Hello Charlie. It’s a real pleasure to talk to you today. You have released three stories within the past few months including Aftermath in Speak Its Name: Trilogy No. III; Lessons in Love, Book I in the Cambridge Fellows Mysteries; and Blitz a free read. Lessons in Love has just been published and my review is posted here.
I’m looking forward to talking with Charlie and having the regular readers of the blog, as well as fans and others who have not had the pleasure of reading any of her books, getting to know her better. The reading public seems to have a real appetite for information about their favourite authors so let’s begin –
Can you tell us something about Charlie Cochrane that you have never told anyone before?
That has to be the hardest question in this interview. I think some people already know I hate frogs and love jelly babies. I have a hairy birthmark on my leg – will that do?
You write historical books about men who happen to love other men, set in the early 20th century and I’m wondering what appeals to you about that period in history?
Everything! I love the thought of gentlemen being dressed up to the nines (no baggy jeans showing your underpants, thank you), speaking like Lord Peter Wimsey and acting like they just came out of a black and white film. It sounds a bit clichéd, I know, but it’s seems so incredibly romantic. I also like to explore the undercurrent of feelings which run behind those stiff upper lips and are hidden beneath those starched collars.
I’m always curious about people’s motivations, especially writers, so can you tell us: Why did you decide to write about gay men in a time when they were despised and could be jailed, or worse, if found out?
Partly because that’s the era I feel comfortable writing in (although I do have some modern stuff incubating) and partly because it adds to the richness of the story. How will my leading men communicate their interest in each other? Will they actually give in to their illicit desires (very ‘Brief Encounter’)? How can they keep their relationship clandestine? Much more of a challenge to construct than a meeting in a gay bar would be.
I read the anthology Speak It’s Name, Trilogy No. III and reviewed it on the blog (here) back in June and loved the stories including Aftermath, and mix of periods. The romances are not as explicit as a lot of current M/M books which are usually categorized as erotica. I thought that the level of intimacy in SIN was quite appropriate for the periods in which the stories were written, but did you make a conscious decision to “fade to black” in your books?
I can’t speak for Erastes or Lee Rowan, but in Aftermath I did make that conscious decision, for a couple of reasons. One was to be true to the story – I honestly believe that Hugo and Edward wouldn’t have been leaping into bed at that point in their relationship. It was always going to be a long, slow courtship to get over Hugo’s burden of guilt. The other is – as I’ve said below – I prefer not to write very explicit scenes. I have to admit it does rile me that all m/m fiction seems to be lumped together under the label ‘erotica’ even when it’s non-explicit.
I have asked this question before of another historical author and I’ll ask you the same question – Are you uncomfortable writing about sex between men in your historical romances?
Only as ‘uncomfortable’ as I feel about describing any intimate acts, whatever the gender of the participants (I feel a bit like Delia Smith and her guide to stuffing the Christmas turkey). Which is completely illogical, as I’m a biologist, for goodness sake! I go for a lyrical, sensual approach rather than anatomical details.
You have quite a few books scheduled for the next two years so let’s start with your Cambridge Fellows Mysteries. Lessons in Love is the first book and it was released November 1. Can you give us a brief synopsis of Lessons in Love? Do Jonty and Orlando do the deed in the first book or do we have to wait for Book II? g
A very brief description would be: handsome, well to do English fellow in Cambridge college meets equally handsome but socially awkward mathematician. Romance ensues, complicated by a series of murders in the college, the victims of which are all gay. Jonty and Orlando get involved with solving the crime and have to face some of their own inner demons en route. And they sort of do the deed, as far as they can, given the extreme naiveté of poor Orlando.
What can you tell us about the series and when we can expect Lessons in Desire, the second book in the Cambridge Fellows Mysteries to be released? Please give us a short blurb for this new book.
Lessons in Desire will be released as an e-book on February 1st 2009. In this story, Jonty has persuaded Orlando to take a holiday on the beautiful channel island of Jersey. While it’s easy within the confines of college to hide the fact that they’re lovers, Orlando’s worried that they won’t be able to keep the truth secret from the world at large. When a brutal murder occurs at the hotel where they’re staying, they get drawn into the hunt for the killer. Things get complicated by the fact that the victim’s son finds Orlando too attractive to resist making a pass. So can they keep him at bay, keep their affair clandestine and solve the crime?
I recently read Blitz a free short story available from Linden Bay Romance and posted a review on the blog (here) . It was a charming story which placed me right in the middle of WWII with that delightful couple Adam and Hugh. Since there’s no way that you would know anything about sirens and air raid shelters other than what you read, how do you research your stories?
I research in two ways: actively (e.g. reading books written in or about the era I’m writing in, looking at newspapers from the time) and by what’s been almost a process of osmosis. When you watch a well made film set in a certain era, when you visit a place of historical interest, or see an exhibition of contemporary photos, you absorb all sorts of subtle images and ideas. I have a real magpie mind and hoard these things away. So, for example, thinking of Hugh and Adam down in the underground station, I had clear images of being a child waiting for a tube (the stations hadn’t changed a lot) and combined that with what I’d heard people say about their time in the war.
What do you find most challenging about writing M/M historical books? Is it the dress, the sex, the speech or something entirely different?
Two things: The sex, because you want to find novel ways to describe the passion. Not letting anachronisms slip in. When I’m going through stuff I’m forever having to check a phrase to see if it’s too early for common use (I had one of my characters saying “spill the beans” a good ten years before its reported use so decided to change it. )
What does Charlie Cochrane do for fun? I understand that you like rugby and not mainly because of the guys’ legs, although I believe that is a draw.
A definite draw. And the sheer, sweaty bodily contact. I enjoy watching all sorts of sports, also visiting the theatre (we saw Hamlet not long ago – it was quite stunning). I like long walks along the beach, candlelit services in church and discovering interesting new places to eat.
Thank you Charlie. It’s been my pleasure to talk to you and get to know you a little better. You are a rare English flower and that’s a compliment. (I can’t get this picture out of my mind of Charlie stuffing a Christmas turkey while she’s thinking up her newest plot g – fade to black)
Lessons in Love is available now from Linden Bay Romance
And that’s a wrap!
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