Where are you from? Tell us a little about yourself!
I’m a cockney. Sort of. They were mending Bow bells when I was born so technically I can’t be. I’m a mad and middle aged, rugby loopy, daft as a brush, pen wielding/gay fiction writing/freelance trainer of school governors who also happens to be a deeply committed Christian. It can get a bit confusing…
Tell us about your book? How did it get started?
Like all my books, it started with one character and what he was doing. In this case it was Stuart, who’d lost his partner, Mark, a year previously and was still having trouble picking up the pieces of his life. He’s looking out at the plum tree in his garden and remembering the last time it had flowered, when Mark had been there. The rest of the tale grew in the telling!
How do you create your characters?
If it doesn’t sound daft, I think they create themselves. I just start writing about them and see what develops. That usually means I have to go back over the stuff I’ve already written when things take an unexpected turn, or they develop unexpected traits, but I think it makes the guys more real, if that makes sense.
What inspires you and what got you started in writing?
I get inspiration from all sorts of things. Places I visit, things I read about, favourite actors, scenes I see in the street. All it takes is something to make me think “What happens next?”
In terms of getting my writing started, I guess I’ve always made up stories and scenarios, either to entertain me or – latterly – to entertain my girls when they were younger. As the girls grew up and I found some free time that I could get some of those story ideas onto paper. Or, to be more accurate, into a Word doc.
I was still cutting my writing teeth in fanfiction when somebody (who’s now a great pal) e-mailed me to ask whether I was a professional writer playing around in Hornblower fanfic. I was truly gobsmacked. I suspect that was the point where I thought, “Yes. I could take this seriously.”
Where do you write? Is there something you need in order to write (music, drinks?)
In the study or in the kitchen. I don’t need anything to help me write, except maybe a deadline. That always inspires productivity.
How do you get your ideas for writing?
I have no idea. I’ve always had an overactive imagination, so I thank (blame?) that! I do admit to stealing things and using/adapting them. By ‘things’, I mean what people say or what they do. Sometimes you can take the simplest little sentence and make a really effective scene from it.
What do you like to read?
Lots of random stuff. Cosy mysteries, biographies of war poets, vertebrate paleontology, age of sail stories, anything by Mary Renault, Edwardian/Victorian humour. Books are like music: there are only two sorts. What you enjoy reading and what you don’t!
What would your advice be for aspiring authors?
My standard advice is that there are only two rules.
1) Obey the submissions guidelines, whether that’s for a publisher, agent, competition, or blogspot
2) Do what you said you’d do, at or by the time you said you’d do it.
Other than that, write in the way that works for you, but DO finish your stories. Unfinished work won’t ever be published.
Anything else you’d like to share?
Yes, and it’s another bit of advice. Be nice. Make people inclined to work with you and offer you opportunities.
About Second Helpings
Stuart Collins’s life might as well have ended a year ago when his partner died in a car crash. Even Stuart’s widowed father has found new love with an old friend, Isabel Franklin, so why can’t Stuart be bothered to try?
Then he gets a phone call from Isabel’s son, Paul, who wants to check out whether or not Mr. Collins is good enough for his mother. During dinner together, though, they end up checking out each other. Trouble is, Paul’s got a boyfriend—or maybe he doesn’t, since the boyfriend’s supposedly giving Paul the push by ignoring him. Or maybe Paul just wants to have his cake and eat it too.
Honesty with each other is the only way to move forward. But maybe honesty with themselves is what they really need.
As Charlie Cochrane couldn’t be trusted to do any of her jobs of choice—like managing a rugby team—she writes. Her favourite genre is gay fiction, predominantly historical romances/mysteries.
Charlie’s Cambridge Fellows Series, set in Edwardian England, 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, and International Thriller Writers Inc., with titles published by Carina, Samhain, Bold Strokes Books, MLR, and Riptide.
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