Author Interview with Terri Nixon

Today on Becca's Books, I'm delighted to be welcoming the wonderful Terri Nixon to the blog. What could perk you up more on a Monday morning than an interview with one fabulous author, huh? 


Terri, for those who haven't yet heard of you or your books, could you tell us a little bit about yourself and the kind of books that you write?

T ~ Thanks for having me on your lovely blog, thrilled to be here! Okay, well, about me, in brief: ex-biker; single parent; cancer survivor; annoyingly chirpy (most of the time); horrible at karaoke but that doesn't stop me. Compulsive talker-to-self. And I'm a Marmite fan. 

I write sagas based around WW1 era, and I also self-publish Mythic Fiction; work that's contemporary in tone, but draws heavily on folklore and myth. A sub-genre of fantasy, really. I also write horror, but those tend to be short stories. And pretty graphic, actually! So I publish those under the name T Nixon. 

Your latest release Daughter of Dark River Farm is set way back in 1917. Are all of your books set in the past? What is it you enjoy about writing during these times?

T ~ I didn't know I was going to enjoy this era so much until I started researching the first in the Oaklands Manor series, Maid of Oaklands Manor. Once I began though, I became a bit (!) obsessed and realised I wanted to write more, exploring different aspects of the time. So in these three books we have the domestic service, then the WW1 ambulance service, and finally the land army. It's a time of staggering change, and with different parts of society evolving at different rates... fascinating and full of possibilities. 

Does a lot of research go into your books? Do you ever find yourself struggling to get to grips with how circumstances would have been different back then? What about language, characteristics, etc.?

T ~ The amount of research required for this is mind-bending! Everything gets checked, from clothing, to speech-patterns, to weaponry and politics... travel, too. Right down to the weather during any given certain month in different parts of the country: for instance I had a fight on New Year's Eve (well, not me personally!) on the lawn of Oaklands Manor, and I had to make sure Cheshire wasn't buried in snow on that night. The fact that most people will not realise it's true when I say it had been a drizzly month, so the grass was soft, doesn't matter. I know, so it helps me write with more confidence and authority. As for difficulty getting to grips with it, I was stunned at how naturally my first pre-war heroine came to me. Stunned and grateful!

Besides Daughter of Dark River Farm, could you tell us a little bit about your previous books? Are they all quite similar in their style? 

T ~The previous two books in this series have very different styles, to each other as well as to this one. I suppose, of the three books, the first and the last are the most similar. But because they feature three different young women, from three different backgrounds, and three different lifestyles, I have tried to find each unique voice and let her tell it her way. So book one begins as a domestic drama (think below-stairs Downton Abbey when it first started) and gradually becomes more of a mystery thriller as the story unfolds; book two is action-packed from the word 'go', and places the heroine in almost constant danger; and book three is a combination of the two! 

Terri, as an author, what would you say you find most difficult about bringing together a plot?

T ~ That's a tough one! Well, I suppose - especially with a trilogy - it would have to be ensuring all loose ends are tied up, and sowing enough clues throughout to make it all make perfect sense by the end. With each book coming out as it's completed, there's no chance to go back and drop bits in to fit with your current plot. So you have to go with what's gone before, and make your new plan fit. Just like life, really!

When creating your characters, what do you normally focus on most? Appearance? Mind-set? Do you ever find it difficult to really nail a character's personality?

T ~  Appearance is usually the last thing I consider. The first thing I wonder about is who they are, where they're going, and what they want to achieve. Then I think about their situation, family, and romantic needs. Eventually I'll start to wonder what they look like! The Oaklands books are told in first-person, and the second two heroines were introduced as secondary characters in the previous book, so I already knew what they looked like. But it was interesting to get inside their head and see what makes them tick. 

Which was your very first book? Looking back on it now, do you think you've come a long way? Have you changed regarding your writing at all? 

T ~ My very first book was actually a contemporary thriller set in Scotland. It's recently been re-vamped because, basically, it was complete rubbish! But the process was an amazing one and I can still remember the feeling of typing 'the end,' and the taste of the Strongbow cider I'd put by to celebrate! My writing has changed a great deal since those days, and that's because I have slavishly tried to stick to every 'rule' I ever found. I no longer do this, as it didn't really work, and I think it can make your writing a bit soul-less, but hopefully I've found a middle-ground that works. That book is currently with my agent and we're considering our options. Watch this space! 

