An Interview with Author Rachel Cohn
Chicago Public Library librarians and teen readers have adored the books of Rachel Cohn, including Gingerbread, Shrimp and Cupcake, and You Know Where to Find Me, so we were thrilled to have the opportunity to have her answer a few questions about herself, her characters and writing in general. Read her answers to our interview below and, if you’d like to learn more later, be sure to visit Rachel Cohn online at: www.rachelcohn.com and www.myspace.com/gingerbread_rachelcohn.
Which city do you prefer, Nueva York or San Francisco, and why?
I prefer Nueva York. I like the pace and the energy and that anywhere I want to go is a quick subway ride away. Most of my friends are here. I write best here. That being said, I will borrow from that old standby cliche and say, I left my heart in San Francisco. I love spending time there and try to go at least a few times a year for short visits. It’s an incredibly beautiful and diverse place, and I still have some great friends there, so I love going back to visit. But Nueva York is HOME.
Shrimp is a doll and I’m sure many young girls swoon over him. Is his character based on anyone you know?
He’s really not based on anyone I know but in many ways he’s a compilation of a lot of hippie-cool guys I knew when I lived in San Francisco. Also, for a while I lived right at the ocean in a neighborhood called Ocean Beach, and Shrimp is very much a reflection of the surfer guys I observed while living there.
I know you say you are done with CC, Shrimp, et al., BUT would you ever consider writing a book from Shrimp’s perspective?
It’s an interesting question. I’d like to think that I could, but truthfully, perhaps more so than any character I’ve ever written, Shrimp is the most elusive character to me. I don’t really understand him. I LOVE him, but he’s a hard guy to get to know. I don’t think I would be capable of writing him in any way other than from CC’s perspective.
Have you ever surfed (not including the net)?
I haven’t! I used to body surf on a boogie board a lot when I was a kid, but as an adult, I got really prissy about swimming in the ocean, which is too bad! I am about to go to Australia for a month, and I am staying right at the beach in a place called Manly in Sydney, and there is a surf school right where I am staying, and I have to admit I am seriously thinking about giving it a try! (But I will probably flake and just drink coffees and watch everyone else surf from a safe and clean spot on shore.)
What was the worst job you’ve ever had?
The worst job (and this one is tough—there were so many!) I ever had was probably working at a reggae record company in my early 20s. I thought it would be so cool and fun and it really wasn’t for me—I was terrible at the job, and couldn’t have been more uncool in that environment.
Would you consider writing a book based in Chicago? Have you ever been here? What do you think?
Certainly I hope to get to Chicago in a book at some point! I’ve only visited there twice, and both times very briefly (once for a wedding, the other a book tour), and I really didn’t get a chance to explore as much as I would have liked to. (I am dying to do a Ferris Bueller Chicago tour.) It seems like such a beautiful and amazing city so I hope I will get more chance to explore there soon—in person, and in literature.
When did you first get that “aha” moment regarding your ability to write?
I’m still waiting for it! Like many writers, I often feel like a fraud, like I really don’t know what I am doing! I’m just muddling through and figuring it out as I go along. Luckily, it’s something I love being able to muddle through!
Which award for writing are you most proud of? Where were you and what were you doing when you got the call/email about winning?
Um, I haven’t really won awards. Some of my books have made a few library lists, which is a great honor of course, but often sort of anti-climactic because I tend to find out by email long after it’s happened. Probably my greatest reward in writing that I’m most proud of is the letters and comments I get from teen readers about how my books have affected them. That feedback is definitely the best award ever.
Rumor has it that you plan to take some time off from writing now that you’ve published You Know Where to Find Me? Is this true and, if so, do you have any specific plans and do you know when you’ll write again?
I actually have finished taking time off. I didn’t write for about the last year and a half. I am just picking back up now, writing a new novel that will come out in spring 2010.
On your website you mention three unpublished novels, which you wrote before Gingerbread. Will you ever try to get them published?
The novel I am working on now is a “rethinking” of the first unpublished novel I wrote. It’s totally new characters and voice, but the same premise, which was just too delicious not to try again.