Two Feet Under began life as a conversation in a car, when my eldest daughter and I got stuck in a traffic jam on the way to an author/reader event. It gained a criminal mastermind as a result of another conversation in the car with her younger sister. It got its background thanks to the popular television series “Time Team” and a setting care of the northern part of Hampshire. The plot came from the author’s twisted imagination, via a lot of checking. And at least one character is based on people I know. You have been warned.
Please welcome Charlie Cochrane to The Blogger Girls! Tell us a little about yourself, what prompted you to start writing?
I’d describe myself as mad and middle aged. My youngest daughter might put another light on me; as she often says, “It’s amazing you’re not in a home yet, mother.” In terms of writing, I’ve always made up stories in my head, either to amuse me or – later on – to amuse my daughters. Once I actually had some time to sit and write, the transition to putting stories down on a screen and sharing them with other people seemed a natural transition.
How much research do you put into a story?
As much as it needs. You have to make sure – first and foremost – that the central threads of the story work, so that’s the initial research an author has to do. And that’s irrespective of whether the story is historical or contemporary, because readers are more likely to spot a goof in a novel set in the modern day. Once that groundwork is done, I tend to research as I go along – you should see my initial drafts of stories, which are full of notes to self along the lines of, “check this”, “is that word too modern?”, “can you get from A to B on the train without changing lines?” They all get picked up second time through, so although that means I may have to make small changes, I haven’t lost the flow of my writing first time round.
How do you come up with your murder mystery plots? Do you always know the end or do you let the story unfold wherever it goes?
I rarely know the end. I let the story unfold as though I’m reading/watching/listening to it and finding out what is happening as I go along. This may seem chaotic (as will the fact I write scenes in a scattergun approach then piece them together later) but it works for me. As for plot ideas, my daughters are great sources of inspiration. “What about a story where a group of archaeologists are deadly enemies of a group of detectorists?” they say. And I go, “Ooh! Let me just give that a whirl.”
What’s harder for you, naming your characters, coming up with a title or finding the right cover?
The second one. Covers are a doddle because the Riptide artists are so talented. Names are also a doddle because if I’m stuck for one I go on the BBC sports website and trawl through some team listings until I find the right surname, then bung an appropriate forename on it. Titles, however…they’re like sweating blood. I’ve had to be rescued so often by my editors because my working title has been, to use a technical phrase, frankly pants.
And lastly, what book would you recommend for a new to you reader to start with?
If they like mysteries, then “The Best Corpse for the Job” makes a nice, gentle introduction to my writing style. (Also good for readers who like big, daft dogs.) If people prefer romance and/or shorter stories, then “Second Helpings” would be a great place to start. Continue reading