Welcome, today we are talking with Charlie Cochrane! I would like to thank you for taking time out of your busy writing schedule to answer a few questions.

First, I think it’s important for readers to get a little insight on an author that they don’t necessarily get from your professional bio. You’d be surprised at what readers connect to, and sometimes the simplest ‘I can relate to that’ grabs their interest where nothing else can. Don’t answer anything you feel uncomfortable with.

Can you share a little something about Charlie Cochrane that’s not mentioned in your bio on your website?

I once fed the famous triple-Grand-National-winning racehorse, Red Rum, a polo mint at his trainer’s stables. This may sound a small thing, but for a sports mad woman, it was huge!

 What is your favorite:

 Animal

That is such a hard question to answer as I love so many. I’ll go with sloths, because they don’t get enough love.

Food

Oh, the choice. Jelly babies. Yorkshire pudding. Crispy duck. Apples. The list could fill this page.

Movie

Master and Commander. Great acting, great plot, great camerawork and a perfect musical background.

TV show

Anything with live rugby on it! Especially when the European championships get going.

Actor

Jamie Bamber, for the present day, Jimmy Stewart for the past. *goes into fond remembrance of “Harvey”*

Singer

There’s even more choice here than for favourite food. Sandy Denny from the women and Paul Rogers from the men. Maybe.

Author

Mary Renault. She could say more in one sentence than most authors can in one page.

 What are your pet peeves?

Lack of punctuality. If people have an appointment at 10 am they should be there at 10 am. And if an author at an event is asked to read a five minute excerpt, they shouldn’t go on for fifteen. (You’ve got me really riled here – I must calm down.)

Give us one thing on your bucket list.

To see the Northern Lights. We’ve got a cruise up the Norwegian coast booked for next spring, including an excursion to try to get a glimpse of the aurora borealis. Please wish me luck

What would readers find surprising about you?

That I have some very grown up and respectable aspects to my life. I’m on the board of a small charity and also a chair of governors at a primary school. I can be quite sensible when I want to be.

If you could go to heaven, who would you visit?

I already have a list. Alexander the Great, Hephaestion, Saint Peter, the Centurion whose servant Jesus cured, Will Shakespeare, Wilfred Owen, Edward Pellew. You see, I have so many questions I want to ask them all so many questions. I also want to know if there really was a Loch Ness monster, a yeti, etc.

Any bad habits?

I confess to nibbling my nails. I suspect I’m too old to break this particular habit. I pretend I broke them all in the garden.

What’s the funniest thing that ever happened to you?

There is not time between now and New Year for me to relate all the funny things that have happened to me or that I have done. The constant refrain of the Cochrane household is, “What’s mother done now?”

The most recent cause of hilarity was just last Tuesday when, for some reason, I had written on my jobs list that I needed to pick up “dishwasher potatoes”. (I think I meant dishwasher salt.) I was helping that evening at the charity where I’m a director and when told them what I’d done I got such a fit of the giggles I couldn’t breathe and had to leave the room before I expired. 

Now that our readers know a little bit more about Charlie Cochrane, let’s get down to the business of your book, Count the Shells, a historical gay romance with gothic elements. How long did it take you from beginning to end before your novel was completely finished, and how did you decide on the topic and title?

The topic decided itself. I’m fascinated by the Great War era, and I read a lot of fiction from the early twentieth century, so the period feels natural to slip into. The cadence of the language, for example, is there in my mind. The title also sprang naturally – as I started to craft the first chapter I had a vivid idea of a man laying down shells on the beach, and as he counts them, thinking of each of his past lovers. So the symbolism of the title is there, but it also stands for the layers of lies and cover ups that have to be peeled back to reach the truth as the story proceeds.

In terms of writing time, it was probably four months (I write very slowly), in two parts with a gap in between when I wrote something else. And during which my subconscious revealed to me the crucial plot twist that made this story so much better! 

Please tell us a little bit about Count the Shells.

I have to start (and for us self-effacing Brits, this is quite bold!) by saying that my editor thinks this is the best thing I’ve ever written. It’s a tale that really deepened in the telling from relatively straightforward “man meets dead lover’s brother and enters into relationship with him” to a gothic type of story with some profoundly angsty elements.

It’s difficult to be more specific about the plot without giving the twist away, but I can tell you it’s set during a family summer holiday just post WWI, and that the two houses featured – and the beach, sea, caves, etc – are as much “characters” in the story as the people. If that makes any sense.

What was your hardest challenge writing this book?

Not letting it go down a clichéd gothic romance type line. There are some dramatic moments and plot twists in the book that could so easily have descended into melodrama, so I had to try to keep a light touch.

What in your opinion makes good chemistry between your leading characters?

In Count the Shells, the two leading men are meeting again after a period of years and with a lot of water under both their bridges in between. There’s a slight age gap between them that would have seemed a gulf when they were younger but now is almost imperceptible, so there’s an interesting dynamic of change and re-assessment as they first re-establish a friendship and then develop a romance. 

Switching over to your Cambridge Fellows Mysteries, I understand that they’ve been re-released with a new publisher. Can you tell your readers where they can get them now?

Books 9-12 are with Riptide, and books 1-8 are currently being rolled out by Endeavour Press. With lovely new covers, I have to add. 

How many are in the series, and will there be anymore?

There are twelve full length books, one novella and several small freebie stories (these latter are all available from me website). I’m currently in edits on another novella and hope to write more after that. Assuming Jonty and Orlando deign to tell me what their next adventure was.

Any advice for aspiring authors?

Yes. Two things. The first is that there are no rules to writing, even if some people want to impose them. If you want to plot everything out, then do it. If you want to fly by the seat of your pants, do that too!

The second bit of advice may sound really dumb: you can’t get a book onto the market if you don’t finish it. Too many projects stall and never get going again. You’ve put the hard work in, so make it happen.

Final words?

Many thanks for hosting me, and for asking such interesting questions. It’s been fun!

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