Jeff Cohen is …a little hard to describe. He’s one of the best writers I’ve known and deserves far more recognition than he gets, although he’s gaining on it. If you want funny, talented, creative, surprising, make-you-think kind of writing, this is it! I’ve had the pleasure of knowing and working with Jeff for years now and I’m proud to call him friend. Here’s what he’s sharing with us today:
PJ: How long have you been writing?
Jeff: Today? About an hour and a half. Ever? Um, about fifty years, give or take. Professionally? Since 1979. I’m sorry–what was the question?
PJ: At what point did you reach a place where you felt successful as a writer?
Jeff: I’ll let you know the minute I get there. I don’t think you ever do, but if I ever run into Stephen King, I’ll ask.
PJ: Is the writing life what you expected when you started out? If not, how is it different?
Jeff: It’s not at all different. You think of stuff, you try to write what you have in your head, it usually comes out a little bit different, and then you send it out there and hope people like it. The thing I’ve had to learn is promotion, and I’m still working on that.
PJ: The general public seems to think authors are relatively wealthy. Without prying too much, has your writing income lived up to expectations?
PJ: <Smile> Early on, so much focus is given to getting published. Now that you’re published, how has your focus changed?
Jeff: I never went through that–my first book was bought for publication (by a very small publisher) in five days. So my focus hasn’t changed–it’s about continuing to be published, and that’s done by always writing the book I’d like to read. You can’t control anything else.
PJ: Would you do anything differently if you had it to do over again?
Jeff: I’d start sooner. I spent 20 years trying to sell screenplays and didn’t write my first novel until I was 42.
PJ: Writing new material, rewriting, submitting new work, waiting, promoting published work…the list is large. How do you manage to divvy up your time to give adequate attention to all needed areas?
Jeff: I probably don’t give enough time to promoting, but that’s because I don’t always have great ideas. The rest of it, in addition to teaching, studying for my masters degree (coming soon!) and doing other writing work, fits into a day. You write 1000 words a day, you’ll have 80,000 words in less than three months. Get writing.
PJ: What is the single most exciting thing that’s happened to you as a writer?
Jeff: I love it when readers get in touch, or better, walk up to me at a convention or a signing. The most ego-boosting? Getting a blurb from the late and brilliant Larry Gelbart on my first novel.
PJ: What’s the most memorable thing (good or bad) that’s happened to you while promoting your work?
Jeff: Being shown a poster promoting an appearance with an author picture on it. When I told the rep at the store that the picture was of someone who wasn’t me, he said, “Are you sure?”
PJ: LOL I hadn’t heard that one. This is why authors have to think fast on their feet. You just never know what you’ll run into. With more books being released each month now than ever before, what do you believe sets your work apart from the others?
Jeff: I think my work is funny but it doesn’t come at the expense of story or my favorite, characters. I like to write people–even ghosts–who seem like you could know them.
PJ: What would you like to share with writers who haven’t reached the point of publication yet?
Jeff: I can’t tell you “how to do it,” but if it’s not the only thing you want to do, you should definitely do something else. It’s too hard to make a living this way to spend your time at it if it’s not your absolute dream.
PJ: What do you feel is your most effective tool for promoting your published work?
Jeff: I’ve found that social media and Internet promotion have been the most cost effective. I’d like to be able to travel around to various bookstores, but I can’t afford it. I do what I can.
PJ: What area of book promotion is the most challenging to you?
Jeff: The successful area.
Jeff: My friend Marilyn Thiele at Moonstone Mystery Books in Flemington, NJ is great at handselling and promotion. I visit her store every time a book comes out.
Give us a list of your published titles in chronological or series order:
The Aaron Tucker Mystery series:
FOR WHOM THE MINIVAN ROLLS
A FAREWELL TO LEGS
The Double Feature Mystery series:
SOME LIKE IT HOT-BUTTERED
IT HAPPENED ONE KNIFE
The Haunted Guesthouse Mystery series (as E.J. Copperman):
AN UNINVITED GHOST
PJ: Share with us an elevator pitch (no more than 30 seconds) of your latest title:
OLD HAUNTS: Alison owns a Jersey Shore guesthouse with two resident ghosts, and they want her to look up old loves. The problem? One of the exes is dead, one is missing, and Alison’s ex, “The Swine” is at her front door. It’s going to be an interesting week.
PJ: Where can we buy it?
Jeff: Anywhere books–or ebooks–are sold.
PJ: What last thing would you like to share with us that nobody knows about you and your work?
Jeff: I’m actually the power forward for the New York Knicks. That’s so little known that even I don’t know it. Neither do the Knicks.
PJ: I knew it!
See? Jeff’s a riot. His writing is even better than that. Run, do not walk, to the nearest place you can to get a copy of his work! And please, keep telling him how great he is. Maybe sooner or later he’ll believe us!