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Monday, October 12, 2009

Interview with Tish Cohen, Author of Little Black Lies

Today I'd like to welcome novelist Tish Cohen, who stopped by to talk about her young adult novel, Little Black Lies which releases today!

Tish Cohen is the author of several books for adults and young readers. Her adult novel Town House was a 2008 finalist for the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize Best First Book Award (Canada and Caribbean region) and is in development as a feature film. Cohen’s middle-grade novels, The Invisible Rule of the Zöe Lama and The One and Only Zöe Lama, were published in Canada and the United States. She has contributed articles to some of Canada’s largest newspapers, including The Globe and Mail and The National Post. Having grown up in Los Angeles and Orange County in California, and Montreal, Cohen now calls Toronto home.

Little Black Lies confronts divorce, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder and the tremendous pressures put on students in gifted programs. What drew you to explore these topics in Little Black Lies and was there something special that first sparked the storyline for the novel?


I was a child of divorce and was largely raised by my single father, with very little contact with my mother. So I definitely knew what that was like and it seemed natural to explore the scenario in Sara Black. And as for the OCD, I really wanted Sara to be trying to hide her father at a time when his condition was making him more visible than ever.

Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, or OCD, is a confusing, often misunderstood illness. Can you give us your thoughts on OCD and how you came to choose this particular disability for Sara's lovable father, the classic car enthusiast and janitor, Charlie Black?


A good friend of mine made a documentary about OCD and when I first watched it, I was struck by the prison it’s sufferers lock themselves into. As terrible as it may be for them to indulge in excessive counting of objects, or checking of locked doors, or hand washing, it causes the person more distress not to do it. Many people might look at such a disorder and wonder – why don’t they just stop. But the truth is, most can’t. Also, an interesting fact that distinguishes OCD from just normal everyday vigilance – with OCD, you feel that if you don’t check that the oven is off just one more time, or line up your silverware just so, that something bad will happen. It seemed a fascinating scenario for a school janitor—where his very job worsens his condition.


Sara attends the prestigious Anton High School, a school crowned as “harder to get into than Harvard”. What research did you do in preparation for writing about Anton – did you go to any prep schools to talk to and observe the students?

I spoke to many prep school students and researched a few similar schools, such as Boston Latin or New York’s Stuyvesant. But I was a kid who was moved around a fair bit, so the horror of starting a new school is very real to me.

In Little Black Lies, Sara lies to hide the fact that her dad is the OCD-plagued janitor, that her mom ran off and that they have no money. What were you like as a teen and did you ever tell any “little black lies” of your own that you had to eventually face the consequences for like Sara?

As I mentioned, I was living with my divorced dad and he was always working to build his business. My father owned medical labs so while we weren’t penniless, I had a limited home life and was actually jealous of friends who had home-cooked meals and curfews and lots of family gatherings. So the little black lies I told myself were more about being so lucky to have total freedom and a fairly hefty allowance. I pretended I loved my “modern” life, but in actuality I was lonely. I’d have traded it in an instant to have my parents back together.


If you could go back to when you were a teenager, what advice would you give your teen self?

Believe in yourself.

From agoraphobia in Town House, to the poignant condition of Nonverbal Learning Disorder in Inside Out Girl, your novels are known for tackling complex issues with eccentric, endearing characters. What sort of feedback do you get from readers that have contacted you? What is the most positive comment you’ve received from a reader?

I’ve heard form readers who suffer from agoraphobia and NLD and when they tell me one of the books made them laugh a bit at themselves or made them feel understood, or when they say they feel it was written about them, it’s a great feeling.



Many writers are encouraged by publishing professionals to find a genre that works best for them and stick with it. You’ve followed your own unique path and written novels for a wide array of ages. Out of the different genres you’ve written in, is there one in particular that is your favorite?


I wrote for adults first, so that will probably always be my love. But in writing Little Black Lies, I discovered you can put just as much into writing for teens and fell in love with the adolescent voice as well.


What other projects are you working on that we can look forward to? Will you be writing more novels in the future that are geared toward young adult readers?


