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Behind The Fiction, Past
A Fiction Column
By Michael G'Francisco

An interview with author Nancy J. Cohen, aka Nancy Cane

Nancy Cohen is a graduate of the University of Rochester and the University of California. This renowned mystery author began her early career as a clinical nurse specialist. She retired to pursue her passion, to be a writer. Nancy began her writing career with the “hot books” during the glory days of romance novels. To date Nancy has written 14 novels. This talented author is living proof of the ol’ epigram: “do what you love and love what you do”.

While residing in Florida I lived a stones throw from this vibrant and talented author and, much to my sadness, I never took the time to get personally acquainted. She is a prolific writer and takes great pleasure in conferring with her readers. I’m sure we all like to thank her for consenting to the following interview.

Michael G'Francisco: Nursing to a writing career. Wow, what an unusual career change! Why?

Nancy J. Cohen: Addiction. Ever since I can remember, I was always creating poems and stories. I even wrote a Shakespearean play. The urge to write was like an unending thirst. No matter where I went, I took notes about the people that I met and the surroundings. So in 1975, I decided to change careers and purchased a “How-to-write” book to learn the proper structure of a novel. Well, the rest, as they say, is history.


Michael:What method did you use to write your first novel?

Nancy: I began by writing a synopsis of the “Circle of Light”. Of course, I changed it many times before the manuscript was completed. My main purpose for a synopsis is a guideline, but it isn’t cut in stone. I still do the exact same thing every time I get an idea for a new story.


Michael: Why did you change your pen name “Nancy Cane” to Nancy J. Cohen?

Nancy: It became time to come out from beneath the covers. No, just kidding. I really changed it because I wanted to be identified with the real me.


Michael: Why did you change genres from romance to mystery?

Nancy: When I began writing, futuristic romance novels were the “in thing”, but they eventually seemed to lose their luster in the reading market. Mysteries written by women were gaining popularity and being a person who keeps up with the times, I changed genres. Besides, I was intrigued with creating mystery plots and I wanted to fashion a story heroine that women could identify with in their every days lives. I decided it should be a “hairdresser”. Poof! Marla Shores was born. I tossed in where I was living, Florida, used some relevant local issues, sprinkled in a dash of humor and added my Jewish roots to the mix.


Michael: How long after you finished “Circle of Light” did it take to have your manuscript published? Or did you self-publish the paperback edition in 1994?

Nancy: I wrote six “practice” books, which are still in my desk drawer. I submitted “Circle of Light” to Dorchester and, six months later, it was accepted as part of a three-book contract.


Michael: Would you care to comment on the odds of a novice writer becoming famous in today’s publishing atmosphere compared to when you first began writing?

Nancy: Fame and fortune come to few people in any field. Most fiction writers love to tell stories and hope that maybe their work will be recognized and receive popularity. Today most publishing house are consolidated, which makes it quite difficult to get a book deal.

Every one of them wants to discover a J.K. Rollings. The new buzzwords we hear at conferences are “high concept” and ‘marketing hook”. Today’s publishers want a good story plus a “salesperson and writer” all rolled into one.


Michael: Which of the following methods would you recommend that a novice writer use to have their first manuscript published: mass-market paperback, ebook, print on demand, small press or traditional publishers?

Nancy: It’s best to query a royalty paying traditional publisher or small press. It’s almost an impossibility to be considered a published author by self-publishing. Although it has been done in the past. E-books can help to gain reviews and notice. Today, ebooks is in its infancy, but growing, so I suggest that one researches the market very carefully.


Michael: What inspired you to write the “Bad Hair Day” mystery series?

Nancy: The inspiration came from boredom in a hair salon. On a visit while waiting for a timer to signal the finish of my perm, I looked around the room at the other women. A fiendish thought occurred to me: what if one of them was to croak and the hairstylist was arrested for the murder. Of course, I needed a female protagonist and Marla Shore, hairstylist, was created.


Michael: How do you get topics for your mystery plots?

Nancy: Good question. They are hatched from widespread newsworthy topics that interest me, which stem from biomedical waste disposal to Turkish baths.


Michael: Is it difficult keeping your series fresh?

Nancy: Character relationships are paramount and readers want to see them progress. Character growth, new conflicts, unusual topics and added personal trials help to keep readers coming back for more.


Michael: What is your method of bringing a plot full circle?

Nancy: A synopsis serves as a basic guideline. I outline the story, read what I wrote and begin to make changes until it’s got the right feel to it. Sometimes it takes changes like adding a new character or a plot twist.


Michael: What next for the “Bad Hair Day” mystery series?

Nancy: Without letting the proverbial cat out of the bag, let me say this: Marla and her fiancé, Dalton, sail away on their first Caribbean cruise with a killer aboard who intends this trip to be Marla’s last. “KILLER KNOTS” is available now.


Michael: How about a final comment, Nancy?

Nancy: Thank you and all my friends at MyShelf for allowing me to parlay with your readers.

Well, there you have it guys and gals. Read more about Nancy on her website: and her blog: If you wish to enter one of her contest go to

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