Mystery Writers Key West Fest: Murder and Mayhem in Paradise!

Interview with Author Nancy J. Cohen

Award-winning author Nancy J. Cohen writes humorous mysteries starring a hairstylist as well as paranormal romance novels with a sci-fi or fantasy twist. A line describing one of her books asks,Can a free-spirited ceramic artist and a fierce swordsman trust each other enough to prevent disaster?” Clearly, she is not your usual suspect when it comes to mystery and romance fiction. Cohen will appear with nearly two-dozen crime-fiction and true crime authors at the inaugural Mystery Writers Key West Fest this June 13-15. She agreed to answer a few questions for readers of Paradise.


Q&A with Author Nancy J. Cohen

Q: You have written 12 “Bad Hair Day” mysteries, which star hairstylist Marla Shore and her husband, Detective Dalton Vail. Did you always intend for Marla to have an ongoing series or has it been a case of demand and supply? Is there a particular characteristic that you believe caused Marla to become so popular with readers?

A: I did plan from the start to make this a series. When I first presented my proposal to Kensington, it was for a 3-book package. Thereafter, my contracts called for two books each time. But it was my fans who encouraged me to keep writing this series after marketing changes forced me to find a new publisher. Fortunately, Five Star picked up the series, and now I can keep writing more of Marla’s adventures. So I am grateful to my fans for their ongoing support.

What makes Marla so popular? She’s a relatable, caring, brave, generous and independent woman. She has learned from her mistakes and made herself a better person. Marla cares about her clients and her loved ones, and that shows in her actions. She’s the hairdresser and/or friend we all wish we had.

Q: You’ve also written numerous sci-fi and paranormal romances with heroines that include a mythologist, an archaeologist and women with extrasensory gifts. When did you first become attracted to the otherworldly, and have you experienced any otherworldly encounters yourself?

A: I wish I was sensitive to extrasensory phenomenon, but I am not. However, I do believe in its possibilities. There’s much about the world and our human potential we don’t know. I’ve met people who have had near death experiences and others who say they talk to dead persons. Is this for real? Who knows? I like to think it is, because this belief gives us hope.

There’s also an element of escape in reading and writing about otherworldly realms and adventures. For example, it’s much more pleasant to enter my imaginary world than to read the daily news. And who doesn’t wish they had a super power of some sort? If I had to choose, I’d be the Great Healer like Sarina in my first published book, Circle of Light. Working as a registered nurse as I did in my career, I could have used that gift. Instead, I give my romance heroines special abilities. As for Marla, she’s met a ghost or two.

Q: Your presence - or visibility - as an author is extensive, polished and impressively well organized. You have a website, a blog, participate in at least six social media outlets, host contests, appear at signings and symposia, and even have video trailers for your books. Do you employ a publicist or do you manage all of your own marketing? Do you ever sleep?

A: I manage all my own marketing. The writing comes first. I set myself a five page per day quota when I’m on a writing schedule or at least ten pages if I’m line editing. I don’t allow myself to check email until I am at least halfway done each morning. Most of the rest of the day, I’ll spend on the marketing aspects. It’s time-consuming, but I enjoy it to an extent. I like how we can connect directly with readers now. That’s proven helpful to me as I do listen to feedback from fans.

Q: As a child, were you more likely to be found reading a book, watching TV or staring out a window?

A: Definitely reading a book. I couldn’t wait for the next Nancy Drew story to come out. My mother once admonished me to stop reading so much and go outside. My love for stories stays with me to this day.

Q: You are President of the Florida Chapter of the Mystery Writers of America and Vice President of Florida Romance Writers. At your association conferences, are murders and affairs standard fare?

Murders, yes. Affairs, no, unless they lead to murder. A classic romance deals with monogamous relationships and a developing love story between the hero and heroine. However, a murder mystery might have a cheating couple. The genre conventions are quite different, and anyone who wants to write one of these novels had better be a fan first.

Cohen will appear as a “Women of Mystery” panelist at the inaugural Mystery Writers Key West Fest, which is produced by Key West Writers Bloc and sponsored by the Key West Citizen, Mystery Writers of America, and the Florida Keys Council of the Arts.
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Key West, Florida 33040
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