As an author, what are your thoughts on bloggers and reviewers? How do you handle any negative reviews?

T ~I live in constant awe of the commitment bloggers and reviewers dedicate to their craft. The time, the friendliness (for the most part!) and the willingness to share news and links are invaluable. I've been amazingly lucky with my reviews so far, so when I do get a dodgy one I still want to hide myself away and cry, but I'm getting better! I've learned you'll never please everyone; someone gave my first Lynher Mill book, The Dust of Ancients, a 1* because she didn't like it as much as she liked the Oaklands series. Ho hum!

What audience do you hope to reach with your books? 

T ~ The Oaklands series is probably aimed at the kind of readers who enjoy Catherine Cookson- style sagas and historicals, but nowadays the reach has widened, thanks to Julian Fellowes very kindly releasing Downton Abbey to coincide with the start of my submission process for Maid of Oaklands Manor! Period drama is popular again, for which I'm incredibly thankful! The mythic fiction series is proving popular with a wide range of readers, and a lot of them say they have never read anything like it before. That had no target audience except anyone who liked a bit of adventure, romance, mystery, and a glimpse at something that might or might not be right under their nose when they're walking on the Cornish moors! ;)

Are there any specific themes that you like to regularly include, and focus on, when writing?

T ~ Action and drama hang together really well, and I like to include both when I'm writing. There's nearly always romance involved, but it tends to be secondary to the focus of the main character, and if too many pages go by without some kind of physical conflict I get twitchy!

What can readers expect from your characters?

T ~ I like to think anyone who picks up my work will find characters with the same sort of depth that I enjoy in my own reading choices. Lizzy Parker (the heroine in Maid of Oaklands Manor) seemed to strike a surprisingly deep and comfortable chord with a lot of people. She begins as a scullery maid trying to fit in at a new job, any by the end of the story she has been through some real tests, emotionally and physically, and her attitude, and the way she reacts to others, reflects these. Likewise Evie in book two; a cheerful, privileged girl, with a love of practical jokes and fast cars, who becomes an independent ambulance driver up near the lines in 1914. Discovering how much you can cope with, and how little, happens fast in that situation. 

Where does your inspiration for your stories come from? Have you travelled to any of the places where your books have been set?

T ~ I have never been to Cheshire, nor Flanders, but the third book is set on Dartmoor, in Devon, which is my stomping ground. I took the town in Oaklands Manor from Tattenhall, as it fit beautifully, but then I changed the name to Breckenhall, so I had a bit more licence with descriptions! Everything I wrote about in Flanders was taken from first-hand accounts of the war, and I would love to go there but I would want to be completely alone, and I don't think that's an option these days. Dark River Farm is set near Princetown, and I know the area very well and love it. Lots of nice pubs!

On a more personal note, at what point did you realise that you wanted to share your stories with others?

T ~ I've always wanted to, and I can't remember when it started. I don't think it was from any kind of 'ooh, read this, aren't I clever?' kind of place, but I do love to tell a story and watch people react. I think it's just that I'd found a way to affect people, at a young age, and being a middle child might have had something to do with it, but anything that got me noticed was great! There's something very special about introducing people you've only had in your own head to someone else, and seeing them accepted as 'real.'

How long would you say you spend writing on average, per week? 

T ~ Not nearly enough! I have a full-time job, which takes me out of the house between 7.30am and almost 6pm, so I tend to go overboard at the weekends, and let everything else go by the board. On a day off, though, I'll work the entire day, with short stops for lunch, comfort breaks, and... what was the other thing? Oh yeah, laundry! I really know how to rock the lifestyle!

Could you describe your planning process to us?

T ~ I usually have the story floating around in some shape or form before I start; it's often something that began during whatever I was writing previously. So I'll let it solidify a bit, write a few notes, get some research under my belt (mostly to get my mind in the right place) and then start writing the first thing that comes into my head. It can always be changed later, and always is! I do have massive notes documents though, that evolve during the writing process; they can run to well over 20K, mostly rambling, but quite fun to look over when the book's finished!

If you had to choose, out of your published novels, which would you say you enjoyed writing the most? Or could you not choose between them? 

T ~ Hands down and without question, The Dust of Ancients. It's been my 'baby' for over ten years now. I really enjoyed writing the second in that series too, (The Lightning and the Blade) and people seem to enjoy reading them almost as much, so that's a good sign!

