“What do you mean, I can’t go home?” Laurie was almost crying with frustration. “I can go home if I like!”
Sally glared at him. “And how are you going to get up and down the stairs? Or even down the hall to the bathroom?” she said. “And wash when you get there? And turn over properly in bed? And what happens if you actually fall out of bed in the night and can’t get up? And come to that, who’s going to take you home, you idiot? You can’t drive!”
He glared back. “I thought that you might!”
“No! Not me!” her glaring was so much better than his.
He pushed against the pillows, but because he was unable to brace properly with his weak leg, he couldn’t make himself sit up any further. She stood up and hauled him forward with competent strength, shoving more pillows behind him to support his bad arm and shoulder. Damn her.
When she sat back down, he lowered his gaze to his lap. His hand lay across his legs, curled and useless. He imagined moving his fingers and he felt it happening in his head. But in his lap, they lay dead and still, obvious betrayers of his helplessness.
“Laurie…,” her voice was kind. “You need to stay in here for a bit and let them help you. They say at least some of the use of the your arm and your leg should come back quite quickly, specially if you work at it. And then we can get you back home.”
Today the lovely Charlie Cochrane is here to talk about her Cambridge Fellows, Jony and Orlando, her Lindenshaw mysteries and all sorts of other things, too!
So, Charlie, why are you ACTUALLY doing this interview? Apart from satisfying my nosiness!
Just for fun, of course, and because you’re someone I enjoy chatting to. Endearingly dotty, just like I am.
Having said that, I’m presently working on the next Cambridge Fellows mystery, so I thought it might be nice to give my sets of sleuths a bit of a mention. There’s Jonty and Orlando (the aforementioned Cambridge Fellows) whose romantic mystery adventures take place in the early 20th century. Despite the fact their first adventure came out in 2008, they always have new readers discovering them. If one of them drops me a message about that, it always makes my day!
Then I have the Lindenshaw series, which is contemporary and a sort of Midsomer Murders/gay romance crossover. Last, but not least, there’s my 1950s actor laddies who play Holmes and Watson both onscreen and off.
What started you writing?
I’ve always made up stories, either to amuse myself or my daughters. It seemed natural, once I had a bit of time to write, to start cutting my teeth on a wider audience. (Lordy, you sound like a vampire, Charlie.) Like many authors I know, I started by dabbling in fanfiction, which was a safe place in which to learn and hone the craft of writing.
I was specifically inspired to write the Cambridge Fellows stories by my love of Golden Age mysteries and the fact that there really needed to be some of them with gay characters. I couldn’t find any—well, no overt ones—so I had to create my own.
Where do you write?
Primarily in our study. While I can scribble things in a notepad almost anywhere, if it’s ‘proper’ drafting or editing, then I have to be either at the desk on the PC or working on my laptop in the dining room. When we were in lockdown I had to sometimes make do with my third option, which is at the breakfast bar in the kitchen, although that usually means covering over whatever jigsaw we have going! (Mad, crazy rock and roll life of the author…)
What do you like to read?
Loads of stuff. From WE Johns’ Biggles books, to non-fiction about the soldiers of World War One, through Golden Age mysteries, a smidge of gay historical romances and – when I can get hold of them – old ‘Victor Book for Boys’ annuals. I have binge read phases, where I work through everything I can get my hands on from a particular author. Patrick O’Brian and Jerome K Jerome are two examples of authors with whom I’ve gone on a reading bender.
I actually began reading before I started school by borrowing my big brother’s comics – The Victor, The Hornet, Superman and Batman DC comics. They were so full of action, with strongly drawn characters and plot lines. So much better than girls’ comics of the time. It’s no wonder I find it natural to write about men…
What are the three books you’d take to a desert island? Why would you choose them?
Mary Renault The Charioteer (original version). I reread this book every year and try to imagine what happened next to the three main characters, ending up with many variations on happy and not so happy endings. It’s a little gem of a story: Renault can say more in one word than many authors can in a page.
Michael Innes Death at the President’s Lodging. Again, a book I reread every year, it being a beautifully constructed mystery with several incredibly slashy scenes. There’s also something rather spooky about the book. It was written in the 1930’s, set in a fictional Oxbridge university, geographically half-way between Oxford and Cambridge. It’s location? Bletchley. Which is weird, given what would be happening there a handful of years later.
A book of Shakespeare’s sonnets. Plenty of food for slashy thought there and I guess I’d have plenty of time to study them on that island.
