Our guest today is Charlie Cochet, author of The Amethyst Cat Caper and The Auspicious Troubles of Chance, and rapidly getting a reputation of being the ‘go to’ person for stories set in the Dirty Thirties!
Thanks, Charlie, for joining us today. Let the interrogation begin.
Elin: All the stories and excerpts of yours that I have read have been set in the 1920s and 1930s. What for you is the big draw of the Jazz Age that keeps you revisiting it?
Charlie: Ever since I can remember, I’ve loved classic films, thanks in large part to the handsome, talented, and witty Mr. Cary Grant. He opened a whole new world for me with his movies. Whether it was Hollywood glam or not, his films just drew me in and held on tight. It was a time of elegance and charm. To me, there’s nothing sexier than a man in a well-tailored three-piece suit. The clothing, the music, the movies, the cars, you name it, I love it. I also find the history fascinating. The 1920s and 1930s brought about huge changes. In the 1920s, we were coming out of a terrible war. It was the dawn of the teenager, where folks were breaking away from their parents old fashioned ideals, a break from tradition, and a move into the modern world. Skirts got shorter, jazz music blossomed, it was the age of the flapper, and dapper daddy. With Prohibition came even bigger changes in society, especially in cities like New York, where it brought the gay community into the spotlight. Gangsters and bootleggers ran amuck. It was the age of anything goes. Lindberg flew across the Atlantic, the first talkie was released, and a young fella named J. Edgar Hoover became director of a fledgling Bureau of Investigations.
With the 1930s came the end of these frivolous and booming times. With the Great Depression came new laws, an attempt to ‘cleanse’ the country over the epic failure that was Prohibition. The stock market crashed, leaving a huge portion of the population penniless and homeless. There were no jobs, veterans of the Great War were living in shanty towns in Central Park with homeless families, and then of course we moved into the Second Word War. It’s just astounding how much changed between 1920 and 1940. I tell you, there are so many plot bunnies, I haven’t a chance.
Elin: The love affair between Remi and Hawk in The Amethyst Cat Caper is an attraction of opposites. Is this your favourite type of relationship?
Charlie: As a romance writer, I love all kinds of pairings, but I really do enjoy a good opposites attract story. There’s just so much you can work with. Do their differences make them friends or enemies? Does it bring all sorts of drama, or is it the source of comedic shenanigans? With Remi and Hawk, their opposing personalities spawn both drama and comedy. Their social-standing will always be a touchy subject, and something they each know by now to approach with delicacy—or in Hawk’s case, just say what you’re thinking and deal with the fireworks later. They’re relationship works because they’re both willing to sacrifice, even if they come to that conclusion the hard way. After all, if you really love someone, you sometimes have to swallow your pride and give in, something Hawk is willing to do to keep Remi. He also takes a lot of things in stride, so he tends to find Remi’s little foibles amusing. Also, despite his behavior at times, Hawk is the more mature of the two. He’s very aware of the fact that he’s 13 years older than Remi, and until recently Hawk was a Pinkerton Detective, so he’s been around the block a few times. At heart though, they share important similarities. They’re both men who are constantly judged by others for their appearance and social-standing. Both have experienced terrible heartaches, loss of love, and family, which bonds them emotionally.
Elin: Huge amounts of research must go into each of your stories. Do you enjoy research for its own sake?
Charlie: A fair amount of information about these time periods I was already familiar with, having done research because it interested me, or I had watched a film and wanted a better understanding of it. When I first started watching James Cagney’s Warner Gangster pictures, I had no idea what he was saying half the time, so I started researching the slang of the period. Things like clothing, music, movies, actors, and certain historical events I already knew just needed to expand my knowledge. Certain brands needed researching, minute details that need following up on, because those little details can make all the difference. Off the top of my head I could name several radio programs that were popular during those times, but I couldn’t tell you the specific year they started, which is something you have to get right if you’re going to mention it in your book. Also, most of my stories are also set in New York, so I’ve had to do a lot of research of the city during the 1920s, and 1930s. Can’t mention the Empire State Building if it hadn’t been finished yet. It’s certainly great fun!
