Friday, June 1, 2007
Welcome to “Up Close & Personal.” For every interview I will be introducing a literary personality discussing her views and insights, as well as upcoming literary events around the world.
Today’s interview is with first-time novelist, Tish Cohen. Presenting to Hollywood from Canada her literary debut is as well received as any insider. Her book ‘Town House’ was sold to 20th Century FOX Movie.
The director of Thelma & Louise, Alien & Gladiator -- Ridley Scott has been brought on as producer. Dough Wright, who is a screenwriter is adapting the book for the screen.
Her upcoming book ‘The Invisible Rules of the Zoë Lama’ will be out this June.
EI: Would you share some early insight into who you were as a teenager with your readers? What were you like as a teen? Please tell us more about Tish Cohen -- the woman behind the author.
TC: As a teen, I was on the periphery. Friends with everyone, but belonging to no one single group. I never really tried to fit in - it was more fun not to. I tried to shock people with what I wore, what I did. I had no interest in becoming a cheerleader - something all the other girls dreamed of.
EI: Do you express your inner self in your writing or do the personas you create exist only in your imagination?
TC: There's probably a small part of me in nearly every character I create. My Town House protagonist, Jack Madigan, is much like me in his battle with panic attacks but not in every way. No fictitious character should ever be wholly good or wholly bad. Different characteristics should arise according to circumstances, etc.. For example, while I might not be perceived to be selfish, there do exist situations under which I'm very much so. And that aspect of my personality might work its way into a character one day.
EI: What is your response to the public perception that writers’ creative insight and energy is frequently the product of personal conflict?
TC: I think that's probably true. It is for me. Would I have been a writer if I'd lived a more conventional life? I doubt it.
EI: What would you like to say to writers who are reading this interview and wondering if they can keep creating, if they are good enough, if their voices and visions matter enough to share?
TC: I'd say that if you have a unique voice, a fresh story to tell (or even a fresh take on a story already told), and you're persistent, your chances are good. I believe that everyone is talented at something and it's vital that you find out what it is. If your talent happens to be writing...you don't need me to tell you to keep going. You probably couldn't stop if you tried.
EI: Many writers describe themselves as "character" or "plot" writers. Which one are you? And what do you find to be the hardest part of writing?
TC: I'm all about the characters. My agent has to constantly remind me that these characters must actually do something--make a cup of coffee, cheat on an exam, urinate on the sidewalk--anything!
The hardest part of writing, for me, is dealing with the angst that goes along with taking my words public.
EI: Are you armed with notebook and pen at all the times? Do you always carry your laptop or PDA with you to write?
TC: I'm usually armed with a pen and notebook. If I've left my notebook at home, I can always dig up a spare receipt, Band-Aid or dollar bill to scratch notes on. If I'm travelling, my laptop comes with me. But at home, my writing time is divided between my office computer and my laptop on the sofa.
EI: Do you let anyone read your manuscript, before you send it to your editor or agent?
TC: My best friend and my husband usually read my adult manuscripts and my kids read my middle grade stories.
EI: Was there anyone who really influenced you to become a writer?
TC: My high school English teacher, Miss Schermitzler, told me I should become a novelist. But the writer who has influenced me the most is John Irving.
EI: Now let’s shift gears here for a second... Can you share with us some of the challenges you faced to publish your newly released novel “Town House?” Is there anything about you that you would do differently, knowing what you do now?
TC: I was surprised how many people balked at my creating a male protagonist. To me, it seemed the most natural thing in the world.
EI: What was the inspiration for your novel? And what is your response to the public perception about your creative insight with your book?
TC: The inspiration for Town House came from a grand old house in New Orleans I'd seen on a home renovation show. A woman was selling her house and a crew was giving it a facelift. They never showed the inside of the house, but the owner spoke of the entire 4th floor being a stage, and having raised her children there during times when they had no heat and no furniture. I thought to myself--what a great setting for a book.
I think some people might assume I have a few anxieties, like Jack in Town House. They'd be right.
EI: How much of Jack Madigan and Penelope is planned out in your head? How do you know where you will go next with their characters? What was your biggest challenge in creating them?
TC: I wrote from a chapter outline, but their personalities really developed as the story came to life on paper. My biggest challenge was making sure I had enough conflict between characters to make them jump off the page.
EI: How did you develop these characters? Did you work them out in advance, or did they evolve as you wrote the story?
TC: I do work out the characters in advance, but it isn't until I begin writing that they become more real.
EI: What is a typical work day schedule when you are in full writing mode? Would you tell us a little about your process for editing, revising, and novel development? How long did it take you to write ‘Town House’ including the time it took to research the book?
TC: I pretty obsessive - I work from about 9:30 am to 7 pm when working on a first draft. My agent reads the draft, suggests edits, then after I make the changes, it goes to my editor. The first draft of Town House was written in just under a month, I was able to write very quickly and obsessively because I'd developed the story in a detailed chapter outline.
EI: What about writing for mainstream women’s fiction appealed to you?
TC: I've never really thought much about where my books fit in. I just write the stories I'd like to read.
EI: As a first time mainstream fiction writer, do you feel more pressure, feel insecurities fade away or are you able to separate all that from your own creative process?
TC: I definitely feel pressure about being published, but it doesn't interfere with my writing. I almost believe that if I wasn't worried, complacency might interfere with my writing!
EI: Now... tell us what is the premise of your new book ‘The Invisible Rules of the Zoë Lama’ which I understand is for the YA audience and it will be published by Dutton in July 19th ’07? Can you give us a sneak peek?
TC: From the back cover:
Life is full of official rules, and seventh grade is no exception. If you are one of Zoë’s lucky friends, you know all about the invisible rules too, from what to wear on Picture Day to which boy is the Most Vile (that would be Smartin Granitstein). Ever since the day Zoë Monday Costello neutralized the playground bully, she has been the go-to gal for classmates and teachers alike. She applies her talents at home too, giving her harried single mom much-needed dating advice and keeping a careful eye on her grandmother, who has been acting very strange lately.
When a new girl, Maisie, comes to school with a “reputation,” Zoë is determined to help her fit in. Despite Zoë’s best coaching efforts, however, things go terribly wrong. And Maisie isn’t her only problem. Zoë’s interfering backfires on many people—worst of all on herself. Just when Zoë’s name is complete and utter mud, Grandma goes and splashes it all over school. Is there any invisible rule to help her out of this mess?
Zoë Lama is a whirlwind who will pick up fans on the first page of this uproarious story, carry them effortlessly to its satisfying conclusion, and leave them craving another wild ride.
EI: What's next for your fans? Is there a third book in the works?
TC: I've already written the second in the Zoe Lama series, and my next adult book, Inside Out Boy, will be published by HarperCollins in the summer of 2008.
EI: Ms. Cohen, thank you for contributing to my blog. It has been a pleasure for me to get to know you, and your work a little better. Would you like to end your interview with a writing tip or advice for young aspiring writers?
TC: Develop your voice. It's the single most important factor in getting published.
To learn more about Tish Cohen, please visit her at:
Posted by E. I. Johnson at 1:03 PM