Writing is an intrinsically solo occupation. Do you belong to any groups or associations, either online or in the ‘real’ world? How does that work for you?
Yes I do and how does that work for me? It seems to involve a lot of raising of my volunteering arm! I’m a member of:
Romantic Novelists Association: which is mainly online at present but in normal times involves yer actual meetings. I’m the local chapter rep and have also been helping to assess pitches for their new online learning sessions.
Mystery People: this organisation was crucial in my involvement with The Deadly Dames and getting us started with the various gigs we’ve done at libraries, literary festivals and conferences. As you say, writing is a solo job and these days is mainly online, so getting out and doing these events, meeting other authors and readers, is a lifeline to normality.
International Thriller Writers: like the other groups, that’s involved a mixture of meetups and online activities. I regularly conduct interviews for their Magazine The Big Thrill with authors who have upcoming releases—through that I was introduced to the amazing Vaseem Khan Baby Ganesha books.
Oh, and I’m also on the organising committee for UK Meet…
What do you like to do when you’re not writing?
I like watching sport (on telly or, in normal times, live). I especially enjoy rugby but cricket and golf are pretty cool, too. I like the theatre, concerts, walking and playing indoor bowls—and if there’s a bingo night at hubby’s golf club, I’m in like Flynn. I’m also an active member of my local church. (Like I said, wild lifestyle.)
In terms of new things, during lockdown I’ve learned a lot about applying for grants, for example from the National Lottery, although that’s with my charity board hat on. I appear to have lots of hats…
Tell me a little bit about your most recent release. What gave you the idea for it? How long did it take to write? What did you enjoy about writing it? What did you hate?
My most recent release was the fifth Lindenshaw Mystery, A Carriage of Misjustice. The first book in the series began life as a script idea for Midsomer Murders and—long story short—metamorphosed into a cosy English mystery with a gay couple (cop and teacher) at its heart.
In a similar way, elements from A Carriage of Misjustice started off as an abortive romance story, based around a player suffering a life-changing injury at a rugby training session. It didn’t work, so I cannibalised the setting, with a murder happening on the same evening the injury occurred. While the romance was a non-starter, the murder plot flew along. It also involved me doing the best ever bit of research, contacting a company to find out what the item they manufactured was made of and whether you could kill someone with it.
A Carriage of Misjustice
Murder doesn’t care if you’re a newlywed.
Detective Chief Inspector Robin Bright and Deputy Headteacher Adam Matthews have just tied the knot, and all they want to do is sink into blissful domesticity. Unfortunately, there’s no chance of that when a chilling murder at a rugby ground takes Robin miles away to help his old boss solve it.
The mystery seems impossible to crack. Everyone with a motive has an alibi, and those without alibis don’t have a motive. Robin’s determined that this won’t be the case he’s unable to unravel. Not when he’s got his old boss to impress and a new team to lick into shape.
Back at home, Adam joins a fundraising choir to keep himself occupied. Surely a case that’s so far away won’t draw him in this time? Fate has other ideas, though, and danger turns up—quite literally—on his doorstep. He’ll need Campbell the Newfoundland for both company and protection this time around.
The audio version of Lost in Time is now available on Audible! I am so, so excited. Callum Hale has done a wonderful job and you can hear a sample and/or buy a copy here. His quintessential British accent brings it all to life!
Lew Rogers’s life is pleasantly boring until his friend Mira messes with magic she doesn’t understand. While searching for her, he’s pulled back in time to 1919 by a catastrophic magical accident. As he tries to navigate a strange time and find his friend in the smoky music clubs of Soho, the last thing he needs is Detective Alec Carter suspecting him of murder.
London in 1919 is cold, wet, and tired from four years of war. Alec is back in the Metropolitan Police after slogging out his army service on the Western Front. Falling for a suspect in a gruesome murder case is not on his agenda, however attractive he finds the other man.
Both men are floundering and out of their depth, struggling to come to terms with feelings they didn’t ask for and didn’t expect. Both have secrets that could get them arrested or killed. In the middle of a murder investigation that involves wild magic, mysterious creatures, and illegal sexual desire, who is safe to trust?
This is the story that I wrote monthly for my newsletter subscribers. It was an extremely stressful experience that I won’t be repeating in the same manner- it was like having an essay deadline every month and ripped my nerves to shreds!
However… I really like the finished story. It’s a 35.5k novella and the first part incorporates The Gate, which was the first thing I ever wrote in the Lost in Time universe and is floating around the internet for free. I wanted to find out what happened to Matty and Rob after the end of the story and this is the result. Scroll down for an excerpt!
