Interview with Brian Cohen

Jen: This week we are please to have Brian Cohen as the guest at Romancing the Book. Brian, will you please share a short bio with us?
Brian: I am a native New Yorker, born in Queens and raised on Long Island. I have been practicing law for over 12 years, specializing in complex litigation. I live with my wife and our daughters in the suburbs of New York City.

Jen: Tell us about The Life O’Reilly and where it’s available.
Brian: The Life O’Reilly – available everywhere books are sold – is at once a bittersweet love story and a young lawyer’s journey of self-discovery. It tells the story of Nick O’Reilly, a 36-year old partner of a large New York City law firm who has sacrificed his personal life for professional gain and is yearning for love and a family. When we meet Nick, he is asked to take on a matter quite different from his typical cases in which is he defends the misdeeds of Corporate America – he is assigned the firm’s first pro bono case. Nick is representing Dawn Nelson, a domestic violence victim who is fighting for custody of her young son, Jordan. But while it is Nick’s job to set Dawn and Jordan on a path to a better life, Nick gets much more than he signed on for, as Dawn forces Nick to reassess his life choices. Ultimately, The Life O’Reilly serves as a reminder of how precious life is and how quickly, and tragically, it can change.

The Life O’Reilly was just named the Winner in the Best First Novel (under 80,000 words) category of the 2010 Next Generation Indie Book Awards and recently won first place honors (in the romance category) in the 2009 Reader Views Literary Awards.

Jen: At what age did you discover writing?
Brian: I have had a passion for all things creative, including film, literature, and music, since elementary school. During my Middle School and High School years, when I was introduced to literary classics such as To Kill a Mockingbird, The Catcher in the Rye, Les Misérables, and The Count of Monte Cristo, I discovered both a love of fiction and a knack for creative writing. But it wasn’t until my first semester of law school that I truly caught “the writing bug” and knew I had to become a storyteller.

Jen: How did you come up with the idea for The Life O’Reilly?
Brian: I am a huge fan of crime fiction so as an attorney setting out to write a first novel, it naturally followed that legal suspense would be my genre of choice. I spent six months researching, plotting, outlining, and creating character sketches, and then another six months cranking out 150 pages of material. During that time, though, a lot was happening in my life – stories of people my age dying prematurely were being told with alarming frequency, the rat race had become all-consuming, and my wife and I were getting ready to welcome our first child into the world. Then one day, I appreciated that everything I’d been experiencing had inspired another story; I realized that, though writing a crime novel was something I wanted to do, telling the story of Nick O’Reilly was something I had to do. So that evening, I told my wife that I was shelving the thriller and starting on a new project and, the following morning, I began writing The Life O’Reilly – which was officially released in December 2009 – and have never looked back.

Jen: Are there any other writers, published or not, in your family?
Brian: I am the first writer in my family, and am excited to say that it is looking more and more each day like my daughters will be following in my footsteps!

Jen: Do you have any “must haves” with you while you’re writing?
Brian: I like to have biographical sketches for the main characters and a general outline that gives the novel structure, although as characters come to life during the writing process, they tend to take the story in new directions (which is a good thing!).

Jen: What kind of research did you do for this book?
Brian: I did a lot of research both before and during the writing process on various subjects, including law, domestic violence, and medicine.

Jen: What’s the most challenging aspect of writing?
Brian: Having balance in my life is a top priority, so finding the time to write, while also having a family and a demanding legal career, is a challenge. When I’m writing, I usually wake up at 4 a.m. (as crazy as that sounds!), but with the busy life that I lead, it is not always possible to maintain that kind of schedule. After all, sleep is important!

Jen: What’s the most rewarding aspect?
Brian: The most rewarding aspect of writing is the great reactions that I get from readers!

Jen: Do you have a favorite character or one you most identify with?
Brian: Absolutely! Certain aspects of my personality are reflected in the protagonist, Nick O’Reilly, and his close friend and law partner, Evan Berger.

Jen: Which authors have been important to you as an author?
Brian: That’s a tough question, as I admire so many authors whose books have inspired me over the years, but to name a few: Harper Lee, Chaim Potok, Sloan Wilson, John Grisham, George Pelecanos, and Dennis Lehane.

Jen: If The Life O’Reilly was made into a movie, which actor would you choose to play the main character?
Brian: I’ve always envisioned Ed Burns playing Nick.

Jen: What’s the most interesting comment you have received about your book?
Brian: Several readers have said that the lessons learned from The Life O’Reilly remained with them long after they finished reading the book.

Jen: What’s next for you?
Brian: I am working on my second novel, an emotional story of love and redemption that explores the politics of a family business and the impact it has on the relationships of its inter-generational members who struggle to understand the differences in each others’ values.

Jen: Where can you be found on the web?

Jen: Thank you Brian for joining us this week. Readers, Brian is offering a signed hardcover copy of The Life O’Reilly to one of our readers who lives anywhere throughout the world! To enter the contest, you first must leave a question or comment for Brian. Then to finish your entry, either leave your email address in your comment or send a message to The winner will be chosen on Sunday, May 16.