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Alison Cochrun beats writer's block with emotional third novel

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Alison Cochrun — Courtesy photo  

Alison Cochrun is no stranger to publishing. After two hit LGBTQ+ romances under her belt, she was ready to write her third novel, Here We Go Again. However, when she sat at her computer, her mind felt as blank as the document in front of her.

"As I was writing this book, my creativity struggled," she admitted. "I would sit in front of a blank computer screen, and I just could not get words on the page. I was too self-censoring. I couldn't get a flow going, because I had too much self-criticism as I was writing."

To break out of her writer's block, Cochrun turned to a strategy some of her author friends had implemented: writing by hand. "I ended up having to handwrite the entire thing," she recalled. "My favorite thing about writing this book was falling back in love with writing. Once I finally gave up on how I should write a book — you know, sitting at my computer and working huge chunks of time each day — ... I started to let myself handwrite and write in different places, and write for shorter amounts of time... That's when I started to fall in love with the story. That was my favorite part of the writing process."

Atria Books  

A story about teachers
Usually, Cochrun starts with a concept for the story and builds from there. For Here We Go Again, she had a clear idea of who her main characters were but could not settle on their story. "This book started with the characters first," she said. "The idea of Logan and Rosemary — these childhood best friends who had a falling out but were forced back together — I knew I wanted to write a story like that, and the characters themselves came to me and were pretty clear in my head. I just couldn't figure out the right story for them, so I just kept putting them in different plots and different conflicts, and it didn't feel right."

She knew she wanted her main characters to be high school English teachers, a nod to Cochrun's 11 years in the field. "I always knew they were going to be teachers," she explained. "They were high school English teachers because that was such a large part of my life, and I wanted to write a story about that, but then it turned out I ended up writing a story that's about teachers but not really about teaching.

"I went back and forth a lot and in different iterations. The book was set in high school and around the minutiae of teaching, and then ultimately it became more about the relationship between teachers and their students over time and how impactful that can be."

The plot that finally felt right centered around a final road trip with a beloved teacher, inspired by a tragic true story. "A good friend of mine was taking care of her mom, who had cancer. She was down in Mississippi, and my friend was ... deciding how she would transport her mom from down in Mississippi up to Massachusetts. ... I love road trips, but then having to do it to transport someone who is dying — I was just really interested in that juxtaposition, and that just seemed like the right story for Rosemary and Logan, and so that was when I finally started writing the book in earnest."

An enduring bond
The bond between influential teachers and their young adult students hits close to home for Cochrun. Many of her former students have remained in contact, and still show up to celebrate her life victories. "I have a lot of former students I'm still in contact with who are now in their twenties, starting their careers, and doing various things, and it's cool to see those students have grown and flourished in life," Cochran said. "That is an enriching part of teaching for sure. It's always fun.

"I had an event last night, and two former students came. I always get messages from former students when books come out, or they preorder and I sign their books."

"Life is always 50/50"
As an English teacher, Cochrun imparted wisdom to her students that many continue to carry with them into their adult lives. Now, as an author, she hopes to connect with even more young adults through her novels, especially LGBTQ readers.

"In general, I write my books for Queer readers, people who love Queer romance, and ideally Sapphic readers, so I always hope that my books find people who kind of need to see the representation that exists in it. I also think romance is such a beautiful genre and a beautiful community, and I hope all romance readers can embrace Queer stories," she said.

Here We Go Again is a fun rom-com that explores themes of death, loss, and heartbreak, something Cochrun knows is unavoidable in life. "One of the central themes of the story deals with the idea that life is always 50/50 — there's always equal parts of joy and tragedy, joy and sadness, no matter what you do," she said. "No matter what path you take, you can't avoid life being that combination.

"So, I think the characters ultimately have to embrace being vulnerable, being open to love, taking risks in their career, making all these choices, and knowing that there's nothing you can do to protect yourself from sadness or be completely safe from experiencing heartbreak or loss.

"The thing I hope readers take away from the book — other than, 'Oh, that was kind of fun, and then it was sad for a while' — [is] embracing that there's no reason not to do what you want to do if the outcome is always going to be equal parts joy and sadness."

Here We Go Again is available starting April 2.