Many years ago, when I was just starting out my career as a journalist, I developed an itch to tell richer, deeper stories than my day job as a television news producer allowed. I began working on a novel, but life happened and what had started as a diary of a difficult year became my memoir Lying Together: My Russian Affair (published under my maiden name, Jennifer Beth Cohen). The New York Times Book Review called it “simply riveting” and twice named it an Editor’s Choice. Publisher’s Weekly called it “sharp, fast-paced… a fascinating glimpse inside the world of news gathering and contemporary Russia” and The San Francisco Chronicle said it was “a heady cocktail… a quick, juicy read.” Soon after, I wrote my novel Gloss as something of a swan song to my tenure as a morning television news producer. It also received some nice praise, with Marie Claire comparing it to Carl Hiaasen’s Lucky You and The Chicago Tribune saying it was “a rare treat.” Gloss was optioned to be a television series, and while that ultimately didn’t come to fruition, it was fun flirting with Hollywood. After Gloss, I completed Head Case, the novel that had been lying dormant on a hard drive for many years. A comic mystery about psycho-pharmaceutical trafficking, I swear it is not autobiographical in any way.
My new novel Just Emilia has more of a literary bent than the previous ones, and I am thrilled that it has found a home at Regal House. The idea initially came to me when I was briefly stuck inside a Washington, DC Metro elevator with a couple of strangers. I doubt it lasted for more than a minute, but that was enough time for me to wonder about who those people were and if we would be able to help each other get out of the steel box if the doors failed to open. They opened, but I kept thinking about it and wrote the first sentence as soon as I got home. That’s probably the only sentence that hasn’t changed.
In addition to my creative writing, I am also a journalist and filmmaker. After many years of working in network television news, I co-founded a boutique production company, Because Media. We specialize in creating narrative nonfiction videos for outlets ranging from PBS and The New York Times to the MacArthur Foundation and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, as well as feature-length documentary films.
I received a master’s degree from Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism. I also have a BA in Russian Language and Literature from Tufts University and a BFA in Studio Arts from the School of The Museum of Fine Arts. I live in Washington, DC, with my husband, two teenagers, a moody dog, and a recently rescued cat.
Regal House Publishing is delighted to bring you Jennifer Oko’s Just Emilia in the summer of 2025.