The Disrespectful Interviewer: Dissing Tish Cohen


Lauren Baratz-Logsted

The Disrespectful Interviewer is a semi-regular feature in which your intrepidly disrespectful correspondent is as rude as she likes with prominent writers of the day.

Lauren Baratz-Logsted: Tish, Tish, Tish. Tsk, tsk, tsk. Has anyone ever complained that when they say your name it sounds like they’re lisping?

Tish Cohen: Honestly? They get more frustrated by the facial tic saying my name brings on. And they love to remind me that the Basset Hound around the corner had the name first. But I learned to smoke cigars way before that dog did. Plus my mother said I was better looking so, you know, whatever. The Dinwoodies’ dog can suck it.

LBL: And that last name: Cohen—is that Jewish? If my dad were still alive it would be so cool if it were. He always wanted me to have more Jewish acquaintances.

TC: I’m a convert, does that count?

LBL: Getting back to that lisp thing. Your first novel for adults, Town House, was about an agoraphobic. Your second book, Inside Out Girl, is about, among other things, a little girl with learning disabilities. I guess what I’m getting at is: Was there a conscious decision on your part to just write books about people with some sort of handicap, for want of a more PC word, in order to cash in on the lucrative book club market that makes books like The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time runaway bestsellers?

TC: I prefer handicapable. 

LBL: OMG, I just heard that word for the first time last night on Nip/Tuck—too funny! Well, then, could you explain just what your motivation was in writing these books? If not specifically to curry favor with book clubs, frankly, I don’t get it.

TC: Book clubs? No, I wrote them to curry favor with Mark Haddon because he wrote a book called Titch JohnsonAlmost World Champion and I’m angling to have it changed to Tish JohnsonWorld Champion.

LBL: Did you ever consider using a hyphen for Inside Out Girl, so it’s read Inside-Out Girl? Personally, I think it looks better, plus you could cash in on the whole Curious Incident … Night-Time thing. Nighttime doesn’t naturally come hyphenated like that and I think it did wonders for Haddon.

TC: Pass me a Sharpie. If you think it would help with my Mark Haddon campaign, I’ll marker a hyphen onto every cover right now. Though my hyphen stance as a whole is rather anti, so we’d need at least a verbal agreement from Haddon on the World Champion thing.

LBL: So. Canada. Really? It must get so depressing, to be so close to the United States and still live where you do. How are you holding up?

TC: Robin Williams once said, “Living in Canada is like living in a loft above a really great party.”

But while you people are busy sipping champagne, we sneak down and help ourselves to the shrimp. And one sock from every pair in your dryers.

Don’t tell.

LBL: OK, now this is depressing. I’m looking at your books on Amazon and I don’t see a single one-star review. How do you do that? Do you know someone at Amazon who just gets rid of the bad ones for you like scraping char off burnt toast?

TC: It’s not that easy to eradicate the one-star reviews. You have to burn them with a cigarette. Or was it sprinkle them with salt? Just make sure to get the head or they’ll fester.

LBL: You’d better come up with a bad review from elsewhere that you can quote here at length to engender reader sympathy. Come on. Give us a real stinker. You know, you’re not like one of those characters in your books and it isn’t Night-Time. You need a leg up.

TC: My first national review in the Toronto Star started out like this: Before I even pick up Torontonian Tish Cohen's first novel, Town House, I want to hate it. Nothing to do with her bookobviouslyand everything to do with the pre-launch hype, the perkiness of the press release, even her name, which points to some blonde, co-ed yummy mommy type.

I see that Inside Out Girl is going to be a movie, despite its hyphen-less state. You must be stoked! After all, isn’t that the only reason anyone ever writes a novel, in the hopes it will be made into a movie? I know a few friends and family members who think so.

TC: Wait, is there another reason?

LBL: Wow. Lucky you. You also have a teen novel, Little Black Lies. I’ve never heard of little black lies before. What does that phrase even mean?

TC: It doesn’t mean anything but its acronym is hot for your initials and that’s how the book came about.

LBL: Ooh, snap! I can’t believe you just Ooh-snapped me! Moving on . . . In addition to the two adult novels and the teen novel, you’ve also got a series for tweens, including The Invisible Rules of the Zoe Lama and The One and Only Zoe Lama. Wow, you’ve really got all your publishing bases covered, don’t you? What’s next, a board book for babies celebrating the numbers one through ten?

