Kristen Otte

Finding Love and Laughter through Story

Indie Author Spotlight – Cole Crook

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coleToday’s post features author, singer, and songwriter Cole Crook. Cole and I share many similar writing influences and I’m excited to feature him this month! His responses are thoughtful and insightful so read on!

Tell us a little about yourself. Who are you? What creative endeavors are you working on? What are your plans for publishing your work?

Whew! I’ll do my best to give a little insight into each of these openers. It’s been a while since someone has simply asked me, “Who are you?” but I’m happier than I’d like to admit that you did ask that; because it’s one of my favorite questions. I ask it of myself all the time. Even more, I would gladly pay a stranger to wake me up each morning by leaning over my bed and asking, “Who are you? And what are you doing here?” I think we could all ask ourselves those questions more often.

Raised Roman Catholic in the beautiful city of Louisville, KY I’d moved on to the more advanced religion of synthetic euphoria by sixteen after my parent’s divorce. For nearly a decade I lived the life of a managing addict, in and out of trouble, rehab, and jail. To make a long story inadequately short, I was reconciled with my biological father in Alabama, and God used it as a catalyst into an ever-surprising, adventurous, at times seemingly dull, and yet colorful life of following Jesus; the Great Adventurer. “The Way,” as early believers referred to it, is merely Following the Adventurer into a sacrificial life of being a life-giving lover of people.

I have a beautiful wife of 3 years, a miniature schnauzer named Olive, and we built our first home back in July. That was my last full month as the pastor of Mill Creek Church, which was unbelievably challenging, yet so fun! Proceeding that position I worked as a youth pastor, college pastor, and worship pastor; those experiences helped reveal the purer passion of my heart – or God’s next assignment – to reach a wider audience through writing, speaking, recording albums, an adoption advocacy project well under way, and leading worship for churches every now and again.

Throughout the past year I’ve experienced the most radical shift of worldview, (and thus, personality and opinions) than ever before in my life. I confess that it is a click away from fundamentalism and heavily reformed theological thinking (though not an abandonment of all their beliefs or bitterness towards them.) And a click towards a life that’s honest. I responded to a Literature professor of mine after she said that I “am talented,” that my sole talent is being uncomfortably honest. And maybe it’s a calling more than a talent – and there are heavy traces of that in all my work. The willingness to paint a detailed picture of my thoughts and experiences – the beautiful and the ugly and the sacred – because I have to. And I think it’s going to resonate deeply with a large amount of people who aren’t sure how to merge their secular life with their sacred life – because despite all our cultural ingrained peculiarities – all of my life is one person.

Currently, I have an EP out (which you can download at Cole Crook on Bandcamp) entitled {Dear Redemption,} – as its title track is somewhat of a letter to God of desperation and hope. I chose the four songs out of the many I’ve written because they are the most meaningful to me as a person. And more music will be coming soon.

I’m also writing a semi-autobiographical non-fiction novel (my main outpouring of creative energy at the moment) which is a fancy way of saying it is a book composed of a series of personal essays with a common theme. Each story is a progression of the failed methods I’ve employed to avoid uncomfortable realities, suffering, and ultimately; reality itself. It’s a pretty honest book.

Publishing is rarely on my mind. Not because I don’t want to be published. Precisely the opposite; I want it too badly until it takes authenticity out of my efforts. Despite my best effort to follow Anne Lamott’s advice to never write because you want to be published, I found it difficult not to let the eyes of my heart dart in ‘that’ direction, especially early on in the writing process. I am working with an editor from Canada, named Rachel. (Rachel’s really awesome.) I have some optimism that this will develop into a good partnership, and that working with an editor earlier in the process will have saved time and money when it hits the shelves. My peers and others who have an understanding of the book seem to be surprised at what is on the page so far, so with a little luck and a lot of work, maybe I can find a publisher by this time next year or sooner.

MORE THAN ANYTHING

I want to have a humble heart that produces words for the love of those who read those words.

What is your favorite part about writing?