Elin: Have you ever found out a little fact that was just delightful but regretfully decided that you couldn’t fit it into the story? Can you tell us about it or are you saving it for later?
Charlie: I’ve come across a lot of great facts having researched two decades, but I think one I haven’t fit into a story yet is about the Bureau of Investigations when they were first taken over by Hoover. I mean now the FBI is this huge, powerful force, but back then, they had guns but the bullets didn’t match, and that was only after they were given the okay from Washington to carry guns. A lot of the agents had to be trained how to shoot by police officers, and it wasn’t until after the kidnapping of the Lindberg baby that the Bureau were given the power to cross state lines. Even then, there was little training and strategy, with most of the agents recruited being college boys, which is why John Dillinger managed to evade them for so long. It really is fascinating.
Elin: Sequels – like or loathe? Have you plans to continue the stories of Remi or Chance?
Charlie: I love sequels, and I certainly have them in mind for Remi and Chance. They’ve actually been started. I’m just a little slow with my writing. The next book in Remi and Hawk’s adventure will concentrate more on Hawk, seeing as the first book was a little bit more about Remi. We’ll get a look into Hawk’s past, and the reasons behind why he is who he is, also his past will come catching up with him, and he’ll have to face the man who had a huge part in changing his life, something Hawk hasn’t been able to let go of. I think there are plenty of opportunities for Remi and Hawk to continue, especially with Remi’s younger brother coming into the picture. As for Chance, the next book will actually be about Johnnie and Henry. Johnnie is a character I quickly fell in love with, because he’s a lot like Chance as far as attitude, but a lot of the time, Chance is more bark than bite. Johnnie on the other hand will bite. Hard. He’s like a powder keg all the time just waiting to go off, and once he does, it’s hard to get him back under control. He has a lot of issues to work through, but he refuses to let anyone help him, and prefers to pretend what happened to him didn’t happen. The third book will be Bobby and Alexander’s, which we haven’t gotten to see too much of. I think Bobby’s going to surprise us all. You know what they say; it’s always the quiet ones.
Elin: Is there any genre that you would love to have a bash at? Likewise any that you wouldn’t touch with a very long stick?
Charlie: Well, I’m hoping to tackle contemporary next, though what sub-genres I may end up doing is anyone’s guess. Personally, I think contemporary is harder to tackle. The research might be a little easier as far as research material availability, but there are more things to worry about. For instance, I don’t have to worry about any new technology or social media, because it just didn’t exist. In many ways, they were simpler times. Also the dynamics of certain character interactions, and the consequences brought about by those interactions differ vastly. I mean back in the 20s or 30s, very few men would have been ‘out’, whether to their family, friends, or co-workers. Many led double lives in order to keep their jobs, not to mention there was the danger of being sent to a work-house or prison. So it’s a completely different mindset to get into.
I think the one genre I don’t see myself doing is horror. I’m a wuss when it comes to horror, and I tend to stay away from most horror films, especially of the paranormal kind. As a kid I was always scared of spirits and such. It’s something that’s part of the culture I grew up in. When I was older, I went through a phase of watching Japanese horror films, and they just scared the pants off me. Had to turn on every light in the place just to visit the bathroom in the middle of the night. Having an overactive imagination doesn’t help either.
Elin: Can you tell me a bit about GayRomLit? I know it was in Albequerque and that it was HUGE and sounded rather daunting to this country mouse. What made it so worth attending and should we be saving up for Atlanta next year?
Charlie: This was my first year attending GayRomLit, so as you can imagine, I was feeling pretty nervous. By then I had chatted to several other authors online, and was excited to be meeting them in person. I certainly had plenty of fan-girl moments. My first day at GRL, I was overwhelmed not only by the sheer size of the retreat, but by the fact that all these amazing people had gathered here to celebrate a genre they felt so passionate about. Everyone was so nice, and approachable. I spent nearly five days there, and I still didn’t get to meet everyone. It was an experience unlike any other. Not only did I get to meet authors, publishers, reviewers, and readers, but once I was there, it finally hit me: I am a published author.
