Friday, January 17, 2014

It Takes a Village--Meg London aka Peg Cochran

DEBORAH CROMBIE:  This seems to be our double-barreled week! I wish these talented writers
who can manage to be two people at once would teach me their secret...  Although today's guest, Peg Cochran, actually manages to be four people at once.

Meg London is the pen name for writer Peg Cochran.  Peg grew up in a New Jersey suburb about 25 miles outside of New York City and now lives (on exile from NJ as she likes to joke) in Grand Rapids, Michigan. 

She has two cozy mystery series from Berkley Prime Crime— the Sweet Nothings Vintage Lingerie series, written as Meg London, set in Paris, Tennessee, and the Gourmet De-Lite series, under her own name, set in Connecticut.  Her Cranberry Cove series for Berkley Prime Crime will debut in August 2015.  She also writes The Lucille Series for Beyond the Page Publishing.

Here Peg gives us a hint--

PEG COCHRAN: To use an expression that has become something of a cliche…it takes a village to
create a writer. 

My relatives were the first supporters to join my team.  I had decided at the tender age of seven that I was going to be a writer (it’s been a long journey!).  I figured that since I didn’t have the time to write an entire novel (second grade is pretty intense, you know), I would write a short play.  Which I did. I then forced, er, coaxed, my cousins into performing the three minute skit at Christmas dinner.  When it was over, and everyone in the family shouted, “Author! Author!” I was hooked.

My high school English teacher (another clich√©, I suspect) was my first supporter outside the family.  She very graciously worked with me after school on my short stories (which only further confirmed my extreme nerdiness to the rest of my class.)  She told me my writing was very “visceral.”  As soon as I got home, I ran to the dictionary and looked up the word “visceral” to confirm that that had been a compliment.  Apparently it was, and I took that as a
good sign.

My late mother-in-law was also a huge supporter.  She would send me clippings about Janet Evanovich.  Janet Evanovich!  In my dreams, right?

I even “came out” at work about my writing and found an unexpected source of support in my boss who read my manuscripts and encouraged me to keep going.  She also suggested I show them to John Russell, former art critic for the New York Times, and a very elegant writer, who was doing research at the art foundation where we worked.

He very kindly read several manuscripts and pronounced them “jolly good fun.” (I imagine they were compared to Kafka or Tolstoy or the other greats I pictured him reading.)  He said he particularly liked the ending of one of my manuscripts (a jet ski chase scene), and that it reminded him of
something his good friend would have written.  “Maybe you’ve heard of him,” he asked casually, “Ian Fleming?”  Believe me, I was both shaken and stirred!

Finally I found enormous support in the on-line mystery writing community.  Publishing is a hideously competitive business but instead of running into Tonya Harding type writers, I found wonderfully giving people without whom I never would have made it to publication.  I won’t do the whole Oscar speech thing and name names, but you guys know who you are!  Thank you!

Who has been supportive in helping you realize your dreams?

DEBS: Peg, I absolutely love your story. And the photos!  I wish I had one of my--yes, cliched but true--tenth-grade English teacher, who read a poem I submitted for a class assignment and told me I had "talent."

But I did NOT have my work critiqued by a the former art critic for the New York Times, who just happened to be friends with Ian Fleming.  Ian Fleming!!

And you, by the way, were adorable!

REDS and READERS, Peg would love to give away a copy of the upcoming A FATAL SLIP, and we'd both love to know who supported and inspired you.

(And one last thing--the winner of Daryl Wood Gerber's  ( or Avery Ames's) book is Pat D.  And the winner of Terry Shames's THE LAST DEATH OF JACK HARBIN is Joan Emerson. Pat D and Joan, if you will email me your addresses at deb at deborahcrombie dot com, I'll pass them along to the authors.



Joan Emerson said...

Congratulations, Hallie, on your well-deserved nomination for the Mary Higgins Clark Award. I thought “There Was an Old Woman” was a terrific book and I’m excited to see that it has been nominated for this award . . . .

Peg, I enjoyed reading your story [I chuckled over the “second grade is pretty intense” comment] . . . I’m curious to know if you write the Cranberry Cove series and the Lucille series under your own name or if you use Meg London or do have other pen names?
I’ll be watching for your upcoming books . . . .

