Interview with Julie Cohen, author of ‘The Summer of Living Dangerously’


Julie CohenIt's that time again! Time to feature an update on a new release hitting the bookshelves and Kindles near you – this time it's one of my favourite authors, Julie Cohen.

'The Summer of Living Dangerously' is a super story taking us into a bygone era. As usual it's written with the fun and wit we've come to expect of Julie's novels, and this is her second book for publishers Headline.

Alice Woodstock is avoiding the real world because there's something – someone – in her past that she's desperate to forget. So when she's commissioned to write about life in a stately home, Eversley Hall, she jumps at the chance to escape into Regency England, even if it does mean swapping her comfy T-shirt for an itchy corset. Perhaps she'll meet her own Mr Darcy. If she can escape reckless, unpredictable Leo, who reminds Alice of the painful price of following her heart. And the new Alice doesn't live dangerously – or does she?

The Summer of Living Dangerously book coverI caught up with Julie recently to ask her a bit more about her new book…

Q. Where did the idea for 'The Summer of Living Dangerously' come from? You tend to delight the readers by introducing them to heroines who do some unusual and off-the-wall jobs – previously including private detective/aromatherapist ('Honey Trap'), comic book artist ('Girl from Mars') and stunt-woman/ice-cream maker ('Getting Away with It').

This time she's Alice, a model aeroplane magazine journalist/Regency England actor.

A. I like giving my characters usual jobs! It's fun to research them. I got the idea for a heroine working as a historical interpreter in a stately home a couple of years ago when I was in Brighton for my anniversary.

A Regency gentlemanWe went to the Brighton Pavilion and there were tour guides dressed up as Regency members of the household. There were servants, gentlewomen and even someone acting as the Prince Regent! They never once slipped out of character and I though that would be a very interesting job to have. So that's why Alice takes on the re-enacting job part time for the summer, so she can write about it for a magazine assignment.

Alice's everyday job as a technical writer is quite a contrast to dressing up as a spirited Regency heroine; I wanted the two sides of her life to appear to be quite different. Plus it lets me make grommet jokes. And there's nothing quite as satisfying as a grommet joke.

Alice actually thinks her technical writing job is boring, but as the story goes on, she meets some people who think she is like this goddess for writing about model aeroplanes. That was fun to write.
A stately home
I talked with several historical re-enactors in researching this story and spent some time hanging out in stately homes. It was brilliant.

Q. Your last book was a bit more gritty, dealing with Alzheimer's in a very sympathetic way. Are there any such matters in the new book?

Julie with a Regency ladyA. Yes, there's a very sad incident in Alice's past which she's attempting to ignore and escape from, and this tragedy is a driving force in the book, although you don't find out all the details until quite a way into the story.

I think it's important not to shy away from gritty, real problems in commercial fiction. Even though the reader wants something upbeat and entertaining, these issues are important and relevant to all of us. I want my readers to both laugh and cry when they read my books.

Q. Which characters are you most proud of having created – and why?

A. I have this crazy whacked-out aging rock star called Max DeMilo who wears many, many rings and spends his spare time in Yorkshire raising llamas. He's appeared in some way in four of my books so far and I love that dude.

But in 'The Summer of Living Dangerously', I am most in love with Leo, who is Alice's tortured, sexy, suffering, sexy, sarcastic, sexy, tender, sexy, artistic, sexy, reckless, sexy, repentant, sexy ex-husband. Did I mention he's sexy?

Q. You used to write for Mills & Boon of course, then Little Black Dress books, how different is it writing for your current publisher?

A. My current books are longer, and they're broader in focus. While there's always a romantic aspect, the story is more about the heroine's development as a person, rather than focusing strictly on the romance as Mills & Boon novels do.

I used to write three Mills & Boon novels a year, and then when I switched to Little Black Dress I wrote two novels a year – whereas I'd have trouble writing more than one of my current novels a year, not just because they're longer but because they take more time to research and revise. There are more subplots, more characters and a more complex structure.

At the most basic level, though, the stories I write haven't changed that much through the years. And I've been lucky enough to enjoy writing all of them.

Q. As you know, I'm interested in writing and like to ask my guest novelists for their secrets! Particularly how successful authors get the job done. What's your insider's tip?

A. I don't know if I have any secret insider's tips, Debbie! I think the only way to get the job done is to get the job done: sit your butt in the chair and write. And then write some more. And then rewrite. And then rewrite some more…

Of course there's the Secret Published Author's Code Ring, but if I tell you about that I will have to kill you!

Q. 'The Summer of Living Dangerously' will of course be available on Kindle – what's your view of e-books, including the tidal wave of self-published titles – from half a million titles available on e-book last year to an estimated five million next year?

A. I've got an ereader myself and I love it. It's so light and small and convenient and it's terrifyingly easy to buy books for it. I've also written for two e-book-first publishers (under pseudonyms), so I can definitely see the benefits of e-publishing. I've self-published a short story too, which is, as I write, number 3 in Amazon's Kindle short story chart. It's an exciting time for authors, with more opportunities than ever before.

