Inside the mind of the author

Please welcome guest author Charlie Cochrane to the Cafe!

People often ask me why I write the stories I write. Why do any of us? My simple (and perhaps simplistic) answer is that they’re the ones which come into my head, and I guess that’s true for most authors. Now, before you say, “Oh, Charlie, you daft thing, they can’t write what doesn’t come into their heads!” I’ll try to explain myself further.

Many authors are people watchers. More than that, they’re often people imaginers, by which I mean that they construct a story around the folk they see. “Where are they going, what are they doing? Are those two blokes who’ve got out of that car looking awkward because they’re fighting over the same girl or are they the ones who’ve had a lovers’ tiff?” We also observe the people around us, watching how they act, listening to what they say, storing it all up for possible use. My family now say, “Will that go into a book?” when something particularly amusing happens. I’m a great believer that our subconscious takes and processes all these sorts of things, and churns them out as part of our creativity.

But there’s clearly more to it than just that. I write about gay men and I’m clearly not one. I’m not going to get into any sort of debate about whether straight women have the right to pen gay romances, because it isn’t a logical argument. Nobody, for example, would challenge the right of an historical author to set a story in an era they’ve never lived in, describing characters whose experiences they’ve never shared, so long as said author does their research and writes with sensitivity and common sense. The same applies in this case and given the e-mails I have from gay men who like my books, this shouldn’t be an issue.

Because isn’t writing about authors using their imagination to inhabit other people’s lives? The old saw that you should “write what you know”, taken to its rational end, is daft, because the only thing we ever know fully is our own experiences and how boring would that be if our books were only about them? As soon as we tell a story involving people who are of a different gender, do a different job, live in a different place, etc, too us then we’re writing what we can’t intimately know and three cheers for the fact.

I recently had a tremendously interesting insight into something else which helps form the stories in an author’s head, something I’d never considered before. I was on a panel, and we were asked what we read when we were younger and how that influenced our stories. As the other people on the panel answered, my response moved from “there’s no connection” to “of course!” I learned to read by borrowing my brother’s comics. They had such great stories in, about airmen and sportsmen and musketeers and all sorts of heroes who did such exciting things. Much better than the content of the average girls’ comic or book. And it struck me that this was the reason I write predominantly about men, because my formative years were spent immersed in their stories.

Fellow authors – what formed and influenced your writing?

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Don’t Kiss the Vicar

Don't Kiss the Vicar coverVicar Dan Miller is firmly in the closet in his new parish. Could the inhabitants of a sedate Hampshire village ever accept a gay priest? Trickier than that, how can he hide his attraction for one of his flock, Steve Dexter?

Encouraged by his ex-partner to seize the day, Dan determines to tell Steve how he feels, only to discover that Steve’s been getting poison pen letters and suspicion falls on his fellow parishioners. When compassion leads to passion, they have to conceal their budding relationship, but the arrival of more letters sends Dan scuttling back into the closet.

Can they run the letter writer to ground? More importantly, can they patch up their romance and will Steve ever get to kiss the vicar again?  

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Charlie Cochrane author photoBecause Charlie Cochrane couldn’t be trusted to do any of her jobs of choice—like managing a rugby team—she writes. Some of her romances are contemporary, some are historical, and some are hysterical. Yes, she admits to writing about weresloths falling in love. Her romantic mystery novels include the Edwardian era Cambridge Fellows series, and the contemporary Lindenshaw  Mysteries. Multi-published, she has titles with Carina, Samhain, Riptide, Lethe and Bold Strokes, among others.

A member of the Romantic Novelists’ Association, Mystery People and International Thriller Writers Inc, Charlie regularly appears at literary festivals and at reader and author conferences with The Deadly Dames.

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