instance, in front of store in a big promo. And then in the end, he took more than that. And he put them in travel bookstores. And some in europe as well means mainland europe, I should say,

Richard Lowe  21:33

Did you print those yourself? Or how did you get them to him?

Carol Cooper  21:37

I printed these books are printed by one of the major printers in the UK, Clay’s, who print a huge number of traditionally published books. So they’re high quality, printers, high quality, I think what my agent would have said is the production values are high. And they look to all intents and purposes, like traditionally published books. But the other good thing is hand in hand with that. There’s a distributor. And there are two main distributors in the United Kingdom for print books, and publishing through clays or printing through clays in a way to use gardeners as a distributor. So they handle the distribution. So if a bookshop wants your book, somebody goes in orders your book, The bookstore, goes off to gardeners and gardens arrange his book to arrive,

Richard Lowe  22:35

I see. Well,

Carol Cooper  22:38

I was not lugging 500 copies of books. That wouldn’t have worked. You’ve got to have a distributed?

Richard Lowe  22:45

Of course, of course, it’s this kind of a dream of all self published authors, myself included to be in bookstores. But that’s really difficult.

Carol Cooper  22:53

Yes, it is. It is. But it’s, I think it’s it really helped that particular book. And I don’t know what will happen in the next book.

Richard Lowe  23:03

We’ll see. Yes. They like to talk about something which I call the writing life. Are you a full time? You’re a full time writer?

Carol Cooper  23:12

No, I’m not. I teach medical students and I do medical journalism. And that’s my two main outlets at the moment. And I write the rest of them read books the rest of time, but also write nonfiction books.

Richard Lowe  23:27

I see. So you kind of live the writing life where you’ve got your own little bit of freedom.

Carol Cooper  23:32

I kind of I can, I can almost please myself with my timetable format? Not quite. So I’m, you know, just in journalism, the deadlines are often very short. And obviously, if I’m teaching, I have to teach in particular sessions, so that I can please myself as to when I choose to sit down and write.

Richard Lowe  23:56

Well, of course, of course, and what is your favorite thing about being an author?

Carol Cooper  24:01

I guess, doing what I love, at a time that I choose to do it. And looking back, I think being a writer since we grow well, but it wasn’t. You know what, it wasn’t a new idea. I turned to fiction writing fairly late in life. But it wasn’t a new idea for me. even when I was in my 20s. I wanted to be a writer. They want to study medicine. I want to be a writer. And I was living in North London, not in Hampstead. But nearby, in a place called Highgate and one of my ambitions was Sullivan. And another one was to write novels. And that’s exactly what I now do. Of course, I would like to now write more novels. But but it has achieved a long held ambition. And I’ve tried to write novels before it’s I think I’ve hinted I tried to write a novel when I was an undergraduate at university. And I thought this is this is Something I really wanted to do, why can’t I do it? And my mother was a writer as well, but quite a different kind of writer. So I thought, Well, I’ll try this. And, you know, I was about 20. I knew nothing of life. At the time. I would guess, if I knew anything at all it was how to pass exams. And, you know, that doesn’t really make for a very interesting novel. So I put that idea away. I tried, you know, many times after that, but I never really gave it my all until I had that I do.

Richard Lowe  25:38

Very interesting. Very interesting. Well, it’s been fascinating talking to you. Do you have any closing remarks?

Carol Cooper  25:43

Well, it’s been a great pleasure talking to you, Richard, I think it’s it’s been a fabulous chat, and I’ve really enjoyed it. I think keep going is is my best advice. If somebody wants to get in touch with my writing, and keep abreast of what I’m doing, there’s my website, WWE experience, Dr. Powell and my blog, hills and pillow and everywhere else on social media, such as Instagram and Twitter account.

Richard Lowe  26:22

Very good. Okay, well, thank you very much for appearing. And, and all you listeners out there, be sure to subscribe to this channel and you’ll receive regular updates of author talk with Richard Lowe and signing out now. Thank you

Richard Lowe

2 thoughts on “Interview with Carol Cooper

  1. Carol Cooper Reply

    It was a delight to talk to you, Richard, and many thanks for asking me such great questions. I hope my replies will help other writers. I’m really looking forward to the rest of the series too.

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