25th Trillium Award

At the Desk: Deborah Cooke

Share |
Deborah Cooke's Desk

For each book we readers eagerly open, there's a writer who's spent countless hours researching, organizing, writing and rewriting. The place where all this happens is unique to every writer, and we love nothing more than to get a behind-the-scenes glimpse at the site where it all happens! In Open Book?s At The Desk series, writers tell us about their creative processes and the workspaces that inspire them.

Deborah Cooke is co-founder of the Stratford Authors website and is an accomplished writer of romance novels. In today?s At The Desk feature, Deborah tells us about her current office — with its mid-century table, bookshelf and stacks of research books — and how she can easily pack up and move her desk for a day. Sharing details about her early writing career without an office, she explains how some habits haven?t died.

Find out more about Stratford Authors in Deborah's interview with Open Book here.


When I first started to write, I didn?t have an office. I set up the computer on the kitchen table each time I had a chance to write, then packed it all away afterward. Like many writers, I fit my writing time in around the edges of the household?s daily routine. I became used to having a big space to spread out my notes and also got into the habit of storing those notes in file folders so that I could easily find my bearings each time I set down to work. (I had a Mac SE30 in those days, which I bought used from my employer when they upgraded the computers at work. It had its own padded suitcase, with room in the top for my file folders. There. I?ve dated myself!)

When I teach, I meet a lot of aspiring writers who believe that they can?t write without a permanently allocated workspace. I don?t believe this is true. It might, in fact, be an excuse.

It?s been more than 20 years since I sold my first book and now I have an office of my own. Some things haven?t changed though: I still like to work on a table and still use a Mac. My current desk came to me through my family. When my sister-in-law inherited an antique dining room suite, she had to choose between it and her existing teak suite. My husband adores mid-century modern furniture, so his sister was happy to send her teak to a loving home. I immediately claimed the dining room table for my desk. Although the table has two leaves, I?ve never extended it beyond its regular size — it has plenty of room, just as it is. I also like that it has a couple of stains on the top, because that means the table has a few stories of its own. We?re good company for each other in that way. My desktop doesn?t get too cluttered, maybe because I?m always ready to pack it all away to make dinner.

That?s not the only habit that?s stuck with me. You can see that I still love my file folders, highlighters and coloured Post-It Notes. My work schedule is pretty demanding, with multiple projects at various stages of completion at any given time. I need to be able to move between projects easily, and remember their specific details. File folders on my left are for projects in process, while the one on my right is always the project currently in work. (There are two on the right today, because I?m juggling.) My day-timer helps me keep track of other obligations (I am a Luddite in many ways). The paperweights are pretty as well as useful when we turn on the fans in the summer. The inkwell is 19th century majolica. It?s not a particularly valuable piece, but I like the colours in it.

Behind my desk is a barrister?s bookcase with editions of my books. They?re not all there — some are in a bookcase outside of the shot — but I like having the display of them close by my workplace. There?s always a moment in the middle of each book when I despair of it ever coming together. Being able to turn around and be reminded that stubborn stories have worked out so many times in the past is a good thing. I also like to reorganize them periodically, usually when copies of a new edition are delivered.

What you can?t see is what?s under the desk. (This is a good thing!) I stack my research books there for each project, and they are also filled with sticky notes to mark important references. We joke that when I begin a new project, there?s a critical mass necessary of research materials before I can begin to write — two foot-high stacks will often do it, along with a big map. I love the process of gathering those materials and poring over them, making notes and finding new possibilities for the story in question. I bought my first laptop when that SE30 went to Mac Heaven, and that choice has worked out really well for me. It?s easy to clear the entire desktop when I?m spreading out maps and reading source materials. I need some room for that part of the process.

While I think it?s important for writers to have a space to work, I don?t believe that space needs to be permanently allocated. When I work elsewhere for whatever reason, it?s easy for me to pack up my notes along with my laptop and essentially move my desk for a day. My most important creative space is my imagination, and that travels with me everywhere.

Deborah Cooke sold her first book in 1992, a medieval romance entitled The Romance of the Rose. Since then, she has published more than 50 romance novels and numerous short stories under pseudonyms Claire Delacroix and Claire Cross, as well as under her own name. The Beauty, part of her successful Bride Quest series, was her first book to land on the New York Times? List of Bestselling Books. Her books have won numerous awards and frequently appear on bestseller lists.

In 2009, Deborah was the writer-in-residence at the Toronto Public Library, the first time the library has hosted a residency focused on the romance genre. In 2012, she won the Romance Writers? of America Mentor of the Year Award for her support of aspiring and new writers. She makes her home in Stratford with her family.

Deborah maintains two websites, one for Claire Delacroix and one for Deborah Cooke, as well as posting most weekdays on her own blog, Alive & Knitting.

For more information about Kiss of Danger and other books by Deborah Cooke, please visit her website.

Buy her books at your local independent bookstore or online at Chapters/Indigo or Amazon.

Post new comment

  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Allowed HTML tags: <a> <em> <strong> <cite> <code> <ul> <ol> <li> <dl> <dt> <dd>
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.

More information about formatting options

By submitting this form, you accept the Mollom privacy policy.

Advanced Search