Thursday, May 28, 2009

An Interview with Jeff Cohen

Jeff, tell us about the early years of your writing. When was your first book published?

In 2002, about a year and a half after I was finished writing it. It was called FOR WHOM THE MINIVAN ROLLS, but I don't think of it as a novel--I think of it as a screenplay gone horribly wrong. I was convinced I couldn't write something as long as a novel, and had been writing screenplays for years. But this one idea wouldn't cooperate as a script--it wanted to be told in first person narration--so I started writing chapters as an exercise to figure out the screenplay, and six novels later, I haven't written a screenplay in seven years.

How many books have you written?

Books? Altogether? I've ghost written six, I think. I have six mystery novels and two non-fiction books published. I'm writing the first in a new series for 2010, and I have one manuscript I finished that was never published. Yet.

Tell us about your life as an author.

As opposed to what, my life as an astronaut? I don't have a set schedule or anything. I write in between newspaper assignments and grading papers. Whenever I get the chance. Right now, I'm hoping to get in my 1000 words today, but it's not looking good.

What has been your most exciting publishing moment?

Everybody says it's when the first manuscript was accepted. For me, it was twofold: The first time I held a book I had written in my hand, and then, when Larry Gelbart sent a blurb that said my book was "witty." Gelbart is my writing idol--I'm still grinning about it, and it was eight years ago.

Jeff, tell us about your writing schedule.

I have to write so I can get paid. My schedule says the new book will be finished by July 1. Who am I to argue?

Do you have an agent and did you have mentor?

I have an agent now, the lovely and brilliant Christina Hogrebe at the Jane Rotrosen Agency. Christina sold the Double Feature series and the new series (which has yet to be named). For the first three books, I had no agent, because I had never considered the possibility of being a novelist. And I never had a book-writing mentor, because I didn't intend to become an author. Since then, some wonderful authors have helped me along the way, and I'm not supposed to mention them. They say.

Explain to the novice writer who wants to be a mystery author the top three things they should never do in order to become a published author

I couldn't begin to answer that question. Every author's story is so unique that it can't be duplicated. If I say, "never try to get published without an agent," like you're supposed to say, I have to remember that I got published without an agent. But my advice is always: If you can be happy doing something other than writing, if you wouldn't write whether you got published or not, go do something else. This is too hard to do if you're not obsessed.
Favorite movies?
Oh my. There are hundreds. All the comedies I've ever mentioned in a Double Feature book, especially the Marx Brothers classics like HORSE FEATHERS and DUCK SOUP. Certainly some Hitchcock, like NORTH BY NORTHWEST and REAR WINDOW. Mel Brooks: YOUNG FRANKENSTEIN, BLAZING SADDLES, THE PRODUCERS (1968). Others: DINER, MY FAVORITE YEAR, CASABLANCA, RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK, BUTCH CASSIDY AND THE SUNDANCE KID, FIELD OF DREAMS, A HARD DAY'S NIGHT, THE STUNT MAN, HOPSCOTCH, GALAXY QUEST... How much time have you got?

Places to vacation:
The only place I've vacationed at more than once (in my adult life) is Disney World, because we had kids. But my favorite vacation ever was Rome. Wow.

Favorite books:
Oh, you're not putting me in THAT trap! I won't mention my favorite mystery authors, because I'll leave some out and they'll be mad. I'll tell you in all honesty that my favorite book ever is GROUCHO, HARPO, CHICO and SOMETIMES ZEPPO, by Joe Adamson. No, I'm not kidding.

When I'm not writing mysteries (I don't "pen" anything), I'm writing something else to pay the rent, procrastinating from writing mysteries, promoting my books or watching the Yankees. Or at least that's what my wife says.

Do you have something to say to your readers?

It's okay. I have both their email addresses.

Where can we find your website?

On the Internet. Oh, okay, it's at and I hope everyone takes a look. I'm told it's very entertaining.

Okay Jeff, here it is and if I've left anything out please add it.

Just that the new book is A NIGHT AT THE OPERATION, and since I'd like to keep writing about Elliot and his band of merry men and women, I'd appreciate it if everyone would go out and buy one. And thanks for inviting me here; it's been great fun.



  1. C'mon, Jeff...are you keeping the next book a secret? Some of us really wanna know what comes out next, and what Sophie, Jonathon, and Anthony are up to.

  2. Can't tell you yet, Anon. And that's not my doing, so much. Let's just say it's the first in a new series, it has some "paranormal elements," but it's just as goofy as anything I've written to date. I PROMISE I'll tell you more as soon as I can. I just finished the draft yesterday.

  3. Oh yeah - that sounds like somehting I would like



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