I’m very happy to have as my guest today the lovely Charlie Cochrane! She’s here to talk about her latest release from Carina Press, Promises Made Under Fire, and give us a peek behind the curtain.
Before getting to the interview, I have to say I just love this cover! There’s something about old letters and lockets or pocket watches with pictures inside that is completely irresistible to me. I suspect I was born in the wrong century.
What inspired you to start writing?
Blimey, how long have we got? I’ve always made up stories, either in my head to amuse myself or out loud to amuse my daughters when they were little. I did try to write some fiction when I was a teenager (sort of Lord of the Rings inspired slash) but it was absolute rubbish. When I discovered Age of Sail fanfic I thought, “I could turn my hand to that”, so I did. That was seven years ago and I’ve been writing ever since.
What did it feel like watching your first book fledge and leave the nest?
Agony. Like childbirth, only much longer (and having had a three and a half day labour, I can assure you of my credentials on that point.) I was a total innocent abroad and if it hadn’t been for my first publishing experience being alongside two very experienced authors (Lee Rowan and Erastes – it doesn’t get much better than that) I might have given up. They put up with so many daft questions and coped with my many mistakes.
And – just like childbirth – you end up with this wonderful product of the process, about which you feel very protective, which is why bad reviews are so painful. (But that’s another whole issue.)
How do you choose a setting or era?
Um, I think it chooses me. There’s a wonderful Morecambe and Wise sketch where Ernie Wise says he’s started to write a play but he can’t decide if it’s a historical “or one of those science fiction ones”. I can sympathise with that. I tend to start writing stories with a character or a conversation and everything builds on that, and sometimes the whole setting changes as the story progresses and I have to go back through and rework it.
“Promises Made Under Fire” started from a simple idea, inspired by Juliet Barker’s history of Agincourt. Two men had made a vow on the battlefield about what they’d do if they survived (make a pilgrimage, upon which they ended up arrested for being drunk). That idea of a battlefield vow inspired me. It had to be written, so I started with a soldier looking out at no-man’s-land and waited to see where I got.
Are you character or plot driven? What do you do if one of your characters starts developing at a tangent?
I think I’ve answered the first bit above. Sometimes I do have a plot outline (sort of back of an envelope touch) but it’s very basic. I like to be on the learning journey with my characters. It’s almost like watching a TV series and seeing what develops.
Characters regularly go off on a tangent. I tend to let them as they may get somewhere interesting. You can always edit their eccentricities out if they turn out not to be relevant. If they are relevant, and if they change the arc of the story for the better, then I keep them – it’s not unknown for me to have to go back and make major retrospective changes, so long as it improves the end product.
If you were in a tight corner and had to rely on one of your characters to save you, which would it be and why?
Jonty Stewart. Or maybe his mother. Both of them have had to cope with many adversities and come through with humour intact. They’re both the sort who’d deal with any crisis at face value, work out what to do and do it, then maybe have all their collywobbles (or a good, stiff gin) afterwards. And if it turned out to be the end of the world, Jonty’s face would be nice to look at as the stars go out.
If you had no constraints of time and a guarantee of publication, what book would you write?
Something about lovers in wartime, throughout history. Alexander weeping for Hephaistion, brothers in arms at Agincourt, Sassoon and Thomas, two soldiers storming the D-Day beaches…
It would be huge and sweeping, and the idea’s buzzing about in my head, like an insect I can hear but neither see nor pin down.
Is there a classic book you started and simply couldn’t finish?
Loads. Sense and Sensibility. Moby Dick. Pickwick Papers. I’ll stop there or I’ll lose the will to live.
(Charley: I’m relieved I’m not the only one who couldn’t get through Sense and Sensibility!)
What’s your favourite gay fiction book? And why?
The Charioteer. It’s beautifully written, the characterisation is outstanding and the author, Mary Renault, can say more in one sentence than many other writers manage in three or four pages. And, for a story with no sex in it, it’s remarkably hot.
It’s also a clever book, without waving its cleverness in the reader’s face. I find the whole author “look how bright I am and all the research I’ve done” thing very vexatious.
What’s your next project?
In terms of new releases, the next Cambridge Fellows book is written and submitted, and I have a contemporary mystery I need to find a home for. Thinking of writing, I have several projects to finish, including one set on Jersey about a bloke beset with strange dreams about shipwrecks.
Thanks so much for stopping by, Charlie. I’m looking forward to finding out what those shipwreck dreams are about!
To get your copy of Promises Made Under Fire, click the cover above and choose your format on All Romance eBooks!