Saturday, July 19, 2014

Talking to Julie Cohen Part 2

Welcome back to Part Two of my special interview with Julie Cohen

What types of characters do you like creating best?
I like outsiders the best. I often have a main character who just doesn't fit in, even though they might want to. Romily in Dear Thing is like that, and so is Felicity, the heroine of my next book Where Love Lies. They're not particularly similar to each other—one is a single mother with a PhD in entomology, and one is a children's book artist who doesn't want children and who has a very unconventional background—but neither one of them is quite normal.

What themes intrigue you most – and make you want to write them?

I am a big proponent of identifying the theme of the novel you are writing, because I think it helps to clarify everything about the book—the characters, the plot, the setting, the imagery, the title. I have themes I tend to turn to again and again, and I work them out in a variety of ways through my stories. One is 'identity'. Lately, I've been drawn to the question 'What is love?' I suppose they're the same question down deep, actually.

What is your writing process? 
The more I write, the more I realise that I don't have a writing process that's set in stone. Every book is different. That said, I tend to have a progression, that goes something like this:
  • I spend some time thinking about my characters and my story. I do some pre-writing and possibly a little bit of research. I don't really plan out the story, but I have a general idea of where it might end and a few things that might happen on the way.
  • I write a dirty first draft, whenever possible not stopping to edit. I'll probably do some more research as I go, once I've worked out what I need.
  • About halfway through, I'll hit the suckage point, where I am certain this book is the worst thing ever written and that I really suck.
  • I take a lot of showers, drink a lot of tea, and go for a lot of walks or jogs.
  • Near the end, I speed up a lot, and by the time I've typed the last page, I finally know how to fix all those things that I got wrong at the beginning.
  • I revise the book, often with the help of Post-Its, doing my final bits of research, changing everything so it makes sense, and polishing up the prose.
How much research do you do for your books.  I know you had to research Regency dancing for  The Summer of Living Dangerously – have there been other interesting things you’ve discovered as a result of working on a book.
It depends on the book, but I do like to get things as accurate as possible, and I also do like to do weird research. I loved learning Regency dancing for The Summer of Living Dangerously—I also had to try on a Regency corset for that book. For Dear Thing I had to research surrogacy laws in the UK, and the experience of surrogacy, and the processes of IVF, but I also visited entomological collections and spent some days on Dorset beaches, which was fun. For various books, I've had to learn about bat handling, comic book production, aromatherapy, speaking Klingon, roller coaster design, being a stunt woman, and being a fake psychic. Being a novelist is a marvellous excuse for being really nosy. One fun story is that I consulted with Purbeck Ice Cream for Getting Away With It, where the heroine's family runs an ice cream factory. I had to make up a new ice cream flavour for the book, and I chose the weirdest thing I could—beetroot and horseradish. And Purbeck Ice Cream actually made the flavour specially because of my book, and sold it!

Your new title  Where Love Lies is out soon – can you tell us a bit about this book and how you came to write it?

It's out in hardback on the 31st July and I am incredibly excited about it. Dear Thing has done really well for me, but Where Love Lies is one of those books that feels really very close to my heart. I can't actually tell you very much about it, other than that it's about a woman who believes that she's happily married, until out of the blue, she starts experiencing overwhelming memories of her first love, ten years ago—memories that are accompanied by the scent of frangipani. And this scent and these memories leads to a whole sequence of events that change the lives of everyone involved.

I felt so deeply when I was writing this book, and I hope it really affects readers as much as it has affected me. The early reviews have been amazing and I'm over the moon about that, so I hope people like it.

What are you working on now?

I'm working on my next book, which should be out next year. It's a challenge for me, because it's got three heroines, each with a distinct story and point of view. I hope I can make it work

Don't forget that to be in with a chance to win a copy of Julie's book Dear Thing - you need to have left a post in the comments so that Julie can get to know you better  and then your name will be entered into the draw to win this great book.


Mary Preston said...

I think that WHERE LOVE LIES is going to be quite an emotional read. Certainly a story to touch my heart.

Laney4 said...

I read a review for DEAR THING that said, "This bittersweet story of friendship, heartbreak and love is impressively compelling." I don't know how a person writes these emotional reads, but I DO know I'd love to read them!
Thanks, Kate, for introducing us all to "new-to-me" authors.


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