What brought it home for me? Being face to face with readers for the very first time, and having them tell me how much they loved my stories. I swear my first day there when a lovely group of readers came over–having recognized my name, I must have looked like a loon just grinning from ear to ear. It took me a moment to realize the characters and stories they were excited about were my creations, my babies, and those amazing folks came over just to tell me how much they enjoyed them. I was over the moon, and couldn’t stop smiling. (For those folks who came up to me, I promise next year my vocabulary will consist of more than just “Oh my god, thank you!”)
It was an incredible experience. I got to talk shop, but I also got to have fun. I couldn’t remember the last time I had laughed or blushed so much. Whether you go for the autographs, the networking, or the go-go boys, it’s most definitely worth attending, and I have every intention of heading for Atlanta next year!
Elin: How are the WIPs going? Care to tease us a little with some hot off the presses info?
Charlie: Well, I have a sweet little Christmas novella out from Dreamspinner Press the 1st of December called Mending Noel, which is about a small elf with a big heart named Tim, who dreams of leaving his boring position in the AAD–the Abominable Administrative Department, for snowier pastures, especially with Noel–his supervisor, making life difficult for Tim. A coal delivery gone awry changes everything when Tim stumbles across a plot by some traitorous toy soldiers against Jack Frost. To make matters worse, Noel shows up and gets them discovered. Thanks to a run-in with Rudy, the Captain of the Rein Dear Squadron and the most famous pilot in the North Pole, Tim and Noel find themselves safe for the time being. But when Jack Frost shows up, all manner of truths start to come out, including the real reason Noel is always so mean to Tim. It’s now up to Tim to prove that being small doesn’t mean being insignificant, and to show Noel that being different doesn’t mean being broken.
A Rose by Any Other Name is Book 2 in my Fallen Rose series, and it’s currently in its beta-reading stage. It’s also my first full length novel. Book 1 Roses in the Devil’s Garden is a novella, and part of the Goodreads M/M Romance Group’s Love Is Always Write event. It’s available as a free download from All Romance eBooks. Book 2 takes place two years later in 1927 during the start of what was known as the ‘pansy craze’ in Manhattan. It was a time when the gay community wasn’t as hidden as most folks think. The story centers on Julius, who was in Book 1 for a short amount of time, though he played a significant part. He’s the hottest pansy act in town, and the lead act at the Pantheon, an Ancient Greek themed cabaret for gentlemen of a certain inclination. In other words, it’s a gay club, and yes, they did exist back then, though usually they were located in Greenwich Village or Harlem. The Pantheon is secretly tucked away inside the Parisian, a huge club in the middle of Time Square, and it’s where Edward Joseph Clarence Junior, the heir to the Clarence & Co. fortune is swept away for his birthday thanks to his wayward cousin Maxfield, and best friend Albert. Julius isn’t just a cabaret dancer, he also provides certain services to his wealthy clients as Eros—the God of Love, and one of his clients is a very dangerous man known only as Ares. When Eros and Edward meet, it’s going to be a night neither of them will soon forget.
Elin: Finally could we please have an excerpt of something? Published, WIP, just an idea, anything?
Charlie: Of course! Here’s an excerpt from A Rose by Any Other Name.
Perhaps it was time for Edward to get down to the heart of the matter, and the reason why Eros was doing his best to avoid him, even to the point of being brazen with him when every other chorus boy, cupid, and Ancient Greek deity seemed to be in a constant state of frenzy each night in the hopes of roping themselves a wealthy patron. “Have I done something to offend you?” He took hold of Eros’s hand again, refusing to let it go. After the second tug, Eros let out a sigh and left his hand in Edward’s grip. The young man was absolutely enchanting, even when he was irritated.
