Wednesday, 27 November 2013

Downton Interview with Author Terri Nixon!


Hello Terri! Now, like me, you are a fan of the wonderful Downton Abbey – from a writing point of view, what is it you like about the series – the characters, plotlines or setting…?

I think it has to be the characters; without them, all you have is a big, beautiful, but empty box. Highclere Castle is famously gorgeous, of course, but without the right people to bring it to life it’s just a house, when all’s said and done.  As for the plotlines … well, to begin with they were mostly wonderful, but – although my love of DA hasn’t wavered over time – I think we all know the storylines can get a little bit silly. Which is fine, I love a little bit of silly, me! But now and again they do stretch the bounds of believability, don’t they!  Even the first series, with Anna helping Lady Mary carry a dead body down the stairs – if that wasn’t shades of “Fawlty Towers” (and a definite breach of upstairs/downstairs etiquette,) I really don’t know what is! Fun though. Definitely fun.

And which character would you like to be able to take the credit for creating, and why?

I think the Machiavellian Thomas is the most interesting at the moment, and has been most of the way through, in fact. Despite his devious nature and seemingly irredeemable nastiness, now and again he shows flashes of courage, and – dare I venture – vulnerability. He’s obviously got a chip on his shoulder the size of Ripon, and I’d like to know what put it there. Most of the others are a bit black and white, they show a bit of a mid-shade now and then, but we know whether we’re supposed to like them pretty much from the outset. I think Thomas is the most complex, and I’d like to have written him because to have the power to attribute his nastiness to something in his past, and perhaps to redeem himself one day, would be wonderful.

I really can't bear Thomas and wonder if he truly has any redeeming qualities... But something must have made him the way his is. I wonder if we'll ever find out what...
Out of all the characters you have created, which is your favourite?
Ooh, now THAT’S probably the hardest question I’ve ever been asked! I suppose at the moment it would be the hero of my self-pubbed series, The Lynher Mill Chronicles. His name’s Richard Lucas, and he’s troubled, passionate, funny and courageous, and a little bit dangerous, although he doesn’t acknowledge that side of himself and just wants to live his life quietly.  But he’s got a shadowed past that won’t leave him alone, and when he’s forced to deal with it things get very dark, very quickly. And, of course, he’s sex on a stick!

Why do you think Downton Abbey has become so popular and when writing do you consider your target readers and consciously try to make the book appealing to them?

Downton Abbey filled a niche we probably didn’t even know about. (Now, of course, I’m going to have to do my usual; “I wrote my book first,” thing!) When I began writing the book that was to become Maid of Oaklands Manor, there was very little around, in the way of new work, focused on the era immediately prior to WW1. By the time I’d finished my first draft Julian Fellowes had announced Downton Abbey, and by the time it was edited and pitched, the country had gone mad for the era. I’ve been playing catchup ever since! Now we have the centenary memorial coming up, and although Downton moved on (rather too quickly, for my taste) it still maintains that feeling of another age. We’re now heading for Gosford Park times, and that was politically unsettling too - there are people who will remember that era, so it will remain relevant, I think.
As for the second part of that question, of course anyone writing with a target audience in mind must consider them at every step. I hadn’t planned to write a romance, but the love story was central to the plot, and when Piatkus picked it up they encouraged me to explore that side of it. Now when I’m writing, in the back of my mind is Caroline Kirkpatrick’s urge to let my characters “spend more time on the page together.” And blow me down if, when they do that, they don’t start to sizzle a little bit!

What is your writing fantasy, Terri? Mine is to have one of my novels adapted for TV or the big screen.
I think it’s a rare writer who’ll say they wouldn’t want that! So, to start small then, I just want to see my books in paperback, on the shelves of bookshops. To be able to walk into my local Waterstone’s and see my own work on their shelves would be the fulfilment of many many years’ dreams. It’s all very well calling yourself a published author, but without the tangible evidence it sometimes still feels as if I’m playing make-believe. Oh, wait …

Yes, I'd love to see a physical copy of my book in a shop. But assuming you also got that film deal, who would you cast as the hero/heroine (or both) in you latest book (Maid of Oaklands Manor).
Lizzy Parker is very slightly-built, with masses of cloudy dark hair and big blue eyes. I have NO idea who’d play her! Any ideas? Possibly Zooey Deschanel if she could do a convincing English/West Country accent!

 Jack Carlisle is quite a bit older than her. He’s tall (of course!) quite strongly-built and has very dark blue eyes and dark hair. I’m thinking of Henry Cavill. Not to play Jack, just generally.  ;) (kidding!)

