Saturday, October 30, 2010

A Visit with Nancy J. Cohen

Nancy is a multi‑published author who earned a bachelor's degree in nursing from the University of Rochester and a master's degree from the University of California in San Francisco. After working as a clinical nurse specialist, she retired to write full-time. She made her debut onto the publishing scene with futuristic romance novels written as Nancy Cane. Her first book, Circle of Light, won the HOLT Medallion Award. Nancy wrote a total of four futuristic romances for Dorchester before switching to mysteries.

Nancy, how did your “Bad Hair Day” mystery series come about?

I started out writing romance, and my romances had mysteries in them. I liked plotting the mystery angle so much that I was thinking about doing a straight mystery series. But who would be the sleuth?

One day, I was at the hair salon getting a perm, waiting for the timer to go off, and I had nothing good to read. I glanced at the other customers who were staring into space waiting for their timers to go off, and I thought, we need something gripping to read to kill time. Let’s kill off one of these ladies! Thus Permed to Death was born. In the story, hairstylist and salon owner Marla Shore is giving grumpy Mrs. Kravitz a perm when the old lady croaks in the shampoo chair. Marla has to prove her innocence to handsome Detective Dalton Vail.

Marla is a businesswoman as well as a talented professional who cares about her customers. A stylist has to be a good listener, so she’s a natural for a sleuth. She knows many people around town, and clients confide in her. Plus the beauty salon is a great background setting for a mystery series. People are constantly walking in, gossiping, and exchanging information. A hairdresser can work anywhere if you think about it: weddings, film sets, funeral homes, fashion shows. It opens up the possibilities.

Why the switch from futuristic romance novels to mysteries?

Honestly, the futuristic market took a dive, much like cozies in recent times. I had no choice except to reinvent myself and I really liked plotting the mystery part of my romances. So I decided to branch out and try a straight mystery.

Why do you write? And what’s the best part of being a writer?

I write because I have to write. If I don’t, tension builds up inside me until I put words on paper. I believe this is the true difference between a career writer and a wannabe. You have to do it. As for the best part, I love hearing from readers. Reader feedback gives me the inspiration to keep writing.

What’s your writing schedule?

I’m an early bird, so I wake up before dawn and start work right away. My daily quota is five pages a day or more, then I spend the rest of the time on promotional activities.

How difficult was it to acquire an agent?

I wrote three books before I joined Florida Romance Writers. Then I got my first agent at the first conference I ever attended.

Which writer most influenced your own writing?

I first got hooked on female amateur sleuth stories by Jill Churchill’s humorous series. I went on to read mysteries by other women writers featuring strong female protagonists and a humorous slant and then decided to write one myself.

Tell us about your latest mystery novel, Killer Knots.

Florida hairstylist Marla Shore hopes for a romantic interlude with her fiancé on their first Caribbean cruise, but troubled waters lie ahead when their dinner companions disappear one-by-one. Then Marla learns a killer is along for the ride. Onboard art auctions, ports of call, and sumptuous buffets beckon, but she ignores temptation and musters her snooping skills to expose the culprit. She'd better find him fast, before her next shore excursion turns into a trip to Davy Jones's locker.

I've been on over twenty cruises and wanted to write a cruise mystery. I based the ship on a cross between the NCL Spirit and the RCCL Navigator. Then I made up an itinerary to my favorite ports. It was great fun doing the research in person.

Coming next in the Bad Hair Day series is Shear Murder in January 2012.

What’s the most difficult aspect of writing and the one that you enjoy most?

The most difficult aspect of writing are the distractions. There are dozens of things that jostle for my attention and it’s tough to tune them out. I enjoy it most when I’m in the middle of writing a book and the story just flows. It’s an innervating, glorious feeling.

Advice to fledgling novelists?

Follow the 3 P’s: Practice, Persistence, and Professionalism. “ Never Give Up, Never Surrender!” as they say on Galaxy Quest. It’s true for a writing career, too. Your career isn’t over until you say it’s over. So keep writing!

It was good to have you with us, Nancy.

Nancy's web site:

Her blog:




Mary Ricksen said...

You never have a bad hair day that I have ever seen! But you are a great talent Nancy and I am proud to call you friend! Good luck and many sales!!!

Nancy J. Cohen said...

Thanks so much, Mary! I appreciate your stopping by.

Allison Chase said...

Getting up and writing early must help cut down on the distractions. But I guess sometimes distractions can inspire. Too funny how you came up with The Bad Hair Day stories!

Sheila Deeth said...

So reinvention works, if talented. Nice interview. Thanks.

Nancy J. Cohen said...

Reinvention works, so does persistence and never giving up.

Maeve said...

What a wonderful post! Cruises are fantastic. I'm sure you DID enjoy the research on that one. Many sales to you, Nancy!

Nancy J. Cohen said...

Thanks, Maeve! I still love cruising. We're booked on a ten day one next to the Southern Caribbean.

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