Interview with Debut Author Jamie Beth Cohen!

In 2019 our goal is to work with as many debut authors as possible and spread the word about their debut novels. Follow us this year as we pick the mind of the 2019 debuts and chat with them. Also stay tuned for news of giveaways, Twitter chats and more!
Over the summer of 2018 we had Tweeted about wanting to discover more debut authors and their books and Jamie Beth Cohen responded with their novel WASTED PRETTY and we have been interested in it since. We are so excited to have Jamie on the blog today to answer some of our questions! 

About Jamie! 
Jamie Beth Cohen
Jamie Beth Cohen was born and raised in Pittsburgh, PA and currently lives in Lancaster County, PA with her husband, their two children and their cat. Her seventeen years outside of the Keystone state took her to Fairfax, VA; New York City; College Park, MD and Los Angeles, CA. She's a writer, storyteller & community organizer who works in higher education. She writes about difficult things, but her friends think she's funny. 
Keep up with Jamie: Website / Instagram / Twitter / Facebook 


The Book Bratz: How does it feel to be a debut author?
Jamie: Thanks!!!! It's ah-maz-ing... and a little bit stressful (but in the best possible way!).

The Book Bratz: In your opinion, what is the hardest part of the writing process? What's the easiest?
Jamie: Well, I love drafting, I love editing, and I don't even mind marketing. I don't know that I'd call them "easy," but they're enjoyable and worth the struggle. For me, as a mom with a day-job who is involved in my community, the hardest part of writing is making the time. That said, querying (the process by which a writer attempts to get an agent or a publisher to take on their project) was soul crushing.

The Book Bratz: What inspired you to write WASTED PRETTY?
Jamie: My husband and I were watching a really bad TV show in which a politician's kid is kidnapped, and the kidnappers pull out the kid's tooth because he was "chipped," the way you would chip a pet. We started talking about whether or not that was a real thing and if so, would we do that to our kids when they got older. This has literally NOTHING to do with anything in WASTED PRETTY, but the conversation got me thinking about all the things I learned when I was "off the grid" so-to-speak. I was a teen before smartphones and social media. My parents were overprotective -- and I was mostly a rule-follower -- but I found ways to get around some of their mandates and ended up learning a lot about myself when they didn't know where I was and I didn't have a safety net. WASTED PRETTY is set in Pittsburgh (where I grew up) in 1992 and Alice, the main character, is often not where her parents think she is. This creates a situation in which she has secrets from them for the first time, and then she discovers they have secrets from her, too.

The Book Bratz: Who was your favorite character to write? Who was the most difficult?
Jamie: Wow, that's a really hard one! In earlier drafts, Alice had two best friends, but due to word count and pace issues, I ended up cutting one of the friends and sort of smooshing them together into her best friend Meredith. Meredith is a trip, has a ton of self-confidence and very low inhibitions, so she was fun to write. Johnny is another friend of Alice's who was a blast to write. He'll do practically anything for a laugh, but I also really like the platonic relationship he and Alice share. As for difficult characters, Karl Bell is pretty irredeemable. I didn't have a hard time writing him, but I didn't enjoy the time I spent "with him" in the scenes.

The Book Bratz: What was the hardest scene to write in WASTED PRETTY? Which was the most fun to write?
Jamie: Alice has a disturbing encounter in a dark hallway in a bar that changes the course of her life. That scene was by far the hardest to write, so hard that I actually had change locations to write it. Most of the book was written in Lancaster, PA, where I live now, but for that scene, I had to go back to Pittsburgh and really be there, where I was when I was sixteen, and breath that air. It was a really hard weekend, but it was worth it. Manuel Gonzales is a friend and a writing teacher. In a workshop I took with him last summer he gave the following exercise: "Either put the character in a real moment from your past and have them make the decision you didn't make, or put the real you in a situation you've never encountered and see what happens." (I'm using quotes here, but I doubt he said it exactly that way, because he is brilliant and always dryly witty, even when he's giving an assignment.) While almost nothing in WASTED PRETTY happened the way it's written, there was a lot of putting myself in situations that were similar to ones I had encountered and using the nearly thirty years of experience I've had since then to have Alice make different, hopefully better, decisions. That said, the one thing that did happen almost exactly as it's written in the book is that I accidentally locked myself in the bathroom of the apartment of a guy I had a crush on, an apartment that, according to my parents, I wasn't supposed to be in to begin with. That scene was fun to write!
The Book Bratz: What do you hope readers will take away from reading WASTED PRETTY?
Jamie: I worked with a choreographer once who refused to write program notes for his dances because he wanted each audience member to take away from the performance whatever that audience member wanted to take away. He was adamant that there were no right or wrong answers, and I think there's a lot of wisdom in that. WASTED PRETTY touches on serious issues of body image, sexuality, addiction, first love, growing up, family problems and sexual assault, but it's also funny and fun. I hope that each reader takes away what that particular reader needs. If I would have read this at sixteen -- and I really wish I had -- the thing that would have resonated with me the most is the idea that a girl doesn't get to decide when others start to view her as a sexual object, she only get to decide how she responds. I imagine this is true for boys and enby teens as well. It's not fair, and I can't solve it, but I wish I had been better prepared.
The Book Bratz:  Do you plan on returning to the world of WASTED PRETTY in the future, or do you have other projects in mind? Can you tell us anything about them?
Jamie: After finishing an earlier draft of WASTED PRETTY I ended up missing the characters a lot, so I wrote an epilogue, which morphed into something much larger, about 40,000 words larger! I had to put it aside for a variety of reasons, and I can't say for sure, but I think there might be a sequel in the making. I certainly hope so!


Title: Wasted Pretty
Author: Jamie Beth Cohen
Publisher: Black Rose Writing
Publication Date: April 18th, 2019

Summary: During junior year of high school, star student and stellar lacrosse player Alice Burton grew four inches, and, thanks to her mom’s experimental health food products, shed twenty pounds. Alice has mixed feelings about her surprising transformation. On the plus side: Chris Thompson, the hot college guy she has a crush on, talks to her. On the minus side: Her dad's creepy friend, professional athlete Karl Bell, lets his eyes, and his hugs, linger too long. After a disturbing encounter in a dark hallway, Alice realizes the response some men have to her new body isn’t just disgusting, it’s dangerous. Her life is further complicated by her parents’ crumbling finances and the family’s entanglement with Karl. Set in Pittsburgh in 1992, Wasted Pretty is about a girl determined to protect her body, her future, and her heart.
Thank you so much Jamie for stopping by and answering our questions! We are super excited about WASTED PRETTY and wait for it to be out in the world on April 18th! 

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