Today we are chatting with Jennieke Cohen, author of
My Fine Fellow!
Read on for more about Jennieke and her book!
Meet Jennieke Cohen!
Jennieke Cohen is a Filipina-American author of young adult historical fiction. Her debut novel, DANGEROUS ALLIANCE, was a Junior Library Guild selection and has been translated into multiple languages. Jennieke studied English history at Cambridge University and has a master’s degree in professional writing from the University of Southern California. When not writing or reading, Cohen can be found watching classic movies, drinking tea, singing opera and musical theater, and planning her next trip to England. She lives in California. You can visit her online at www.jenniekecohen.com , and find her on Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest.
Meet My Fine Fellow!
Culinary delights abound, romance lingers in the air, and plans go terribly, wonderfully astray in this gender-bent take on My Fair Lady from Jennieke Cohen, author of Dangerous Alliance—perfect for fans of Bridgerton or A Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue.
It’s 1830s England, and Culinarians—doyens who consult with society’s elite to create gorgeous food and confections—are the crème de la crème of high society.
Helena Higgins, top of her class at the Royal Academy, has a sharp demeanor and an even sharper palate—and knows stardom awaits her if she can produce greatness in her final year.
Penelope Pickering is going to prove the value of non-European cuisine to all of England. Her contemporaries may scorn her Filipina heritage and her dishes, but with her flawless social graces and culinary talents, Penelope is set to prove them wrong.
Elijah Little has nothing to his name but a truly excellent instinct for flavors. London merchants won’t allow a Jewish boy to own a shop, so he hawks his pasties for a shilling a piece to passersby—but he knows with training he can break into the highest echelon of society.
When Penelope and Helena meet Elijah, a golden opportunity arises: to pull off a project never seen before, and turn Elijah from a street vendor to a gentleman chef.
But Elijah’s transformation will have a greater impact on this trio than they originally realize—and mayhem, unseemly faux pas, and a little romance will all be a part of the delicious recipe.
~ Author Chat ~
YABC: What gave you the inspiration to write this book?
I was trying to think of things I would really enjoy playing around with. I often go back to movies and books for inspiration, and one day I thought, “Has anyone done a My Fair Lady/Pygmalion retelling?” My Fair Lady has always been one of my favorite musicals, so I thought, “Why shouldn’t I be the one to do it?”
YABC: Who is your favorite character in the book?
Penelope has to be my favorite. She sees the best in everyone but she also sees the world for what it is and is able to navigate it. She’s kind of the ideal friend.
YABC: Which came first, the title or the novel?
The title came first. I had written the proposal, and I was trying to come up with a title that would be a good play on My Fair Lady, which this book would be retelling. I apparently had many characters referring to the title character, Elijah Little, as a “fellow,” which hadn’t occurred to me as anything I could utilize, but when my agent suggested My Fine Fellow, it stuck!
YABC: What scene in the book are you most proud of, and why?
The big showpiece scenes were beasts to write. I think the one I’m most proud of is the first day of the Royal Culinary Exhibition because there were a lot of things that had to happen and a lot of moving pieces—almost like trying to get all your timings right for a feast.
YABC: What do you like most about the cover of the book?
I love the splashes of pink and the utensils and whisks that are just such cute accents!
YABC: What was your favorite book in 2021?
I read and re-read a lot of Victorian fiction in 2021, and my top book of the year was No Name by Wilkie Collins—which is admittedly a strange choice. I’d read Collins’ other more well-known books years ago, and tried No Name on a whim, but I ended up really loving it. It has some of the oddest characters I’ve read, and yet I truly missed them when I finished the book.
YABC: Which was the most difficult or emotional scene to narrate?
From an emotional standpoint, the scene with Elijah and the tailor was one of the most difficult, and I really wanted to get it right. It *might* have made me cry when I wrote it. I have no idea that it’ll affect anyone the same way, but I’m proud of it nonetheless.
YABC: Which character gave you the most trouble when writing your latest book?
I think Helena gave me the most trouble. She’s a certain type of person—someone I wouldn’t necessarily be friends with—so getting into her mind was more difficult for me than some of the others. I even found myself avoiding her POV in the first draft! But in later drafts I was able to channel her more thoroughly.
YABC: Which part of the writing process do you enjoy more: Drafting or Revising?
I find drafting really tough. Revision is more manageable, I feel, just because I can tackle it in chunks and most of the difficult part feels like it’s done.
YABC: What would you say is your superpower?
I used to play a game where someone would turn on a movie on a random TV channel, and I had to guess what it was without looking. I could almost always do it in the first 30 seconds. So, a pretty useless skill, but I was undefeated
My Fine Fellow
Author: Jennieke Cohen
Publish Date: January 11th, 2022