By Rachel Weiss-Feldman
Halloween may be over, but books and shows about the supernatural are popular year-round. This week’s Meet a Member we talk with lifestyle, entertainment and paranormal subject writer Caroline H. Cooney. Among her credits, Caroline was writer/producer of a 2009 paranormal-reality promotional pilot, Midnight In Savannah about a community of psychics and witches in the Bible Belt. Caroline answers questions about the process of writing—and selling—screenplays, articles on pop culture, and about her YA novel, Bloomtown (currently being prepared for publication). Visit her website at CarolineHCooney.com
Q. Rachel: Tell us about your novel.
A. Caroline: Bloomtown is a young adult supernatural thriller about a teenage girl haunted by the death of her mother, who must battle pervasive evils, both cultural and otherworldly, in the New Jersey suburbs.
When Anna Fagan was a child, her mother was possessed by a demon and took her own life rather than harm her family. Years later, Anna is practically an outcast. Her father, now an eccentric paranormal investigator, has given up on trying to contact her mother’s soul.
Things go from bad to worse, as the demon that killed her mother hasn’t left town. Like a malignant growth, its evil is spreading through Bloomtown, just under the surface, growing stronger and more destructive.
The book is ultimately about Anna’s quest to make peace with her mother’s death as she struggles to save the only family she has left.
Q. Rachel: From where do you draw inspiration?
A. Caroline: I have been fascinated by the supernatural and spiritual, and been a serious student of both subjects, since I was a child. I’m also a news junkie that follows women and girl’s issues pretty closely. For example, the world that I portray in Bloomtown reflects my perceptions of the cultural minefield a teenage girl must navigate today, where bullying can continue after school hours, on the Internet. It’s a world where girls are pressured to be hyper sexual, then shamed by their peers. A world where protecting boys and their “bright futures” can sometimes supersede the pursuit of justice. (Okay, enough of the “world” stuff, I sound like the guy who does the voice overs for movie trailers.)
Q. Rachel: How did you get involved with the WNBA?
A. Caroline: I was searching online for literary events. After attending one or two, I joined the NYC Chapter.
Q. Rachel: What has being an association member been like?
A. Caroline: Joining the WNBA has been incredibly rewarding for me. Their events give writers access to accomplished agents, editors and publishers who are generous with their time and advice. I met fellow WNBA member, my editor, Katherine Don (katherinedon.com), at a panel discussion. Katherine has been instrumental in helping me get Bloomtown ready to send to agents. I’m continually amazed at the high quality of free WNBA events given the affordable membership fee.
Q. Rachel: You participated in Query Roulette 2014. Did you get any advice?
A. Caroline: Yes, to make my query letter as succinct and non-annoying possible.
Q. Rachel: What was your process for screen and teleplays and how were some of yours acquired?
A. Caroline: I took two TV “spec” script classes at both Media Bistro and NYU Continuing SCPS, and was assigned to write episodes of shows that were currently on the air. I had a lot of fun in those classes and met other writers that I ended up in productive writing groups with. It turned out that I had a knack for scriptwriting, and my spec scripts performed admirably in some industry contests. I used those contest placings as a credential when approaching agents, directors and producers as a scriptwriter.
I first connected with one director on a message board of Without a Box, a site for independent filmmakers. I started working with another producer/director after responding to a posting for scriptwriters on Mandy.com. Eventually, I had several short films optioned, meaning that I had signed contracts with producers allowing them permission to shoot my script for a certain time period. Most of these went nowhere (the scripts were never shot) and it got a bit frustrating at times, but through it all my writing continued to improve.
Q. Rachel: Any screenplay and film making advice?
A. Caroline: To writers without Hollywood connections who are interested in screenwriting, my advice is to get your work “off the page” as soon as possible. And scripts with as few locations and special effects as possible are more likely to be actually made. There are also plenty of film schools in New York City with students who are looking for ultra low-budget short and feature length scripts. You also have nothing to lose by contacting film professors or schools and offering your services as a scriptwriter.
Better yet, make your own short films and submit them to festivals. This is a new era, where someone with some know-how, a cheap camera (or even a smartphone) and editing software can put together a short film on a low budget. This is one way to make sure that you have control over how your story is told and a great way to gain real-world experience.
Q. Rachel: There are numerous sites and periodicals to write for but it can be challenging to get published—and paid for it. Any advice for publishing a “Listicle”, or another clever pop culture piece?
A. Caroline: Assuming you don’t have any editorial contacts, my advice is to work on getting some clips that you can point to online in your query letters to editors. I did that by creating a blog on examiner.com. I started out blogging about new-age type spiritual events in New York City. From there, I was able to get a few paying gigs writing about different things to do in the city.
Q. Rachel: You are very active on Twitter. How do you grow your Twitter base?
A. Caroline: Take the time to compose an interesting tweet. Play with the140 character limit and see how you can get your message across with the most punch within that limitation. Tweet about your interests and passions. Use hash tags liberally, they are a fast and easy way to see who is tweeting about what interests you, and also increase your own visibility. People with similar interests are more likely to engage with and follow you. Also, be generous with your favorites and retweets. Chances are that the people you’re giving shout outs to will check out your Twitter feed, and possibly follow you.
Q. Rachel: What’s your favorite word and why?
A. Caroline: According to a friend of mine, it’s “inappropriate” because I say it all the time. I’m also fond of the word “shenanigans.”
Q. Rachel: What are you currently reading?
A. Caroline: Stephen King’s Big Driver. After all these years, I still learn from him.
Rachel Feldman is the WNBA-NYC Membership Chair. She is currently working towards a certificate in Fundraising at NYU.