I have an adult novel coming out June 2010 called The Truth About Delilah Blue. This one is about a 20-year-old girl who discovers the father who raised her did something terrible to her as a child. And I’m writing my next novel for teens.



Little Black Lies by
Tish Cohen

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 . .


58 comments:

jpetroroy said...

This sounds absolutely fascinating. I haven't read much about OCD in YA books, and I'm interested to see how the author handles it.

Sab H. said...

I really want to read this! Sounds amazing! And she's right I also wish someone would've told me to believe in myself as a teen!
;D

elnice said...

This sounds really good. I used to tell a little black lie or two. I remember having a date drop me off at a friends house saying I was spending the night there. When he drove off, I walked home embarrassed of where I was living.

Elie (Ellz Readz)

The Book Owl said...

This sounds good! I'm looking forward to reading it. :)

Jill of The O.W.L. said...

Great interview! There are so few YA books that deal with OCD. Glad to see one.

Mary Ann DeBorde said...

Mary D
zenrei57 (at) hotmail (dot) com

Very good interview :) I find it interesting adding OCD to the plot, I've heard millions of people suffer from this anxiety disorder.
Anyway, Little Black Lies is now on my Christmas Wish List (Santa will get a hernia lugging all these wonderful books to my home LOL ... I wish!)

~JoRdAn~ said...

That was a great interview and I cannot wait to read the book.

jmoose09@gmail.com

Alessandra said...

Good interview! I don't know much about OCD, and I look forward to learning more.

Alicia0605 said...

Great interview. I normally dont read young adult but your book looks really good.

Amy1225 said...

I think my daughter will really enjoy this book. Thanks for the interview.

B.A.M. Book Reviews said...

Nice job on the interview! I love all of her covers, they are very cute! I havent read anything by her, but she sounds like a great author! I will have to look up some books by her! Thanks for the interview with her! :)

-Arielle

Marilu said...

Great interview. I made a note of some of her other books ,so I can check them out. Hopefully they will interest my daughter as well.

celi.a said...

This one sounds wonderful! Great interview - and thanks for delving into the bits about why you've written for teens, and why the characters face certain issues. Nice post!

branquignole said...

All of her books sound awesome! And I love people who do a lot of research. Because frankly, I'm not one of them. :D

Teddyree said...

Really enjoyable interview, loved learning a little more about Tish with some of her more personal answers to your questions. Little Black Lies definitely sounds like one I'd enjoy.

Melissa said...

What a great interview. I cannot wait to read it

A Bookshelf Monstrosity said...

All of her books look great. I especially like the looks of Town House. Thanks for the interview :)

RKCharron said...

Hi :)
Thank you for the great interview with Trish Cohen & thanks to Trish for sharing here today.
I loved it - it was like a peek Behind The Books.
:)
All the best,
RKCharron
xoxo
PS - Trish is @TrishCohen on Twitter
PPS - Trish, will you come back to Twitter??
xoxo

Indigo said...

I so understand this. I grew up wanting to be anyone but who I was. Include a mother who wouldn't let me out in the sun for fear my skin would brown and let everyone know how much native I had in me. It wasn't easy...I believe I might of told a few little black lies myself. Wonderful review! Indigo

cait045 said...

Sounds like a pretty interesting book.

Sera Rivers said...

Congrats on another great interview Tish. And how fun to add a contest!!! Hope I win!

Mel (He Followed Me Home) said...

such an important message, we often need to be reminded of:

Believe in yourself.

Great interview!
Mel

...MY NAME IS ELENI AND I AM A BOOKAHOLIC... said...

Nice interview, she seems like a cool person!

Lisa said...

I've never heard of this author before. I'll have to check out some of her books!

Nati_1825/Vane_loyal said...

Great interview!!

vane_18410@hotmail.com

vanesa.

Patty said...

Wow, it's definitely great to have a book with an OCD character. My sister has ADD and they are both mental illnesses so I can relate to it very much.

I posted on your contest post too, but just in case:

yayreads@hotmail.com

Pam said...

