Interview with Nick Cook: Author of YA Sci-Fi Novel: Cloud Riders

Hi Nick, and thank you for taking some time from your hectic yet exciting schedule, to come and talk to us about you, and your soon to be released YA Sci-Fi Novel: Cloud Riders.
Could you give us a window into your earlier life and influences and how you’ve found yourself here today?

Somewhere back in the mists of time I was born in Harrow,
and spent most of my childhood there in the great sprawling metropolis that is Greater London. I grew up in a family where art was always a huge influence. Tapping into this, I finished college with a fine art degree tucked into my back pocket. Faced with the prospect of actually trying to make a living from my talents, I plunged into the emerging games’ industry back in the eighties. It was a start of a long career and I produced  graphics for many of the top selling games on the early home computers, including Aliens and Enduro Racer. It’s really strange looking back at those early games, which look so crude now. But back then, trust me, they were considered to be cutting edge.

As the games industry exploded into the one we know today, my career went supernova with it. I worked on titles such as XCom, and set up two studios which produced Warzone 2100, and the Conflict: Desert Storm series. I think I probably have somewhere in the region of forty published titles to my name. 

As great as the games industry is, a little voice kept nagging inside me and at the end of 2006, I finally gave into it and walked out of my games studio for the last time. I was at last ready to pursue my other passion as a full time career – writing.

So on a chilly December morning, I started my first novel. Now, several years later, I live in Oxford and have written Cloud Riders, a tale set in Tornado Alley, where Twisters are a way of life. 

To summarise, as they say, pursue your dreams. You never know where you’ll end up, but always remember that the journey is half the fun.

Wow. That’s quite an impessive background and it must have been a huge undertaking when making the decision to finally leave it all behind!

I understand that you are currently represented by Literary Agent: Eve White and have secured a publishing contract with Three Hares Publishing. Cloud Riders is out to buy in May 2014 on Amazon as both Print and Kindle options. Well done!

You must feel pretty accomplished, satisfied even, knowing that in a matter of weeks your name will begin to creep its way onto the bookshelves in our homes. Tell me, do you recall the turning point in your life/career where you could no longer fight the urge to write seriously?

Yes, absolutely. I worked in what many would consider to be a very cool industry developing computer games. However, the desire to write was something that kept nagging at the back of my mind. As a teenager, I drowned myself in great fiction and that helped fan the creative desire inside to write. It was about 7 years ago that impulse grew so strong I couldn’t ignore it anymore. So it was with a heavy heart that I left the games studio Id help found and the amazing and talented people I worked with. But once I started to write in earnest, I knew that Id made the right move and have never looked back.

Thats great. Do you now feel as though you are doing what you always should have, or, is writing a calling which only came to you as an adult?

When I began to write again, for the first time in a very long time, it felt like I was doing what I should be really doing with my life. I think when these rare moments happen in your life, and everything is in perfect alignment, you feel a deep sense of peace and well-being wash over you. In other words it felt like I’d come home.

As a writer I completely empathise with that notion, it’s a feeling of comfort and completion that not much else compares to. Who, would you say have been your biggest literary influences? The ones which have truly inspired you and still do?

There are so many, but Ill try to name a few. As a teenager, Tolkien was a major influence. His world building is second to none. I devoured Steinbeck, Laurie Lee, Hermann Hess, Isaac Asimov, Arthur C Clarke, Iain Banks (including in his M guise). As for childrens authors: Phillip Pullman of course, Harper Lee, J.D Salinger, Neil Gaiman, Patrick Ness, Lee Weatherley (my friend and mentor). And many, many more!

Ooh what can you tell us about Lee Weatherly? How do you know her?

I met Lee on a writing workshop weekend she was running with Helen Bryant of Cornerstones. Lee spotted something in my writing and me…
It was on that course I was told that it wasn’t a question of if I’d get published, but when! You can imagine what an impact that had on me! Ever since then, I’ve stayed in contact with Lee, and she’s been my mentor, helping to push me to do my very best and even beyond that.

She’s an inspiration!

Okay, Nick. Time for a challenge – Can you describe your inner desire to write in less than 50 words (Poetry would be amazing!).

That spark - which blazes in the quiet moments, to paint faraway lands in my imagination, and listen to characters who whisper, filling my head with their stories.

Obviously you have become quite practised over the last seven years, at setting aside time to get your literary work done, is there a list of Nick Cook dos and dont’s when it comes to the discipline of writing?

Do create a regular time that you write.
Do minimise distractions (including turning off the internet if necessary).
Do listen to feedback, absorb it, but only follow it if it feels truly right to you. Writing is all about finding your own voice and that takes time and plenty of dead ends, to really discover.
Dont write for anyone elsedo it for you, do it because you have to. Thats what will keep you striving for that magical moment when your words come to life on the page.
Do write even when you dont want to.
Dont ever, ever, give up.

With all of that in mind, can you let us into your daily writing routine?

