Jeff Cohen, or whoever he is today, is the author of the Aaron Tucker and Double Feature mystery series. As E.J. Copperman, he writes the Haunted Guesthouse mystery series for Berkley Prime Crime. His hobbies include referring to himself in the third person. You can find him online at www.jeffcohenbooks.com or www.ejcopperman.com depending on who you might be looking for.
By Jeff Cohen
For example, when I’m at a library or a bookstore promoting one of the Haunted Guesthouse mysteries, which I write under the name E.J. Copperman (I’ll get to that), I know which name to sign. Unless the person holding the book is someone who knows my actual name.
Not long ago, such a person showed up at a library where I was speaking and bought a copy of Night of the Living Deed, the first book in the series, which was very nice of him. He asked me to sign it, and I was happy to do so. But I always sign on the title page under the author’s name, which in this case was not the one I was born with. So I asked him, “Which name?”
The poor guy, whom I’ve known for a few years, looked confused. “Bob,” he said after a moment.
“I know that. Which name do you want me to sign?”
I completely understand, because sometimes I get confused, myself. Not that I ever forget who E.J. Copperman might (or might not) be, but when I’m out in a crowd and someone calls “Mr. Copperman,” it takes me a second to realize that’s me.
And when I get an email from a reader—I love them; please keep ‘em coming!—addressed to “Mrs. Copperman,” I’m pleased that the reader believes the books are written by a woman, but a little perplexed that E.J. has apparently gotten married and I wasn’t invited.
It’s a little disconcerting when I do run into that situation at a signing. Someone who calls me “Jeff” on a regular basis asks for a Copperman book to be signed. If it’s a new reader or a stranger, it’s no problem. E.J.’s signature looks remarkably like my own. But with an acquaintance or a friend, it’s tricky.
Sometimes, I’ll sign “Jeff (“E.J.”) Cohen.” Other times, I’ll cave and sign it as E.J. I never sign a Copperman book just with my own name, because somehow that seems like cheating. Writers are, in case you don’t know, at least a little bit crazy.
Some people arrive at signings having read one of the books but not knowing anything about the author. This is fine, especially since neither one of me is exactly a household name, except in my household. But the looks I get from the readers who think E.J. is a Mrs. are really interesting.
After the shock wears off, they often ask where the name came from, and why I use it. The fact is, since the narrator of the Haunted Guesthouse series is Alison Kerby, it seemed logical to have at least a gender-neutral name for the author. So the publisher and I agreed we’d have to have something other than “Jeff Cohen” on the cover of the book.
How I became E.J. Copperman is another story. We went back and forth on names for what felt like months, and nobody was happy with any of the candidates. Finally, I decided to ask my daughter Eve, but she didn’t have any ideas. So I asked my son Josh, but he didn’t have any ideas, either.
Then I asked our dog Copper, but he was a dog.
And so E.J. Copperman was born.
As I was writing this, I was interrupted by a phone call from my agent, who has been gearing up to market another book which hopefully will become a series at some point. It has a female narrator.
You’re miles ahead of me—yes, pretty soon, if the publishing industry is open to it, there might be three of me.
The headache is just beginning.