Count the Shells is the story which completely astounded its author in the telling. I had no idea when I sat down to write it that the straightforward historical romance I’d envisaged would turn out to have a plot twist which transformed the story into possibly the best tale I’ve ever crafted.
The power of the sub-conscious in a writer’s life
I was once at our local Romantic Novelists’ Association chapter lunch and we were, as often, discussing writing. Several of us had experienced a similar scenario to one of these (both based on real examples):
- You’re doing your first draft of a book, and you feel the need to insert a little white dog into the story. You have no idea what part they’ll play, but they have to be there. Later on in the story the heroine has got into a position she needs to send for help and you have no idea how to make it work convincingly. Ping! Your brain says, “Use the little white dog to go for help!” And you do, and it works beautifully.
- You get your first edits back from the publisher, and there’s a fairly crucial thing that needs fixing. A weak secondary storyline, for example. You’re struggling to strengthen that part, so you get on with some other edits. As you work through the story, you suddenly realise that all the elements for making that secondary plot stronger are already there; you just need to use them to their full potential.
That sort of thing has happened to me so many times I’ve given up counting. I know that the sub-conscious is a powerful tool: how often do you go to bed with something puzzling you, (What’s that actor’s name? What’s the solution to that crossword clue?) and in the morning you wake up and know the answer. That’s because your brain has been working on it while you slept. A number of inventors have had their best thoughts while doing something mentally trivial but physically active – that’s a great method for curing writer’s block by the way. Go give the kitchen floor a good mopping and see if that gets the creative juices flowing.
In terms of the examples given above, I wonder if the brain is simply going through what you’ve already put in the plot and going, “Can’t use that, can’t use that, could use this!” Or has the old sub-conscious deliberately seeded the plot with useful elements, knowing you’d need them in advance? As a mere Applied Biologist I have no idea, I just know that it works.
Count the Shells, my latest Porthkennack book, is a really good example of this kind of thing. I wrote about a third of the book, then went off to work on more urgent projects. When I returned, the major plot twist immediately sprang into my noddle, and when I went back over what I already had, there were all sorts of hints to that twist already present, so I hardly had to change anything. My flabber was, as so often, totally gasted.
About Count the Shells
Michael Gray returned from World War One injured, but at least he returned. Others were not so fortunate, including his first and greatest love, Thomas Carter-Clemence, with whom Michael had parted bitterly before the conflict began.
Broch, the Carter-Clemence home in Porthkennack, was an integral part of pre-war holidays for the Grays, the two families drawn together in the wake of their sons’ friendship. Returning to the once-beloved Cornish coast for a break with his sister and her family, Michael has to find the courage to face old memories . . . and dare new relationships.
When Thomas’s brother Harry makes an unexpected appearance, Michael is surprised to find himself deeply attracted to Harry for his own sake. But as their relationship heats up, it unearths startling revelations and bitter truths. Michael must decide whether Harry is the answer to his prayers or the last straw to break an old soldier’s back.
Available now from:
Welcome to Porthkennack, a charming Cornish seaside town with a long and sometimes sinister history. Legend says King Arthur’s Black Knight built the fort on the headland here, and it’s a certainty that the town was founded on the proceeds of smuggling, piracy on the high seas, and the deliberate wrecking of cargo ships on the rocky shore. Nowadays it draws in the tourists with sunshine and surfing, but locals know that the ghosts of its Gothic past are never far below the surface.
This collaborative story world is brought to you by five award-winning, best-selling British LGBTQ romance authors: Alex Beecroft, Joanna Chambers, Charlie Cochrane, Garrett Leigh, and JL Merrow. Follow Porthkennack and its inhabitants through the centuries and through the full rainbow spectrum with historical and contemporary stand-alone titles.
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.
Connect with Charlie:
- Blog: charliecochrane.livejournal.com/
- Twitter: @charliecochrane
- Facebook profile page: facebook.com/charlie.cochrane.18
- Goodreads: goodreads.com/goodreadscomcharlie_cochrane
To celebrate the release of Count the Shells, one lucky winner will receive a goodie bag from Charlie Cochrane! Leave a comment with your contact info to enter the contest. Entries close at midnight, Eastern time, on October 21, 2017. Contest is NOT restricted to U.S. entries. Thanks for following the tour, and don’t forget to leave your contact info!