 I always start off with a good dose of social media. There’s nothing like a bit of networking, especially with fellow authors, to make the world feel a smaller, warmer place. Then, fuelled by several cups of coffee, I power up my laptop to start writing for the day. I dont have a daily word target as such, but I do have a bottom line minimum of 500 words. However badly its going, I always make sure I exceed that minimum. In the afternoons I tend to switch focus, which right now means the transmedia work Im producing for Cloud Riders.

Discipline is so important when writing; I believe its just as important as honesty when writing. Can you tell us more about your transmedia work? Any links we could check out?

Absolutely, on both counts. You have to be focused, put the hours in, but you also have to be true to yourself. It’s so easy when you work with editors to start writing for them instead of yourself. Don’t, because if you do, you will find you are only going through the motions with your writing. Also, any fans you might gain, won’t actually be your fans… they’ll be fans of a writer you’re actually not – and that will never feel right. Be honest, be true to yourself – always.

Yes, I saw an article about just that on your blog – honesty must always remain as the foundation for any writer.

As for transmedia, it’s a fascinating emerging area for books. I think it’s best to think of it as a form of extended storytelling that can add background, texture, sound and vision to a book. In other words make it even more immersive for those who are interested in pursuing your story down the rabbit hole. Because of my game industry background, I’m very well placed to make the most this new exciting area.

The first element of my transmedia campaign are the trailers for Cloud Ridersactually for me they are more than that. I think of them as story vignettes, and unlike traditional trailers, mine actually form a sort of prologue covering events leading up to, rather than during, the book itself

I’m incredibly happy with how they’ve turned out, although it’s meant dusting down a lot of my old game industry skills to produce them. I’m also hugely indebted to my best friend Martin Severn (another game industry veteran), for creating the haunting sound track that’s brought my film and graphic work to life.

Another element of the transmedia plan is opening the inspiration behind my writing to my readers. A good example of this is my Pinterest mood board for Cloud Riders. Apart from the many images that have inspired me, it includes some of the research material I’ve used, including video. 

It even has recipes that I think they might serve up in the diner featured in the story! Look at it and you’ll very quickly get a taste (quite literally) for what the book is all about.

There is another major part to the transmedia campaign that goes live in two weeks, but I don’t want to spoil the surprise about what it is. :)

Of course, I wouldn’t want to spoil anything with the release of Cloud Riders being so close – instead I will digress and attempt to draw your readers off the scent.
What does your working area consist of? And be honest. Even if you have week old coffee mugs with a surface layer of mould nearby, sweet wrappers maybe – dirty laundry even? (Its fine – we wont tell anyone ☺)

I have two, actually three, working areas. The obligatory desk with a nice big turbo charged iMac on. I share this with my girlfriend. Of course my side is reasonably ordered, but as for my girlfriends side… ;)

My second work area is at the kitchen island, which Ive transformed into a standing desk with a monitor stand. Too much sitting is really bad for your health!

My third area(s) are the wonderful coffee shops of Oxford. For some reason I always manage to get more writing done thereprobably something to do with never bothering to log onto the internet when Im in them!

Maybe that is where I am going wrong! Working from one place with a battered old laptop and more four-legged friends than is acceptable when trying to focus…the coffee shops sound appealing, but I fear I would be broke – I love cake!

So, next question, Nick. When you start a piece of literary work or complete one do you have a ritual? (Dancing in underpants is fine, so is hugging a tree or smudging sage, or indeed singing into a hairbrush- so long as no-one suffers in the process!)

Now, finished is a fairly loose term for me as Ive been known to take forever to let go of a piece of work! But when it does eventually happen and the manuscript is torn from my grip, my first instinct is always to take my girlfriend out to dinner. After all its your partner, family, friends, who you really need to say thank you to for putting up with an author and all that entails!

That’s a very noble and lovely ritual and of course you are right. Writers really must count their blessings in the guise of the support they have – and regular thanks are a must.
What are you reading right now, and do you have a preferred genre? We all know that if an author is to write well, that they must also read regularly.

Just finishing Patrick Ness - A Monster Calls. What a brilliant, poignant and important fable. If you havent read it, you should!


Anything and everything, from the profound to pure escapism. Just as long as it's great writing.

Cloud Riders, the first in the Trilogy, touches on Quantum Mechanics/Philosophy/ Quantum Engineering and epic weather (Mixed with some fabulous outer-space phenomenon). If there is one fact from your book you wish were a reality which would it be?

Now I have to be careful here, as I dont want to give away plot spoilers. Lets just say to discover than we as an intelligent life form, are not alone in the universe. That would have an incredible powerful impact on humanity.

So many secrets and so many things to look forward to! I guess patience is a virtue. I also presume then, that you were a huge fan of such TV/Films (and books) as Dune, Star Trek, Star Wars and Doctor Who in your youth?

Of course! I’m a fully paid up member of all of the above. I still remember seeing Star Wars in Leicester Square – and the opening to that film was like a religious experience for me! You see nothing was ever quite the same for me afterwards it had that big an impact on me. Of course I mustn’t forget the other influential TV classics, like Blake’s Seven, the Twilight Zone, The Time Tunnel, Lost in Space, and numerous others. I’ve always been drawn to the fantastical, although you probably guessed that already!

