Sunday, November 1, 2009
Welcome to “Up Close and 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 Tish Cohen, she is the best-selling author of Inside Out Girl and Town House, as well Little Black Lies for teens and the Zoe Lama series. Her adult novel ‘Town House’ was a 2008 finalist for the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize. Her novel ‘Town House’ was sold to FOX movie producers before it was picked up by HarperPerennial.
E.I. Tell us about your latest book for teens “Little Black Lies”? What drew you to attract the teen readers? What sort of feedback do you get from readers that have contacted you about “Little Black Lies”?
T.C. I was drawn to write a teen novel after writing Inside Out Girl, which features three protagonists, one of whom is a fourteen-year old girl named Janie. I adored writing in Janie’s angsty, lovesick, insecure, fragile voice, and chose to write an entire book from a teen voice. I think the teen years are years we really remember as adults. That coming-of-age time is so fraught with memories good and bad, it is a great place to draw from when writing a story.
Readers seem to relate well to Sara Black from Little Black Lies because she is such an underdog. She’s the new girl at a school for genius kids, her mother has left the family and her obsessive-compulsive father—the school janitor) is inadvertently destroying any chance she has for a social life at school because his condition is growing worse. She’s in a sort of desperate situation.
E.I. What challenge or obstacle did you encounter in creating the character Sarah Black while writing and creating her in your novel?
T.C. It was challenging to show her as a loving daughter, in spite of the things she does to save her social skin. But the truth is, high school is so filled with angst and pressure, and many kids (like my own!) are terrified to even have their parents walk into the school, that a friendless girl like Sara—so desperate to fit in even in a small way—could easily make some bad choices in the interest of social survival.
E.I. Your novels are known for unusual and lovable characters. Do you always know a story's ending when you begin writing?
T.C. Thank you. Character is Number One for me. In terms of knowing the ending, definitely not. I didn’t know how Little Black Lies would end until I wrote the end. It was important to me that the readers’ emotions would be settled, but that Sara not have things in her life be magically resolved. Some things she’s just forced to accept.
E.I. Do you find that the real story magic comes in the editing? Does the story continue to evolve for you even beyond the first draft? Do you have any particular approach to editing your work?
T.C. I felt that for Inside Out Girl, the final scene on the riverbank where you see this broken family facing their next phase, both happy and terribly sad, was the magic of the book. That was one ending I had imagined right from the start. But in answer to your question, the story evolves with every draft, even to the point of adding or removing characters. For me, the story is ripe for change until I sign off on the final proof pages.
E.I. This may be a ridiculous question but do you ever get writer’s block? How do you overcome it?
T.C. I don’t believe in writer’s block, actually. I do believe in writer’s lack of focus and it definitely happens to me. And as much as I love writing, it still terrifies me and I still look for excuses to do anything other than write. But usually once I fall in love with the characters on the page and grow to care about their lives, the need to peruse the Internet or straighten my writing room dissipates.
E.I. When did you get the first inkling that your books might become wildly popular? Can you describe your feelings upon realizing this?
T.C. Well, when I heard the film rights for Town House had sold, I was gobsmacked. Filled with anxiety as well. What would it mean? Would my life change? As happy as I was, I found it terrifying. It’s taken a couple of years to get over that fear of success—the tortoise pace of Hollywood helped with that!—but I can honestly say I’m in a place now where I welcome it.
E.I. With four books under your belt, how have you evolved as a writer?
T.C. I think the books I’ve read in these years have helped me evolve as a writer as much as the books I’ve written. Nothing is more inspiring to me than coming upon a turn of phrase that makes me stop and read it over and over again. I think I strive harder now to create stories, scenes, sentences, that stir the reader in that very way. I don’t know if I’ll ever achieve it but I try.
E.I. What can fans look forward from you in the coming months? Can you give us a hint as to what it's about?
T.C. My next novel for adults will be released June 8, 2010. The Truth About Delilah Blue is about a twenty-year old nude model who discovers a terrible secret about her adored father, a secret she may never forgive.
To learn more about Tish Cohen, please visit her website: http://www.tishcohen.com/
To purchase her books please visit http:www.amazon.com
Posted by E. I. Johnson at 10:53 PM