Lessons For Sleeping Dogs
by Charlie Cochrane
When amateur sleuth Jonty Stewart comes home with a new case to investigate, his partner Orlando Coppersmith always feels his day has been made. Although, can there be anything to solve in the apparent mercy killing of a disabled man by a doctor who then kills himself, especially when everything takes place in a locked room?
But things are never straightforward where the Cambridge fellows are concerned, so when they discover that more than one person has a motive to kill the dead men—motives linked to another double death—their wits get stretched to the breaking point.
And when the case disinters long buried memories for Jonty, memories about a promise he made and hasn’t kept, their emotions get pulled apart as well. This time, Jonty and Orlando will have to separate fact from fiction—and truth from emotion—to get to the bottom of things.
An interview with Charlie Cochrane
How did your writing get started?
Is it too embarrassing to say that I started by writing Age of Sail fanfic?
Embarrassing or not, it’s the truth, and through fanfic I made a friend, Lee Rowan, who was at the time on the cusp of being published. A couple of years down the line she was putting together an anthology of three novellas and asked if I wanted to try my hand at a contribution. After much arm twisting, I agreed. It’s turned out to be one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.
Do you plot or not?
I’m a complete “fly by the seat of my pants” girl. I usually start off with barely more than a one sentence story arc, although I’d normally have at least one character very clearly in mind and maybe I’d hear a conversation he’s having with someone else. As I take that conversation, expand it and run the story on, the plot grows and develops. At that point I make notes about what might happen next, but I keep flexible, even if that means having to go back over and change earlier parts of the story to keep in line with developments. The one time I’ve tried to write to a plan was a disaster and I had to keep changing the outline to fit the story rather than vice versa!
Do you write every day?
I try to do some writing every day, except if we’re on holiday, which is when I put my brain into neutral and just try to absorb ideas. At the end of the year I’m giving up my other paid job, which is as an occasional freelance tutor, so I’ll be able to devote a bit more time to writing (and all the stuff around it!) in future. If I don’t write every ‘working’ day I start to get agitated, which is not good news for those around me.
Which authors do you like most?
Patrick O’Brian, Mary Renault, Dorothy L Sayers, Jerome K Jerome and Michael Innes. All of them have a marvellous turn of phrase, tell a cracking story and have an economy with words which I’d like to be able to emulate.
In historicals, how do you keep your from being inaccessible to readers?
I let them develop themselves, if that doesn’t sound daft. Clearly I have an outline in mind for them, but the details of their personality come out as they interact with other people and grow organically. It’s interesting how readers notice more about my characters than I do; I’ve had three people, all of whom should know, telling me that Orlando has Asperger’s syndrome. I didn’t intentionally give him that!
With historical characters I think you have to avoid some of the squicky but realistic things (bad teeth, body odour, etc) and focus on the more attractive elements, like gorgeous clothes, good manners and the like. Also avoiding “historicospeak” is no bad thing. Get the cadence of the era, yes, but don’t make it too alienating.
You must enjoy writing series.
I do! I also like reading them, so long as they have a consistency with characters and their development, and don’t have people acting in a way that they wouldn’t have done in previous books, without good reason. There is no pleasure akin to discovering a “new” set of stories!
Why do you set so many books in the early years of the twentieth century?
All sorts of reasons, not least because we live in a converted Edwardian house so it’s easy to imagine oneself back into those days. I’ve also read a lot of fiction written in the years either side of 1900. It’s an exciting time, literature wise – Three Men in a Boat, Sherlock Holmes – but it’s also an age when, as we know with hindsight, the innocence of the world is about to be lost and a generation will be mown like grass (not just in war, the Spanish flu was just as deadly). I’m also fascinated by the war poets; I can’t read enough by and about them. Wilfred Owen is a particular historical “pin up” of mine, although I wonder if he’d be on the GCSE syllabus if they knew he wrote poems about rent-boys?
Do you enjoy research, and how do you set about it?
I hate research if it’s reading books about a particular period. I enjoy it if I’m reading books written in the period, or biographies of my favourite characters of the time. Best of all I like accessing contemporary stuff – newspapers, art, adverts, paintings, buildings from the era, living history exhibits – I feel they can give you much more of the ‘flavour’ of the time than a dry old textbook. My brochure for the 1908 Franco-British exhibition at the White City, which I got for researching Lessons in Trust, is one of my most prized possessions. My most prized source for Lessons for Sleeping Dogs was “Peter Pan’s First XI” but that’s a topic for another blog post.
As Charlie Cochrane couldn't be trusted to do any of her jobs of choice—like managing a rugby team—she writes, with titles published by Carina, Samhain, Bold Strokes, MLR and Cheyenne.
Charlie's Cambridge Fellows Series of Edwardian romantic mysteries was instrumental in her being named Author of the Year 2009 by the review site Speak Its Name. She’s a member of the Romantic Novelists’ Association, Mystery People, International Thriller Writers Inc and is on the organising team for UK Meet for readers/writers of GLBT fiction. She regularly appears with The Deadly Dames.
Connect with Charlie:
·Facebook profile page: facebook.com/charlie.cochrane.18
Every comment on this blog tour enters you in a drawing for your choice of an a ebook from Charlie Cochrane’s backlist (excluding Lessons for Sleeping Dogs.)
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