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The next best thing to a time machine

When I read a book with a strong sense of place, I get itchy feet. I want to go to wherever it is that the book is set. This has happened to me many times since I was a child. Since starting Hobeck, it happened to me when I first picked up Antony Dunford’s Hunted. It also happened reading Sleeping Dogs by Wendy Turbin. And Robert Daws has added Gibraltar to my bucket list of places to go thanks to the Rock series.

When I read a book for which place is an important part of the story, I simply need to go there. A good book should take the reader away from the chair, the bed or the bus stop to a faraway place. It doesn’t hugely matter where that place is. If the reader feel that they want to go there, the author has done their job.

We get lots of submissions here at Hobeck and I have developed a number of mental tick boxes for when I am reading a submission. The ability to transform is one of my tick boxes.

Terri Nixon’s submission, which came to us in the early autumn, got a big fat bold tick for place. Within the first few chapters, she transformed us away from Staffordshire. We now want to transform you too. And as soon as this coronavirus madness allows it, I’m off for real. Where am I off to? Abergarry

We thought we’d give Terri (who will be writing for Hobeck as R. D. Nixon) the chance to introduce herself and her new series to the Hobeck readers in her own words.

Without further ado…

When did you first decide to become a writer?

I didn’t really decide to become one, as much as finally give myself the time to do it properly. I’ve always written stories, and made them up to tell my little brother too; I wrote ‘fan fiction’ for my best friend at school, getting her together with a boy she fancied (who later became a popular TV actor) I still have bits of that, handwritten on foolscap. But in the mid-80s I managed to get my hands on an electric typewriter, and from them on nothing was going to stop me! I wrote short stories that were eventually published in anthologies, and wrote my first full-length novel in the early 90s.

What is your favourite book from your childhood?

This is so hard! Like most writers, I’ve been an avid reader all my life. I devoured just about every style of Enid Blyton story there was, from the nonsense to the mysteries, and I became obsessed with all the Pullein-Thompson horse books, and Jill’s Pony Club series. But my favourite series, and the most re-read, has to be the Jennings books, by Anthony Buckeridge. A sort of PG Wodehouse for kids, which I still remember chunks of, even now. I quite often find myself spouting things in Jennings-ese!

Who is your biggest inspiration as a writer?

I think Stephen King has to assume the guilt for this one. I have written horror in the past, but it’s not so much the subject matter as the character and dialogue. The ease of it, and the natural flow. King has such a way of building in layers, that are effortlessly tapped into throughout a narrative – I’d give anything for half an hour with him and a notebook!

What books have you published in the past?

Since 2013 I have been writing historical family sagas for publishers, and mythic fantasy which I publish myself. The historicals are: The Oaklands Manor Trilogy, The Penhaligon Saga, and The Fox Bay Saga. The mythic fantasy books are The Lynher Mill Chronicles, set in Cornwall, where I grew up, and there are four of those at the moment. Although each series is separate, and set in different eras, the stories and characters share a common history (and geography) and I love putting in little ‘easter eggs’ for my readers to find!

What has motivated your switch to the crime genre?

My writing, before my first publication, was always quite dark. (Some very dark, and often a sort of drippy red...). But my first deal took me away from that, it was a side-step rather than a continuation of the road I’d started on. However, it landed me an agent and further deals, so I concentrated on those, and always ensured there was a satisfyingly strong element of crime and intrigue in them.

But always in the back of my mind was this ‘Trigger’s broom’ of a book that had been my first full-length novel. Languishing in a folder and being shunted from laptop to laptop like a kind of half-forgotten sitting tenant; updated now and again, re-titled, and then put away.

Then, a couple of years ago, in a restless mood, I dug it out and gave it the going-over of its life! I enjoyed it so much I decided it was time to re-embrace that side of things, and I’m loving it all over again!

What advice would you give to an aspiring crime writer?

From a personal style viewpoint, I’d say try not to sacrifice depth for shock value. If your readers can’t empathise with, and care about, your characters, then no amount of twists, turns and high body count is going to engage them. If they can, then the smallest upset will resonate, and they’ll continue to live in your world until you’re ready to let them go.

What are you reading at the moment?

I’m reading The Ragged-Trousered Philanthropists by Robert Tressell, and I’m loving it but it’s taking me ages because I only manage a few pages a day.

What has been your favourite book of 2020?

I absolutely loved Death in Venice, by Fiona Leitch. Funny and savage in equal measure, shades of Tom Sharpe. (Though it feels as if I’ve been reading The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists for most of 2020, to be fair...)

If you could meet any writer, living or dead, who would you like to meet?

Apart from Mr King, I’d love to meet PG Wodehouse – I have some serious gratitude to offload, for getting me through some tough times with his joyous and genius language.

What's your writing routine like?

Patchy. Since I have a day job as well, I have to make the most of every spare minute, but I do have Tuesdays and weekends off. I’m an early riser – rarely later than 6am – so I crack on the minute the cat’s fed and I have a cup of coffee next to me, and since I live alone now I’m habitually glued to my desk until around 5pm or 6pm. Full disclosure; far too much of that time is spent scrolling through Twitter and posting rubbish to Facebook, but I do get some words nailed down too!

What is your new novel about and where did the idea for it come from?

My new/old book was born on my very first trip to the Scottish Highlands, where my parents had moved in 1990. I took one look upwards as we were driving through Glencoe, and just knew I had to put someone in jeopardy up in those lumpy black hills and mountains, and the minute I got home I began to write. The story has evolved over the years, and now features that same premise, but the focus has shifted to feature PI team, Maddy Clifford and Paul Mackenzie, and their race to find and bring home an asthmatic 10 year-old boy, the innocent victim of a colossal misunderstanding between criminals. Old and bitter hatreds hamper the rescue at every turn, and corrupt officials are becoming both greedier and more unstable as the time ticks away. When even they turn on each other, no-one knows who they can trust anymore.

What attracted you to joining Hobeck Books?

I saw a social media post by Robert Daws around the time I was thinking of self-publishing this novel. Having parted company with my agent earlier in the year I hadn’t submitted to many publishers, but I’ve self-published in the past and, since this book had already been sitting around for getting on for thirty years, I didn’t want to wait much longer!

I’d never heard of Hobeck, but idly checked their website, and was immediately impressed by the mission statement: ‘trad values, indie spirit’. It seemed perfect, so I submitted my manuscript as per their guidelines. Following Hobeck on Twitter showed me an approachable, friendly, professional team, and I knew I’d made the right choice. All I could do then, was hope they did, too! 😉

We do think we made the right choice - welcome to the team, Terri!

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