In the 1970s Julian Fellowes, the creator of Downton Abbey, used to write romantic novels under the name of Rebecca Greville. Would you like to write a different genre under a pseudonym?
I already do. Not much of a pseudonym though, to be fair. I recently revitalised a collection of short, at times extremely graphic, horror stories, which I released free on Kindle at Hallowe’en under the name T Nixon. The Lynher Mill Chronicles (starting with The Dust of Ancients) is not at all like Maid of Oaklands Manor, but it’s got a very strong love story at its heart, so I released that one under my real name. However, it might be fun to go in a totally different direction at some point, and make up a new me! We could have arguments in different accents (see my next answer …)

Fellowes used to do a lot of acting (and was even in Fantasy Island!) Have you any other creative talents?
I LOVED him in Monarch of the Glen! Poor old Kilwillie! Creative talents then … well, I can do accents! While I’m writing I’ll often talk to myself out loud, in a silly accent, and it’s not necessarily the accent of the person I’m writing, it can be quite random (and quite alarming, I should think!) Beyond that, nope. I’ve been in a couple of stage shows, was Ronnette in Little Shop of Horrors once, but I leave that to people who can sing, nowadays!

Carson or Mrs Hughes?
I have sympathies for both. Carson’s desperate to hang on to the old ways, and he often comes across as unbending. It’s nice to see him softening slightly now. Mrs Hughes is so solid and dependable but I’d like to see her break out and do something a bit wild and unpredicatable one day!

Upstairs or Downstairs?
Downstairs, without a doubt!

Dinner with Hugh Bonneville or Maggie Smith? 
I think we know! MAGGIE! 

Thank you so much for joining me, Terri! I’ll just ring for Carson and he will see you out…! 

I’ll get me coat …

Terri was born in 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. As a Hybrid author her first commercially published novel was Maid of Oaklands Manor, published by Piatkus Entice (a digital-first imprint of Little, Brown,) and short-listed in the "Best Historical Read" category at the Festival of Romance 2013.
Terri's self-published Mythic Fiction series: The Lynher Mill Chronicles has now been launched, the first title of which is The Dust of Ancients, available in e-book and paperback.

Terri now lives in Plymouth with her youngest son, and works in the Faculty of Arts at Plymouth University where she is constantly baffled by the number of students who don't possess pens.

Terri also writes under the name T Nixon, and has contributed to anthologies under the names Terri Pine and Teresa Nixon.

Terri's website

Lynher Mill website

Wednesday, 20 November 2013

Great Reviews for Doubting Abbey!

Well, the reviews are trickling in now and here is a fab one from the Room for Reading blog. Donna Trinder says..

"Doubting Abbey is a lovely fun read, set in a beautiful old hall and with a lovely family ethos behind it.

The characters are easy to warm to - I especially liked the cook, Kathleen, and the antics give lots of giggles. I enjoyed the whole reality tv plot, it is well explored and easy to imagine."

ChicklitClub gives Doubting Abbey 8/10 and said:

"I was hooked from the start, by this impressive debut novel"

Monday, 18 November 2013

Doubting Abbey and Reality Shows! I'm a Celeb, Episode One!

The plot of Doubting Abbey revolves around a reality show, Million Dollar Mansion - waitress Gemma must pass herself off as aristocratic friend Abbey, to help run-down Applebridge Hall win the show to secure its future financially...

And what a joy the book was to write, as I LOVE reality telly! Big Brother is one of my favourites, but every year I particularly look forward to jungle fever sweeping the country in December.

So, what do we think of the series this year? Matthew Wright has already set himself up for being voted to take part in every bushtucker trial. I suspect Joey from TOWIE and designer David won't be far behind. I think the secret to this show's success is that it immediately cuts through any celebrity veneer. Plus the challenging ways the teams have to make their way to camp, on the first day, are great bonding experiences and its lovely to see the two different teams pull together. 

But the revelation for me last night was good old Steve Davis! He could win. Down-to-earth, a good team player, yet despite his "boring" reputation from the Eighties, a great sense of humour.

Ant and Dec were, as usual, on fine form - their joke about "ticks" was hilarious. 

Yay! The Christmas run-up has started! I might pull out the mulled wine for tonight's show!

Monday, 11 November 2013

Classic lines and classic looks - Season Four Downton Abbey Finale

Wasn't last night's finale splendid? Although just a little disappointing that we didn't actually get to see what happened to vile valet Green. I was looking forward to witness his downfall, for myself. In fact, as usual, Fellowes has left us with plenty of questions - was Bates involved? Will he be found out and hung? Will Gregson come back? Will Edith really go to Switzerland? Will Mary choose Blake or Gillingham? I could go on...