Having written! That’s a truer joke than I wish it were. I like the discoveries. Epiphanies through the ancient art of penciling what is most important to us. Anyone who writes on a subject they’re not deeply passionate towards at the time, is writing with an incorrect motive in my opinion. Naturally, I love writing because it’s a job that follows my heart’s direction, rather than my heart’s direction being maneuvered by my career or finances or uncertainties concerning getting published etc…

Who are a few of your favorite authors? What draws you to their work?

There are three authors that immediately come to mind so I must mention them first, although, it seems less than helpful because most readers (and especially writers) are already familiar with them. But Donald Miller, Anne Lamott, and C.S. Lewis are my biggest influences. I’ve read nearly all of their books and only wish that there were enough material so I wouldn’t run out.

As a more unique list of writers I really enjoy, there is Rob Bell, Tim Keller, Madeleine L’Engle, Lois Lowry, G.K. Chesterton, Suzanne Collins for her work with the Hunger Games trilogy, and I read the Message Bible daily right now for my annual NT exegetical devotional time.

I’m drawn to writers who run towards the tension – the paradoxes – and do their best to express how some level of transcendence exists around us that we’re naturally blind too, but have begun to notice more little by little of God’s craftsmanship in the story of humanity. Some glory – or God – in everything. Because he made everything.

We are the observers of the universe. We are the seers of God. The stewards of all that is Earth. In Lewis’ memoir ‘Surprised by Joy’ he says Joy, is a byproduct of focusing on an object of delight. And the only object capable of producing genuine Joy – an inextinguishable peace with reality – is the triune Creator God who sings the universe’s existence into being and breathed spiritual life into our lungs found in Genesis 1:1. That’s an earth-shifting realization: You can’t have Joy while focusing on Joy, because Joy is produced through our focus on the object, which produces it. Joy doesn’t produce joy. If you focus on your joy, it will vanish in the same moment.

Rob Bell is the Lewis of our generation (IMO). Although he is more controversial than Lewis was, much of this can be attributed to our generation’s greater complexities, integrations, and information tsunami. So naturally, writers of spiritual books (including myself) are more prone to controversy than ever. This valuable wisdom from the Apostle James is now, more than ever: Be slow to speak and quick to listen.

Lastly, Adair Lara from San Francisco wrote a book called ‘Naked, Drunk, and Writing’ that has been more helpful than any other book on writing I’ve read. It even beats out Stephen King’s ‘On Writing’ and Lamott’s ‘Bird by Bird’ in terms of what it did for the quality of my writing immediately.

Besides writing you are also a singer-songwriter. What are your musical influences and how would you describe your music?

Yes, that’s correct. The first writing I did for pleasure was song lyrics. Not sentences. And I still find song writing to be incredibly therapeutic. Perhaps, in retrospect, that’s the sole reason I wrote songs from the beginning: I needed therapy but didn’t know it. Coincidentally, I decided to begin playing guitar, and it just kind of… happened. But most importantly, writing songs opened my eyes to a whole new aspect of reality. By finding methods to be deeply known and expressive through media, that is interesting AND helpful, I felt as if I’d landed in myself for the first time in my life.

I was most heavily influenced by the bands I was listening to while playing venues in my early twenties. Some of those bands are still around like Band of Horses and Jimmy Eat World.  Others such as Copeland, Mae, and Brand New are finished, but I still listen to them almost daily. Manchester Orchestra is by far my favorite band. Andy Hull is musically unmatched in their genre right now. In 2002 I bought The Format’s debut album ‘Intervention and Lullabies’ who’s lead vocalists is now the front man for F.U.N. FUN’s debut album blew me away – before it got radio burn (which is like carpet burn but when radio stations over play a song until you want to strangle yourself with the telephone cord at work) – moving on… and The Format was a nice peak into what would become the main focus of my music interest (indie-epic-pop-alternative-rock songs with big hooks). Those make me happy on the inside.

Thanks to Cole for his great responses. Check him out at http://www.colecrook.com/.

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One thought on “Indie Author Spotlight – Cole Crook

  1. Pingback: Kristen Otte | One Year of Blogging about Writing

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