How do you feel about choosing titles and writing blurbs?

T ~ I'm rubbish at titles, it takes me ages to come up with one I like, and then I have to fight to keep it! I've lost two out of three battles, but, of course, with my self-published ones I get to choose! Maid of Oaklands Manor was originally called Saturday's Child, and A Rose in Flanders Field was called Lady of No Man's Land. I was allowed to keep Daughter of Dark River Farm though! Blurbs I'm fine with, I quite enjoy those. I supplied the ones for Oaklands and Dark River, but the publisher created their own for Flanders. I'm glad you didn't ask about synopses... deep joy.

Have you ever had to overcome writer's block?

T ~ Not serious, crippling, despairing writer's block, no, thank goodness. I've been stuck at times, I think it's rare that anyone's managed to avoid that, but it's usually worked itself through in the end. This is where my rambling notes documents earn their way!

What's the best advice that you've ever received regarding writing?

T ~ At the risk of name-dropping, I would like to thank Dean Koontz for writing to me. "Good luck in your own writing; do it always for the love of doing it, and in my experience, success will follow. Although also in my experience, perhaps slowly!" The bloke's a good 'un!

Who are some of your literary inspirations? Any authors who have inspired you in the past?

T ~ Diana Gabaldon, Stephen King and Helen Zenna, all for different reasons. No-one writes conflicted, yet sizzlingly passionate relationships like Diana; Stephen King's characterisation is superb, and his dialogue is to die for. Helen Zenna Smith's raw WW1 book: Not So Quiet, should be compulsory reading for every school. 

If asked to write a book in a genre that you've never experimented with before, which genre would you choose and why?

T ~ I was recently asked this question, and decided I'd probably quite like to give steampunk a try. I also mentioned that I'd have to read a lot more in the genre in order to do it justice, but I love the idea of it - the freedom to explore an alternative history has a real appeal after the constraints of the past few years!

Do you have an all-time favourite book? 

T ~ It has been Stephen King's The Stand ever since the first version of that book came out, but Not So Quiet sits alongside it now. The Stand is just... well, it's got everything I adore about King. Not So Quiet grabs hold of your emotions and won't let go ever after you've finished it. Utterly, utterly heart-breaking. Leaves you helpless and wrung out, awed, and very much changed. 

What's the one piece of advice that you would give to any aspiring writers out there? 

T ~ I usually say: just do it, and don't get bogged down trying to make it perfect. The time for sentence-tweaking will come, and but the first draft is not that time. 

Do you ever dedicate your books to people? Who are your main supporters? 

T ~ Most of them have been dedicated to my family, but the second Lynher Mill book came out shortly after the death of my first editor, mentor, and good friend Neil Marr. I dedicated that one to his memory. I'm so lucky to have such amazing support from friends and family, I always want to include everyone, every time!

Lastly, when can readers expect to see your next book? Are you working on anything at the moment? 

T ~ I'm currently working on the third Lynher Mill book, The Battle of Lynher Mill, which will finish that series. It's due out in June. After that I'm starting on a new saga, set in a Cornish fishing village, beginning 1910 and (probably) going through to the 1920s - another fascinating era of change. I can't wait to get started on that; working title for the series is Penhaligon's Attic. *cracks knuckles*  

Terri, thank you so much for taking the time to answer my probing questions, and it has been fabulous having you here! Me and my readers wish you the best of luck with everything that's still to come!

You can find Terri Nixon on Goodreads | Facebook | Twitter | terrinixon.com

(The Oaklands Manor Trilogy)
You can find Maid of Oaklands Manor on Goodreads | Amazon UK | Amazon US
You can find A Rose in Flanders Field on Goodreads | Amazon UK | Amazon US
You can find Daughter of Dark River Farm on Goodreads | Amazon UK | Amazon US

(The Lynher Mill Chronicles)
You can find The Dust of Ancients on Goodreads | Amazon UK | Amazon US
You can find The Lightning and the Blade on Goodreads | Amazon UK | Amazon US





2 comments :

  1. What a wonderful, in-depth interview! I so enjoyed learning about Terri Nixon and her books, which sound fabulous. I don't even know where to start--I think I'll begin with Maid of Oaklands Manor. Thank you so much for a entertaining read!

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  2. Thank you very much! I hope you enjoy getting to know Lizzy and the others!

    ReplyDelete