To everyone at Brenau University, Alison Reeger Cook is the administrative assistant to the Office of Communications and Publications.
To her readers, Cook is known as A.R. Cook — the author behind “The Scholar and the Sphinx,” a young-adult fantasy/historical fiction series about a teen genius who is sucked into a supernatural realm of mythology and folklore.
The first installment in the series, “The Scholar, the Sphinx and the Shades of Nyx” was published by Knox Robinson Publishing in May 2013. In December, Cook published the second installment: “The Scholar, the Sphinx and the Fang of Fenrir.”
To celebrate her new book’s release, the 31-year-old native of Riverside, Ill., shared her thoughts with The Times on fantasy, writing and how to get started in the publishing industry.
Question: How did you first get interested in mythology and folklore, which play such a huge part in “The Scholar and the Sphinx” series?
Answer: When I was a kid, my parents would read bedtime stories to me, and (the topics) covered the gamut. A lot of the stories were fairy tales. That’s how it started, and it would oftentimes bleed over into mythology stories. We read children’s version of Greek mythology, so I kind of grew up with it. In college, I studied it, too. It’s always been with me.
Q: How did you decide to become a writer?
A: I’ve just always had an interest in it. My father is a playwright, among other things, but I remember writing stories since first grade. Of course, back then they were a paragraph long. It’s just something I’ve continued to love doing. I tried everything when I was a kid — dancing and art and all that, but all of it eventually went to the wayside. Writing was something that stayed with me.
Q: How did you get interested in young-adult literature? How did you decide to write a young-adult novel that is part fantasy and part historical fiction?
A: I read a lot of it. Fantasy and historical fiction has become more of an interest for me, but it was always fantasy growing up. I read a lot of it, so it was easier to write something when I’d read a lot of it. I read more historical type things as I got older, so that started mashing in. I liked the combination of having things grounded in reality with history, but adding a little fantasy element to it.
Q: What do you plan to write in the future?
A: There’s actually going to be a third book in the ‘Scholar and the Sphinx’ series. From there, I’m debating whether I want to continue with a new story arc. I’m working on a steampunk novel now which is really bizarre for me, because I’ve read some steampunk, but I haven’t delved into it like I’ve delved into other things. I’ve got a couple conventions coming up in the spring, so that should be fun.
Q: What advice would you give someone who wants to be a writer but is just starting out?
A: I’d say if you’re just starting, you have to read a lot and write a lot, even if it’s just a couple sentences a day in a diary, and just learning as much as you can about publishing. It can seem overwhelming, and a lot of people, myself included, went into publishing with the fantasy that you just have to write one perfect book, get it accepted, and you can just sit back and it sells itself. That’s really not the case. Even if you get in with a big publisher, you’ve still got to go out and do a lot of the footwork yourself. It’s just making sure you understand the expectations from publishers, and being prepared to really do the work because there is going to be work involved, even after the writing is done.
A book launch party for “The Scholar, the Sphinx and the Fang of Fenrir” will be at 6:30 p.m. Jan. 22 at the Walters House, 305 Boulevard SE in Gainesville.