Susan Elia MacNeal said...

Hi Meg, so lovely to meet you. And Ian Fleming! (Still processing that...)

And yes, congrats to Hallie! Woo and hoo!

Karen B said...

I had a wonderful advanced math teacher in 12th grade who always encouraged me and was such a joy to know. My mother - best friend - always supported me through good and bad times, even when I was so wrong! Thanks, mom.

S said...

Peg, how delightful to hear about your early days. And congrats to Hallie. Since discovering this site, I've so many many mysteries to had to my list. You gals are fab.

Peg Cochran said...

Hi Joan, thanks for stopping by. The Cranberry Cove series will be under my own name, Peg Cochran, and so is my Lucille Series. I think I've had enough of trying to keep two different names straight!

Hank Phillippi Ryan said...


Oh, yes, my dear English teacher Mr. Thornburg...I wrote an essay about him a while ago--I;l find the link.

He had a rubber stamp he'd put on our papers--GUG. That meant--"this is so bad I have no words for it." SOmetimes when I'm writing now, I think: GUG.

Peg Cochran said...

Your teacher sounds like a hoot, Hank! I went to Catholic School for a number of years and we got smiling angels or frowning angel stamps on our homework!

Hallie, congrats on the great honor!

Krista said...

Love the high school picture, Peg! I had influential teachers, too. They make such a difference in our lives.

Wonderful news, Hallie! I'm so happy for you!


Hallie Ephron said...

Toasting back!!

Peg, love your story so much. I had some wonderful teachers, too. Especially Mr. Corrigan (Beverly High) and Miss Barbara Ann Schenkel (elementary)... when I went to look for them some years ago to thank them personally, I found that both had died long before reaching retirement age.

A few weeks ago I was thrilled when a former student of mine (when I taught 2nd grade in,ahem, the late 70s) showed up at a signing and said how much she'd loved my class. Oh boy, what a high!

So if you have a teacher who made a difference, let them know now before you can't.

Anonymous said...

One summer (I was around 10 years old)I decided I should/could write a Nancy Drew type story. That should be easy, right? I kept a yellow pad around and I think I may have even written a one or two sentence opening.
Then I realized that I had no idea what came next. The End.
It was a very short "career".

Libby Dodd said...

Ooops Clicked the wrong thing. The anonymous above is me, the erstwhile writer.

Kathy Reel said...

Peg, what a lovely tribute to those who encouraged your writing and aspirations. As a former teacher, I can assure you that there is no better reward than hearing a student credit you with being an inspiration or instrumental in her journey in life. I will have to check out your many books, Peg.

I wish I'd been as motivated as you. When I was in the 2nd grade, my teacher took two of my stories and me to the principal for her to read my stories, which the teacher thought read-worthy. It was such a thrill. And, then, I wrote a play in elementary school, too, which was actually performed in front of the school. Now, why couldn't I have been as smart as you and continued to write. Well, I do write in other ways, but I think you have shown quite clearly that motivation and the encouragement of others is vitally important in producing an author.

And, once again, Hallie, let me offer a hearty congratulations on your nomination for the Mary Higgins Clark Award. It is a much-deserved honor for a fascinating book.

Peg Cochran said...

Kathy, it's never too late! My first book was published a month before my 60th birthday! As I said, it was a loooong journey! LOL.

Deb said...

Peg, your books sound such fun!

I didn't mention that as well as that one highschool English teacher, whose name, sadly, I don't remember (I was doing very badly in school that year...) I was also encouraged by my uncle, A.C. Greene, who was a wonderful writer and newspaper columnist. He was enormously proud of me, and supported my novels with great enthusiasm right up until he died.

Weren't we lucky, all of us who had people like that in our lives?

Kaye George said...

How nice for you to pay tribute to your supporters, Peg/Meg! My first encouragement from a teacher came in 7th grade (late bloomer here), but from then on, I knew I could write. Love the pictures--you were always good-looking!

Linda Rodriguez said...

Peg, lovely to see you here at JRW!