The problem is that with so many titles available, how can readers find any one book? In such a huge market, you'd have to find a way to really stand out in order to be successful and sell more than a few copies.

Traditional publish ers have always been the gatekeepers, the quality control; without them, great books that publishers have overlooked can see the light of day, but books that really aren't ready to be published can also be thrown out there. And publishing books that aren't good enough yet doesn't help either the author or the reader.

So there are pros and cons, like everything.

Q. You're a mum and wife – how do you fit in the solitary task of writing a 100,000 word novel every year?

A. Well, I don't iron and I only watch one hour of television a week. I try to spend all of the time when my son is in school writing like a crazy thing… although Twitter is rather too much of a distraction. Generally it takes me about six months to write a first draft and the rest of the year to research, revise, and recover.

Q. What's coming next?

A. I'm working on my next novel right now. I've written less than a quarter of it, but they tell me it'll be out in hardback next year. No pressure then. Yikes!

Thanks for having me, Debbie! See you soon.

It's always a pleasure to chat to Julie – and I'm very much looking forward to her book, just out. If you've read it, or any of her books, do leave a comment below! All people who comment, whatever it is, will go into a randomly picked draw to win a signed copy of the book, closing date at midnight on Sunday 11th March. I'll announce the winner next week. Don't forget to read the terms and conditions!

Enjoy it!


Recipe for Love book coverP.S. Just heard that the legend that is Katie Fforde will be appearing on QVC on The Morning Show at 9am on Tuesday 6th March, selling her fabulous new hardback book 'Recipe for Love'. It's a romance set in the very trendy world of – TV cookery shows! A great Mother's Day present and an excellent way to get your books is from us, with delivery included!


  1. Joanna Cannon March 5, 2012 at 6:42 pm -  Reply

    Lovely interview!
    “Sit your butt in the chair and write”. Best advice. Ever.

  2. sherbet March 6, 2012 at 12:00 am -  Reply

    a book that has an older, but not wiser rock star, raising llamas, in yorkshire!LOL! i gotta give that a try! :o) thankyou for the comp! :o)

  3. Bernie March 6, 2012 at 10:35 am -  Reply

    Love your books – always up for a bit of romance – and the llamas will add a new twist!!

  4. Lynn Blakeman March 6, 2012 at 12:27 pm -  Reply

    I love signed books, they seem as though the book was written just for me

  5. Michelle Roberts March 6, 2012 at 3:03 pm -  Reply

    Debs, What a great interview!!!! I would also like to add that you first recommended Julie’s books to me and they have kick started me back into reading, so thank you for that.My favourite read so far is ‘Girl From Mars’ a great read. x x

  6. FionaLynne Edwards March 6, 2012 at 6:19 pm -  Reply

    Fabulous insight into an author’s life – glad I’m not the only one addicted to Twitter!

  7. Georgina Ball March 6, 2012 at 6:23 pm -  Reply

    Sounds like a fab read!

  8. Julie Davies March 6, 2012 at 8:51 pm -  Reply

    Haven’t read any of her books yet, but this sounds really good so would love to read it

  9. JoC March 6, 2012 at 10:51 pm -  Reply

    I love authors who are so candid and down to earth like Julie. She doesn’t at all appear to be the stuffy bookworm type and really encourages a wider readership in her diverse character writing…big fan!

  10. Alice Hindley March 7, 2012 at 3:53 am -  Reply

    Fantastic interview that I can really relate to – thanks for the giveaway

  11. Solange March 7, 2012 at 4:09 pm -  Reply

    Great interview

  12. debs f March 7, 2012 at 10:15 pm -  Reply

    Philomena –
    ooo – glad you got the Leighton OTO (200687) – the sparkle colours really do add glitz – including to all your other varnishes too! Great set – good choice! What colours will you wear first? I’d choose that spangly red with gold bits in it! Mind you the pink and turquoise glitter Leighton put on me has lasted well!
    best wishes
    ps do let me know

  13. Margaret Jenkins March 8, 2012 at 12:50 am -  Reply

    Sounds like a great book, I’ll keep an eye out for it. And good interview too. Hope your own writing is going from strength to strength

  14. Chantal Ellis March 8, 2012 at 11:05 am -  Reply

    I have not read any of Julie’s books before but having read the blurb and interview, it looks like a fantastic read :) look forward to getting a chance to get hold of a copy :) x

  15. Debbie Richards March 8, 2012 at 11:09 am -  Reply

    Hi Debs,Have never heard of Julie before but her book sounds really interesting.It always amazes me the amount of research that authors put into a novel.

