Welcome to WOLF NOTES, where interview questions stray from the rest of the pack. It’s nice to know the usual stuff like where an author gets their inspiration and why they write, but sometimes we need a little fun in our lives. We’re starting 2019 off with LJ Cohen.
LJ Cohen is a Boston area novelist, poet, blogger, ceramics artist, geek, and relentless optimist. After almost twenty-five years as a physical therapist specializing in chronic pain management, LJ now uses her anatomical knowledge and myriad clinical skills to injure characters in her science fiction and fantasy novels. When not bringing home strays (canine and human), LJ can be found writing, which looks a lot like daydreaming.
LJ is active in SFWA (The Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America) and Broad Universe, and blogs about publishing, general geekery, and other ephemera at http://www.ljcbluemuse.blogspot.com. A Star in the Void (book 5 of the SF/Space Opera series Halcyone Space) is her most recent novel. Derelict, the first novel in the series, was chosen as a Library Journal Self-e Select title and book of the year in 2016. For more about LJ and her books, visit http://www.ljcohen.net or https://www.amazon.com/LJ-Cohen/e/B006QL6GA0
Wolf: Thanks for joining the pack. You’ve just been turned into a plant. Describe yourself.
LJ: A perennial, my leaves emerge every year starting in the late spring or early summer. Spindly stalks grow amid the leaves and can reach four feet high. From the tips of my stalks, buds swell and each bud becomes a long, wide colorful flower. I come in many varieties, some carefully developed for selective gardeners, others emerging from the side of the road, blooming for no one in particular.
While each of my flowers only blooms for a single day, with so many buds, I can be in continuous bloom for months.
I am considered a weed by some, but I see myself as simply adaptable and hardy. I can grow in almost any soil and in a large variety of conditions.
Given enough time, I will spread year by year and become a hedge. But I am also happy to be divided and planted in new ground – both my old plant and the new will thrive. Winter will not destroy my bulbs. Nor will a gardener’s neglect.
Wolf: Sounds nice. Do you consider yourself a cat person, or a dog person?
LJ: Definitely a dog person. While I didn’t grow up with any animals (my mother was a fastidious housekeeper and didn’t like the chaos pets brought), I’d always been drawn to dogs. I’ve had dogs now as an adult since I got married and was gifted with a 12 week old puppy! (Not your typical wedding gift!)
We have been owned by an assortment of pups ever since, all rescues. Our current dogs are a Jack Russel mix (Dustin) and a border collie mix (Mya).
Since I work from home, I am around them most of the time. They have beds in my office, which has radiant heat. Once it gets turned on in late fall, it’s their favorite room in the house.
I’m certain that dogs exude a special kind of gravitational wave that makes it nearly impossible to get up from the sofa when they curl up nearby.
Wolf: So true. While walking in the woods you come across…
LJ: A faded blue police box, shaded by a canopy of trees. There is a sign with white lettering on the front. The words are blurred, impossible to read.
The birds have stopped singing. The wind fails. The trees still.
I pause with my hand on the handle. I expect it to be cold. Roughened by the rust. It is smooth. Warm. A surge of heat moves through me and I’m very aware of my own heartbeat in the sudden silence.
I look back at where I came from. There are no footprints in the deep leaf litter. The forest path is obscured in a swirling fog. I turn back to the box. The blue is now a clear and vibrant hue. Why did I ever think the box was old?
A beam of low sunlight pierces the tree branches and illuminates the bottom line on the curious sign: Pull to Open.
Wolf: Please say hi to the Doctor form me. If you could have a super power, what would it be?
LJ: To understand all the languages in the world. I would love to be able to travel and hear the music in the local language and understand a place the way someone born there does. To be able to communicate with anyone, without the barrier of an unfamiliar language between us would be amazing.
Wolf: The main character in my WIP can do that. I’m not good at learning new languages. Which of your characters is your favorite?
LJ: I’m not sure I have a favorite, per se, but the character whose creation most delighted me was that of Aeon from THE BETWEEN, book 1 of the Changeling’s Choice series.
He was not a planned character. I was writing a scene after my protagonist Lydia had been taken into Faerie and told she was a changeling. In order to clear her mind and cope with her anxiety, she goes for a run in what turns into a hedge maze. Lost and resting in a clearing, she struggles to understand her new reality. She asks aloud, “Who am I?”
At that moment, my fingers typed this reply: “That’s an interesting question.”
I had no idea who was there with her and why. But I know I needed to find out.
I remember that moment of creation with absolute clarity.
That character became Aeon. He was an ancient Fae who’d been bound to the maze. I thought he’d be a minor character, but he had different ideas. So much so, that his history turned into the backdrop and major conflict of the sequel TIME AND TITHE.
Wolf: Amazing how our characters tell us what to do, isn’t it? What is your favorite body of water and why? (river, ocean, waterfall, puddle, bottle…)
LJ: In my 20s I had the opportunity to learn how to sail when my then boyfriend’s (now spouse’s) father bought a sailboat. I spent many hours on the Chesapeake Bay in Maryland sailing that boat. One of my favorite sounds in the world is the sound of waves lapping against the hull, so any body of water that has a tide feels like home to me.
Wolf: What story are you working on now?
LJ: It doesn’t have a name as of yet. It’s a totally different world from either my Fae Changeling books or my space opera series (Halcyone Space). It’s broad themes are inspired from this verse by Rabbi Tarfon: “It is not your responsibility to finish the work of perfecting the world, but you are not free to desist from it either.”
Multiple worlds are connected in the quantum realm. Most are safely sealed off. Most have no knowledge that they are but one in an infinite multitude.
A few people on a few scattered worlds can see though the multiverse. Most of those go mad. Fewer still are able to bear the burden of so many possibilities. Those are seers and are either considered cursed or blessed. Though the reality is some of both.
Perhaps one in a billion has the ability to slip from world to world and becomes a Traveler. But always, there is balance. A Traveler comes, a Traveler goes, never more than any world can bear, treading lightly to encourage balance. Until now.
Three individuals from three different worlds are drawn to one another through the thinning walls between the worlds. None of these three are Travelers in truth. But they are all that is left. For they discover something is hunting Travelers and obliterating them and the balance they bring from the multiverse.
Together, they must rescue each other and fight a foe they cannot name to heal the worlds before the walls dissolve for good.
Wolf: Cool. What do you like to do when you’re not writing?
LJ: My other major creative outlet is ceramics. I make functional ware both on the wheel and by slab building. I’ve always been a tactile/kinesthetic learner and working with clay is extremely relaxing.
I also love to cook. Making soup – especially in wintertime – is one of my favorite things to do. Especially when I can feed friends and family.
So between cooking and ceramics, I can both make the food and the bowl it’s served in. 🙂
Wolf: I love clay, especially hand-building.
Connect with LJ through these links:
A. L. Kaplan
Eighteen-year-old Tatiana is running from her past and her star-touched powers eight years after a meteor devastates earth’s population. Her power to heal may be overshadowed by more destructive abilities. Fleeing the persecution of those like her, Tatiana seeks refuge in a small town she once visited. But this civil haven, in a world where society has broken down, is beginning to crumble. Will Tatiana flee or stay and fight for the new life she has built? Only by harnessing the very forces that haunt her can Tatiana save her friends…and herself.