It’s 1919. Matty returns home to the family farm from the trenches only to find his brother Arthur dying of an unknown illness. The local doctor thinks cancer, but Matty becomes convinced it’s connected to the mysterious books his brother left strewn around the house.
Rob knows something other than just Arthur’s death is bothering Matty. He’s know him for years and been in love with him just as long. And when he finds something that looks like a gate, a glowing, terrifying doorway to the unknown, it all starts to fall in to place.
Matty’s looking sicker and sicker in the same way Arthur did. What is Rob prepared to sacrifice to save him?
The answer is in the esoteric books…and with the mysterious Lin of the Frem, who lives beyond the gate to nowhere. It’s taken Matty and Rob more than a decade to admit they have feelings for each other and they are determined that neither social expectations or magical illness will part them now.
A stand-alone 35k novella set in the Lost in Time Universe.
The Treaty of Versailles had been registered with the League of Nations late in October. Matty had felt an enormous sense of relief that the peace was formal now, signed and sealed by the high-ups. Fritz having to pay for all the damage he had caused everyone by sucking them into four years of war seemed only fair. That had been one of the topics of conversation when they had gone down to the County Cinema in Taunton with Mrs Beelock and her daughter a week before to watch the Pathé newsreel of the two minutes silence at the new Cenotaph in London.
However, it was a stunned, waiting, recuperating kind of peace for them both, Matty thought. He was reeling still, from coming home and from Arthur’s death. Rob was gathering himself together almost visibly, losing that overlay of Sergeant Curland and returning full-time to Rob who the neighbours knew was a good man to ask for a hand with their hedges.
He could feel them growing again, on the cusp of moving forward. Rob spent his nights in Matty’s bed in the house instead of in the barn. Annie Beelock only came in mid-morning now, her health needing her to rest, and it was a luxurious thing, this waking in the arms of someone he loved. They had fallen into it with ease and familiarity, eating whatever Mrs Beelock cooked for dinner for all the farm men like they usually did, having bread and cheese and cake for tea once she’d gone, and washing up companionably together; and then settling in front of the fire with the books. They had fallen into a pattern that Matty imagined would be like being married. If men could marry the people they loved.
The war had shifted something inside them both. Coming so close to so much death meant that neither of them were inclined to waste more time. They saw what would make them happy and had grabbed it with both hands. That didn’t solve the problem of the books.
Although, it wasn’t really the books that were the issue. It was more that Matty was failing. Not as quickly as Arthur had, for whatever reason. He could feel it in his bones. It could have been no more than the normal slowing down of his body for the winter. But it wasn’t. A glorious, dry, clear, and cold October had morphed into a bitterly cold November. It made him think back to the last autumn of the war, with the angels’ wings of blue and gold arching with a kind of glorious, terrible disinterest over the ants of humanity crawling around in the mud.
He had the same feeling now. The bitter frosts, the clear blue skies of the onset of winter, made him feel like the world was waiting for something to happen. Watching him with a lack of interest that bordered on not noticing him at all. He was failing. He knew it and Rob knew it.
“What’s to be done, then?” Rob had asked one Sunday morning in early October as they were moving the churns of milk out to the block by the lane where the carter would pick them up to take to the station. “I don’t like the look of you, lad. And I don’t want you to go west like Arthur.” He obviously felt awkward bringing it up and had steeled himself to flank Matty with the question as they were working. Matty was getting tired more easily and he supposed that there was no hiding from Rob his diminished appetite and weight loss.
He launched the last of the churns up on to the platform and stepped back, taking his cap off, and wiping his brow with his sleeve. “I’m glad that’s done. I like giving Jimmy the Sunday off, but it all takes longer.”
“Jimmy’s wife’s got him painting the bedroom, he said. She took him out to buy the paint last weekend.” Rob allowed Matty to prevaricate, but as they turned back to walk up the drive, he had put his hand on Matty’s arm. “Matty. I’m serious.”
Matty shrugged his hand off gently. “I know you are. I don’t know. This was Arthur’s enterprise, not mine. I run a farm. He was the brains.”
Rob had looked at him long and hard. “Do you really think that?” he’d asked quietly. “Because you’re wrong. You might have chosen not to follow the same line as Arthur, but you and he have the same amount up here,” he tapped Matty’s head, “however you choose to use it. So, don’t give me any of that.” He had returned Matty’s solemn stare. “We’ll work it out. I promise you. I’ve waited more than a ten-year for you. I’m not losing you to this. Whatever it is.”