TC: This next book is meant to be read in-utero to prepare the fetus for what he or she will face out here. And I have to be honest, LBL, I don’t hold back. I mean, they’re going to learn Speidi exists eventually, right?

LBL: Maybe in your crazy world. So what’s the deal with the Zoe books? Is the Dalai Lama pissed at you for playing off his name? He doesn’t seem like the litigious sort but people can get funny about copyright infringement.

TC: I am bound by law to skip this question.

LBL: Don’t you just hate the word “tween” as a classification? I hate it. And if I were a tween, I’d really hate it.

TC: As a tween I was too busy looking for the rabbit’s foot I lost in a pile of leaves to care about classifications. Have you seen it? It was yellow and lucky.

LBL: I’m just going to ignore that. Regarding the odious “tween” designation, I think publishing can do better. Will you work on that, please? Really, if you can come up with something better than “tween,” the world will thank you.

TC: Let’s go with “twixt” then, if you’re going to go on about it forever.   

LBL: My, you’re . . . feisty, considering you live where you do. Were you ever sued by the late Charles M. Schulz for ripping off the likeness of Snoopy for one of your drawings?

TC: Again, I am bound by law.

LBL: How about Snoopy—did he ever sue?

TC: We settled out of court. But I’m still not at liberty to discuss the late-night sessions during which he posed for me.

LBL: What’s the best writing advice you’ve ever received by someone other than me?

TC: Beware the hyphen.

LBL: [Note to self: Ignore the feisty Canadian, ignore the feisty Canadian . . .] I’ve just stolen a rocket ship, flown you to the moon and deposited you there alone because I’m annoyed at your talent in so many genres. I’m going to let you keep one book for company before I leave. Which book, outside of one of mine, do you beg me for?

TC: Tish Johnson—World Champion.

LBL: Which book, outside of one of mine, would you kill to have written?

TC: Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice in case Darcy was based on a real live man.

If Inside Out Girl, despite its hopelessly hyphen-less state, is nominated for an Academy Award, will you take me as your guest to the Oscars? Please, please, please. I promise to be good. I won’t even complain to the foreign press about Robert Downey Jr. winning a Golden Globe for Sherlock Holmes.

TC: Okay, but you know where they seat the writers. And you have to promise not to ask Tarantino if his name is Jewish.

LBL: You began writing your first novel after reading an Anais Nin quote on Oprah Winfrey’s website. Really? If Anais Nin were still alive and Oprah interviewed her, what do you think Oprah would ask about first, sex or diet?

TC: Who knows, maybe Oprah would have Trinny and Suzanne give her a makeover.

LBL: Any last words? “General Hospital” is about to start—Lucky finally knows that his fiancé is sleeping with his brother!—so feel free to take your time answering since I’ll be long gone before you finish. Do you get “General Hospital” in Canada? Do you even get TV up there?

TC: No, but don’t you worry about us. When we come down for the shrimp we take our sweet time passing your flat screens. 

Win a free copy of Crazy Beautiful! We will be giving away a copy of her latest young adult novel, Crazy Beautiful, to this week’s lucky winner. To enter, send us an e-mail with your name. That’s it. For this drawing, all names received on or before Friday, February 19 will be entered, and the winner’s name will be drawn that evening. We will notify the winner over the weekend. Only one entry per person, please. (We apologize to our international readers, but due to high postage costs we can only mail books to U.S. addresses.) There is no obligation, and your name and address will not be saved by BiblioBuffet or used for any purpose other than mailing the books.


Lauren Baratz-Logsted has sold twenty books to six publishers since 2003. Her published novels include The Thin Pink Line and Vertigo for adults; Crazy Beautiful for teens, Me, In Between for tweens; and the first four of The Sisters 8, a nine-book series for young readers, co-written with her novelist husband Greg Logsted and their nine-year-old daughter Jackie. In the year 2010 she'll have four more books published, including two more titles in The Sisters 8 series, The Education of Bet for teens and one more teen title. Lauren still lives in Danbury, CT, where she writes and reads pretty much all the time. You can read more about Lauren’s life and work (and contact her) at her personal website and the Sisters 8 site. Contact Lauren.



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