Charlie answered a load of the questions from my interview questions grab bag. Seriously, loads! Us writers, once we start, we just can’t stop.
Ever done NaNoWriMo? Love it? Hate it?
No, never done it. Two issues. It comes at the wrong time of the year (my Novembers get full with other stuff, including checking charity Christmas shoeboxes) and, given that my normal word output is 500 a day, I’d barely have a novella in thirty days. I’d hate the pressure, too. Not the right sort of motivation for me but if it works for other people, that’s great. (Although I do get maddened when I read about their dirty great word counts. Make me feel very inadequate.)
Most fun part of being a writer?
Meeting people, either face to face or over the net. People who understand why producing a book feels like childbirth, why you fret over the one star reviews and the snarky comments yet don’t quite believe the five star reviews and compliments. I have to admit I keep a file of some of the fan mail I’ve received and pore over it when I get low or have that “I can’t write for toffee” feeling – which is another thing fellow writers understand.
Hardest thing(s) about being a writer?
The days when you’ve convinced yourself that everything you write is crap and that nobody wants to read it. Opening a work in progress, realising it’s rubbish and not having the slightest idea of how to make it better. Opening the same file a year later and the situation hasn’t changed.
Do you read the reviews of your books?
Only the good ones. Too likely to want to stab myself in the eye with a fork if I read the stinkers. Bad reviews are part of life – there are books everybody loves which I hate and vice versa. I wouldn’t insult the authors by posting a naff review, because I know how much it can hurt.
Still, as my beloved E M Forster said, “Some reviews give pain. This is regrettable, but no author has the right to whine. He was not obliged to be an author. He invited publicity, and he must take the publicity that comes along.
Do people in your life know you’re a writer? Do they know what you write?
Most people know I’m a writer and most of those know what I write. Even those who don’t wouldn’t have to employ much google fu to link the real me up to my alter ego (pictures on FB are a giveaway). I don’t shout about it, though, simply because that’s not in my nature.
Are you organised?
To the nth degree. I have lists of lists (I kid you not!) With three girls, all at various stages of education/life, a husband, freelance training to do, school governor/church stuff going on as well as the business of being Charlie Cochrane, which I try to do as professionally as possible, I feel like I’m constantly juggling. And if I wasn’t organised, balls would get dropped. (Oh do stop being smutty, Ms Black, I can hear you giggling.)
Do you have a dayjob? Do you want to give it up to write?
Only sometimes. By which I mean I only want to give it up sometimes. I work freelance, training school governors, so I can devote as little or as much time to it as I want. Parts of the year get very busy (February and March, approaching financial year end can be a nightmare) but generally it’s manageable. Good source of story ideas, too!
And, to be honest, I write as much on a day I’m training than on a day I’m not. More efficient use of time.
What would make you give up writing?
If I lost my mojo. By which I mean if I didn’t feel driven to write or it wasn’t ultimately a pleasure.
Do you love or hate the promo side of being a writer right now?
Usually I tolerate it. Has to be done, and you have to find a way of doing it that’s livable with. By which I mean it doesn’t eat up all your time so you never get to write or watch rugby or do whatever else keeps you sane.
The only thing I always hate about promo is when the only interaction I have with people is their screaming, “Buy my book!”
Who is your favourites(s) of your characters?
Jonty Stewart (which may well be obvious when you read the Cambridge Fellows books). He’s far from flawless (watch that temper flare) but he’s clever, handsome, witty, vulnerable, a world expert on Shakespeare’s sonnets and plays scrum half. As you can imagine, he’s a total delight to write.
How long can you go without doing any writing/editing etc before getting twitchy?
Only a day or two. Unless I’m on holiday, when I can switch off entirely, even if I have the laptop with me. Being away from home makes it easier not to want to sit down and plough through the latest WIP. And I return to it with renewed vigour afterwards. (No, Ms Black, I do not return to it with a nude vicar. Really!)
Do your characters feel like they have minds of their own, or are they putty in your hands?
If only they were putty in my hands. Alas, they have minds of their own and won’t be shoehorned into doing things they don’t want – will they behave to fit the constraints of a plot line? Will they fairy cakes. And they keep revealing things about themselves which make me go “Oh! Well that changes things entirely.” So the plot changes, backwards or forwards, and things turn arsey farsey. Much more fun that way, though. Like watching a TV series and wondering what will happen next.
If you could go back and change something in one of your books, would you? And if so, what would it be?
I wish I could rewrite Lessons in Love, the first Cambridge book. I’m so much better at writing now, I bet the book would be thirty percent improved. Much darker, much funnier.
Do you feel the need to apologise for writing genre fiction, or are you all, “kiss my romance writing ass”?
Good wine needs no bush and a good romance book needs no apology. Pride and Prejudice. Jane Eyre. Who’d apologise for writing them? For me, there are just two types of books – those worth reading and those not.
Can you write with other people around?
No, at least not on the computer. However, I can scribble away in a notebook when I’m waiting at the dentist or I’m on a train or anywhere else with loads of people around. (I find the writing in a notepad is also a good way of helping to shift writers’ block. I guess it’s doing something physically different which stimulates new nerve pathways. *g*)
Which of your covers do you like most?
The entire Cambridge Fellows series, which all scream “class!” and Promises Made Under Fire which moved me to tears when I first saw it. Absolutely lovely and perfect for the storyline.
What do you wish someone had told you before you became a writer?
Keep calm and do what you believe in.
Wise words to finish up. Thanks to Charlie for answering so many of the questions!