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20 Questions with LJ Cohen

Q1: What is your name?
Lisa Janice (LJ) Cohen

Q2: When did you decide to be a writer?
Probably when I was 8 or 9 and realized that real people wrote all the books I saw in the library.

Q3: What did you most recently publish (title and genre)?
FUTURE TENSE, a YA contemporary fantasy

Q4: What is your next project?
I'm preparing DERELICT, a YA SF novel for publication by summer of 2014 and am finishing the first draft of a sequel to my debut YA title, THE BETWEEN, which was published in February of 2012. I'm also in the organizing stages of co-editing an anthology of SF&F stories from a group of writers who originally met in a Boston area workshop.

Q5: Which path(s) have you taken: traditional publishing, self-publishing, or both?
I've worked both paths. My agent has been unable to gain any traction with the traditional houses for my books. The editors praise my writing, but don't feel they can effectively sell the stories. THE BETWEEN and FUTURE TENSE have been projects I have self-published through my own imprint, Interrobang Books.

Q6: Why should people consider reading your work?
My stories have been described as believable, moving, and carefully crafted. At first glance it seemed odd that readers see my fantasy and SF stories as 'believable' but I think the reason for that is my characters. They face difficult choices and make them in authentic ways, even as the settings for those choices are magical or otherworldly.

Q7: How do you describe your writing style?
My first writing love is poetry and I am very careful about word choices in my prose because of it. But I also work hard to make sure the language is never overwritten and never gets in the way of the story. Because I write in multiple genres, I make a conscious effort to find each character's voice to match the story.

Q8: Where and when do you like to write?
I have a small, sunny office in my house. Because it's one of the rooms with radiant heat, it has a nice warm floor in the winter, so that's where the dogs like to hang out. They never mind when I ask them questions. :) But in reality, I'll write anywhere and under most any circumstances. I have a laptop and a tablet, and I also use cheap single subject spiral notebooks. I can write with or without music, but not television, unless it's while listening to a baseball game.

Q9: At what time, day or night, do you feel the most creative?
I'm least distractable in the early part of the day and less of a night person, but I can write anytime.

Q10: Which authors inspire you the most, and how?
I read Madeline L'Engle's A WRINKLE IN TIME at a young and impressionable age. I imprinted on that book like a baby duck imprints on the first thing it sees after hatching. Meg Murry was the first hero I read about who wasn't perfect, perky, and pretty and even with all her flaws, saves her father, her brother, and her world. Hard to beat that.

Q11: How do you overcome the writer’s demons: Procrastination and Self-Doubt?
I'm not sure overcome is the right word. But I do battle with those demons on a daily basis. I use tricks like a kitchen timer for writing sprints. In addition, I found a firefox add on called leach block which allows me to limit certain websites at certain times of the day. So between 9 and 5, I allow myself 15 minutes of social media time every 2 hours. When the time's up, I can't access facebook, twitter, or G+.

The self-doubt is easier now that I've completed 9 novels and turned 50. It's very freeing to reach a place in my life where I know who I am and am comfortable with that person. If only I could go back in time and tell my younger self that!

Q12: What aspect of your writing do you feel is strongest, and what needs the most improvement?
My strengths are in word choice, word flow, and dialogue. I always need to revise and improve descriptions. I'm not a primarily visual processor and my first drafts are filled with talking heads in black boxes.

Q13: What was the best part of the worst thing you’ve ever written?
My first (trunked) novel has a scene where the protagonist, a shape shifter, must become a wolf when she's surrounded by a wolf pack. The telepathic dialogue between the wolves and my protagonist is tense, but full of wry humor that any dog owner would appreciate.

Q14: What advice do you have for others who want to be writers?
Write what you love and what speaks to your heart. Believe in your story and be willing to work like hell to make it shine.

Q15: What form of marketing works best for promoting your work(s)?
I wish I knew! I am great at singing someone else's praises and pretty terrible talking about my own work.

Q16: If life is a bowl of cherries, what does your life as a bowl of cherries look like?
They would be chocolate covered, and in a bright, blue bowl. (One of my secret talents is I throw on the potter's wheel.)

Q17: Who is your rock, the one who encourages you the most to keep writing, and why?
My husband. He believes in me and pushes me to be my best all at the same time. He's my sounding board and my first reader. I'm also lucky enough to have the best beta reader in the known universe. My dear friend Diane, who is not a writer, seems to have this knack to see into the heart of any of my stories and find the piece that isn't working. She's brilliant.

Q18: What do you do apart from writing?
I spent 25 years as a physical therapist specializing in chronic pain management and orthopedics. Currently, I'm able to write full time, which is a joy. I love to cook and do a lot of preserving of local, organic fruits and vegetables and have taken ceramics classes for the past 6 years. I'm very active on Google Plus and have found a great community of creative folk there to do art trades with.

Q19: Where can people find more about you and your work(s)?
My website: http://www.ljcohen.net
My blog: http://www.ljcbluemuse.blogspot.com

Q20: What one question should this interviewer have asked, and how would you answer it?
Q: What was the best piece of advice you were given about the writing life?
A: Rejection is part of the creative life, but it's not personal. They're not rejecting *you*, because they don't know you. And so much in this business is a matter of subjectivity. Keep sending out your work.


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If you are an author who would like to participate, you can find the questions here.
Tags: 20 questions, author interview, lj cohen
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