Today I’m delighted to welcome Terri Nixon to Me, My Books and I:
Terri was born in the ancient naval city of Plymouth, England in 1965. At the age of 9 she moved with her family to Cornwall, to a small village on the edge of Bodmin Moor, where she discovered a love of writing that has stayed with her ever since. She also discovered apple-scrumping, and how to jump out of a hayloft without breaking any bones, but no-one’s ever offered to pay her for doing those.
Since publishing in paperback for the first time in 2002, Terri has appeared in both print and online fiction collections, and is proud to have contributed to the Shirley Jackson award-nominated hardback collection: Bound for Evil, by Dead Letter Press. She now lives in Plymouth with her youngest son, and works in the Faculty of Arts at Plymouth University where she is constantly amazed by the number of students who don’t possess pens.
After several years of writing short stories in many genres, including horror and fantasy, Terri now writes romantic novels in just a few of their many forms; historical, paranormal, and the cross-genre fiction she refers to as “romaction.”
Maid of Oaklands Manor (under its previous name of Saturday’s Child) won the Piatkus Entice competition for historical romance in 2012 … rather fittingly exactly one hundred years after the date in which the opening scenes are set! The prize was publication under this e-book first imprint of Little, Brown, and Terri hopes there will be a chance of a print edition if e-book sales do well, because she can’t afford to buy everyone a Kindle.
To find out more about Terri Nixon:
Where did the idea for Maid of Oaklands Manor come from?
Originally it was from the stories my grandmother used to tell, about her life in domestic service; she had quite a time! But although one of the secondary characters has her name, and at least one incident is based on a true story, I think I can quite safely say there were fewer guns and hardly any diamond thieves involved!
Who designed the cover and why did you go for that particular design?
The cover was designed in-house by the team at Piatkus. I was offered one cover which I had reservations about, and was delighted to find they were open to revision ideas. I had always pictured the back view of a girl and her suitcase, facing a large country house. That is exactly what they gave me and I couldn’t have been happier. The reason behind this image is that the book begins with Lizzy’s arrival at Oaklands, and we feel rather as if we’re arriving with her and will go with her through whatever comes next.
I really like the cover, it gives me a feeling of new possibilities and sets off all sorts of questions in my mind!
How do you decide on names for your characters?
Lizzy starts out as Mary Elizabeth; my grandmother’s name. She is made to change her name though, because there is already a housemaid named Mary. Jack Carlisle was Jack Buchanan to begin with, but I discovered there had been an actor by that name, and in the era in which the book is set. Carlisle then came from the TV Times, which is where I get most of my mix-and-match names! (There was another name-change that became quite amusingly necessary, but I can’t say what it is because it’ll give away too much.)
Who was your favourite character to write and why?
Lizzy Parker’s voice just fell out of my head in the first person – something I had never imagined myself doing in novel-length piece although I have written short stories in the first person. I found her fascinating because, underneath her nervousness, and her understandable trepidation at being thrown into such a different lifestyle, I kept noticing she had this shiny little layer of steel, and I knew she was going to be tougher than either of us suspected at first. She makes an enemy very early on among the staff at Oaklands, but despite a healthy wariness we never feel as though she’s beaten or cowed. And when things become more intense we see that layer of strength become more and more apparent. She’s tiny, but she’s fierce when she needs to be!
Where is your favourite place to write?
I have my laptop on a little card table, and luckily my sofa is not one of those you sink into, but is quite firm and high … I can move the table easily so, every spare moment, I get settled in, make sure my coffee cup is within reach, and go to it!
Do you follow a plan when you are writing or do you let the story guide you?
I do like to have a rough outline, but things keep happening that force me to change my plans, and I love that! I tend to have an idea of where I want to be at a given point in the manuscript, who knows what and where everyone is, but beyond that I do like to just sink into it and let it take its natural course.
Who are your favourite authors and do you think they have influenced your own writing in any way?
I think all my favourite authors have influenced me in different ways, and luckily I have a fairly diverse selection of favourites: Stephen King; Diana Gabaldon; Tom Sharpe; George RR Martin; Jilly Cooper; Stephen Lawhead.
From Diana I have learned that the best, truly romantic relationships have a spark of potential, passionate hatred. The love is always there, and must never be in question, but it’s that old adage about a thin line; the passion occurs when someone does something unforgiveable, and the one who loves them has to either learn how to accept it, or how to let go.
Do you have any writing quirks?
Um. Yes, I talk to myself. Out loud, all the time. In different accents. And not necessarily the accents of the characters either! The other thing I find extremely useful is Bejeweled Blitz. I know it sounds mad at best, a poor excuse at worst, but the simple fact is: when I’m stuck on a plotting point, I play Bejeweled and talk myself through the problem; the game relaxes my mind, and lets ideas through that staring at the manuscript tends to block. It really works!
What are you working on now?
I’m actually working on rather a lot. There are two sequels planned for Maid of Oaklands Manor, and I’m halfway through the first of those: Lady of No Man’s Land, which follows Evie as she joins the Red Cross and goes to Belgium in 1914. I’m also working on a Mythic Fiction series based in Cornwall, the first of which – The Dust of Ancients – I am hoping to self-publish in the autumn. The second – the Lightning and the Blade – is also complete and in the editing phase. In addition I’m writing an Edwardian ghost story set in Cornwall, called Penhaligon’s Attic.
What is the one thing you couldn’t live without?
This is either where I go sentimental and say: my family and friends, or take a more pragmatic approach and confess it’s probably the internet. And not just for “cat Vs printer” videos. It’s an invaluable tool for research, both for content in the books themselves, and for keeping up to date with the market and what readers, and therefore publishers, are interested in. But … yeah, my family and friends. And Facebook. Oh, and Marmite.
Paperback or eBook?
Actually the toughest question of all. Some books just have to be physical copies, simply because of their complexity. Others … well, in the end we all revere the written word, so whether we’re seeing it on a screen or on paper shouldn’t make a difference. That said, I would love to see Maid of Oaklands Manor on the shelves at my local Waterstone’s!
Milk, white or dark chocolate?
Morning or night?
Snow or sun?
Listener or talker?
Much as I’d like to say listener, you’ve probably noticed by now I don’t know when to shut up …
Any last words for your readers?
Just: thank you for wading through my rambling, and if you buy a copy of Maid of Oaklands Manor I hope you enjoy reading it even half as much as I enjoyed writing it. And, for the record, I wrote the first draft of this book before Julian Fellowes finished writing Downton Abbey!
Thank you so much for being here today Terri, it was a pleasure to have you on my blog. I particularly enjoyed reading about your writing quirks 😀
Now check out the book:
“1912: A chance meeting between scullery maid Lizzy Parker and heiress Evie Creswell leads to more than an enduring friendship, and a new job for Lizzy; it draws her into a world of privilege and intrigue, and delivers her into the loving arms of a killer.
When Lizzy meets Jack Carlisle, a charismatic friend of the Creswell family, she finds herself drawn to him despite the rumour that he had been involved in the death of Evie’s father. She senses her feelings are reciprocated, but as she finds herself pulled deeper into the dangerous life Jack leads she must decide if he can be trusted with the life of a friend and, ultimately, if he is worth the risk to her own.”