People ask why I love Downton and it's down to the characters - love them or loathe them, you care what happens.
But it is also the classic lines - and here are a few from last night's show:

Mr Drew, the pig farmer, to Mary: "Work is like old age, m'lady - the worst thing in the world until faced with the alternative."

"We can't fall out, we've never fallen in." Daisy about Ivy.

"I don't believe in types, I believe in people." Branson.

Plus the classic looks are brilliant - the Dowager Countess when she held court with Edith and Rosamund, clearly aware of what was going on. Plus Branson, when he saw Rose and the band singer together. Also Mary, when Anna told her about Green - what a moving scene.

There are many things I will miss, until the Christmas special, including the sumptous clothes, the quintessentially English scenery and the Dowager Countess's poe-faced stares... Whilst Season Four didn't end with a big bang, at least this time, an untimely death was off the menu. Roll on December! And please, I know I keep asking, but let's finally see Mrs Hughes and Carson finally get together!.

Saturday, 9 November 2013

Doubting Abbey Prizes!

Over the coming weeks I shall run various competitions, in places such as Twitter and Facebook, for the launch of my debut romantic comedy novel, Doubting Abbey - out 10th November from CarinaUK Harlequin! 

Amongst the prizes are Downton Abbey drinks coasters, Highclere Castle bookmarks and chocolate, plus fudge, a favourite recipe of Doubting Abbey's Scottish cook, Kathleen!

Wednesday, 6 November 2013

Only Four Sleeps To....

Um, ahem, it would be nice to say fame, seeing as Sunday 10th November sees the launch of my debut novel, Doubting Abbey - but I suspect the reality is only four sleeps to Amazon rank obsessing and next novel deadline panicking! Nevertheless, I can't wait for my launch day, it sees the culmination of almost nine years hard work, churning out novels and learning the process - and I'm still not saying I've got it 100% right! But Doubting Abbey is my best work yet and I'm thrilled people who aren't friends or family are actually going to read it - um, hopefully! And friends and family, that doesn't mean you're let off the hook from pulling out that purse (or pressing one-click!)

My online launch is on Facebook on Sunday, where there will be great prizes, such as Highclere Castle chocolate and leather bookmarks, plus other non-aristocratic goodies. They will also be up for grabs on Twitter, so keep your eyes peeled!

Thanks for the support, everyone who's helped me along to this point - you know who you are. Right. Better get that bubbly in fridge - or perhaps I'll just call Carson...

Monday, 4 November 2013

Downton Abbey - Episode Seven - Be Afraid, Green...

Ooh, that's what I've been waiting for - the look Bates gave Green, right at the end of last night's show. It even made me shudder. Fantastic. Please let the vile valet get his come-uppance in next week's final programme. Green really dropped himself in it, when he mentioned that the performance by opera singer Dame Nellie Melba was too much for him and he'd had to go down to the servants' quarters. As for Mrs Hughes confronting him about the attack - bravo! He should, indeed, "Keep to the shadows".

Mary was less of a cold fish this week, and looked a decade younger when she had the mud-fight with Mr Blake. It's nice to see her take on the reponsibilities of the running the estate. Plus I warmed to her when she supported Anna by making sure Bates didn't accompany the Earl to the States.  And now there are so many men after the beautiful Lady Mary Crawley... I have a feeling no-nonsense Blake will end up at the top of her list.

I also warmed to one of my least favourite characters, this week, Edith, as she changed her mind at the last minute about terminating her pregnancy. Instead of doing the practical thing, she's put her feelings for Gregson first. Her love-life has run far from smoothly. Let's hope there is some happiness for this middle sister in Series Five.

Of course, the best bit about last night was finding that - for the moment anyway - Maggie Smith is to stick with the show. How hilarious the Dowager Countess was, reluctantly showing her gratitude to 'nurse' Mrs Crawley. Thanks goodness this witty lady didn't catch pneumonia.

All in all another excellent episode. I can forgive the flaws, for example Mary telling Blake they could leave the front door open at night, as there wouldn't be burglars. "This is England" she said. Hmm. Surely she hadn't already forgotten the brutal attack on Anna - as far as she knew, perpetrated by a stranger! I can't wait for the final show next week - one reason being that Sunday 10th is also the launch day of my debut novel, Doubting Abbey! So if you feel morose at leaving the Grantham household, why not dip into my book and enter the world of the aristocratic Croxleys?!