A warm welcome to author Charlie Cochrane joining us today on her blog tour for Two Feet Under , part of the Lindenshaw series.
Welcome Charlie 🙂
Check, check and check again, even if you think you know it
People say you should write what you know, and certainly plenty of authors have been very successful at drawing on their own life experiences to create vibrant and gripping novels. But where does that leave the novelist who wants to write about things that they haven’t done? We can’t simply tell stories about characters who have lived where we’ve lived (or visited), had the jobs we’ve had, are our gender, have our background. At some point, we have to put down things that come out of research or imagination, and we have to get them right. That’s the high standard all novelists (not just historical) have to aim for, because we owe it to our readers to give them the best possible experience when they sit down with our books.
Often readers ask me how I do background research for my writing and isn’t it a chore? I always say it doesn’t need to be hard work, and there are plenty of really good guides about where best to find out what you want to know. I prefer material that dates from the time: if I’m setting a story in 1922 I like to read novels written around then, because they give you a real flavour of the era. If it’s a contemporary, then I need to immerse myself in the present day.
But it can also be very easy to get the details wrong, and readers have every right to call an author out where they’ve made a mistake. Like I shouted at the screen when watching “The Eagle of the Ninth” because Channing Tatum looked and sounded like no Roman legionary probably ever looked or sounded, and anachronisms lurked left, right and centre.
Even the most diligent of us can be caught out. For example, the word “blizzard” makes me shudder. Not because I’ve ever been stuck out in one but because I used it in speech in a Regency set story, “The Shade on a Fine Day”. Now, it sounds a nice old word, doesn’t it? You can imagine King Lear blethering on about blizzards when’s he’s on the blasted heath. It isn’t a nice old word. It’s late Victorian and originates in North America so my nice, Regency curate couldn’t have used it, unless he actually coined the word and then took it across the Atlantic and deposited it there.
Authors, however, shouldn’t skimp on research just because they’re writing novels set in the present day – I’d go so far as to say it’s even more important to check facts for contemporary works because readers are more likely to spot a mistake. It’s terribly tempting to say, “I don’t need to check that, because I know and it’s so obvious,” but you can come a terrible cropper, especially if you make an error in a key plot point. Readers are a bright bunch and the total “readerhood” range of experiences will be huge.
I believe the great PD James was caught out by featuring in a book the sound of a motorbike travelling in reverse gear. She—and her editors—presumably didn’t double check whether motorbikes possessed such a gear. (They don’t.) Also, the world moves on, so the way something was done in the past may not be the way it’s done now. I recently read a book where the alibi for the killer, which involved impersonation, would have worked had the story been set ten years ago but simply doesn’t work now, because it depends on a loophole in a particular system that has now been tightened. An author can’t rely on their own past involvement in something as still providing an accurate picture.
Which brings us right back to the question of writing what we “know” and the idea that even if we think we’ve got it right, we should still check. Readers deserve as much.
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.
About Two Feet Under
Things are looking up for Adam Matthews and Robin Bright—their relationship is blossoming, and they’ve both been promoted. But Robin’s a policeman, and that means murder is never far from the scene.
When a body turns up in a shallow grave at a Roman villa dig site—a body that repeatedly defies identification—Robin finds himself caught up in a world of petty rivalries and deadly threats. The case seems to want to drag Adam in, as well, and their home life takes a turn for the worse when an ex-colleague gets thrown out of his house and ends up outstaying his welcome at theirs.
While Robin has to prove his case against a manipulative and fiendishly clever killer, Adam is trying to find out which police officer is leaking information to the media. And both of them have to work out how to get their home to themselves again, which might need a higher intelligence than either a chief inspector or a deputy headteacher.
About the Lindenshaw Mysteries
Adam Matthews’s life changed when Inspector Robin Bright walked into his classroom to investigate a murder.
Now it seems like all the television series are right: the leafy villages of England do indeed conceal a hotbed of crime, murder, and intrigue. Lindenshaw is proving the point.
Detective work might be Robin’s job, but Adam somehow keeps getting involved—even though being a teacher is hardly the best training for solving crimes. Then again, Campbell, Adam’s irrepressible Newfoundland dog, seems to have a nose for figuring things out, so how hard can it be?
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: facebook.com/charlie.cochrane.18
- Goodreads: goodreads.com/goodreadscomcharlie_cochrane
To celebrate the release of Two Feet Under, one lucky winner will receive a swag bag, including magnet, napkins, bookmark, pencils, hanging decoration, postcards, and a coaster! Leave a comment with your contact info to enter the contest. Entries close at midnight, Eastern time, on January 13, 2018. Contest is NOT restricted to U.S. entries. Thanks for following the tour, and don’t forget to leave your contact info!