An interview with Charlie Cochrane
LOL! It looks like we planned this as a swap, but actually it just turned out this way. Charlie’s one of the first people I ever got to know in this genre, and still one of the nicest. It was a great experience, coming in as a new author to have a posse of people to hang out with and keep each other encouraged. Much has changed since the days when Charlie, Erastes, Lee Rowan and I set up The Macaronis and were mostly of one mind about historical fiction, but the friendship doesn’t wane.
Anyway, enough of that, and on to the interview 🙂
What upcoming project of your own are you most excited about?
You’re going to see a theme for my answers, in that you’ll ask me for one example, and I’ll give you three. Or more. Maybe I’m generous or maybe I’m just too loquacious. I was the same in exams, always wrote too much.
The definite thing I’m most excited about is the next Cambridge Fellows book, Lessons for Suspicious minds, which should be out around September. It goes back to 1909, so Jonty’s parents will be swooping in on Mrs. Stewart’s broomstick!
The indefinite things are even more exciting, but they’re all “don’t know yets”. I have a story long listed for a mainstream anthology, another entered in a competition and a story submitted to an agent.
Who is your favorite fictional character created by someone other than yourself?
Going to have to give more than one.
Aragorn, of course, because he’s handsome and tough and noble and heroic and just…cor.
Laurie Odell, because he’s beautifully depicted, wonderfully authentic and just a bit tragic.
Miss Marple, because she’s so well observed. In terms of wheedling out sensitive information, MI5 would be better off employing old ladies than young studs.
What are you enjoying reading at the moment?
My bargain basement treasures. I picked up six volumes of illustrated yearbooks from 1911 through to 1916, full of news and pictures and wonderful stuff. The fact that they came to £3 in total gobsmacked me. Clearly this is an era I read and write about (most of my books are set in the early years of the twentieth century) so not only will they be great for research, they’ll hopefully provide a plot bunny or two.
I always say you can’t beat contemporary sources for both research and inspiration purposes. You get a feel for the cadence of the language, for one thing.
Tell us about the books you have out
Blimey. There are so many of them, from short stories through to series – where to start? I’ve written about Weresloths, cross dressers, Regency curates, Paralympic swimmers and, of course, Cambridge dons who like to do sleuthing on the side. My most recent book takes me back to what seems to be my comfort zone, WWI. Promises Made Under Fire is about what happens when just about everything you knew (or thought you knew) about your best friend turns out to be a lie.
There are more stories, of course; the easiest way to find a list of/links to all my stories is down the left hand side of my blog!
What type of music, if any, do you listen to while you write?
Any and everything, so long as it requires no concentration. Sometimes I listen to sport (football is especially useful as it’s pretty bland) or audio books/radio drama, but they tend to be a touch distracting. I’m listening to Stylo by Gorillaz at present, but that could as easily be the Beach Boys or Luciano Pavarotti.
Do you think you have specific themes you continue to return to? If so what are they?
I have certain eras, definitely. Writing 1900 to 1920 feels like coming home, maybe because I’ve always read and enjoyed so many stories from around that time (Jerome K Jerome, Conan Doyle, etc). As for themes, I guess that one I tend to return to is a pair of manly men, if that makes sense. My heroes are rarely in the outwardly effeminate end of the spectrum (except for Francis from “All That Jazz”) and usually like sport and showing their affection by insulting each other.
I suspect a faith element usually plays a part in my plots, although maybe that’s my own spirituality coming out?
What one thing are you the most proud of in your life?
I should probably say producing (with the help of the long-suffering Mr. Cochrane) my three beautiful daughters, but if I’m allowed to be entirely self centred and shallow I’d say
a) my double first from Cambridge
b) having fed Red Rum a Polo mint
c) the fan e-mails I get from gay men
Do you characterize by observation or introspection?
Alex, I don’t even understand that question. I am the world’s worst at analysing my writing (or plotting a story or anything else which is remotely sensible). What did Adrian Plass say? Something like “Writing is easy, you just sit at a typewriter and open a vein.” I just sit down and see what appears on the screen. (Do not try this at home, folks!)
Who is your favorite author and what is your favorite genre to read?
How long have we got? I read all sorts of stuff, fiction and non-fiction. Among my favourites are:
Jerome K Jerome, for his humour. Jonty and Orlando are heavily influenced by the three men in their boat.
Patrick O’Brian for use of language, breadth of vision and fantastic characterisation.
Mary Renault for being able to say more in one line than most writers can in a whole page.
Have you seen those ‘author’s cave’ photos that show the office/study/corner of the table where famous writers work? What does yours look like?
The Cochranes had a bit of a move round last year, swopping three rooms about, so our study is a converted bedroom. It’s east facing so gets lots of morning sun, is light, airy and has a view over both gardens and fields and the M27. (I’m a London girl, I don’t mind watching a bit of traffic.)
There’s a desk in here, a bookcase, a couple of comfy chairs, a filing cabinet and a Bose system, for that all important music and sport. I “Cox and Box” in here with Mr Cochrane, who is very tidy, which is just as well. It could be awful if one of us was a neat freak and the other wasn’t!
You can reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org (maybe to sign up for my newsletter?) or catch me on Facebook, twitter, goodreads, my website or my blog. All over the place like a rash, really. I tend to blog about anything that takes my fancy, so I can promise that it isn’t all “Buy my book”. I have author guests every month, which is smashing fun (they always have such interesting answers) and I may just mention rugby occasionally. Sometimes. Once or twice a year.