Nancy J. Cohen writes cozy mysteries set in Florida. Her stories contain a touch of humor and a hint of romance. Her book, “A Bad Hair Day Cookbook,” received a Five Star Review from Readers Favorite.
Tell me about your background. Where you grew up, where you live now,
education, work experience? Share some interesting things about yourself that we
should know about.
I grew up in New Jersey. My Bachelor’s Degree in Nursing was earned at University of Rochester in NY and my Master’s Degree at University of California in San Francisco. I worked as a Registered Nurse for ten years before retiring to write full-time. Currently, I live in South Florida with my husband. We are empty nesters with two grown children and a grandson.
What inspired you to write this book? What is the story behind the story?
I love to talk about food. I attend cooking classes and read food magazines. I like to cook and experiment with new dishes. I’ve posted recipes on my website and photos of dishes I’ve made on my Facebook page. The recipe list on my website got so long that I considered compiling them into a cookbook to save storage space. It would be a legacy for my children, containing all my favorite recipes and ones I’d inherited from my mother.
Food is a happy topic. When writing a mystery, we deal with sad events. Eating brings comfort, and so food is the light that balances the darkness of death in these stories. My heroine sleuth, Marla Vail, likes to cook. Working in the kitchen offers an escape from daily strife. She’s the narrator for the cookbook, adding her own commentary and anecdotes to flavor the recipes with her perspective. I meant this as a tribute to my fans. The cookbook is a companion to the series. With the excerpts included, it’s also a great introduction to the series for home cooks who haven’t read any of the books.
What has been your biggest challenge or obstacle?
Regarding the cookbook, getting the measurements and ingredients listed to be precise and consistent was my biggest challenge. Regarding my career as a published author, the biggest challenge is that I’ve had to change publishers several times. When I wrote for Kensington, I got “orphaned” and they dropped my series after nine books. Five Star dropped their entire mystery line after I did four books with them. Then Kensington licensed rights to some of my books to Open Road Media, so there was yet another version out there. Rather than seek another publisher for this series, I decided to go indie starting with book 14. It’s been a good decision. Readers have been my biggest supporters. Easter Hair Hunt, book 16, will be out in March. Then I’ll see where I want to go from there.
What has been your biggest “aha” moment or success?
Interacting directly with readers has been highly gratifying. We couldn’t do this in the earlier days of the publishing industry. Now we can communicate directly thanks to social media. I am accountable to my readers more so than to any publisher, and readers are ultimately our audience. Success is being asked, “When is your next book coming out?” In terms of awards, and my books have earned several, the biggest honor was getting an Agatha Award nomination for my instructional guide, Writing the Cozy Mystery.
What authors do you like to read? What books have had a strong influence on you
or your writing?
A series that greatly influenced my writing was Horatio Hornblower. As I progressed through the stories about this young officer in the British Navy, I realized that what drew me to the next book weren’t the sea battles. It was how Horatio grew and changed throughout the series. If you think about Nancy Drew, she hardly evolves in the original titles. You get a fun mystery in each book, but her character doesn’t change. That was okay back then but it wouldn’t appeal to me now. I like to follow the personal lives of characters from book to book, and we need to do the same as writers. Our characters must evolve and change. They become friends to our readers who want to follow their personal lives.
Do you write every single day? Any writing rituals?
It depends on if I’m in a writing phase or a revision phrase. I’ll give myself a daily quota to achieve. Once I’ve met my page count, I spend the rest of the day on marketing. Social media and book promotion are incredibly time-consuming. I write very early in the morning so I can usually take the afternoons off to do other things.
What are your interests outside of writing?
Reading, dining out, cooking, cruising, and visiting Disney World. Now we have a new grandson, so that’s changed the family dynamics.
Share some tips for other Authors or Aspiring Authors: What would you do
differently? What would you do the same? Please share anything you think would be beneficial to those reading this.
I would still advise new authors to get a publisher. It’s important to cross that line for validation. A publisher can give your book wider distribution and promotional support in ways you cannot do for yourself. Also, determine your audience. Don’t bounce around from one genre to the next. Stick with the one you love and keep producing more material. Make sure you maintain the rights to your characters and series. Then you can take them elsewhere if necessary. Be versatile and realize you have options, especially if you get dropped by your publisher or your line folds. Most importantly, be active in the writing community. Join online listserves, participate in writing groups, go to conferences and workshops. Always learn and always keep striving toward success. Follow the 3 P’s – Professionalism, Practice, and Perseverance.