Julie Cohen and I have a few things in common. We both went to the same college at university, we both live in Reading (or near enough), we’re both writers, we both think Cillian Murphy is a bit fit. She is also a woman and we’re about the same height. There are differences though. She writes prolifically, under her own name and pseudonyms, and has had twenty books published which definitely puts my grand total of two to shame! Her book Dear Thing has just been chosen by Lord Richard and Lady Judy for their salubrious book club list. And she’s a well-respected teacher of writing on a wide range of subjects. Julie Cohen is a bit of a star to put no finer point on it. Her latest book, Where Love Lies, has already received glowing reviews from journalists and book bloggers alike, and I’m thoroughly looking forward to getting stuck into my beautiful signed hardback copy that I picked up at her launch last week.
She was kind enough to say yes when I asked her if she would like to be the second author to come and have a chat with me on this very comfy virtual sofa for a spot of Author Talking…
1) So, this has been an exciting year for you with Dear Thing being selected as a Richard and Judy Book Club read. What does being included in the list mean to you? It’s a huge vote of confidence in my work and it’s a total honour to be on the list with writers like Helen Dunmore, Lucie Whitehouse, Robert Harris, Khaled Hosseini, and Sinead Moriarty. And it’s a thrill to see my book in every WHSmith in the country.
2) As well as writing prolifically, you also teach. And some of your classes teach writers how to write sex. This must throw up some hilarious phrases and conversations. Do you have a favourite anecdote to share? If I started telling anecdotes, all fantastically rude, I would be here all day, but I will tell you the best place I gave my sex scene seminar: the Love, Sex and Intimacy Fair in Brighton and Hove, last year. It was a whole weekend devoted to love and sex and there were sex toy vendors, a wall of vaginas, a Tantric Tent, and seminars on improving your sex life in just about every way possible. Everyone was really friendly (as you might expect) and an entire hen party wandered into my seminar. Of course I made them write a bit of a sexy scene, just for fun!
3) You recently went to Harrogate for the Theakstons Top Crime 2014 convention, which sadly I couldn’t make and was subsequently unbearably jealous of you all up there having fun without me – how very dare you! Does this mean you are toying with the idea of writing crime? It was so much fun, Amanda! You should go next year. It’s a whole weekend of meeting crime authors, listening to them speak, and essentially drinking your own body weight in alcohol. Highlight of the weekend for me was listening to JK Rowling (as Robert Galbraith) being interviewed by Val McDermid. I was a crazed fangirl. I’m not planning to write crime—the plotting would defeat me I think, and also I am really enjoying writing my own kind of books at the moment. But it was good to get an insight into how other authors write.
4) We are both lucky enough to be supported by the fabulous local independent book shop, Chapter One in Woodley. What do book shops mean to you and why are they so important? I grew up in a town without a book shop, so I had to travel to visit one. They’ve always seemed like palaces of wonder to me. In a bookshop, you can go absolutely anywhere in the world and also to places that don’t exist. We’re both lucky to have a local bookshop who are so supportive of authors.
5) Where Love Lies sounds fantastic and I can’t wait to read it. Was there a single moment or story or other flash of inspiration that prompted the book? Thank you Amanda! There was a single event that inspired the story, but if I told you what it was, I would give away a big chunk of the plot, so I won’t tell you. Suffice it to say that it happened to a friend of mine, and it changed his life forever. However, there’s an important theme in the book about how scent is linked to memory, and that came from my very common experience of catching a whiff of a scent that’s reminded me very strongly of a past moment. Scent and memory are experienced very close to each other in the brain, and I think we’ve all been transported through time by scent. Of course, my heroine Felicity goes a little bit extreme, by leaving her husband because of a scent and a memory…
6) Richard or Judy? Richard is lovely, but if it were for a cuppa and a chat, it’s Judy.
7) A lazy beach holiday with unlimited books or an adventure with hiking boots? Probably an adventure with hiking boots, as long as I could have unlimited books in the evening. But it’s a close-run thing.
Cocktails or wine? Wine.
9) New York or London? London.
Thank you, Julie, for taking the time to talk to me and best of luck with Where Love Lies!! The kindle and hardback versions of Where Love Lies are out today with Bantam Press (Transworld). The paperback will be released in February 2015.
Lately, Felicity just can’t shake a shadow of uncertainty. Her husband Quinn is the kindest person she knows and loves her peculiarities more than Felicity feels she deserves. But suddenly it’s as if she doesn’t quite belong. Then Felicity experiences something extraordinary: a scent of perfume in the air which evokes memories that have been settled within her for a long time, untouched and undisturbed. As it happens again and again, the memories of a man Felicity hasn’t seen for ten years also flutter to the surface. And so do the feelings of being deeply, exquisitely in love . . . Overwhelmed and bewildered by her emotions, Felicity tries to resist sinking blissfully into the past. But what if something truly isn’t as it should be? What if her mind has been playing tricks on her heart? Which would you trust?