My guest author today is coming to us from “across the pond” so I hope you’ll help me give her a warm welcome! Let’s get to know more about author Charlie Cochrane and her writing, first with a peek at her bio and then on to the questions.
Because Charlie Cochrane couldn’t be trusted to do any of her jobs of choice—like managing a rugby team—she writes both romances and mysteries, including the Edwardian-era Cambridge Fellows series, and the contemporary Lindenshaw Mysteries. Multi-published, she has titles with Carina, Riptide, Lume and Bold Strokes, among others.
A member of the Romantic Novelists’ Association, Mystery People and International Thriller Writers Inc, Charlie regularly appears at book festivals and at reader and author conferences.
Betty: What inspired you to write the story you’re sharing with us today?
Charlie: Lock, Stock and Peril is the latest book in the Lindenshaw Mysteries series and is inspired by life during lockdown: the extra stresses, the different kind of existence and how that might ultimately turn murderous. The whole series, however, was originally inspired by the TV series Midsomer Murders. I kept thinking how cool it might be to have a similar series set in leafy England but with a gay detective. such thing existed, so I wrote it, making sure the detective fell in love with one of the key witnesses. One who owned a big, adorable, Newfoundland dog.
Betty: What, if any, new writing skill did you develop while working on this story?
Charlie: Nothing new in particular, this time, although I firmly believe that with every new book you produce, you hone your skills and become a better writer. I can confess to one new bad habit I acquired, though: my editor always spots words I overuse and having managed to cut down on the usual ones, I’d only gone and picked up some new ones without realising. 😊
Betty: Did you struggle with any part of this story? What and how?
Charlie: Bizarrely, it was remembering exactly which lockdown rules applied when. There’s quite a gap for an author between first draft and final set of edits so I had to rely heavily on a) notes b) memory and when all else failed c) scrolling back through the government website. Isn’t it odd how something that seemed so constricting at the time passed so quickly out of our brains?
Betty: What kind of research did you need to do to write this story?
Charlie: PACE (Police and Criminal Evidence Act) became my new best friend at one time, when I wanted to make sure I’d got the police rules right at a couple of key places in the story. I also tried to incorporate what I’d learned at the 2020 Portsmouth Mysteryfest where our keynote speaker took us through the latest advice for conducting police interviews. She made a point of saying how unrealistic TV police dramas are so I wanted to get closer to depicting the real thing.
Betty: How many drafts of the story did you write before you felt the story was complete?
Charlie: My usual two. I always produce a pretty good first draft and then bash it about until it’s polished enough to submit to the publisher. Which is where my editor comes along with her virtual red pen and, after much toing and froing, we’re several versions later and have something fit to see the light of day among readers.
Betty: What rituals or habits do you have while writing?
Charlie: Very few, apart from going off and doing something mindless – like cleaning the kitchen floor – when I need to get a plot point clear in my mind. It always works, probably because it taps into the subconscious, which is very powerful and underused. I remember reading a book about inventors (and similar) which said many of them got their lightbulb moment while doing a repetitive physical task. It probably frees the rest of the mind.
Betty: Every author has a tendency to overuse certain words or phrases in drafts, such as just, once, smile, nod, etc. What are yours?
Charlie: In my first draft, no matter how hard I try, the usual suspects creep in too often. Just. Look. More. Even. I hang my head in shame at how many of these little so-and-so’s manage to make it into the second draft. The newest addition to that list was simply, which kept appearing in the first draft of Lock, Stock and Peril – possibly as a replacement for just. (That sound is my eyes rolling at myself.)
Betty: Do you have any role models? If so, why do you look up to them?
Charlie: How much time have we got? Mary Renault, because of her beautiful economy of words – she could say more in a sentence than some folk do in an entire page. Agatha Christie, because of her plots and the wonderful way she re-used the same idea (and made fun of herself for doing that in depicting her alter ego, Ariadne Oliver.) Michael Gilbert, for producing the amateur detective Henry Bohun and Shakespeare…for being Shakespeare.
Betty: Do you have a special place to write? Revise? Read?
Charlie: I can write just about anywhere so long as I’m comfy. I usually work on a PC or laptop but if inspiration strikes then jotting notes on paper/phone/anything to hand has to be done, even if that’s while I’m sitting in the dentist’s waiting room. In terms of reading, I prefer to do that in bed or in the bath and I need quiet both for maximum enjoyment and for maximum concentration, as I read a lot of mysteries and don’t want to miss an important clue.
Betty: Many authors have a day job. Do you? If so, what is it and do you enjoy it?
Charlie: I’m retired from everything but writing. Well, in a paid capacity, anyway, because I chair the board of a small charity. I used to do freelance training of school governors, helping them with things like recruiting new headteachers, and many of the experiences I had doing that have sneaked their way into the Lindenshaw and other books.
Betty: As an author, what do you feel is your greatest achievement?
Charlie: I think if I was a normal author, I’d say having a book reach number one in its genre on Amazon. But as I’m me, I feel prouder of two things: having an author I greatly respect telling me they like my characters and using the loo at the house of a multi-million selling novelist (long story, involving somehow getting invited to a meeting of crime writers during which I sat thinking, “How the heck have I ended up here?”)
Betty: What is your favorite genre to read?
Charlie: Cosy mysteries, especially those written at the end of the nineteenth century and in the first half of the twentieth. They used to be quite hard to get hold of unless you scoured second-hand bookshops but there’s been a spate of republishing old novels and short stories, for example in the British Library collection. An absolute Godsend for readers like me.
Betty: Success looks different to different people. It could be wealth, or fame, or an inner joy at reaching a certain level. How do you define success in terms of your writing career?
Charlie: Wow, there’s a question. I think, for me, success is defined primarily by people’s reaction to my stories. When you have readers emailing you to say your novels have helped them through bereavement, or to cope with another equally hard aspect of their lives, then what more fulfilment can you want?
They may be locked down but this case isn’t.
Lockdown is stressful enough for Chief Inspector Robin Bright. Then a murder makes this strange time even stranger. In one of Kinechester’s most upmarket areas, the body of Ellen, a brilliant but enigmatic recluse, has lain undiscovered for days. Pinning down the time—and date—of death will be difficult, but finding a killer during unprecedented times could prove impossible.
Adam Matthew’s focus on his pupils is shaken when a teaching assistant reveals his godmother has been murdered. Keen to avoid involvement, Adam does his best to maintain a distance from his husband, Robin’s, case, but when it keeps creeping up, Adam lends his incisive mind to the clues again.
Between Robin trying to understand the complex victim and picking his way through a mess of facts, half truths, and downright lies from witnesses desperate to cover up their own rule-breaking, he realises this could be the cold case that stains his career and forever haunts a community. And when it looks like the virus has struck Adam, Robin’s torn between duty and love.
Buy Links: RiptidePublishing
I wondered how long it would take for authors to write about life during the pandemic. There’s my answer! Thanks for sharing your story with us, Charlie!
Award-winning Author of Historical Fiction with Heart, and Haunting, Bewitching Love Stories
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