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.