Monday, June 28, 2010

Getting to know author Charlie Cochrane

Can you tell us a little about how you started writing; was it something you have always wanted to do?

Not at all. Like many teenagers I dabbled with writing ‘slash’ (only it wouldn’t have been called slash then) but it was pretty awful. It was only as I hit my late forties I got into writing again (fanfic) and sort of took it from there.

Your work is very popular with readers and reviewers; how does it feel to have such positive recognition for your work?

Gobsmacking. Mind boggling. Seriously, I don’t think I’ll ever get used to getting a good review or receiving one of those lovely e-mails from a stranger saying “I really loved your story, because…” To open the inbox and find one of those waiting is the highlight of my day.

Of course I get negative reviews/comments as well, but that’s part of the game. The only proper public reply to a naff review is, “Thank you”, then you can go and swear and gnash your teeth in private. As my writing hero E M Forster said, “Some reviews give pain. This is regrettable, but no author has the right to whine. He was not obliged to be an author, He invited publicity and he must take the publicity that comes along.”

What do you consider to be the key elements of a great story?

It’s as simple (and as hard) as making the reader want to turn the page and find out what happens next. Maybe that boils down to having characters you care about or maybe it’s just a cracking plot. Or the book’s hilariously funny, like ‘Three Men in a Boat’.

Tell us a bit about your latest book, and what inspired you to write such a story.

Lessons in Desire is the second of the Cambridge Fellows series of historical gay romantic mysteries and it’s in print on 6th July. I was inspired by all the wonderful holidays we’ve had on the island of Jersey. It really is a magical place, where you feel the weather’s always good, the food’s magnificent and you’ve almost stepped back in time. All those elements found their way into the book.

Which of your characters do you love/hate/fear/pity the most and why?

I love Jonty most because he’s gone through awful times and emerged whole and honourable. And he’s gorgeous. I pity one of his tormentors (his old House Master) because the man simply doesn’t understand what’s right and what’s wrong.

Do you get along with your muse? What do you do to placate her when she refuses to inspire you?

It’s a him, my muse. He can be placated with good music, sport, jelly babies and just writing about anything. Also, if I start scribbling/typing something not necessarily related to what I should be doing then he gets jealous and makes me focus again.

Do you have another book in the works? Would you like to tell readers about your current or future projects.

I have a Cambridge Fellows story set in 1919 that I’ve just finished and submitted. Otherwise, I have a short story coming out in an anthology and several projects I’m working on as the muse allows. 

 What is the most ridiculous thing that you have thought about doing to any of your characters but never did?

If I think of something ridiculous I usually do it (Jonty and Orlando rolling down a hill and thinking they’re going to die in Lessons in Desire springs to mind).

How do you keep track of your world building?

With difficulty. I do keep notes (to which I have to refer often) but my mind finds that uncomfortable. I like to keep as much as I can stored in my brain, partly because if I can’t keep tabs with who’s who and what’s where, how can the reader? (And does any of that make sense?)
Which author(s) is your favorite? And who has most influenced you work?

Patrick O’Brian probably heads the list. Talk about characterisation, world building and all the rest of it, because he had it in spades. And humour, too. I suspect consciously or subconsciously, he’s influenced my writing hugely, as have writers like Jerome K Jerome (for the right tone for my historical fiction) and Alan Bennett (for sheer invention and an appreciation of what it is to be English).

I also like ‘classic’ cosy mystery writers like Simon Brett and Ngaio Marsh – and for non-fiction, you can’t beat the thinking woman’s crumpet, Michael Wood.

 Do you feel your writing is character driven or plot driven? How do you balance these two elements?

Character, always. I only work from the vaguest plot outlines—getting from A to Z with no particular details about how we get there. I like to find out where my characters want to take me and if that means having to go back and rewrite earlier bits to keep a unity within the whole, so be it.

 What is your favorite movie of all time? The one where you can watch it and still get affected at the same spots each and every time?

Master and Commander. I’ve watched it a bajillion times and still get choked up when the young acting lieutenant gets killed. The best viewing has been on a big screen, under the stars in a park on the island of Jersey, with bats flitting around and shooting stars in the sky. Perfect.

If you were stranded on a deserted island, what 5 things would you have with you?

Can I have a laptop with internet access and unlimited power? Or a satellite TV? (I have to be able to keep in touch with sport!) otherwise I’d like: the sweatshirt Sophia Deri-Bowen gave me, the one that’s absolutely wonderful to snuggle up in; paper, pens and pencils for writing and sketching; my black haematite necklace; and a huge supply of jelly babies. 

What is your favorite way to relax after a hard day working and writing?

Anyone who vaguely knows me could probably guess that it would be watching sport on TV. Rugby, cricket, golf, we don’t mind. And it’s great camaraderie, sitting as a family cheering on your team, especially on cold winter nights.

If someone hasn't read any of your work, what book would you recommend that they start with and why?

That’s really hard to answer. I suspect Lessons in Trust or Lessons in Power are my best books, but as they’re books 7 and 4 respectively in the Cambridge series, that might not be logical. Lessons in Love is the first in the series, so you could start there.

Where can readers find out what's new and how can they contact you?

My website is, but I tend to update my blog or facebook a bit quicker. If you want to e-mail me, usually gets through!


Sneak peek into Lessons in Desire now available in print and e-book from Samhain Publishing

Jonty drew his hand down his lover’s face, across his lips. It was the first time they’d touched with any degree of intimacy since they’d left St. Bride’s. The caress made Orlando shudder afresh, as if they were touching for the first time. “We may have two bedrooms, but do we really need to use them both? It’d be easy enough to slip across before the early morning tea arrives, if we set your alarm clock.”

Orlando looked up, determined to refuse. He was still feeling skittish about staying in a suite of rooms with his lover. Sharing a bed was beyond any imagining although, ironically, the item in question was a glorious double bed such as he’d dreamed, on many an occasion, of sleeping in with Jonty. “I’m not sure I feel sufficiently recovered from the journey to want to do anything except sleep.” He studied his hands, the shirt he was trying to hang up, anything but his lover.

“That would be fine. I’m as happy to simply slumber next to you as anything else. There are plenty of other days for romance—we could just be fond friends tonight, or pretend to be that old couple we played cards with. Still very much in love yet beyond the thralls of passion.” Jonty gently touched his friend’s hand.

Orlando felt as if a spider was crawling down the back of his neck, and his discomfiture must have been plain. “What if we slept apart, just for tonight?”

They had reached the crux of why he’d been so keen not to come on holiday. He was frightened of taking their relationship outside the college walls, displaying it to the world. Within the ivy-clad, male-dominated locality of St. Bride’s, it had been easy to maintain a friendship which was more than close without raising a suspicious eyebrow. He’d spent little time with Jonty out of
Cambridge, apart from a visit or two to London, where they’d stayed in the relatively safe environs of the Stewart family home. To be with the man in a strange place was to put himself at risk of making a demonstration of his affection by an unguarded look or touch.

Any footman could walk through the streets of town in his bowler-hatted Sunday best, hand in hand with a parlour maid. A pair of dons could never be allowed such freedom; not in
Cambridge and certainly not on Jersey. If they ever were mad enough to be tempted, all they had to do was remember the law—two years of hard labour and public disgrace would be no holiday.

Jonty slammed down the toothbrush he’d been unpacking. “Oh, go and sleep in the bath if you want to! I haven’t the heart to put up with this nonsense. I’m going to sleep in my own bed, in my own soft pyjamas, with my own book. If you change your mind and decide to join me, make sure you knock, because I might just have found other company.” He spun on his heels, entering his bedroom with a slam of the door which caused the windows to shake.


Charlie Cochrane said...

Thanks for hosting me, Dawn. Your questions really made me think (especially the desert island one.)


Anonymous said...

lol you are very welcome. :)

Thanks for being here Charlie.


Welcome author Tina Gayle today

Please give a warm welcome to author Tina Gayle today as we talk about her latest release, Marketing Exec's Widow. 1. What star...