Last week I reviewed The Between by LJ Cohen and as a follow up here is a short interview with her that she kindly did with me. If you want to know more about LJ or her books, visit her website at http://www.ljcohen.net/
How did you get your ideas for The Between- are you a fan of faeries in general?
The initial idea for THE BETWEEN emerged from two sources: the first, was a short story I wrote for a writing workshop about a woman who had been a witness to a crime involving a Faerie in the human world, was called to a Fae trial and ended up in the Faerie witness protection program. Now the novel has little to no resemblance to that short story, but it generated a seed of interest in the collision between the worlds of the Fae and Mankind. The second source was from a free writing exercise where I was given a prompt and 10 minutes to write. The prompt was something like “The sky turned black.” 10 minutes later, I had the germ of the idea of the darklings and the scene that starts Lydia’s story on the school bus.
Then I had to figure out the entire story around her and that one scene.
I am a fan of portal stories in general, as well as ‘fish out of water’ stories, where a character needs to find her inner resources to survive in an alien landscape. In a way, it’s what we need to do in our lives–find the way to manage others’ expectations of us and stay strong in the face of outside pressures. While some would say that’s a particularly young adult storyline, I disagree. I think its a human storyline.
You have several novels written- are they published or available to purchase?
THE BETWEEN is one of 7 novels I have completed, but the first one published. All 7 stories are stand alone works, all in different settings, with unique characters. My agent is shopping one (working title THE HOUSE OF MANY DOORS) that I like to describe as A WRINKLE IN TIME meets THE SHINING. I just sent her a fantasy/romance about a woman physician who must flee her country with the man she heals into his rigid, patriarchal society and where their quest to expose an illegal slave trade threatens their lives, the stability of two governments, and the core of their own beliefs about one another. The manuscript I just finished is a YA ghost story that takes place in an abandoned amusement park.
My favorite part of the writing process is to discover a new world. One of my upcoming challenges is going to be to write the sequel to THE BETWEEN and find a way to keep the story connected and to find the way to make it fresh.
You have several fantasy novels written- what makes you lean towards fantasy?
Fantasy allows the writer to explore real world themes in a way that isn’t heavy handed or moralistic. It give the writer freedom to follow a what if to its logical conclusions without being limited by current reality or its constraints. And it’s just a lot of fun. I get to make stuff up for a living. How cool is that?
What is your process for writing?
Almost all my stories start with a single character or image. It’s like the writer’s equivalent of the game ‘Clue.’ Instead of Colonel Mustard in the drawing room with the candlestick, it’s Lydia, forced into Fae, and glamour. From that core concept, I brainstorm character, setting, goals, and conflict. I think my process is some strange concatenation of plotting and seat-of-the-pantsing. I do brainstorming in a cheap single-subject spiral notebook, but I also use a personal wiki for organization and story bible. I do a loose outline and follow it until the story veers off course, then I write a new outline and keep going. When I’m working on a project, I aim for 1000 words a day/ 5000 words a week as a goal. Some of my writer friend are able to write far faster than I do and are also able to write scenes out of order. What I’ve discovered along the way is writers must find their own process and be willing to be flexible when a particular project doesn’t work with a particular process.