I think we definitely get that impression! Nikola Tesla: Electrical/Mechanical Engineer, Physicist and Futurist, is, I believe, also one of your heroes? If you had one question for him what would it be? And which of our modern world’s technology, or places would you want to show him?

I would be picking his brain about his experiments with broadcast power. Check out this link all about it:

I once read that Tesla was quoted as saying it wouldn’t be long before we all would have hand-held devices which would allow us to speak to one another it makes you wonder how much modern tech actually comes from his genius. (Something tells me more than we have been led to believe!)

I think Tesla had an ability to see beyond the immediate horizon of his lifetime like many great visionaries seem able to. They see the potential of what could be rather than what is. Certainly Tesla saw possibilities where others saw roadblocks. There are so many strands of modern science that can be traced back to him… even mobile phones it would seem!
As for what I would show him, I think Tesla would be fascinated in the Large Hadron Collider and our attempts to unlock the secrets of fundamental particles. In fact Im certain hed love being alive today, because of the massive exponential growth in cutting edge scientific discoveries – hed be in his element!

What is The Large Hadron Colllider? I could Google it, but Im sure you wont mind telling us.

I will try and keep this brief! :)
In a nutshell, the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) recreates the conditions a billionth of a second after the Big Bang. Why be interested in this? Because during that fleeting moment, the secrets of how our universe were created can be found. The first result from the LHC has been the discovery of the Higgs-Boson, the sticky stuff in the universe that give particles mass. If you are interested in a fuller explanation check out my blog article about it here: 

There certainly seems to be a growing interest regarding science as a whole and it’s clear to see where you draw much of your inspiration from. Can you tell your future readers which part of Cloud Riders is your favorite? Whether it’s a concept, a scene or a character.

The moment an airship edges out of the middle of a twister I mean how crazy is that? As to how an airship managed to survive flying through a tornado, youll just have to read the book and find out!

Its a very cool concept. Extreme weather is fascinating and kind of scary too. Look at Dorothy for example; we all know where she ended up! I think your readers are going to really enjoy the mix of reality with the unknown and unchartered!

I hope so… it certainly excites me as a writer. I can see these events so clearly in my imagination – I just hope I’ve been able to convey the magic of that vision to my readers, and they too will become as intoxicated as I’ve become. :o)

On a completely different note: Do you have a favorite quote?

Arrrggghhhhh! Just one? Thats not fairbut heres one Im rather fond of

To be what we are, and to become what we are capable of becoming, is the only end of life.

-Robert Louis Stevenson

Ask me tomorrow and you’ll get a different quote!

Go on then, one more…

The purpose of life is not to be happy. It is to be useful, to be honorable, to be compassionate, to have it make some difference that you have lived and lived well.
– Ralph Waldo Emerson

Brilliant and poignant, thank you, Nick. All authors should have one. (Or two, three…)
What would be your one word of advice to a budding author?  I’m sure many emerging pen-pushers are reading this with baited breath!


To round up now, so you can get on with what you do best - What will be next on the agenda for Nick Cook? Should we look out for a sequel to Cloud Riders?  And can we expect the name Nick Cook to be comfortably nestled on our bookshelves for a long time to come? (I have a feeling we will.)

Yes there is second, and a third book in the Cloud Riders series. But thats not all. This is a bit of an exclusive for you. Ive been working on the concept behind Cloud Riders for seven years. There will be three linked trilogies eventuallyand thats all Im going to say for the moment! :)

Good grief! I bet your agent loves you?! The world of Harry Potter has so many extras that have been a success due the original success of the books. I think it’s a fabulous idea for you to extend your literary journals in a similar way. When you’ve invested as much time as you have in the world building of Cloud Riders, and, with the imminent over-night success of your first book looming – I’m sure we will all be grateful for these extra windows that stem from Tornado Alley. I sincerely look forward to hearing more.

We’re nearly done, this is your chance to shamelessly plug away What would you like to show or tell your readers?

I love setting my stories in a seemingly normal world, and like some mad scientist experimenting, seeing what happens when extraordinary things are let loose in it. But most of all my writing is about people and their journeys. I strive to create characters that you feel you actually know, and drop them into incredible situations. I certainly hope that if you read Cloud Riders, these characters who live in my imagination, end up meaning as much to you as they do to me.

That’s it folks – as they say. You will be delighted to know that this interview is an exclusive and that Nick Cook is one of the nicest and most interesting people I’ve had the pleasure to talk with.

Nick, thank you so much for allowing us all, to share an insight into your wonderful journey so far. 

It’s never easy as an author, to find your lucky break - but you’ve done it and you certainly deserve any recognition and simple pleasure that come with Cloud Riders and its own journey.

I wish you every success with the book's launch in May 2014 and will watch closely to see how you are getting on! I’m already a huge fan of Cloud Riders.

Readers – I will of course keep you up to date on all the latest news surrounding Cloud Riders and please feel free to leave your comments below. (Maybe even ask Nick a question…)

-Danl Tetley


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