Interview with Lana Cooper: 'Be your own best editor'

Lana Cooper was born and raised in Scranton, PA and currently resides in Philadelphia. A graduate of Temple University, she doesn't usually talk about herself in the first person, but makes an exception when writing an author bio. Cooper has written extensively on a variety of pop culture topics and has been a critic for such sites as PopMatters and Ghouls On Film. She's also written news stories for EDGE Media, a leading nationwide network devoted to LGBT news and issues. Cooper enjoys spending time with her family, reading comic books, books with lots of words and no pictures, and avoiding eye-contact with strangers on public transportation. "Bad Taste In Men" is her first full-length novel.
Her latest book is the humorous nonfiction, Bad Taste in Men.
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About the Book:

Have you ever felt like even Mother Theresa has got more game than you? 

If you have, you'd be in the same boat as geeky, awkward metalhead Nova Porter.

Bad Taste In Men follows Nova from her prepubescent years through young adulthood and her attempts at getting dudes to dig her. 

Juggling self-esteem issues, small town outsider status, and questionable taste in guys, Nova is looking for love in all the wrong places - like the food court at the mall. Nova's circle of friends and her strange(ly) endearing family more than make up for what her love life lacks. 

Along the way, Nova alternately plays the roles of hero and villain, mastermind and stooge; picking up far more valuable life lessons than numbers for her little black book.
One part chick lit for tomboys and one part Freaks and Geeks for kids who came of age in the mid-'90s, Bad Taste In Men is loaded (like a freight train) with pop cultural references and crude humor. 

From getting laughed at by your crush to being stood up (twice!) by a guy with one eye, Bad Taste In Men showcases the humor and humiliation that accompanies the search for love (or at least "like") as a small-town teenage outcast, managing to wring heart-warming sweetness from angsty adolescent memories - and jokes about barf and poop.

For More Information

  • Bad Taste in Men is available at Amazon.
  • Pick up your copy at Barnes & Noble.
  • Discuss this book at PUYB Virtual Book Club at Goodreads.

Q: Welcome to The Writer's Life!  Now that your book has been published, we’d love to find out more about the process.  Can we begin by having you take us at the beginning?  Where did you come up with the idea to write your book?

The idea behind Bad Taste In Men wasn't too much of a stretch. Several of the main character's exploits mirrored my own. Not all of them. A lot of the story is fiction, but there were some instances where I drew upon my own experiences to drive the plot forward. Like Nova (the main character), I grew up in a small town and was a bit of an outcast, a smart ass, and perpetually banished to the dark recesses of the Friend Zone. I think a lot of people can relate.

As an adult now removed from all of those not-so-fun adolescent feelings, I find the humor in these scenarios. (Like getting stood up twice by a guy with one eye. That's actually one of the parts of the novel that is almost 100% true.) Truthfully, I found the humor in getting turned down a lot when I was younger, too.

I was inspired to write the book so that some girl or guy out there reads it and realizes that they're not alone and that you really can learn to laugh at yourself and some of the crazy things that happen during your teen years. It may seem like a drag at the time, but you'll get through it and  -- 99.9% of the time -- emerge a better, stronger person for it.

Q: How hard was it to write a book like this and do you have any tips that you could pass on which would make the journey easier for other writers?

Writing any book is harder than you think! Every writer loves their characters and takes a lot of care in choosing the right words to put in their mouths. And sometimes, you as a writer, can get carried away and it becomes word diarrhea all over the page. I'm guilty of this. My first draft of Bad Taste In Men was 145,000 words -- which is fine if you're Stephen King or George R.R. Martin, or someone who has a proven track record of telling great stories and those stories are profitable to their publishers. But, if you're a first-time writer without any clout, 145,000 words is seen as more of a risk than an epic saga. More isn't always better.

It wasn't until I started shopping my book around to agents that I learned that a first-time novelist should shoot for 100,000 words, tops. So, I had a lot of chopping to do! I took two passes at editing the book myself and finally got it to just under 100,000 words. Taking the time to meticulously edit it made the story so much tighter and better. I also learned a lot about my own shortcomings as a writer in the process and worked to correct them.

The best advice I can give to writers is to be your own best editor. Take a 3-6 month break from your book after you finish writing it before you start whacking away at it. That way, you're not so emotionally attached to what's been freshly written. That time away from your novel gives you a chance to step back and view your story more objectively. As a result, you get a little more ruthless with your red pen. Trust me. Your book (and your readers!) will thank you for it when you're through editing!

Q: Who is your publisher and how did you find them or did you self-publish?

I self-published through Create Space.  

Q: Is there anything that surprised you about getting your first book published?

Yes and no. Going into the process, I knew it would take some time to not only write the book, edit it, then try to shop it around to an agent. I knew rejection was part of the equation. Self-publishing was a really rewarding process, but I what I didn't realize was that the process didn't end the second my book was printed. Marketing your book and trying to get the word out about what you've written is probably the hardest part.

Q: What other books (if any) are you working on and when will they be published?

I'm currently working on a new book that combines two of my favorite things: horror and humor. It's a collection of short, supernatural-themed stories with elements of humor woven throughout. The stories can be read as stand-alone tales, but if you read the entire book, you learn how the characters from one story are connected to others in a different story.

I've always loved comic books and the way their broader "universes" are structured. You may have a favorite superhero, but he or she is part of a much bigger, more complex picture. That's what I'm attempting to do with my next book: create characters firmly rooted in the real world who come up against supernatural forces. One of the best weapons against the darkness is laughter, so humor is definitely a big component of these stories. Some dry humor, some belly laughs, some crude gross-out humor. Different characters respond to different situations in their own ways. Think about it. Sometimes, when you're watching a horror movie, your knee-jerk reaction is to make fun of what makes you a little uncomfortable.

The fun part of writing this and (hopefully) for readers, will be to see how one character is connected to another in a totally different story. But you can still pick up the book, take it in the bathroom with you to read one story while you're doing your business, and enjoy a self-contained short story without having to dive deeper into the whole book in one sitting.

The book is maybe 1-2 more years away from being ready. I'm still writing it. It may be easier to edit this one since it's not my first rodeo and it's comprised of a string of short stories. However, the stories are intertwined and I want to make sure it's juuuuusttt right before it's published.

Q: What’s your favorite place to hang out online?

Facebook. It's the ultimate melting pot! I love being able to stay in touch with friends from around the country, see what's going on in their lives, and reading a everything from news stories to poop jokes, band updates, and spoiler alerts for some of my favorite TV shows.

Q: Finally, what message (if any) are you trying to get across with your book?

That none of us ever really leave high school. That holds true in a good way and a bad way, too. A lot of those emotions you feel very strongly when you're getting your first taste of unrequited love don't change very much when you get older. For better or worse, you carry the identity and emotional baggage of your teen years with you into adulthood. It really shapes who you are and is a big part of – and sometimes a stumbling block – on the road to learning to like yourself as a person. I'd like people to find the humor in the situations that normally make you want to cry. Finding the humor in the hurt can be the best way to pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and look forward to the next adventure that comes your way.

Q: Thank you again for this interview!  Do you have any final words?

Thank YOU for interviewing me! I hope anyone who reads my book enjoys it. If you like to laugh, have a hankering for '90s nostalgia, and dig quirky protagonists, Bad Taste In Men should be right up your alley. If you like it, drop me a line! I'd love to know what you liked about it. And if you don't like the book, I'd love to hear from you, too!

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