Geoffrey Cook started telling Veronica and the Volcano stories to pass the time with his daughter Madeline on the twenty-five-minute drive to school every morning. She enjoyed his stories, and so he wrote them down. Geoffrey is a serial entrepreneur. He is the CEO and co-founder of The Meet Group (NASDAQ: MEET). He currently runs 5 mobile apps with 10+ million monthly users, and previously founded EssayEdge and ResumeEdge from a Harvard dorm. He lives in Princeton, NJ, with his wife, two daughters, and son.
Hi Geoffrey, thank you for being with us today. Why don’t you start by telling our readers a bit about your writing journey?
My writing career began as an editor then took a ten-year break while I built my companies and started a family. When my daughter Madeline was six-years-old, I started telling Veronica and the Volcano stories to pass the time on the twenty-five-minute drive to school every morning.
While writing Veronica, I extensively researched volcanoes, even visiting one. The most important volcanoes in the book are all based on real-world volcanoes like Krakatoa, Crater Lake, Mt. Pelee, and Tambora.
What is Veronica and the Volcano about?
Veronica and the Volcano blends science with science fiction, straddling the world of the believable and fantastical and combining the latest earth science with incredible action. Ten-year-old Veronica lives in a high-tech, gadget-filled house on the slope of an active volcano. When she leaves on a quest to find rare white volcano pearls on the far side of the biggest volcano of all, Mount Mystery, she leads her father, her best friend Maddy, and her friend's dad, the blustering Captain John, into a series of incredible adventures. But when the colossal volcano erupts, fears wins an election, and Veronica must square off against a fear-mongering villain: the Man-in-White.
Congratulations on your recent literary awards: the 2017-2018 Reader Views Reviewer’s Choice Award – First Place in the Young Reader Category. Tell us about your experience upon hearing the news and what it means to you (and Veronica)!
I think it’s
great whenever I find readers who love Veronica. Veronica was a labor of love,
and I’m always happy to find people other than me who love it.
And, what inspired you to write Veronica and the Volcano?
Veronica and the Volcano started off as a bedtime story I would tell my daughter Madeline about a young girl who lived on a volcano. Maddy couldn’t get enough. She would ask for a new story every morning on the twenty-five-minute drive to school. That’s when Veronica’s volcanic world began to emerge, and I started to write. Three years later I had over 300 pages.
What are the lessons to be learned in the story?
If there is a message in Veronica and the Volcano, I believe it is this: “Adults are not always good, but that’s no excuse to be bad.” The villain in Veronica and the Volcano does not come dressed in black and carrying a gun, but dressed in white and asking for a vote. When a volcano erupts, fear wins an election and disaster ensues. In the end, Veronica learns she can count only on her family and her closest friends but not on her townspeople, and together they must stand up to fight the Man-in-White.
What do you hope children take away from Veronica and the Volcano?
I believe that nature is as fantastical as any imagination. Raising daughters who embrace science and nature is one of the great challenges of our time. I hope Veronica can inspire young girls with an appreciation for the mystery of nature and the courage to follow their curiosity.
My hope is that kids will root for Veronica every step of the way, and while they are cheering her on, they'll learn as well. Complementing STEM curriculum, the book is filled with educational elements about volcanoes, geysers, caves, and the wonders of physics. A glossary in the back provides an at-a-glance list of the facts in the book. Artist Gabrielle Shamsey lavishly illustrated the work with nearly 100 wonder-filled images of volcanic action.
How do you think kids connect to actual books in this digital age?
All that matters is that the story is good. The method of delivery does not matter. Some kids listen to audiobooks, some read ebooks, but most still enjoy paper. I prefer my kids read print since a print book does not come with 1 billion methods of distraction built in.
What guidance can you give to parents on how to instill a love of reading and introduce the world of books to their children?
If your kids don’t read or even if they do, then read to your kids.
Kids care about what makes them curious. If you don’t have a kid who reads, pay attention. What are they curious about? If nothing, then make them curious. Buy them a book on black holes. Read to them a book about time travel. Don’t throw up your hands, and say I guess little Janey or Johnny doesn’t have a passion for reading. No one is born with a passion for anything. Passion is what other people think you have when you follow your curiosity.
Besides, Kids are naturally curious. Take note of what they take note of. Ask them questions. Read to them at bedtime. Read them soaring stories. Read them beautiful stories. Read them stories that spark their curiosity. Just keep reading. We are never too old to be read to and never too young to be curious.
What is the best part about being an author of children’s books?
The best part is doing school assemblies and turning hundreds of kids into fans of Veronica.
Which writers have inspired your own work as an author?
My reading tastes are pretty varied. The book Krakatoa by Simon Winchester was a major influence on Veronica.
Tell us about your writing schedule. What is a typical day like at the desk of Geoff Cook?
Unfortunately, on a typical day, I do not write. I am presently too busy to get to writing, but I do hope that will change in the coming year or two. When I do write, I like to write for about 90 minutes at a time.
What can you tell us about your publishing experience?
I went the self-publishing route, but if I imagined building a career as an author in the long-run, I’d probably seek a large publisher.
What is the best piece of advice you ever received, about writing or about life in general?
Read your work out loud.
What advice can you give aspiring children’s authors?
Write every day for 30-60 minutes. (Of course, I don’t).
What do you like to do in your free time?
Spend time with family, ski, boat, etc.
So, what’s next? Will Veronica continue to take young readers on exciting new adventures?
Yes, I hope to write a book 2 eventually. Veronica’s home town of Crater Lake will threaten a supervolcanic eruption.
Do you have a website where readers can learn more about Veronica and the Volcano?
Where can readers connect with you on social media?
Veronica and the Volcano is available in print and on Kindle at Amazon.com, as an audiobook at Audible.Com and on iBooks.