Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Q&A With DAD CONFIDENTIAL Author Jeffrey Cohen

In advance of the December 3 release of my novel, DAD CONFIDENTIAL, I'd like to take this opportunity to ask myself some questions about the book.

How long did it take you to write DAD CONFIDENTIAL?
Close to a year...About nine months to write it, and then another six weeks to edit it into what's being published. With the advent of DropBox, as long as I had access to the Internet, I would tackle another few paragraphs after lunch and when the kids were in bed.

What's it about? And is DAD CONFIDENTIAL really your life, told in a roman a clef style?
It's definitely not my life! And not just because the main character, Michael Kaufman, has a technical job (statistical analyst) and three kids. He's living on Long Island and I'm in Queens, he's got a daughter along with two sons. I just have the two boys. Right there, anything I'm writing about raising a girl is going to be pure conjecture on my part. But the book is not exactly a primer on how to deal with your children.

In a nutshell, Michael Kaufman is juggling problems at work with a home life that revolves around his wife (Gail) and three children. Twelve-year-old Brad is studying for his bar mitzvah. Now that's the most relevant thing for me, even though my 12-year-old did not start his prep until I was halfway through my first draft this spring. Nine-year-old Faith is a diva in the making. And there's a lot of drama surrounding her but she can also be very sweet. Six-year-old Simon just doesn't want to be left out of the mix. His birthday comes first in the book as well as his favorite holiday (Halloween). Writing occasionally from Simon's mindset, I was able to use his presence as a "greek chorus" to the action throughout the rest of the story.

When did you decide to make it a graphic novel?
The term "graphic novel" is a bit misleading. There are more than 60 illustrations, which depict the action in those sections of the novel. But it's not like "Wimpy Kid" or "Dork Diaries," which are for preteens and are packed with drawings and comics.

I had the idea for the book more than a decade ago. You build up a lot of material just watching all the different ways that parents interact with their kids. Most people think they're great parents and privately badmouth other people's parenting skills. Add in the illustrations and I thought it was a fairly unique package.

Where did you meet Robert Wallman, your illustrator?
High school, more than 30 years ago, believe it or not. In health class. I was passing around some of my (not so great) homemade comics and he had a few things he had done. Needless to say, there are reasons why I continued as a writer instead of an artist.

After graduation, it took another decade for us to meet up. I took a job at a Manhattan-based software company, in the publications department. They walked me around for introductions and I shook a bunch of hands. Robert looked up from his desk and said, "I went to high school with Jeff." After a few seconds, I said, "Oh yeah!"

What happens in DAD CONFIDENTIAL?
You read about a year in the life of the Kaufman family, skewed from the father's perspective. I like the concept of the "unreliable narrator." Mike is relating things as he remembers them, but that doesn't always mean he's telling them exactly as they happened. As a married, "safe" older guy, Mike thinks he's being paternal while he muses about the lifeguards at the swim club. He's not having pornographic thoughts, he's just being honest. And probably very wrong!

Everybody gets to have their own "adventures" in the book. Simon struggles to create the perfect Halloween costume, only to see his older brother and his friends co-opt it. Faith drags Mike to a "daddy and daughter" formal dance, which involves her teaching him how to do ballroom dancing. And of course, Brad's bar mitzvah gets its own chapter.

What brought you to Smashwords as your epublisher?
Simplicity and cost. There are other self-publishing sites that want money to help you design and lay out your manuscript. One site wanted a few dollars per illustration, which immediately disqualified them from my short list. Smashwords had fairly strict procedures, but once I met their guidelines, it was load and go. And they format the book in nine different popular e-reader styles. I just gave myself enough time to publicize the release, although it won't appear on sites like Amazon, B&N, or iTunes until the December 3 release date.

Was writing the book worth it?
Ask me in six months! I did this for the experience, so it will be interesting to see what kind of return it generates. On a per-hour basis, I'm sure I could have made money money bussing tables somewhere.

A preview of DAD CONFIDENTIAL is available now at Amazon, the iTunes Bookstore, and  Smashwords. You can also view a downloadable sample from the book.
Post a Comment