? When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer?
In 11th grade or so, I was involved in a high school group called Environmental Education Club. We would teach the sixth graders from the middle school about nature at this park called RobbinsPark during a two-day adventure. The kids would sleep in tents after the first night but before they did we had a big evening campfire. The group leaders from the EEC would put on skits for the kids each week. The skits were silly and they’d been around forever. I started performing in them and changing them drastically. Sometimes for good, sometimes for bad, but fortunately, it was more often funny than sad. This is both when I learned I wanted to be a writer and a performer.
? How many jobs did you have before you became a writer?
Well, since I’ve yet to strike it rich, the non-writer jobs might not be over for me quite yet, but let’s see. I’ve been an administrative assistant to Oprah during the Oprah’s Favorite Things giveaway; a brand representative for Naked Juice during a Costco Roadshow; a barista at a popular world-conquering coffee shop; an extra during a Green Bay Packers themed McDonald’s commercial; and a producer of a short-lived Internet television show. I’ve been all over the place.
? How long does it take you to write a book?
This depends on a lot of factors. It took me over a year and half to write my first two books but only two weeks to write my third book. Perhaps I’m getting the hang of writing and perhaps the third book was just extremely easy. My “idea book” series as I guess I’d call it is easier to write than a novel. I recently finished my first novella and it needs a lot of work whereas my 500 Writing Prompts for Kids book was in great shape after a second draft. I have two future projects that will probably take closer to a year to accomplish including a dark novel about disease and life purpose and a guide to happiness for those graduating college.
? What would you say is your most interesting writing quirk?
Short sentences with a weird burst of humor. Like...this? In general, I love playing with rhythm in my writing. During college, in the midst of taking fiction writing classes I also took several levels of poetry and studied the poets of 18th century England. It really got me in the mindset of using rhythm to my advantage in writing.
? Do you have a routine that you use to get into the right frame of mind to write?
Any routine that works. I’ve found that if I only have one particular way of getting myself in “the zone” than any small wrench could throw everything off. I have devised several tricks to get myself in the mood which include listening to motivational audio programs, visiting the many local coffee shops in my Chicago neighborhood, and writing with a friend at 6:30 a.m.
? Where do you get your ideas or inspiration for your characters?
When I write fiction, I get inspired by the people around me. Even if a person is shallow in real life, that person is fully-realized and three-dimensional. If you can extract even some of that person’s life philosophy and adapt it for the page, your characters will be more fully realized than most characters out there. I’m also a big proponent of using different aspects of myself in characters.
? How do you decide what you want to write about?
I have a lot of ideas. It’s an offshoot of my years as an improv comedian. I’ve been in over a thousand scenes with different characters and situations. If one of my ideas sound good, I’m going to try to write about it. I might as well take advantage of this influx of ideas, since this is the aspect of writing some people have trouble with. I even have an idea for a project for the future in which I collaborate with many different writers over the course of just one year using my many ideas.
About you as a person:
? What books have most influenced your life?
As a bit of a self-help junkie, 7 Habits of Highly Effective People was the touchstone. The book taught me about love, goals, leadership, win-win situations and keeping myself sharp and ready for the next challenge. As a previously unconfident fellow, the book helped inspire me to become a full-fledged writer.
? What do you like to do when you are not writing?
While there hasn’t been a lot of time for it lately during this blog tour, I love cooking. A couple of months back I cooked a wonderful Shabbat dinner for my friends with food, stuffed with other food, and spices galore. I should write a writer’s cookbook some day.
? What is your favorite comfort food?
My mother’s meatloaf. It can’t be beat. She always cooks it when I visit my parents and brother in Pennsylvania and it’s one of the things I most look forward to when I’m there!
? What do you think makes a good story?
A good story has something to say, some truth to present through the characters. A good story should make the reader think and have some kind of motivation to change. It should also have humor, possibly scatological. Truth and poop humor, definitely :).
? Who would you consider your favorite author and why?
Oh, I go so back and forth on this. I love an author with an interesting life story, so let’s say John Milton who wrote all of Paradise Lost while blind, which is freakin’ cool.
? What book, if any, do you read over and over again?
I have read The Source by James Michener multiple times, though I may have only finished it once because it’s very long and dense. It’s an amazing story of historical fiction and I recommend it to anybody trying to consider his or her spirituality.
Fun random questions:
·dogs or cats? Dogs! Though I’m warming to cats.
·Coffee or tea? Water! Not convinced about caffeine’s healthiness.
·Dark or milk chocolate? Dark chocolate for all the antioxidants.
·Rocks or flowers? Hahahahaha. This is an awesome comparison. I’ll say when I was a kid it was rocks because my dad taught me about geology. Now it’s flowers, but it’s close.
·Night or day? Day, I’m totally a morning person.
·Favorite color? Tar Heel blue!
·Crayons or markers? Crayons.
·Pens or pencils? Pencils by far! I am an anti-pen person. It may be a fear of commitment.
Here is the giveaway information (from the author):
Bryan Cohen is giving away 100 personalized writing prompts to one giveaway entrant chosen at random during the blog tour. Personalized prompts are story starters that cater specifically to a writer’s subject matter, strengths/weaknesses, etc. Cohen will create the prompts to cater exclusively to the winner. He is giving away free digital copies of his book The Writing Sampler to everybody who enters, which includes excerpts from each of his four books on writing. The book contains essays, writing prompts and tips and tricks to enhance your writing skills. In addition, for each of Cohen’s books that reach the Top 500 on Amazon during his blog tour, he will add a $50 Amazon gift card to the drawing (up to six $50 cards in total)!
To enter, simply post a comment to this blog post with your e-mail address. Entries will be counted through June 2nd, 2011.
1,000 Creative Writing Prompts: Ideas for Blogs, Scripts, Stories and More by Bryan Cohen