Interview with Terri Nixon
To mark the release of A Cornish Promise, author Terri Nixon shares her insights into her writing career, what she wishes she'd known before getting published, and reveals some top tips for writers setting out on their own writing journeys. Terri has written several books spanning fiction to non-fiction, but feels most at home when writing historical fiction. Her latest release, A Cornish Promise, is out this week.
Tell us about your latest book, A Cornish Promise, the second instalment in The Fox Bay Saga. Can you tell us more about this series and where it leads?
Hello, and thank you so much for letting me come here and talk about myself and my work! The Fox Bay Saga is set in the 1920s and early 1930s, and it begins with A Cornish Inheritance, when Helen Fox is forced, through a tragedy, to take her three children to live at her in-laws’ family hotel in Cornwall.
She befriends Leah, a vivacious guest, who becomes a close family friend as Helen re-builds her life, and helps turn the hotel back into the glamorous, sought-after holiday destination it had once been. When the hotel is threatened by developers, Leah steps in and reveals herself to be someone entirely different from the woman Helen thought she’d known for ten years.
The children grow into headstrong young adults, and one of them follows in her father’s footsteps, to a dangerous extent, and with disastrous consequences.
The second book, A Cornish Promise, focuses on the youngest daughter Fiona, who volunteers at the local lifeboat station, and brings a dangerous cuckoo into the nest. Hollywood royalty comes for Christmas, and they have their own secrets... Basically, in all three books there’s a lot of double-dealing and intrigue going on, to contrast with all the art deco glamour!
That’s an interesting one, and not something I’ve really tried to analyse before! I think I like the idea of having everything one step removed from the everyday; whether that step is through time, or a curtain between ‘our’ world and a possible ‘other.’
The possibilities of writing mythic fantasy are endless, although I try to keep within the parameters I set myself for that world. I used to spend a lot of time as a child walking on the moors near my home (Bodmin Moor) and the whole area is peppered with abandoned mines, engine houses and chimneys; it’s hard not to wonder what might be lurking just out of sight. Watching.
Historical fiction was something I sort of ‘fell into,’ by accident, when I started to write something loosely based on my grandmother’s life in service. But once I began researching the era – which I’d moved back to WW1 – I became absolutely drawn in, and realised I loved it. It’s also appealing to me that the lack of mobile phones and super-fast transport makes my characters have to work a lot harder – this holds true for both genres.
I’ve always been in love with stories, and as for writing I suppose the obvious answer is that it started with Enid Blyton; my mythic fantasy series explores the mayhem that can occur when creatures of folklore break their ancient boundaries and begin to meddle with the lives of the people who have begun to share their habitat (moors and coastal areas.) It wasn’t until I was three books in that I realised how much that interaction relected The Faraway Tree stories!
When I was 13, I discovered Stephen King, and he woke up my inner demon, but as I continued to read him I grew to love the other aspects of his writing; the characters, the dialogue, and the relationships. His writing style is unmistakeable, and he’s at his most chilling when he’s writing anything but horror – discovering that gave me a love of subtlety in the written word. Less is definitely more, and Stephen King is the master of that. An odd combination, but the more I think about them both, the more natural it seems that they should have formed their bizarre alliance inside my head.
I wish I’d known I’d never be satisfied! At the start, I just wanted to finish something, then to have someone look at it and not hate it, then to get an agent, then I’d have sold my soul for a paperback deal instead of digital only... the goalposts are always moving, and I’m the one moving them! And hooray for that! It’s what ambition is born of, and I’ve discovered I have more of it than I ever suspected.
To writers just starting out, I would say: don’t spend too long researching and preparing, just find out what you need to know, and crack on! It’s too easy to hold back, certain you’ll get it wrong in one way or another, but the only wrong thing you’d be doing is not getting those words down. A story can be shaped later; it’s the same 26 letters, just rearranged, after all... but you can’t do that if those 26 letters are still in your head.
I’m about halfway through writing the third book, which now has a title: A Cornish Homecoming. This book will take its readers up, up, and away with one of the characters who’s had a real physical struggle throughout the three novels. It will whisk you from Liverpool back to Cornwall with another favourite but troubled character; it will wrap up all the loose ends, and hopefully deliver a few twists along the way to a warm-hearted and satisfying ending!
After that, I’m embarking on a new path with my writing, as R.D. Nixon, writing crime thrillers; by the time this interview comes out I should be able to announce a three-book deal with Hobeck, for the Clifford-Mackenzie series which is set in a small town in the Highlands. I will still write and publish my mythic fantasy series, but I don’t know yet whether there is still room for me in the family saga market. Time will tell!
Terri writes family sagas for Piatkus books, and mythic fantasy which she self-publishes. She was born in Plymouth, but grew up in Cornwall, where she 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.
Terri works in admin at the University of Plymouth, and is constantly baffled by the number of students who don't possess pens.