My guest today is the very lovely Charlie Cochrane, author of the Cambridge Fellows Mysteries and one of the organising team for the UK Meet – a convention for readers and writers of LGBTQ fiction [this year it is being held inBrightonon the weekend of 15th and 16th September! I’ll be there, will you? :)] Charlie has the facility of being able to write the most deliciously amusing prose then suddenly deliver the most appalling yet enjoyable wrench to the heart strings. She is here today to talk about her latest release – Tumble Turn – a romance set against the Paralympic swimming competitions and anything else that has cropped up in conversation. 🙂
Elin: Hi Charlie. So pleased to have you here. So, the Olympics. I understand that they, and the Paralympics, are a really Big Thing in your house? What is it specifically about the Paralympics that sparked off the idea for Tumble Turn?
Charlie: The Paralympics are a huge thing chez Cochrane, ever since we discovered Oscar Pistorius and David Weir. I took the girls to the Inaugural World Paralympic Cup event inManchesterin 2005 and we were blown away by both the standard of competition and the whole friendly atmosphere. At the swimming we ended up sitting among the swimmers’ families which was brilliant (they looked after us so well and gave us lots of inside gen, as well as lots of 2004 Parlaympics goodies). That memory has stayed with me, germinating, and formed a big part of the inspiration for Tumble Turn, especially the bits involving Ben’s family.
Elin: I associate the Olympics with the honour of competing rather than position in the medals tables, but I have noticed in other sports an almost complete lack of honour. Do you think that society in general has lost its grip on the concept of ‘fair play’ and should we blame the 80s? Or have there always been people who played ‘tactically’ rather than properly?
Charlie: I am convinced that nothing really changes and that Ham, Shem and Japhet probably cheated at Ludo to get one over on the old man. I was recently reading about two Irish forwards dumped 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. 1899. I could find you stories of crowds on the brink of riot in 1913 and even the great man WG Grace (changing sports to cricket here) used to refuse to accept he’d been given out.
And there are plenty of modern examples of fair play and decency – nothing warms my heart more than seeing little Nigel Owens giving a wigging to two great big players and them meekly saying. “Yes, sir.”
Elin: Changing the subject to something equally weighty but more fun -Rugbyplayers’ thighs. Discuss providing examples. 😀
Charlie:Oh, thighs. When I was a teenager I wrote poetry about David Duckham’s thighs – not a word of a lie. For sheer beauty of line, appropriate muscularity, silky smoothness and sweaty excellence, a rugby player’s thigh is hard to beat. The other thigh par excellence of the 1970’s was that gracing the form of JPR Williams. Right good leg that – left was pretty nice, too.
Bringing things up to date, through the best part of forty years of excellent femur related substances, one of the nicer ones to be seen on display is that of Tommy Bowe. And just to show that one can always learn something new, I was watching a bit of a Super 15 game at the weekend and was pleasantly surprised at Israel Dagg’s legs.
Elin: Put together your ideal team of men – drawing from all and any walks of life, fictional or non-fictional – who you would want to come to your rescue if menaced by muggers/alligators/fundamentalists?
Charlie: Jesus! Seriously, one of my all time favourite guys. However, to make up the numbers on his posse, I’d have:
Nigel Owens – gay, out rugby ref who’d ensure fair play all round.
George Mallory – the first man to climb Everest , at least in my reasonably-based-on-fact opinion. Just the sort of man you’d want in a tight corner (so long as he’d keep his clothes on!)
Steve Redgrave, Chris Hoy and Jonny Wilkinson – in their pomp, they’d have sneered at muggers and eaten alligators for breakfast.
Laurie O’Dell from The Charioteer, because I adore him.
And if we wanted to have a laugh – Eric Morecambe or dear old Hugh Paddick.
Elin: Jonty and Orlando – boxers, briefs or loooooong underwear with dinky little trapdoors?
Charlie: For the time, probably real passion killers. Something in flannel, not as long as long johns but edging towards mid thigh at least. Ooh, and here are the boys themselves to show it off!
Elin: I asked Erastes and Alex which of their heros they would snog, marry or avoid and they both pointed out that they don’t think of them that way. Come to think of it, I don’t either. So let’s change the choices a bit. Of all your characters who would you be most enjoy pushing downstairs, sharing a taxi cab with, or having them move in next door so you saw them every day?
