Hello Nicky. Let's see if I can ask you some unusual questions today!! So.... ask your own question and answer it!
Why do you write?
Because these characters in my head insist I do! Honestly, Doctor, I know the voices are from the 12thC…
If your latest book Sheriff and Priest was adapted into a TV show or a film, who would you like to play the lead role?
Hmmm - well I rather fancy the guy who’s on the cover, if he’s an actor!
What made you choose this genre?
I’ve always loved the sort of historical fiction which fleshes out the bones of history – which allows you a possible glimpse into the motivation and thought processes behind the bare facts.
But the bulk of my books at home are science fiction; I’m also attracted to the complete freedom of that genre. Maybe I ought to start writing alternate history!
How do you get ideas for plots and characters?
I stand in the corner with a baseball bat and try and fight them off – when I started writing, I used to write every interesting idea down on an index card. I gave up when the piles of shoeboxes started to get in the way…I think I’m up to 8 books waiting to be written, and I’ve lost count of short stories. My problem is too many ideas, not too few!
Favourite picture or work of art?
Only one?! <wibbles chin> - that’s HARD. I own a seal matrix that was last used in 1236 by an Abbot of Coggeshall called Geoffrey; the art work in that is stunning, it’s beautifully carved and gilded bronze in a piece about an inch and a half high. But as usual, it’s the story that grabs me – poor old Geoffrey was in his early 80s; I think he was making for an abbey the other side of Woodbridge in Suffolk, and was heading for Wimer’s priory to break his journey in the middle and get a night’s rest. I found his seal no more than a quarter of a mile away from my Priory; I think the poor old boy had a heart attack or a stroke, and his people were far more interested in getting him to help, than in worrying about where his personal seal went. It would have been destroyed on his death, probably; it’s a most wonderful happenstance that it ended up in my hands.
If, as a one off, (and you could guarantee publication!) you could write anything you wanted, is there another genre you would love to work with and do you already have a budding plot line in mind?
Oh yes. If I write something that diverges from historical fact, I shall call it science fiction; and I really want to write my father’s story as a novel, which I guess will be contemporary fiction.
Was becoming a writer a conscious decision or something that you drifted into (or even something so compelling that it could not be denied?) How old were you when you first started to write seriously.
I’ve always written; and I’ve always been a storyteller. I remember telling stories well after lights out at boarding school, taking things to one ending after another, desperate to get to sleep, and the audience demanding “just one more bit!”, lol – but I decided to write a novel when I was 50. It seemed to be a good time to decide what I wanted to do when I grew up!
Marmite? Love it or hate it?
I promise I won’t tell them the answer to this, but when you are writing, who is more important, your family or your characters?
I live alone J
Other than writing full time, what would be your dream job?
Archaeologist. Or archivist. Or chocolate tester J
Coffee or tea? Red or white?
Coffee – with cream if it’s “real” coffee, please, otherwise with milk. Red wine, always! And a drop of whisky, if you’re asking.
How much of your work is planned before you start? Do you have a full draft or let it find its way?
I sit down and write a skeleton plot. I intend to carry it everywhere… but life intervenes, and the book gets written in notebooks or scraps of paper with no reference to the plot. Then at some point in the editing process, I go back and see what I’ve actually written, as compared to Plan A, and use the strongest elements from both.
If you had free choice over the font your book is printed in, what font/fonts would you choose?
I read somewhere that Georgia makes everything more believable… but I’d like to ask YOU that question! Answer from Diana with her letterpress seller's hat on. I am totally with you on Georgia. Failing that I like good old fashioned Times Roman. I genuinely don't think they can be beaten by any of the other fonts.
Imagine that you could get hold of any original source document. What would it be?
Oooo. Great question! I’m still hunting for several of the Dodnash Priory charters, they would be nice. But I’d LOVE to see William the Bastard’s journal from the last period when he hosted Harold Godwineson, to see how much he manipulated that encounter, and how much he took advantage of later events. In fact, pretty much any journal from, say, the 6th-13th centuries would be good, especially if it were written by a non-royal woman. WHAT a source!
Have any of your characters ever shocked you and gone off on their own adventure leaving you scratching your head??? If so how did you cope with that!?
They all do, don’t they? Once you breathe life into them, they do their own thing! My job is then to make sure they stick to what actually happened, instead of seizing their chance for a second go!
How much research do you do and do you ever go on research trips?
Well, I think my archaeology counts as research; and spending time in the archives definitely does. I think, all told, Sheriff and Priest probably took 4 years to research. And because it’s based in Suffolk, where I live, I’ve visited every place in the book – I know some of the fields down to the division between clay and sandy soil; I’ve metal detected them systematically, reading the history literally inch by inch.
Are you prepared to go away from the known facts for the sake of the story and if so how do you get around this?
Pretty much no. At least not if I’m writing HISTORICAL fiction. Unless the story demands it, anyway – but then I think I’d prefer to write a different story than bend the facts significantly. I rather like taking the strictures of known fact and wrapping those bones in the story – but then I write in eras where there aren’t too many inconvenient facts around to complicate things!
Have you ever totally hated or fallen in love with one of your characters?
Wimer. I’ve spent so much time with him! On the hill overlooking the original priory, there’s an old oak stump, which in the right light looks like a monk with his hood up. When I’m upset, I go and tell that monk all my troubles…
What do you enjoy reading for pleasure?
Anything with print on J I always have 3 or 4 books on the go at any one time. Which is a good job, given the size of my TBR…
Last but not least... favourite author?
No WAY can I choose!
About Nicky:I live in the middle of rural Suffolk, UK, and am owned by a slinky black cat who's far too clever for her own good.
In my spare time, I'm an amateur historian/archaeologist, and in non-work daylight hours am usually out on a field somewhere with a metal detector and/or a trowel. I've added quite a few things to the Heritage England Record and the Portable Antiquities Scheme; but what really fascinates me is the stories behind the artefacts.
My first historical novel, Sheriff and Priest, is about the story of a local boy made good - Wimer the Chaplain was born in Dodnash in Suffolk of a poor Saxon family, but made it to be a confidant of Henry ll, holding down the job of High Sheriff for all Norfolk and Suffolk. Then he gave it all up and came home to found a Priory... finding the original site of that Priory (not where it's shown on the map) is still one of my proudest discoveries.
I also have a series of short stories about Henry Baker, a boy who finds a magic pencil on the way to school - I have no idea where these come from, but I enjoy writing them :)
I hope you find as much pleasure in my books as I get from creating them. I've added my Twitter account so you can contact me; I also have a Facebook page under my name. I also have an Etsy account - MagpiesRevenge - where I showcase the lovely flints I pick up whilst fieldwalking.
Thanks for reading!
Author Sharon Bennett Connolly recently reviewed Nicky's book. You can read her excellent review here, but please note the competition is now closed. Sharon Reviews The Sheriff and the Priest.
© Diana Milne January 2017 © Nicola Moxey 2017