Authors get inspired by all sorts of things. A favourite actor, an overheard conversation, and interaction seen in a car park that makes you think, “I wonder what’s going on there?” Places can be inspirational, too, especially if you’re a writer (like me) who sees scenes in their head, almost like a film playing through. I like to have a clear mental image of where my heroes are – although this sometimes drives my editors to distraction. I can envisage the locations so clearly I forget to include the detail of them in the manuscript and have to edit them in like mad!
I have three places which have really got my writing juices going. The first is Cambridge, where I was at university and – as a little cockney girl from a not very well off family – I seemed to spend an awful lot of time just going round with my mouth wide open in a state of “How can I actually be studying here?” gobsmackery. A place like that stays with you forever, providing an atmospheric and instantly recognisable location. That element of worldwide place recognition makes life easier for the author, as it’s likely that the reader will have a general mental image of Cambridge to slip the characters into.
The second place is Jersey (old, not New), which inspired the second in the series of Cambridge Fellows Romantic Mystery books and is nudging me to finish a contemporary WIP. For a small island, just five miles by nine, it has a huge range of locations. Stunning clifftop walks, headlands, long sandy beaches, little coves, lush valleys and dramatic headlands. And everywhere the lush flowers and lovely local granite buildings. Who couldn’t experience these things and not want to put their heroes/heroines there, feeling the sand between their toes or having the exhilaration of turning the corner of a cliff path and finding a chine cut by a tinkling stream? It may not have the familiarity of Cambridge for the reader, but every time I post pictures of the place on my blog, people are enchanted.
The third place is that part of the Thames either side of Maidenhead, particularly Monkey Island and Cliveden, both of which I’ve been privileged to visit, eat at and – in the case of Cliveden – stay. There’s a magic about both of them, partly to do with the opulence (and eccentricity!) of the surroundings and partly in the connection with the past, a world of “upstairs downstairs”, bells to call servants and gentleman in suits and ladies in long dresses pleasure cruising along the Thames. Talking of those bells, the ones at Cliveden gave birth to a particular plot twist, from which all the story sprung.
All photos property of Charlie Cochrane
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, MLR and Cheyenne.
Cambridge, September 1919
Orlando Coppersmith should be happy. WWI is almost a year in the past, he’s back at St. Bride’s College in Cambridge, he has his lover and best friend Jonty Stewart back at his side and—to top it all—he’s about to be made Forsterian Professor of Applied Mathematics.
With his inaugural lecture to give and a plagiarism case to adjudicate on, Orlando’s hands are full, so can he and Jonty afford to take on an investigative commission surrounding a suspected murder? Especially one which must be solved within a month so that a clergyman can claim what he says is his rightful inheritance?
The answer looks like being a resounding “no” when the lecture proves almost impossible to write, the plagiarism case gets turned back on him and Jonty (spiced with a hint of blackmail), and the case surrounding Peter Biggar’s death proves to have too many leads and too little evidence.
Orlando begins to doubt their ability to solve cases any more, and his mood isn’t improved when there seems to be no way of outsmarting the blackmailer. Will this be the first failure for Coppersmith and Stewart? And how will they maintain their reputations—professional, private and as amateur detectives?
An invitation to stay at a friend of the Stewart family’s stately home can only mean one thing for Jonty Stewart and Orlando Coppersmith — a new case for the amateur sleuths! With two apparently unrelated suicides, a double chase is on.
But things never run smoothly for the Cambridge fellows. In an era when their love dare not speak its name, the chance of discovery (and disgrace) is ever present — how do you explain yourself when a servant discovers you doing the midnight run along the corridor?
The chase stops being a game for Orlando when the case brings back memories of his father’s suicide and the search for the identity of his grandfather. And the solution presents them with one of the most difficult moral decisions they’ve had to make…