Let’s kick things off with a rundown of you and your books. In other words, tell us about yourself and what you write!
Hello, and thanks so much for inviting me onto your blog! Okay, well Terri Nixon’s my real name, and the name under which I write both Historical (sagas) and Mythic Fiction. (Cornish folklore in a modern/contemporary setting.)
My current Historical series is The Oaklands Manor Trilogy; a series set between 1912 and 1917, and each of the three is told from the point of view of a different young woman: a scullery maid whose life takes an exciting and dangerous turn when she befriends a suspected murderer; the daughter of Oaklands Manor, who becomes an ambulance driver when war breaks out; and a middle class girl with whom she works, who suffers a terrible assault while on active service, and ‘retires’ to the Devon countryside to work in the land army. The lives of all three are intertwined, but each girl tells her story in turn.
The Mythic Fiction series is The Lynher Mill Chronicles, which sees a small village on Bodmin Moor become the centre of a massive and ancient feud among warring fae, and the human population drawn in very much against their will.
I also write short horror stories, and I’ve written a contemporary thriller set in the Scottish Highlands but that’s my ‘trunk’ novel!
How long have you been writing? And how long have you been publishing?
I’m really reluctant to do that old’ “I’ve been writing all my life,” thing, but I really have! I have my very first infant-school writing book, and you can tell the poem that’s in it is a work of fiction; it extols the virtues of rhubarb crumble… which I can’t stand! I’ve been writing seriously – by which I mean towards publication – since the mid 1990s, and was first published in a small press horror anthology in 2002.
What “kind” of writer would you describe yourself as? (Traditional, Self-Published, Hybrid, Something else entirely?)
I always refer to myself as a Hybrid writer; I self-publish (The Lynher Mill books) as well as being traditionally published, and having been published through small press and indie companies.
How did you decide what publishing route to take for your books?
I’ve always wanted to feel the validation that inevitably goes with traditional publishing – as much as we like to try and deny that, it’s a stark fact: having a disinterested party put their expertise and support behind you is the biggest confidence booster there is. So, before it became so easy to self-publish, that was my goal. The Historicals fit that, but the Lynher Mill books are a different matter. I discussed them with my agent, and we agreed they’re too niche to appeal to a big publisher, and it wasn’t worth going with a smaller one, so I ought to try self-publishing. So I did, and I have loved every single part of that process too! So, as long as I’m lucky enough to have a choice, I’m going to stay on the Hybrid Trail!
What one piece of advice would you give to anyone looking to do the same?
Don’t spend too long reading articles about how self-publishing is good/bad – the same for traditional publishing. If you’re going to read up on them, read the nitty-gritty things you need to know, like how to format paperbacks, and how to craft an eye-catching query letter. The other stuff will put your head in a spin!
If you could make one decision differently in your publishing career so far, what would it be?
My Oaklands Manor series was shared between two publishers. Book 1 came out with Little, Brown, and books 2 and 3 with HarperCollins. I will NEVER do that again! The pricing, the covers, the complications about promotions etc… given the choice to make over again I’d rather have self-published 2 and 3 from the minute Little, Brown said ‘no thank you.’
In terms of writing and publishing, what’s something new thing you’d like to try in the future?
I would very much like to dig out that ‘trunk’ novel, and hit the thriller market with it! It’s not a psychological thriller, it’s more an all-out action, chase-through-the-mountains kind of thing. My other books have a fair bit of action in them, but I’d love to work on something contemporary and “real.”
What’s next for you?
I have a new book coming out on December 1st. (Penhaligon’s Attic.) It’s the first book in a saga set at the turn of the last century, in a fictitious mining town on the West coast of Cornwall. I’m back with Little, Brown for that one, and I’m about to complete book 2 in that series – which doesn’t have a home yet. (see my answer to #6, for the possible future of that one!)
What secret talents do you have?
Um… I can balance a spoon on my nose? I’m quite good at accents? I can crimp a mean Cornish pasty? Not much else! Oh, and my cheese and Marmite toasties are works of art…
What is something you want to accomplish before you die?
Having realised my lifelong dream of seeing my books on the shelves at Waterstones, I think I’d quite like to learn to cook something other than cheese and Marmite toasties. That, or see my name rolling in the credits on some BBC or ITV drama, following the words: “based on the books by…” In fact yes.That one.
What does your writing process look like?
I work at the day job almost all week (I’ve just dropped a Friday) so my weekends are my writing time. When I begin a new project I’ll start making notes, very vague ones, and then just crack on; I don’t spend too long planning, but since I write series it’s impossible to get away with not plotting at all. So I have a vague idea of the shape of the story, and jot that down, and then go after the cast of characters. They usually reveal themselves gradually, and by the time I’m a couple of chapters in I know who the main ones will be, so I can go back and build them up. There’s a lot of that – going back in and adding stuff!
I don’t correct too much as I go, I just want to get that shape down, the basic story arc, and the first draft is almost always a very rough one.
The polishing comes later, along with the adding in of detail, and the sowing of seeds that will take root in the current story, but not flower until subsequent ones. That’s always a lot of fun!
Terri was born in Plymouth in 1965. At the age of 9 she moved with her family to a moorland village in Cornwall, 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.
Terri also writes under the name T Nixon, and has contributed to anthologies under the names Terri Pine and Teresa Nixon. She is represented by the Kate Nash Literary Agency. She now lives in Plymouth with her youngest son, and works in the Faculty of Arts and Humanities at Plymouth University, where she is constantly baffled by the number of students who don’t possess pens.