By Tiffany Merlo Phelps

There were signs when author Sian Cook was growing up that she would likely pursue a career in writing. She always loved to read, play with words, and observe people. “I was always a quiet shy introvert, and I liked to listen,” said Cook, 50. While Cook loved writing and had an interest in advertising, she said her parents, part of the Silent Generation, believed that it was important for her to get a more reliable and traditional job. Cook, who was born and raised in Benoni, South Africa, decided to enter Wits Medical School in Johannesburg, becoming a general practitioner. “I also liked science, physics, and helping people, so I thought okay I will do medicine,” she said. However, as a self-described empath, Cook found it very difficult to detach emotionally from the job and her patients. Also, AIDS was becoming prevalent, and Cook had three HIV positive needlesticks and had to undergo monthlong antiretroviral therapies. “It was very intense and very stressful. I knew I wanted to get married and have kids, so I didn’t know if this was the lifestyle that I wanted my kids to be around,” she said. Some areas of Johannesburg could also be quite dangerous, especially when Cook worked with the paramedics. “We had been shot at. It was crazy,” she said. So, she decided to go into advertising, working for medical advertising agencies as a medical copywriter. After two years, she took a job with Novartis Pharmaceuticals as a medical advisor, working on various marketing campaigns. In 2001, Cook married her husband, Warren Cook, an engineer, and had two daughters, Carys in 2004 and Mia in 2006. Next, Sian started a freelance copyright business, and then the family moved to the United States in 2010. Once moved to Julington Creek, Sian embraced being a stay-at-home mother. It was then that she also was able to return to her love of writing, realizing her longtime dream of writing a book. The family later settled in Ponte Vedra Beach because of their love of water, fishing, and boating. 

Q: How did you start your book writing journey? 

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A: I first wrote “Soul Safari” (not yet published). It is a women’s fiction novel, a very easy read about two friends that end up in Africa for different reasons. I used my experiences of going on safari and of being a doctor with one character being a doctor. They always say write what you know, so I thought, let me just practice on that. And then I decided that I needed to write something that I would read. I always loved reading psychological thrillers, and I love trying to understand why people do what they do. 

Q: What is the premise of your psychological thriller, “The Road to Hell?” 

A: It is about two sisters thrown into a very difficult situation and how each of them would cope. It evolved from their relationship and their choices. The story involves a cult, drugs, and is set in the 1980s so that the characters would not have cell phones.

Q: How would you describe your writing method

A: I read a book years ago called “Goal, Motivation, Conflict.” So, each character has a goal, what motivates them to get to their goal, and what stops them from getting to the goal. I had a big board in my study, and I would post all the main characters up there and just add notes on it all the time. From there, I would start writing. So, I am very much a free writer and a character writer. 

Q: Who is your favorite author? 

A: I really enjoy reading Colleen Hoover, Jeffrey Archer, and Dennis Lehane. I also like to read historical fiction such as Philippa Gregory who focuses on British history like the Tudor period. 

Q: What do you like to do in your free time? 

A: I like to play pickleball, and we are in the process of building a court at our home. I love to read, watch crime shows and sports and take walks in the preserve.

Photo courtesy Warren Cook 
Sian Cook

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