Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Interview with author Tish Cohen

author of the newly released YA novel LITTLE BLACK LIES
Sara and her father are moving to Boston from small-town Lundun, Massachusetts. She is going to attend the very prestigious Anton High School—crowned “North America’s Most Elite and Most Bizarre” by TIME magazine, and harder to get into than Harvard. As the new girl, Sara doesn’t know anyone; better yet, no one knows her. This means she can escape her family’s checkered past, and her father can be a surgeon instead of “Crazy Charlie,” the school janitor.

What’s the harm in a few little black lies? Especially if they transform Sara into Anton’s latest “It” girl . . . .But then one of the popular girls at school starts looking into Sara’s past, and her father’s obsessive-compulsive disorder takes a turn for the worse. Soon, the whole charade just might come crashing down . . .

Here is the INTERVIEW:

What originally inspired you to write?

I’ve loved books since I was quite small. Being somewhat of a loner, I was drawn to other worlds, happier families, different lives. The heroine of each book became my best friend, or sometimes I’d imagine myself to be the heroine. I can remember having a hat with long woolen braids and I wore it for months pretending I was Anne Shirley from Anne of Green Gables. So stories were in my blood but I wouldn’t have the confidence to try writing my own novesl for many years.

How did your childhood inspire or affect your writing?

I was a strange kid. I spent my early years imagining I was a dog, racing around the house on all fours, barking at my siblings. I curled up on the sunny spot on the living room rug and pretended to be Lassie by the hearth. Kind of weird. I think being an oddball gave me a different perspective on life – I watched others to a large degree. Plus it gave me a strong sense about people who are underdogs, they’ll always draw me in over the heroes.

What was your experience like as an editor, and what advice can you give to someone who wants to be an editor (like me!)?

Read constantly. Read widely. Read cereal boxes and newspapers and novels and biographies. And let yourself fall in love with words.

Why did you decide to set your latest novel, Little Black Lies, in a prestigious high school like Anton?

I had read a great article about Stuyvesant High School in New York and the whole scenario intrigued me – these kids who are the gifted of the gifted and what their lives might be like, the kinds of pressure they might feel.

How do you decide on names for your characters?

I find them in baby name books! Also magazine mastheads and film credits. I love naming characters and am always on the lookout for good ones. Then I try to match them up somehow with the characters I am creating.

What was it like to attend a French nursery school in Montreal?

It’s funny; there are three things I remember about that school. It was very dark, down in a church basement, I believe. It seems we did nothing but read French books (which was fine by me!). And I fell in love with a little French boy named Guy. We spoke on the phone at night – only in French because Guy couldn’t speak English. But our crush, it seems, was doomed. There came a day when Guy threw up in the school bus aisle and I had to climb over the seats to get off or risk soiling my shoes. It was no easy task to climb over all those seats without exposing my underwear. Sadly, the mortification meant the end of our relationship (I was shallow when I was five).

What are some of your favorite YA authors/books?

Jenny O’Connell’s Plan B is great. I also love Lauren Baratz-Logsted’s Crazy Beautiful, Adrienne Kress’s Alex and the Ironic Gentleman, and Lesley Livingston’s Wondrous Strange.

What is your writing process?

First I have a loose idea, then I stretch the idea into a chapter by chapter outline, then I start to write.

Who/What most inspired you to write?

I started writing children’s stories – picture books – when my first son was born because reading was such a huge part of our lives and I fell in love with so many books from my own childhood – Dr. Seuss, Maurice Sendak, etc.

What advice can you give to writers who want to be published but aren't?

Read widely. Write as often as you can. And try to develop a strong voice in your writing, a voice that stands out as your very own.


  1. I love your story of being five and shallow.
    I have a similar tale about ending a friendship when I learned my supposed friend was an unrepentant booger picker.

  2. I love your honesty, people don't realise how much confidence it really takes to become an author. People are so critical of what they read, the whole editing, marketing process can be very daunting.

  3. What an amazing interview! Thanks for sharing a little bit about yourself and your writing! Instead of being a dog at age five I had my blankies and called them DDs and even had their own land under the stairs with my brother as the DD master! Being a kid was great!


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