This story was updated at 9:20 a.m. to correct the title of Kevin Cohen’s second book.

Kevin Cohen didn’t follow his dad into politics.

Instead of heading to Washington like his father, William S. Cohen, a former Maine senator and secretary of defense under Bill Clinton, Kevin Cohen set off for Hollywood to learn the business of filmmaking.

But despite the divergent career paths and the opposing coasts, both father and son have added “author” to their list of personal descriptors.

Kevin Cohen, who recently finished his second novel, said he has always been drawn to creative work and has always harbored an interest in writing. While attending Bowdoin College in Brunswick, his father’s alma mater, he even submitted humor pieces to the college’s newspaper, The Bowdoin Orient.

But ultimately, he said, he really loved movies. And the best way to learn about filmmaking is to head to the Hollywood studios.

After graduating from Bowdoin in 1985, the Bangor native found work on the West Coast, eventually becoming a co-story editor at United Artists Film studio. He helped the studio select and develop screenplays that came across his desk from writers guilds and agencies. He even wrote a few of his own, though he said none made it further than a screenplay draft.

“I wanted to learn what the studios were purchasing and to work within to learn how to create better screenplays,” he said in a phone interview during his summer respite in Castine. “In the process, I’m meeting different folks who are focused on writing novels. That certainly had an impact on my area of interest.”

In 1988, at the age of 25, Cohen wrote a novel. But no one would read the book until 2010.

Cohen sat on the unpublished work for two decades, while moving around the country and overseas, working for Turner Broadcasting, marrying his wife, Chantel, and raising their three children, Connor, Jordan and Sofia.

Last year, Cohen decided to self-publish the book using CreateSpace, a service affiliated with

“Fortunate One” became a finalist in the 2011 Next Generation Indie Book Awards’ first novel category (for books under 80,000 words). The awards program recognizes independent authors and publishers.

The book draws on Cohen’s years of behind-the-scenes Hollywood studio experience, giving outsiders a glimpse inside the “Hollywood factory” of excess, blockbuster-building and politics. The novel, based in Los Angeles in 1988, tells the story of cynical Hannibal McGuane, the son of a famous producer, who sets out to make a name for himself.

Despite the accolades, the now-published author didn’t quit his day job working for a new-media company and now living in Atlanta.

Like his father, who managed to write an array of books in the spare time of his growing political career, Kevin Cohen is trying to juggle his job and his urge to explore storytelling.

“The body of work (my father) has produced — poetry, fiction, memoirs — it’s a full slate of books,” said Cohen. “One of my shelves is full of his work. He’s been a great model of working on writing while you’re doing other types of work.

“He’s able to put materials together at a very good pace. I’m probably a lot more leisurely in some ways. He’s a very fast reader, very fast at writing. I don’t picture myself putting up the same number, but it’s a great goal.”

Cohen has already finished his second, “Parts North,” which is set in western Maine. The story, which Cohen calls a “back roads noir,” follows former criminal Quinton Deane around the state’s rural towns and harness-racing tracks.

“Parts North” is also self-published, a route that is becoming more popular with authors, said Jane Karker, president of Maine Authors Publishing in Rockland.

Karker’s company works with local authors to edit, design, print and promote their self-published works.

The stigma attached to self-published books is waning, Karker said. And self-publishing gives authors more control over their work, including editing, design and how the book is marketed. It also gives them a higher percentage of profit.

“Plus the time it takes to do it (through traditional publishers). If you’re lucky enough to get picked up by an agency and get published, it could be 18 months. With us, it’s three weeks and you’re out there,” she said.

Both of Cohen’s books will be available on and as eBooks for the Kindle, iPad and Nook. And book No. 3 might not be far behind.

“I’ve got some ideas. There are lots of interesting characters I’ve come in contact with,” he said. Cohen also is toying with different genres, but he isn’t revealing much else.

“It’s never a good idea to tell people what your ideas are. I’ve learned it has to build up inside, and the only way to deal with it is to actually start writing it. My next book will be a result of that experience.”

Staff Writer Shannon Bryan can be contacted at 791-6333 or at:

[email protected]


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