I had a wonderful high school English teacher, Mildred Sykes, and a fabulous mentor in my voice teacher before that, Fern Howard, who both made such an impact on my life. Like Hallie, when I looked for them to tell them how important they had been to me, they were gone. :-(

My birth family has often been bemused by my desire to write, but they're always supportive. I think my sister pre-ordered 20 of my first novel to give to her friends. And of course, my husband and grown kids are tremendously supportive, as is the mystery writing community, which shocked the heck out of me because it is not so with all writing communities. So I'm a very fortunate woman.

Lisa Alber said...

Congratulations, Hallie! That's fabulous. Hope you're having a week of celebration!

I have a high school English teacher in my past, Peg. Mrs. Salem. She had beautiful silver and black hair and big brown eyes. I suspected I might have a way with words when she copied a poem I'd written (Shakespearean-sonnet style, iambic pentameter) and gave it out to the class and to her fellow teachers. One teacher I didn't know told me how much she liked it and that she'd framed and hung it in her bathroom.

Hah! I now know that that is a HUGE compliment!

Elizabeth George was a HUGE mentor. I lucked out there. Big time. She was the first to actually come and and say I had talent and that I should definitely keep going.

Kathy Reel said...

Peg, how sweet of you to say it's never too late. I've thought that, too, but we'll see. If I accomplish writing a book or two or three, I will have to include you in my list of thanks to supporters.

mary kennedy said...

Fantastic post! And Ian Fleming...yowsers!!

Nancy said...

Thank you, Peg, for sharing this! It has made me realize how much I lack in support and encouragement from those around me - and how important it is!

And, congratulations Hallie!

Lisa Ks Book Reviews said...

Peg, thank you for sharing your wonderful story with us! I love your Sweet Nothings books and am so excited about A FATAL SLIP!

My Mother was my biggest inspiration. No matter what I wanted to do, she believed I could. And if I couldn't, she kept right on believing in the next thing and the next.

Lucy Burdette aka Roberta Isleib said...

Love your post and your photos Peg! that's a wonderful tale of persistence and good people. I don't remember people commenting on my writing in particular until I reached college. Even then, writing was a side event--I never imagined writing fiction until into my 40's. Lots of late bloomers on this blog:)

I loved my fifth grade teacher Mrs. Covey though--I can't remember her name so haven't tried to track her down. (I was the kind of kid who cried if she got a B. I know, pathetic...)

Daryl Wood Gerber a.k.a. Avery Aames said...

Peg/Meg, what a darling post. Ian Fleming! One of my favorites (despite the fact that Bond, James Bond, is a bit of misogynist. LOL)

I didn't have such a good teacher. My 7th grade teacher told me that I'd never be a writer. Ha! That's the way to give a kid support. Not!

Daryl /Avery

Peg Cochran said...

Daryl/Avery, now you can look up at that teacher and say nah, nah, I'm a best selling author! Revenge is sweet no matter how long it takes!

Donna E said...

School was too long ago to remember any particular supporters. So I guess my main supporter in whatever I choose to do is my hubby. Daughter, and my sister, probably come in right at the top too.
Mama and Daddy were early supporters -- think my Daddy thought I could do anything! and I thought HE could do just about anything, too.

Leslie Budewitz said...

LOVE that h.s. picture!

And I want everyone to know that while Peg is busy thanking people who supported her, SHE has been a huge support for other writers, first as a Guppy and then as Guppy president. She knows I consider her the Fairy Godmother of my Food Lovers' Village series -- and we all need one of those!

Cheers to you, Peg! (And cheers & congrats to Hallie!)

SueAnn said...

I had a HS English teacher, that told me, words were important. When you write..the words have to mean something, to the person reading.That has stuck in my mind all these years- even writing a simple card or note..I watch what I mean something to the reader of the card,
and, my Granny....she said- you don't have to be the smartest...just the one that works the hardest and never gives up..."thems'" the ones that are successuful!!

Barbara T. said...

Congratulations! My best friend's mother was my inspiration.

Marilyn Levinson said...

Loved reading about your early dreams and seeing your high school photo. You should be proud of yourself for having achieved your earlier dream. Not everyone can do that.