“No, nothing. I apologize.”
Then it struck him. How could he not have seen it? He had been looking at this all wrong. Just the thought had Edward smiling from ear to ear. “It’s not me you’re upset with, is it? You’re upset with yourself.”
“Don’t be ridiculous,” Eros scoffed. “I happen to be quite fond of myself.”
“You were hoping I’d be here.”
Eros tugged at his hand again. “Well, aren’t we sure of ourselves. For Pete’s sake, would you let go of my hand?”
“You’ve been curious about me since we met. Only now that you know the extent of my wealth, you feel threatened. You believe I’ll be no better than the others. That I want nothing more from you than what I pay for, and that’s disappointed you.”
Eros narrowed his eyes at him, at which point, Edward promptly let go of his hand. For a love God, Eros certainly had one hell of a murderous glare. He knew he was pushing his luck, but Edward went with his gut feeling.
“Edward, if I felt threatened by a man’s wealth, I would hardly be in this line of work. It’s quite the opposite, in fact. I feel empowered.” Eros closed the distance between them, and ran his hands slowly up Edward’s chest, over his shoulders, and down his back, smiling triumphantly when Edward gave a start at the feel of Eros’s fingers digging into his backside. “You see, you may have wealth, but I have the power to take it away.” Julius gave a low, sultry moan before running his tongue over his bottom lip. He pressed himself against Edward, one hand discreetly moved around the front, and he gripped Edward through his trousers. Edward shut his eyes, willing himself to breath.
“I can feel how hard you’re getting, Edward. Don’t play games with me or I will make you wish you never set foot in here. Do you think I haven’t come across men like you before?” His hand slowly started to stroke Edward through his trousers.
“Jesus.” He had to put a stop to this madness. It was clear Eros was willing to take this as far as he needed to in order to get his point across, and Edward knew he was foolish enough to stand there and let him.
“Honey-sweet words mean little to me, Edward. Do you know how many men have offered to whisk me away from my filthy, devious life? Put me up in some Fifth Avenue penthouse, pay me an allowance, and give me anything I wish for? Is that what you want, Edward? To make me your personal whore?”
Edward quickly, but gently pushed Eros away, drawing a look of surprise from him. “That’s enough of that. I neither believe so little of you, nor of myself. I won’t have my character insulted. If you have the power to take my wealth as you say you do, then why didn’t you take it? You saw how eager I was, yet you continually push me away.”
“You turned him away?” Pothos asked, gaping at Eros.
“Of course not.” Eros lifted his chin defiantly, taking a step back as if nothing out of the ordinary had just occurred. “He stated he would make an arrangement with Aphrodite and I didn’t object.”
“Only after I refused to leave,” Edward reminded him. “You had ample opportunity to take what you wanted from me, yet all you wanted was for me to leave. Why? What are you afraid of?”
“Being bored to death. Honestly, why aren’t you doing Vaudeville with that act? I choose my clients, Edward, and I didn’t choose you. Your bruised ego will simply have to get over it. Now if you will excuse me.”
“Why haven’t you told anyone else who I am? Is it that you don’t want to share me or you’re protecting me?” Edward held back a smile when Eros spun around, and marched back over to poke him in the chest.
“You seem to have developed this ridiculous notion that I care about what you do, Edward. I haven’t said anything because it’s not my place to do so. I pride myself on my discretion, and integrity. However, if you wish to announce your wealth to the whole damned club, be my guest! And you’re right; you aren’t like the others, because no one is as infuriating as you are!” Eros threw his arms up in frustration, and stormed off.
“I enjoyed our chat,” Edward called out after him.
Eros grabbed a champagne glass off the tray of a passing waiter, and hurled it at Edward. “Go fly a kite!”
Many thanks Charlie for being such a good sport and for letting us have such a teasing excerpt.
If you would like to keep up with all Charlie’s latest news, her social media links are below.
Twitter (@charliecochet): www.twitter.com/charliecochet
This interview has been crossposted to Speak Its Name.