We’re in for a treat today! Julie Cohen, author of WHERE LOVE LIES, has delivered another moving novel for our reading pleasure:
DEAR THING is the internationally bestselling story of Ben and Claire, a couple who cannot have children … until Ben’s best friend Romily offers to be a surrogate mother for them. But Romily has a secret: she’s in love with Ben, and being pregnant with his baby brings up all sorts of unexpected emotions. Three friends, two women, and one baby …which only one family can keep.
Sounds compelling, right? See details below to enter to win a copy (US only)! Now let’s dig in with Julie:
Who is one of your favorite (fictional or non-fictional) characters?
It all started when I was eleven and my aunt and uncle gave me some money to buy a book. Naturally, being a precocious child, I chose the largest book in the entire shop: THE COMPLETE SHERLOCK HOLMES. I’d never read a Sherlock Holmes story before, but from the minute I turned the first page, I was hooked. I loved Sherlock Holmes and my love has lasted my entire life so far. I specialised in Victorian literature at university because of Sherlock Holmes; I moved to England because of Sherlock Holmes; I chose the subject of my postgraduate degree because of Sherlock Holmes. I’ve reread the stories countless times and I’ve spent many, many hours watching the films and TV programmes. (Jeremy Brett is my favourite, since you ask—closely followed by Benedict Cumberbatch.) I’m currently the official cartoonist for the Sherlock Holmes Journal—despite not being able to draw.…And yes, I own a deerstalker. In the winter, I wear it to write.
Talk about one thing that’s making you happy right now.
When I first started writing, I was lucky enough to find mentors to help me. They were authors whose work I admired, and who would talk to me about writing, or read my work, and give me advice. Since getting published I’ve tried to pay it forward by doing the same thing with other writers. I run a fiction consultancy business, so these writers are often my clients, but they also become friends and colleagues. The absolute best feeling is when an author you have worked with finally achieves her dream of publication. I’m really fortunate—this has happened quite a few times for me—and it means that I get to experience all the joy of a first book deal vicariously, without all the pesky doubts and worries that come with your own first book deal. Not that any of the credit goes to me: the writers deserve all the credit themselves, for working so hard. But it’s wonderful to have touched someone else’s work and helped them, even a little bit.
Last night I received an email saying that one of the authors I’ve worked with has just signed her first book contract. So today, that is making me very happy.
Tell us a secret about the main character in your novel — something that’s not even in your book.
Romily, a single parent and one of the heroines of DEAR THING, is often puzzled by her daughter Posie—an imaginative, solitary girl who really wants nothing but love, especially the love of a father. But when she was a child, Romily was just like Posie. She spent hours watching insects and making up stories about their lives. Her mother was dead and she was raised by her father, and though she loved her father fiercely, she longed for a mother too. Romily prefers to think of herself as strong and independent, someone who doesn’t need anyone else, but really she longs for love just as much as her daughter does.
Have you ever met someone you idolized? What was it like?
I met JK Rowling last year. I say ‘met’, but actually I encountered her very briefly after a talk she gave, whilst I had my book signed by her. OH MY GOD SHE WAS AWESOME. I make no apologies for being the biggest, soppiest fangirl about this. I said to her, ‘You have given my family and me so many hours of pleasure. Thank you very much.’ And she said to me, ‘That is the nicest thing that anyone could say to me.’
And yes, I remember the exact words.
I walked away with stars in my eyes. I was giddy and desperately happy. She was so classy and kind, and I have a huge amount of admiration for her in just about every way possible.
Has anyone ever thought a character you wrote was based on them?
Yes, this happens all the time, but it is almost never true. In DEAR THING there are several scenes where my heroine and her daughter are at the school gates, and the other parents there are sort of awful. I was a bit terrified that the nice parents at my son’s school gates would think I’d been writing about them. In fact I donated a few copies of the book to the PTA for their raffle and I wrote, really large, at the front: I MADE UP ALL THE AWFUL PARENTS MYSELF, THEY ARE NOT REAL. Fortunately, no one has confronted me about it, so I think I’m okay.
Ironically though, there is a recurring character in my novels who is totally based on someone real, absolutely just like the real person in almost every way except for gender and name, and this particular person is someone who reads all my novels, and they have NEVER recognised themselves. Or if they have, they’ve never said anything.
JULIE COHEN grew up in Maine but moved to England to study fairies in Victorian children’s literature. As that has very few practical applications, she became a teacher and then an award-winning novelist. She writes full time and lives with her husband, son and puppy in Berkshire in the UK.