Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words is happy to have Charlie Cochrane. one of our favorite authors, here today to share with our readers about writing historicals and her latest release, Wild Bells. Welcome, Charlie.
Why does “blizzard” make Charlie twitch?
The word “blizzard” makes me shudder. Not because I’ve ever been stuck out in one (although we did once have the most horrendous snow affected car journey) but because I used it in speech in the first edition of my Regency, “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 on the blasted heath. It isn’t. It’s late Victorian and comes from North America so my nice, gay Regency curate couldn’t have used it, unless he actually coined the word and it then somehow crossed the Atlantic. Having the book come out in a revised edition has allowed me to correct my error!
I have to admit that no readers have ever taken me to task for this mistake, because it’s not an obvious blooper, but I know, which is quite sufficient. Sometimes authors are their own hardest critics. I hate getting anything wrong in my historicals, although things do slip through and my wonderful editors usually catch those, but the odd bit of stuff creeps into the final text, usually because something sounds old and isn’t.
Writing historicals can be a tricky business. To start with, that a lot of the challenge lies in the conscientious author’s head. If we didn’t care about getting things right, we could just plough on, putting the sound of Big Ben’s chimes into a Regency or letting our Victorian hero eat Jelly Babies, not checking dates and times and brands and all the other things which keep authors awake at night. We have to remember to get our men to raise their hats to a lady, to dress for dinner and to use the right words.
There is also a cadence and a rhythm to language, which makes some historicals (be they novels, films or tv programmes) sound out of kilter. I’d say to any aspirant historical writer to read things from the era they’re looking at. Novels, newspapers, plays, anything to get a feel for the words and the way they were used.
Now, there’s always the argument that says that the past isn’t so different from now. People haven’t changed, not matter what people say about the (surely imaginary) “good old days”, when everyone was decent and honest. I’m sure Ham, Shem and Japhet probably cheated at Ludo to get one over on Noah. I was recently reading about two Irish forwards dumping a Welsh rugby player into the crowd during the game, leaving him with nasty injuries including a couple of fractured ribs. Back in 1999? No. Back in 1899.
Human nature remains recognisable, even if the experiences and social conditions which play such a part in moulding people are different according to the time and place where they were raised. So getting it right in the story isn’t just a matter of language or customs, it’s about attitudes and expectations. I recently heard a keynote speech (at the Queer Company event) which illustrated the huge differences between the Regency era – the sort of period in which both the Wild Bells stories are set) and the Victorian age, and how that transformation had come about due to a number of factors such as movement into cities and economic changes. Fascinating stuff, all of which was new to me, even if I knew about the consequences.
The past has a wonderful capacity to surprise us; and sometimes it catches us out.
Wild Bells – Two stories by Charlie Cochrane
The Shade on a Fine Day:
Curate William Church may set the hearts of the parish’s young ladies aflame, but he doesn’t want their affection or presents, no matter how much they want to give them to him. He has his sights set elsewhere, for a love he’s not allowed to indulge. One night, eight for dinner at the Canon’s table means the potential arrival of a ghost. But what message will the spirit bring and which of the young men around the table is it for?
The Angel in the Window:
Two officers, one ship, one common enemy.
Alexander Porterfield may be one of the rising stars of the British navy, but his relationship with his first lieutenant, Tom Anderson, makes him vulnerable. To blackmail, to anxieties about exposure—and to losing Tom, either in battle or to another ship. When danger comes more from the English than the French, where should a man turn?
About the Author
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, sometimes historical (sometimes hysterical) and usually with a mystery thrown into the mix.
She’s a member of the Romantic Novelists’ Association, Mystery People, and International Thriller Writers Inc., with titles published by Carina, Samhain, Bold Strokes Books, Lethe, MLR, and Riptide. She regularly appears with The Deadly Dames and is on the organising team for UK Meet.
To sign up for her newsletter, email her at firstname.lastname@example.org, or catch her at: