Friday, December 09, 2011
FEATURED AUTHOR: Joshua Cohen
I began writing "Leverage" after reading a news account of a horrific attack by a group of high school seniors on their fellow underclassmen teammates. When the victims reluctantly came forward they were ostracized by the surrounding community for sullying the reputation of the school and causing a cancellation of the football season. My fascination with that part of human nature--the need to keep quiet when awful things occur and how that leads to victims getting wronged twice--is what started the whole story that eventually led to "Leverage."
How did you start out your writing career?
I think my writing career began in earnest when I started submitting short stories to literary magazines. Of course, none of my stories were accepted but that was the point I made the mental leap from writing "just for fun" to writing to get published. It's an important psychological step to take in any writer's evolution.
What did you learn while writing this book?
That having readers you can trust to read early drafts of your manuscript is important but you also need to trust your own instincts as well. My first manuscript (for a story that will never see the light of day) I spent 5 years writing without any trusted reader input and I think I could've saved myself 4 years worth of trouble if I'd had someone early on tell me that my first story really had no plot.
What did you hope to accomplish with this book?
Above all, I wanted the reader transported for a few hours to a different world where they were entertained by a good story. That's how I judge books I read. After that, if they go away thinking about the characters in my story and maybe looking around at their own lives through the lens of one of my characters, if only for a few minutes, well, that's icing on the cake!
Which character did you have the most fun writing about?
Kurt, by the end of the book, really pulled me in as I wrote his story and I really experienced all the emotions he seemed to be going through and found him really awe-inspiring. But for pure fun, one of the secondary characters, Vance Fischer, the team clown, was the most fun to write since he delivered some of the best lines in the book.
What has surprised you most about becoming a published author?
Just how much of a business there is to not only getting published but trying to help the sales of your book. You don't sign the dotted line with a publisher and then sit back and let them do all the work anymore. Now days they want your full participation, which takes time away from actually working on another book. It's a tricky balance.
What aspect of writing do you love the best, and which do you hate the most?
I loved seeing my book on the store shelves. That was phenomenal. It felt so good to see it there after so many years of struggle to get published. That will always be one of the true highlights of writing for me. I also love the feedback from readers who contact me out of the blue to tell me how much they enjoyed the story or were moved by a particular aspect of the story. I don't think there's anything I hate about writing. I went through a period where I no longer enjoyed all the work of writing with no pay off and I stopped for about a year. It felt like renouncing my faith and I felt really empty after awhile so I licked my wounds and got over my bitterness and came back to writing because I had to do it. Besides my family, it gives my life meaning.
What are three things you wish you’d known before you reached where you are now?
These are actually three things I've known for a long time but it's good to be reminded of them:
(1) Your family and friends cannot be replaced. Love 'em now while they're around to love.
(2) You have no more and no less a right to exist and live on this planet as does the next person.
(3) Work Hard. Play Harder!
Can you give us one do and one don’t for those aspiring to be a writer?
DO keep writing and submitting to agents and venues that publish no matter what. The world of readers is supremely vast with tastes to match and just because one agent says your work will never sell doesn't mean another agent won't love it.
DON'T let your doubts overwhelm you. Everyone has doubts about whether or not they are talented enough or smart enough or gifted enough to be a published writer (or in any endeavor, for that matter). Go ahead and allow your doubts to run wild for 5 minutes each day and then shoo them away so you can get down to work. When you're finished writing, plan on meeting up with your doubts for another 5 minutes the following day before you kick them to the curb again.
What one thing about writing do you wish other non-writers would understand?
How much time it takes and how you need "alone time" to get it done. People see you in front of a laptop and they think you're surfing the net and that it's not real work you're doing so they may come up to chat with you. And if you go into your room and shut the door, they accuse you of being anti-social. It's got to be done, though, if you want to get anything completed.
If you could be a character from any book you've read, who would you be?
That's a hard one. All the great characters that come to mind have suffered terribly but have acted heroically in the face of tragedy. I'd want to be a character that's boring to read about because I'm not up for too much real life drama at the moment. I'll have to get back to you on that one.
When you're not writing, what do you like to do in your spare time?
I became a father 11 months ago and my spare time is "daddy-time" which I absolutely love. It's a bit like having a second childhood because I start seeing the world through the eyes of my baby girl all over again--the smallest things fascinate my daughter ... like a sock. That sock on her foot is absolutely fascinating to her...and quite tasty judging from how often she tries to stuff it into her mouth.
What do you do to interact with your readers?
I do interviews like this (And a big THANKS to you, LaShaunda, for this great opportunity!) and do a bit of blogging (a very little bit as of late) and I'm attending the Tucson Book Festival this March 10th and 11th. I also get email on Goodreads and on my website. I love reader emails. It's a blast hearing from someone that's read a book you spent years writing and years shopping around to finally get published. I never tire of emails from readers!
Our theme for this month is CHILDREN BOOKS. What inspired you to make children’s literature the focus of your career?
I'm not sure this will be the focus of my career but I really felt that the voices I wanted to get down into this story needed to be heard and they happened to be those of two teenagers. Bullying in our schools has become such a problem and such a source of humiliation for so many kids, that I wanted kids to know they're not alone, that others are out there suffering, too, and they understand the pain some kids are going through.
Oprah always asks, What do you know for sure?
I know that playing with my daughter is a remedy for a day at the office (yes, I have regular day job) where the news on the internet all seems to be bad. I know that when I watch her just now learning to walk, it fills me with hope that the human race really does strive to be better and do good by each other.
Can you give us a sneak peek of your next book?
I cannot because I'm still working with my publisher to see if it will, indeed, be my next book. If I get the green light on it, though, I will be happy to shout about it on your site.
How can readers get in contact with you? (mail, email, website)
My website is http://leveragethebook.com/
my email is firstname.lastname@example.org
facebook at leveragethebook
When a violent, steroid-infused, ever-escalating prank war has devastating consequences, an unlikely friendship between a talented but emotionally damaged fullback and a promising gymnast might hold the key to a school's salvation. Told in alternating voices and with unapologetic truth, "Leverage" illuminates the fierce loyalty, flawed justice, and hard-won optimism of two young athletes.
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