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There she goes again: Author Alison Cochrun discusses writing journey
by Carrie Maxwell
2024-02-27

This article shared 14933 times since Tue Feb 27, 2024
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When Alison Cochrun began writing her first queer romance novel in 2019, she had no idea it would change the course of her entire life.

Cochrun, who spent 11 years as a high school English teacher, is now the author of three queer romance novels—The Charm Offensive, winner of the 2023 Lambda Literary Award for Best LGBTQ Romance and Erotica; Kiss Her Once For Me; and this year's Here We Go Again, to be released by Atria Books on April 2.

Cochrun calls her change of careers "pure luck," something that evolved as writing became a "more prominent role" in her life. She initially was writing while also working as a full-time teacher, which she said she "absolutely loved doing."

"It felt like I was working two full-time jobs during the horrors of the early pandemic," said Cochrun. "Working all the time wasn't great for my mental health, and it didn't leave me any time to have a life outside of work. I had a little bit of money saved, so I decided to take a one-year leave of absence from teaching during the 2021-2022 school year. I do not recommend this kind of life-risk. The Charm Offensive hadn't come out yet, I hadn't sold a second book and my income as a writer put me considerably below the poverty line."

Cochrun said that "it was purely by chance" that she was able to leave teaching in 2023 and become a full-time writer with enough income as an author to support herself and her pharmacist wife Jordan, as well as their newborn son.

Writing has been a part of Cochrun's life since first grade, when she wrote a Barney the Dinosaur fanfic for a school assignment. Ever since that time, writing has been Cochrun's "favorite escape, and my primary means of emotional processing."

When asked why Cochrun's romance stories focus on "happily ever after's for messy queer characters" at "the intersection of fluffy escapism and realistic explorations of mental illness and neurodivergence," she said it "happened organically as I started to figure out my voice as a writer."

Cochrun added that when she started writing her first book it was just for herself, as she was processing her own sexuality, mental health and neurodiversity. She later discovered that she hid "those vulnerable pieces of myself" within the one of her characters, Charlie, "a tech genius protagonist with good abs." This led to Cochrun leaning into those messy parts of herself in her next two books.

"I was an ADHD girlie growing up, but because I'm a girl, it was never diagnosed or even considered," said Cochrun. "In hindsight, having that diagnosis would have explained a lot about my experiences in school, and the way I connected with my peers."

Cochrun, who grew up in a small town in Washington state, outside of Portland just across the river in Washington state, has made the Pacific Northwest her home for her entire life, including as an undergrad at Western Washington University.

Here We Go Again begins in the Portland, Oregon area where Logan Maletis and Rosemary Hale, work as high school teachers in a fictional suburban town. These two women are adversaries due to an incident that happened back when they were best friends and fellow students at the school where they currently teach. They end up on a cross-country trip with their former, extremely ill teacher named Joe, who asked them to take him to Bar Harbor, Maine so he could die there. There are many twists and turns during their journey that are both meaningful and comical.

As for the two main characters, Cochrun said they were the inspiration for this book and that "their personalities and voices were very clear to me" before the plot came to fruition. Cochrun explained that, at first, she thought Logan and Rosemary were the least like herself other than being close in age and teachers, but over the course of writing the book she realized she is a combination of the two women. When other people who know her well read the book, they told her it was her most personal story to date.

When asked why it was important for her to incorporate neurodivergent characters and people's mental health struggles into her books, Cochrun said it is because "those things are also parts of myself I have struggled to find that are loveable throughout my life. I like to write stories where it is clear that all people are deserving of love."

In terms of her writing process, Cochrun said that "so far, every book I've published has had a radically different writing process based on circumstances in my life and the needs of that particular story. I wish I had a more consistent process, but my chaotic brain makes it challenging."

She has a few habits and routines within her process, including always writing early in the morning, doing handwritten journaling whenever she gets stuck and "obsessively rewriting the beginning of the book 20 times, because I find beginnings to be the absolute hardest part."

For Here We Go Again and her next untitled book, Cochrun said she "ended up handwriting almost all of them" because she finds she is less self-conscious and doesn't overthink things that way.

One of the main things Cochrun has learned about herself since she embarked on her writing career is that she was a lesbian. Her first book, The Charm Offensive, was an M/M romance. She felt safe writing about gay men and, as she said, "disguising myself as a hot tech genius with abs, and no one will ever know it was me and I can process my sexuality through that character."

Cochrun was able to come out to her family and friends once the book was ready to be shared with them in the summer of 2021. She also went back into therapy, which she said has been "radically life-changing," after a 13-year absence. Cochrun realized through writing The Charm Offensive and going back into therapy was she was using her teaching career to stay busy all the time which gave her an out when it came to contemplating her sexuality.

When asked what it meant for her to receive the 2023 Lambda Literary Award for Kiss Her Once For Me, Cochrun said it was "unexpected and special to have my sapphic book recognized in that way. My wife and I flew out to New York on a whirlwind trip so we could attend the awards ceremony in-person, and that morning, we learned our recent round of IUI took and we were pregnant. So it was a day of a lot of big, happy feelings.

"But one of the memories that sticks out the most is of my wife leaning over in the middle of the ceremony and commenting on how wonderful it felt to be in a huge room full of queer people. Winning the Lambda Literary Award was a moment of community belonging for sure."

Cochrun also would love to see Kiss Her Once For Me made into a Christmas movie. She added that she feels lucky to be writing queer romance novels during a time when there are more queer stories being published. This has made her seek out other queer/trans writers like Casey McQuiston (who showed her that queer people could have happily-ever-after's in books), Ashley Herring Blake, Adriana Herrera, Meryl Wilsner, Chencia C. Higgins, Anita Kelly, TJ Alexander, KT Hoffman, Mason Deaver and Alice Oseman.

Currently, Cochrun is working on her fourth book for Atria, centered on "a woman who comes out as gay 'later in life' and thinks she's missed her chance to have formative queer experiences, until she meets a woman who insists on helping her recreate her queer adolescence. It's about compulsory heterosexuality and learning to love your own timeline."

Cochrun also recently gave birth to a boy, whom she said will "influence my writing in numerous ways" as she works from home as a full-time author and new parent. Figuring out a "balance between mothering and writing" will be a "big topic in therapy in the coming months," she added.

See alisoncochrun.com .


This article shared 14933 times since Tue Feb 27, 2024
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