  16. Cheryl Williams March 8, 2012 at 12:05 pm -  Reply

    Hi Debs
    Great interview have never read any of Julie’s novels but now want too!
    Have you and Craig got anymore adventures planned?
    Love and hugs to you and the pogs

  17. Lindsey Wood March 8, 2012 at 1:36 pm -  Reply

    Debbie what a fantastic interview. The book sounds like a good read and there’s nothing like a good read! to be transported out of everyday life to new experinces and colourful charecters xx

  18. Eleanor Jones March 8, 2012 at 2:16 pm -  Reply

    Great interview :)

  19. KATHY DOWNING March 8, 2012 at 7:34 pm -  Reply

    Interesting interview

  20. Andrea Upton March 8, 2012 at 8:35 pm -  Reply

    Sounds like a great book, and interesting interview

  21. Ian Yates March 8, 2012 at 9:13 pm -  Reply

    My hat – your ring. So to speak. :-)

  22. Victoria Boland March 8, 2012 at 9:21 pm -  Reply

    Please enter me in the draw.

  23. Lesley Bain March 9, 2012 at 1:50 am -  Reply

    I haven’t heard of this author before but the book sounds fab, I’ll have to investigate her back catalogue! :)
    Great giveaway thank you x

  24. Catherine Miller March 9, 2012 at 8:04 am -  Reply

    I loved Getting Away with it and this sounds just as good. Can’t wait to read!

  25. Lorraine Bishop March 9, 2012 at 2:32 pm -  Reply

    Ive read some of Julies books at look forward to reading this one

  26. suzanne way March 9, 2012 at 4:15 pm -  Reply

    Sounds an interesting book, yet another to add to my Kindle collection. Thanks Debbie x

  27. Pamela Cook March 9, 2012 at 4:34 pm -  Reply

    New to me – but sounds well worth investigating (especially if there’s a chance of meeting Mr Darcy or similar again!)

  28. Claire Deakin March 9, 2012 at 5:41 pm -  Reply

    Please enter me in the draw

  29. leo March 9, 2012 at 5:46 pm -  Reply

    I’ve quite a few of Julie’s books and have to say I’ve loved each and every one of them. They’re funny, feel good, emotional and relevant to the times. What’s not to like?

  30. Christine Johnson March 9, 2012 at 10:02 pm -  Reply

    Sounds a great book who knows it may be made into a film

  31. Debbie Timms March 10, 2012 at 12:04 am -  Reply

    This book sounds fab, i’d love to read it! x

  32. Joanna Coleshill March 10, 2012 at 7:27 am -  Reply

    Oooh, can’t wait to read this, Honey Trap was ace and this sounds even better!

  33. Lisa Wilkinson March 10, 2012 at 9:18 am -  Reply

    I’ve never read any of Julie’s books but they sound great.

  34. Patricia Walker March 10, 2012 at 12:45 pm -  Reply

    interesting interview and a good write up on what sounds like a very good read!

  35. GEORGE GRIEVE March 10, 2012 at 12:57 pm -  Reply


  36. laura stewart March 10, 2012 at 2:29 pm -  Reply

    sounds great please enter me

  37. helen cruse March 10, 2012 at 9:13 pm -  Reply

    Love reading historically set novels…… Especially when the place is real and you can visit and put yourself in the place

  38. siobhan March 10, 2012 at 9:19 pm -  Reply


  39. Angela Todd March 10, 2012 at 9:39 pm -  Reply

    Sounds Great

  40. Lyn Bosomworth March 10, 2012 at 10:23 pm -  Reply

    Please enter me in the draw.

  41. Sarah Parker March 10, 2012 at 11:01 pm -  Reply

    Sound good :)

  42. joanna Burns March 11, 2012 at 12:07 pm -  Reply

    Sounds like a right good read

  43. antonia j richardson March 11, 2012 at 12:21 pm -  Reply


  44. Sarah Spencer March 11, 2012 at 6:37 pm -  Reply

    I have not read any of her books as yet. However, ‘The Summer of Living Dangerously’ is on my Anazon wishlist.

  45. Rebecca Thomas March 11, 2012 at 7:39 pm -  Reply

    Loved “Getting Away with it” :-)

  46. Patricia Avery March 11, 2012 at 7:52 pm -  Reply

    Enjoyed the interview. Book sounds good. Would love to win :-)

  47. Angela Walton March 11, 2012 at 8:18 pm -  Reply

    Very interested in this author, and very entertaining interview

  48. angela morgan March 11, 2012 at 8:24 pm -  Reply

    Great and interesting person

  49. Eirwen March 11, 2012 at 10:15 pm -  Reply

    I haven’t read this author before but I will have to rectify that soon as your interview was great and the book sounds brilliant !

  50. Samantha Wesley March 11, 2012 at 11:50 pm -  Reply

    This looks like such a lovely book, it’s definitely going on my holiday reading list! :)

  51. Debs f March 14, 2012 at 1:59 pm -  Reply

    Thanks everyone for entering! Winner going up soon! Xx

  52. Sally March 15, 2012 at 11:58 am -  Reply

    Hi, Sal here – Debbie’s blog lady!
    Big congrats to Leo Robertson, the winner of Julie’s signed book. Well done, and thanks so much to all of you who commented.
    All the best,

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