Write What You Know?
by Charlie Cochrane
They say you should write what you know. My response to that is, “Stuff and nonsense!” If people only wrote what they knew we’d have no Lord of the Rings (Tolkien was neither ent nor elf) or the Aubrey/Maturin books (Patrick O’Brian was never an officer in the age of sail). Taken to its logical, if excessive, conclusion, writing only what you know means everything has to be semi-autobiographical, because as soon as you write about any other person, in any setting other than the ones you’ve experienced, you’re writing what you don’t know for certain.
How desperately dull would that be, for both author and reader?
However, I’m not an advocate of “write about any and everything”. The author has to be able to create a world which feels authentic. O’Brian did masses of research for his Jack Aubrey books and it shows in the wonderful atmosphere he creates. Ditto Mary Renault with her books set in Ancient Greece. The dialogue, surroundings, clothes, manners and all the rest of it, must make a cohesive whole.
2014 is definitely the year of me writing about something I know very well, and that’s being a school governor. Now, before you roll your eyes and yawn, let me assure you that tensions can run very high in committee meetings. People care greatly about their schools and their children, and where people care, emotions flare up. Absolutely great fiction-fodder! I also train school governors (and my goodness, you meet some interesting characters in those sessions). I remember coming away from a selection and interviewing course thinking, “There’s a story to be told there,” not least because of the potential double entendres, and the fun you can have taking the mickey out of the jargon that tends to crop up.
Earlier this year MLR published my short story, Horns and Haloes, inspired by the experiences I’ve had running that course (and noting some of the daft questions people want to ask). That’s a sweet, funny little romance; while it was gestating, I had bigger fish frying. The idea for “The Best Corpse for the Job” arose when I was driving back from a school where I’d been delivering some training to help with their process of selecting a new headteacher. The session had been nicely sparky, and it occurred to me that if that sparkiness had been channelled in the wrong direction, blows could have been exchanged.
Both of these tales involve gay school governors. I must have met some of those, among the hundreds I’ve trained over the last few years, although I rarely get to train any governors as fit as Adam Matthews, the teacher governor from Best Corpse. I know of at least three gay headteachers at schools within twenty miles of where I’m on a governing body. They’re all three bloody good at their jobs, and why shouldn’t they be? And two of them are at church schools, so I had no qualms making my men work at church schools, too. That’s the reality of life. If anybody argues, and says that’s not realistic, I can back myself very well. I’m writing about what I know.
About The Best Corpse for the Job
Tea and sympathy have never been so deadly.
Schoolteacher Adam Matthews just wants to help select a new headteacher and go home. The governors at Lindenshaw St Crispin’s have already failed miserably at finding the right candidate, so it’s make or break this second time round. But when one of the applicants is found strangled in the school, what should have been a straightforward decision turns tempestuous as a flash flood in their small English village.
Inspector Robin Bright isn’t thrilled to be back at St. Crispin’s. Memories of his days there are foul enough without tossing in a complicated murder case. And that handsome young teacher has him reminding himself not to fraternize with a witness. But it’s not long before Robin is relying on Adam for more than just his testimony.
As secrets amongst the governors emerge and a second person turns up dead, Robin needs to focus less on Adam and more on his investigation. But there are too many suspects, too many lies, and too many loose ends. Before they know it, Robin and Adam are fighting for their lives and their hearts.
About Charlie Cochrane
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.
Every comment on this blog tour enters you in a drawing for an e-book from Charlie Cochrane’s backlist (excepting The Best Corpse for the Job). Entries close at midnight, Eastern time, on November 29. Contest is NOT restricted to U.S. entries.
Don’t forget to check out Nikyta’s review of The Best Corpse for the Job to see what she thought of it!