Can I just say that all the books talked about in this interview sound fascinating and I can't believe I haven't read any of them? OCD, Nonverbal Learning Disorder - all very complex, misunderstood and frequently misdiagnosed. Wow.

melacan at hotmail dot com

holdenj said...

What a great interview and thanks for introducing a new-to-me author! The OCD angle sounds fascinating, not something you see every day in YA lit.

Ann Diana Dinh, said...

This book sounds really interesting!! I would very much like to read it

behapppppppy(at)hotmail(dot)com

natali said...

hi!!
Great interview!!
nati_1825@hotmail.com

van_pham said...

Great Interview, the book sounds really interesting...would love to read it.

van

Littopandaxpress(at)yahoo(dot)com

ella said...

great interview, Kim ^_^

i love the saying "believe in yourself" it is not only for teens but for all people in different stages of life.

andrea said...

Thanks for the interview!
I relate to the fear of being new in school and Tish is right in saying that sometimes you'd rather pretend that everything is fine when it's really not...

Margay said...

Tish, I love that you are tackling the hard issues and not just in adult books. I think this validates young adults and lets them know that we realize they have just as many pressures on them growing up as we do in raising them. I will be looking for your book when it comes out!

Margay

Ashley said...

Oh my gosh, her book covers are adorable! It's what caught my attention on the post. I especially love the Inside Out Girl cover; so cute! Hmm I should read more about these books, they look great.

Thanks for the post!

Jenny N. said...

This book sounds really good. Tish is a new author to me and I will definately check out her other books as well.

Jessy said...

Sounds like a lot of young girls can relate to this story. I think that's great that Tish writes books about real things. By the way I just adored the Inside Out Girl Cover!

Bunny B said...

Sounds like an interested book! :) I like her advice for her teen self!

Bunny B said...

+2 Commented on interview with Tish Cohen

bunnybx at gmail . com

Misty said...

This sounds so complex and layered. And you asked some great questions! Great interview.

pepsivanilla said...

This book sounds amazing. And "harder to get into than Harvard"? Normal high school is stressful enough!

Rebecca said...

This sounds really interesting. I haven't read anything about OCD before.

Llehn said...

My daughter loves Zoe Lama!

Sarah (Limerick) said...

I like that the author brings OCD into the story. I haven't met anyone personally who suffers from it, but to see Sara's vantage point of her father's disorder will be an interesting expierence.

Thanks for the great author interview!
:)

Staysi said...

I'm dying to read this! Great interview! :)

The Ultimate Dumpees said...

The OCD side of things makes me really want to read that book. I have a mild case and I've seen people with worse. It's horrible most of the time. Nice to see that showing on a YA book. Great interview.

-Brittany

Rebecca N. said...

Wonderful interview! I deal with OCD daily and am very interested in reading this book!

Froggy said...

awesome interview, cant wait to read the book!

brizmus said...

Divorced parents, OCD, gifted programs
This sounds like my high school years.
Great interview; I am now dying to read this book!

writergal said...

Wonderful interview. I definitely have to add Tish's books to my list to read. I work in healthcare and have a journalism degree and am always interested in the research and writing about various mental and physical conditions, esp. in young adults.

minishoes1 said...

I enjoyed this interview. I liked she did research and I think alot of people maybe able to relate to the chracter.

Marie said...

I think it's great that the author is addressing something like OCD in a young adult novel -- the book sounds excellent as does her other work. I will certainly be looking for her at the library the next time I go.

Casey said...

nice interview! her upcoming adult book sounds interesting, I might have to check that out.

aline said...

seams like a nice book ,i would love to try it

Good Golly Miss Holly said...

i can definitely relate to the feeling of wanting to have rules set upon you.

izabela said...

I didn't remember that I ever read a Tish Cohen book until a see The Invisible Rules of the Zoe Lama. I love this book o.o

1inseveralbillion said...

I never thought about how much research and experiences authors had to have to write a book!

Nancye said...

I am impressed with the amount of research that was done for this book. As a retired teacher who has worked with students with OCD, I am very interested in reading this book.

nancyecdavis AT bellsouth DOT net