Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Split Personality by Jeff Cohen

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 or  depending on who you might be looking for.

Split Personality
By Jeff Cohen

Sometimes, it’s difficult being two people.

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.


Kaye Wilkinson Barley - Meanderings and Muses said...

Jeff/E.J., or whoever you are today, welcome!!

I enjoyed this very much and SO happy to read about the phone call from your agent! Yay, you!!!!!! Great news!


Mare F said...

You do a fine job of being at least two people. Please keep it up.

Nancy said...

I have to tell you that it gets to be hard keeping authors and their alter-egos straight and belonging to the right "others". Now that you've explained how you chose your author name maybe I'll remember. So, what does the "E" in "E. J." stand for? Good interview! I look forward to reading your books.

Jeff Cohen said...

Whoa, Kaye--it's great news only if a publisher decides it is. No news yet. But I'll keep you informed.

Mare, thanks for the encouragement. I'll do what I can.

Nancy: Read over those paragraphs again. I bet you'll figure out where the "E" came from. Hope you like the books!

Patty said...

And this is a classic example of why people should buy all of Jeff/E.J.'s books. I either laughed or smiled the whole way through this! Thanks for making my day. Oh, did I mention that I have all of your books I can find? Three Aaron, Three Double-Feature, Two Allison, and waiting for #3.

Jeff Cohen said...

That's all there is (so far), Patty. Thanks for looking them all up! I'm writing as fast as I can, I promise!

jenny milchman said...

Welcome to your multiple life! Will all 3 be equally funny?

ElaineCharton said...

As long as that third one is not called Sybil you should be fine. :)

Vickie said...

I love both series and both personalities, so it's a win-win. I look forward to one day reading your third personality.