Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Tuesdays Tidbits with Kari: Featuring author Julie Cohen

Please help me welcome author Julie Cohen!

Kari: I loved your bio! Can't believe you started writing at 11, and then co-writing stories in study hall and chemistry class. Sounds familiar :-) And I could just picture you as a teen, sneaking romances in the biography section of the library to read while pretending to stock the shelves. Did you ever get caught or do anything with those stories?

Julie: You were a sneak-writer too, huh? I never did get caught. I was such a good girl that nobody even suspected me of doing anything but what I was supposed to be doing. I still have some of those novels I wrote as a kid and a teen, and while they’re horrible of course, I do have to give myself some credit—they were really, really funny.

My high school writing buddy, Kathy Love, also turned out to be a writer (she writes paranormal romances for Kensington Brava), and when we co-wrote an erotic novel and got it published by Samhain, we dedicated it to our high school chemistry teacher. Then like a week later, this same teacher friended me on Facebook. I freaked out! I thought he’d read the book and was going to give us detention or something, or even worse, think it was about HIM! I ignored the friend request, because I was a little bit scared, though thinking about it now, the guy probably just wanted to say hello.

Kari: You have quite the background in English. What was it like studying at Brown University? And the weekly cartoon you drew for the Brown Daily Herald entitled "Georgie and Squid" about an Elvis lookalike with a pet cephalopod sounds like a hoot. Can you tell us about that?

Julie: I will admit, the main reason I applied to Brown was because their curriculum didn’t require me to take any math or science. It was a brilliant and inspiring place to study, and I loved Providence.

“Georgie and Squid” was a one-panel cartoon. I used to procrastinate all week and then draw it five minutes before it was due. Georgie was this cute girl who wore a flowery hat and rolled her eyes a lot, and Squid had a big quiff of hair and a pet squid (also called Squid). They hung out in Providence landmarks, they had Gene Simmons living in their attic, and they constantly had arguments about whether they were allowed to eat calimari. One time Squid (the squid) wrote the entire text of Moby Dick on the wall in E-Z Cheez. I can’t say the cartoon made me famous, but it was fun and it fed into my life-long love of comics.

Kari: I can't imagine studying abroad. I always thought it sounded so romantic. What was it like to study at New Hall College, Cambridge University in the United Kingdom and then at the University of Reading for your post graduate degree?

Julie: Studying at Cambridge was a dream come true. I immersed myself in literature and Englishness and I was just totally overwhelmed, honoured and happy the entire year. I went punting, drank in pubs, and read in one of the world’s greatest libraries. New Hall is a women’s college, but fortunately they gave me a ground-floor room with a big window so I used to be the person who would let all the boys in at night after hours.

I enrolled at the University of Reading originally to do a Ph.D. in English literature. My topic was fairies in Victorian children’s literature, which was fascinating, but after three years I’d had enough of fairies and decided to take a Master’s degree instead and become a teacher. By then, I’d met my future husband, and had other things on my mind.

Kari: I see you actually moved to the United Kingdom. What it's like living in the UK and do you ever miss the US?

Julie: I live quite close to London, and London is one of my favourite places on earth. I also live not far from Avebury and its incredible stone circle, which is also one of my favourite places on earth. So I’m very lucky, really. I’m from Maine, though, and I miss the forests and the coast, the clear air and the wildlife, the scent of pine and (I will admit it) the Dunkin’ Donuts.

Kari: Your latest book called Getting Away With It sounds awesome. Can you tell us about it?

Julie: It’s my first standalone women’s commercial fiction novel (I wrote for Harlequin and UK romance imprint Little Black Dress before this). It’s about Liza Haven, a stunt woman who’s nearly killed when a stunt goes wrong, and she has to go back to the small English village where she grew up with her perfect identical twin sister, Lee. Only when she gets there, Lee has disappeared, and everyone in the village thinks that Liza is Lee. Liza has to cope with the family ice-cream business, their ailing, difficult mother, and Lee’s very attractive boyfriend—all the while trying to discover where Lee has gone, and finding out that being the good twin isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.

It’s funny, but it also deals with serious issues of identity, memory and relationships, running away and finding home. It’s out now in the UK in hardback, and paperback in March 2011, and I’m really hoping a publisher in the US will pick it up so my relatives can buy a copy!

Kari: What's next on the horizon for you?

Julie: I just gave in my next book (my 14th), which should be out in hardback this time next year. It’s about Alice Woodstock, a writer who gets a job as a costumed historical interpreter in a stately home, where they’re recreating the summer of 1814. It has two strands—the here-and-now one, where my heroine’s life has been touched by heartache and tragedy, and the pretend-1814 one, which is a bit of a Regency romp with gorgeous frocks, a spirited heroine and a handsome and rich hero. Eventually the two story strands start coming together and Alice has to choose whether she wants to live in her fictional life or in the real world.

Kari: Any other genres you'd like to try?

Julie: Not at the moment. I feel like right now I’m writing exactly the kind of books I always wanted to write. It’s a nice way to feel.

Kari: Who are your favorite authors or books these days?

Julie: I’m midway through reading Mariana, by Susanna Kearsley, a Canadian author. It’s a time-slip set in modern-day and 17th-century Wiltshire, and I’m absolutely gripped by it. Before that, I ripped through the Hunger Games trilogy by Suzanne Collins. I’m also a huge fan of Neil Gaiman, Marian Keyes, Jane Austen, Georgette Heyer, Charles Dickens, Alan Moore, Susan Elizabeth Phillips and Stephen King (hey—I’m from Maine).

Kari: Any final words or pieces of advice you want to leave our readers with:

Julie: Thanks for having me, Kari, and for asking such fun questions. It’s been a hoot!

My website: http://www.julie-cohen.com
To buy Getting Away With It in hardcover with free international shipping: http://www.bookdepository.co.uk/book/9780755350605/Getting-Away-With-It


Kari Lee Townsend said...

OMG the chemistry teacher friending you and possibly thinking your story was about him is hilarious!!!!

that's the kind of stuff that normally happens to me :-)

Your answers were a hoot. Thanks for coming out to play and good luck on your book. I can't wait to read it.

Julie Cohen said...

I know, I sort of feel sorry for the guy.

Thanks for having me, Kari!

Cassy Pickard said...

Julie: How great to have you join us on M&M! 14 books?? Oh, man, do I have to get to work or what?
I love your combination of history, humor and a touch of mystery. Wonderful.

Can you tell us a little about your approach to writing? Being that productive means you've really got it figured out. Tell all, girl.

Julie Cohen said...

Hmm. I wouldn't say I've got it sorted out, Cassy, though how nice of you to think so! I just write a lot. My secret is to become totally obsessed. ;-)

I do have daily word counts and I do a dirty draft first, to get the story down, which means these days I can produce about 120K in 6 months, but then have to edit it a LOT, so the whole process takes about 10 months. I used to write faster—I was producing 3 category novels a year, or two 90K single titles. But my latest books need more research, and I've also developed some neck, back and hand problems from typing so much, so I've slowed down.

Usually I figure out the hook and the rough character arcs before I start, but then I pretty much fly into the wind until I get about halfway through, when I start trying to plan how to write the second half.

What about you?

Liz Lipperman said...

Julie, what a great story your life has been. The twin sister story sounds intriguing, and I hope it crosses the ocean, too.

Thanks for stopping by M & M. And do tell us when that book hits the US.

Great job, Kari and Julie.

Julie Cohen said...

Thank you, Liz!