Author Spotlight no.51 – Lisa Janice Cohen

Complementing my daily blog interviews, today’s Author Spotlight, the fifty-first, is of multi-genre writer Lisa Janice Cohen.

LJ Cohen is the writing persona of Lisa Janice Cohen, poet, novelist, blogger, local food enthusiast, reading omnivore, Doctor Who fan, and relentless optimist. She lives just outside of Boston with her family, two dogs (only one of which actually ever listens to her) and the occasional international student. In love with words since early childhood, Lisa filled dozens of notebooks with her scribbles long before there were such a thing as word processors.

After a 25-year hiatus writing professional articles, text book chapters, assessments and progress notes for her physical therapy practice, Lisa returned to writing fiction seven years ago. Her first novel (still parked on her hard drive waiting extreme renovation) was written to answer her husband’s challenge to write something better than the book he had thrown across the room in disgust. Six novels later, she is still writing. She also pens the occasional op/ed piece for her local paper, helps moderate an online poetry workshop, and has maintained the ‘Once in a Blue Muse’ blog for many years.

Lisa is represented by Nephele Tempest of The Knight Agency. When not doing battle with a stubborn Jack Russell Terrier mix, Lisa is hard at work on her seventh novel, a ghost story. THE BETWEEN is her publishing debut.

I wonder if he/she is related to my stubborn Jack Russell Terrier (with Cairn) mix. 🙂 And now from Lisa herself:

My first writing love is poetry. I’ve been writing poetry for far longer than I’ve been writing prose and it’s the form I return to when I’m at a stuck point in my story process, or as a way to explore emotions and process life events. The way I describe poetry is that it’s frozen orange juice concentrate of language: all the pucker, none of it watered down.

I strive to bring that attention to language to my stories as well. Not that I’m writing in verse (I’m not a big fan of end rhyme; so few poets do it true justice), but I have found that a way in to my characters’ lives exists in the way they construct metaphors. Humans are comparison creatures. It’s how we make sense of the world: we describe events and sensations in terms of what we have already experienced. Listen to your own language and you will notice how often you use the words like and as. (“It was as if…” “He looked like…”) Even without those obvious similes, we observe and create metaphor. When someone is out of practice, he is ‘rusty‘. A happy person has a sunny disposition. Telemarketers hound us. Even if you don’t consider yourself terribly poetic, I’m willing to bet you have a huge store of personal comparisons you use all the time.

In the book I’m currently drafting, my main character is a photographer, so many of her observations are filtered through her sense of light and shadow, composition, and depth of field. (A particular challenge for me since I am not a primary visual person and take really terrible photographs!) She would likely not notice or process the world through her sense of touch, for example. Another character in the story is much more kinesthetic. He’s always been fascinated by roller coasters (the story takes place in an abandoned amusement park) and his filters are far more in the movement and touch realm. When I pay attention to those differences, I am able to write in the two very distinct voices this story requires.

The other way poetry informs my writing is in working to make every word, every interaction, every scene, every sub-plot count. And if I do my job as a writer well, the reader won’t see any of it. All the reader will experience is the flow of story, as if the events were unfolding in the reader’s brain without even the words mediating the process. To get to that level of storytelling is likely an impossible dream until science has conquered true virtual reality, but it’s the goal I strive toward with everything I write.

In my YA fantasy debut, THE BETWEEN, the Fae force Lydia back to Faerie, but they didn’t count on her stubborn humanity. It is available in all eBook and trade paperback formats, links to purchase portal here:

That was really interesting (especially being a photographer’s daughter!) and “frozen orange juice concentrate of language” – I love that. Thank you LJ. 🙂 You can find more about Lisa and her work via…

website:, blog:, Facebook:, 
Twitter: @lisajanicecohen
 and Google +:
. You can also email her via

The blog interviews will return as normal tomorrow with crime novelist Graham Smith – the two hundred and fifty-sixth of my blog interviews with novelists, poets, short story authors, biographers, agents, publishers and more. A list of interviewees (blogged and scheduled) can be found here. If you like what you read, please do go and investigate further. And I enjoy hearing from readers of my blog; do either leave a comment on the relevant interview (the interviewees love to hear from you too!) and / or email me. You can read / download my eBooks from Smashwords (Amazon to follow).

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