Charlie: When the house next door went up for sale, the youngest Cochrane was desperate for a gay couple to move in there, so it’d have to be Jonty and Orlando as neighbours. Easy on the eye if I caught a glimpse of them sunbathing, too…
I’d like to share a taxi cab with either Ben from Tumble Turn or Rory from Wolves of the West, as they’d have some brilliant tales to tell – respectively – of behind the sporting scenes and life as a highly respectable werewolf.
Who would I push downstairs? Owens, the unspeakable but always offstage villain from “the college next door” to St. Bride’s in theCambridgestories. And everyone would cheer as he took the tumble!
Elin: “Had we but world enough and time” and no other commitments, is there anything you would write that you’ve been eyeing and putting off because it’s just too big a project? Anything else?
Charlie: I’d love to write about the Theban Band but the amount of research involved is too daunting to fit into a schedule that’s already straining at the seams. Ditto I’d like to have something with dashing young WWII Spitfire pilots andKentairfields, but I worry it would end up too much like a pastiche of a John Mills/Michael Redgrave black and white film. I don’t have a sure ‘feel’ for the time and I suspect it would take me forever to acquire one.
Elin: Well that’s all the questions. Thanks so much for answering them. Just one last thing. Can we please have an excerpt? WIP, published work, twinkle in author’s eye? Or one of your famous limericks? 😀
Charlie: You can have both! The first is in honour of you:
A lovely Welsh author called Elin
Wrote of men called Ap Hwyl and Llewellyn
They drank and they talked
Once they’d hunted and hawked
But what they did in bed I ain’t telling.
Elin: 😄 I don’t think I will either. Thank you very much. And now for the excerpt – a nice little bit of Tumble Turn!
Excerpt (PG 12 for language)
By the time we finished that round and Matty had been sufficiently made fun of, it was getting late, too late for a lad who had to get his backside to a training camp the next day, so I started to make “goodbye” noises.
“You can’t go yet.” Matty—who might just have had a touch too much of the falling down water—made a grab for my arm.
“Leave him be.” Nick came to my rescue with another one of his dazzling smiles. “This boy’s got a busy few weeks ahead. He doesn’t need any beauty sleep but he’s got to keep that body of his in peak condition.” He got up. “I’ll walk you to your car.”
“I’m getting the tube home. I’ve got all my gear at my parents’ house.”
“Then I’ll walk you to the station.” He offered me his hand, to pull me up out of my seat. “I’ll go straight home afterwards, Jenny.” We made the usual pleasantries, Matty promising that it
wouldn’t be so long in between us meeting up next time, after which we managed to get away.
I walked as slowly as I could, just to eke the time out as much as possible, although I must have overdone it, getting to the point Nick where stopped and asked if I was alright.
“I’m fine,” I snapped, immediately regretting how sharp I’d sounded. “Sorry. I just didn’t want you thinking I have to walk this slow. You know, because of ‘it’.”
“The cerebral palsy. I’m not a fucking cripple.”
“I know you’re not.” He moved a step closer, grabbing my jacket and drawing me face to face with him, just a beery breath apart. “I meant what I said about you not needing any beauty sleep. You can’t improve on perfection.” He leaned in, sharing the most romantic kiss I’ve ever been lucky enough to receive. I don’t know what swept me off my feet more—the kiss or the
Nobody has ever called me perfect, not even my mum when she was trying to cheer me up on one of my rare feeling down days. All my life I’ve had to work around my limitations, make do with what I’ve got and try not to dwell too much on not being one hundred per cent. Maybe Nick was just trying to get into my pants but at least for the time being I was going to pretend he was sincere about every word.
“Daft bugger.” It was the best I could manage, with the wind taken out of my sails. Not very romantic, but it seemed to do the business.
Charlie: And a limerick in honour of Ben:
To fall for your romantic lead
Is a Sayers and Wimsey misdeed
But Ben’s lovely face,
body shaved for the race
makes me trembly and rather weak kneed
Winning isn’t everything…except when everything rides on being first.
Ben Edwards is the rising star of British Paralympic swimming, with a medal at London 2012 firmly in his sights. Love isn’t going to be allowed to get in the way — until he meets Nick, who proves to be a big distraction from training. With his times sliding, and a family illness, to worry him, it looks like Ben’s Olympic dreams are in tatters. Until Nick comes up with the most outrageous incentive for winning.
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