Hi Terri and thank you for agreeing to this interview. Tell us a little about yourself and your background.
Hi, and thanks so much for asking me onto your blog today! Briefly, I was born and brought up in the wonderful English West Country, and I’m a hybrid author of Historical Sagas and Mythic Fiction, with a background in horror and fantasy. I’m currently under contract to Little, Brown for my new series, and am about to published my seventh novel. I have two sons, one of whom still lives at home, and I live on toast. No, seriously.
Tell us a bit about your recent release.
Penhaligon’s Attic is the first in a brand new Cornish saga, set in the fictitious mining town of Caernoweth, with its neighbouring fishing hamlet. It tells the story of Freya Penhaligon and her family, and the arrival of a woman who has the potential to either save Freya’s troubled father, or to destroy everything. This is the back-cover blurb:
1910: Anna Garvey arrives in Caernoweth, Cornwall with her daughter and a secret. Having come from Ireland to take up an inheritance of the local pub, she and her eighteen year-old daughter Mairead are initially viewed with suspicion by the close-knit community.
Anna soon becomes acquainted with Freya Penhaligon, a vulnerable girl struggling to keep her family business afloat in the wake of her grandmother’s death, and starts to gain the trust of the locals. As their friendship deepens, and Freya is brought out of her shell by the clever and lively Mairead, even Freya’s protective father Matthew begins to thaw.
But when a part of Anna’s past she’d long tried to escape turns up in the town, she is forced to confront the life she left behind – for her sake and her daughter’s too . . .
What genre are your books?
My self-published books are Mythic Fiction – contemporary characters caught up in the dark side of traditional Cornish folklore, but my traditionally-published ones are Historical, set mostly in the early twentieth century.
What draws you to this genre?
Considering I have it on record that I have said the one genre I would never write is Historical, I really don’t know! I think it was that the first book, which was intended as a one-off (Maid of Oaklands Manor, loosely based on my grandmother’s time in service) sparked such an interest in the way everything was changing just prior to, and during, the First World War. As I was researching that one, and I could feel the other characters knocking for attention, I knew I wanted to explore it further, from the points of view of people in different situations and professions.
Where do the your ideas come from? / What was the inspiration to write your most recent book?
Penhaligon’s Attic came originally from the idea that I wanted to write a traditional Edwardian ghost story. My best friend and I were road-tripping from Ohio to Canada, and thrashing out ideas as we went, but later I was informed that ghost stories didn’t really sell that well. So I re-wrote it as a community-driven drama, and that community has grown until it feels completely real, and I keep forgetting it’s not!
How much research do you do? / How do you research?
I research constantly, throughout the entire process. I could never read a chunk of something, then put it down and go ‘Right, I’m ready now!’ I have a bookmark list as long as your arm with pages I can flick to in a moment and double-check something. One of the most useful is an Historical Calendar page, where I can check days of the week for any given year, and when full moons/holidays etc occurred at that time. The only trouble with those links, is that I get dragged in too easily, and can spend (I won’t say ‘waste, but…!) an hour reading about conditions in a Cornish tin mine and how the explosives are set, when all I really need to know is; what day of the week did the 18th March fall on, in 1910?!
Plotter or pantser? – Do you work to an outline or plot or do you prefer just see where an idea takes you?
Obsessive plotter! Becoming more so, as time goes on. I think, when you’re writing a series, you have to be, if you want to be able to drop clues into one book, for incidents or reveals that won’t happen until the next. Having said that, I’m also a pantser in the sense that, once I know more or less what I need to include, I will just fling myself at the keyboard and see if I can find the most entertaining way of achieving it! Often I find myself changing entire plot lines because of something that fell onto the page while I wasn’t paying attention.
Describe what a typical writing day involves for you. / Do you aim for a set amount of words/pages per day?
I have to take the opportunity to write whenever I can, so when I get the chance, I plant my bum in my seat, and just do as much as I can. On a decent day, when I’ve been able to write for most of it, I’ll nail 5,000-ish words. Much of it fuelled by cheap instant coffee and midget gems, I have to admit. And toast.
What’s the toughest part of the writing process for you?
Finding the time! I only really have weekends to do it, so I have to make the conscious decision to ignore everything else, and just sit down and do it. Luckily for me I have an admirable knack for ignoring ironing piles and dust-bunnies for long stretches of time!
What’s the most enjoyable part of writing?
So much! I think, when something just clicks into place, and you realise you’d actually prepared the ground for it without realising it, it’s almost like being a little bit drunk! Grinning like a loon, and fist-pumping, then a quick look at the window to make sure no-one saw you!
Out of all the wonderful books out there, which book do you wish you had written and why?
Pretty much anything by George Eliot. The language is just so beautiful, and so rich, and her characters so multi-layered. You just get sucked right in. That, or Stephen King’s The Stand. Just because it’s epic!
What can we expect next from you?
I’ve completed the second Penhaligon book, (Penhaligon’s Pride) but it doesn’t have a home yet. I’m naturally hoping Little, Brown will pick it up, but I can’t count on that so I’m already thinking ahead to the possibility of self-publishing the remainder of the series. (I’ve learned, to my cost, never to split a series between two different publishers again!) I enjoy the self-pubbing process, so it wouldn’t faze me if I had to go that way.
Have you ever had a book rejected by a publisher / agent? How did you deal with it? How would you advise other authors to deal with rejection?
Oh, many times! They gradually become more and more helpful and constructive as time went on, so it got easier but it’s a shame that, when we’re starting out and at our most vulnerable, those are usually the shortest, tersest rejections we get. That said, it does help you grow a thicker skin! The only advice I can give really, is to remember that the rejections are not of you as a person, nor, most of the time, even of the standard of your work. It’s a reflection of the needs of that particular agent/publisher, at that particular time. Don’t give up, collect rejections as achievement badges, and remember that fewer people reach that stage than don’t. You’re already a winner!
What are you reading at the moment?
I’m reading The Moonstone, by Wilkie Collins. First time of reading it, although I’ve read him before. This is an absolute delight so far, wish I’d read it sooner.
- What secret talents do you have?
I can balance a spoon on my nose, I can do most accents after a bit of a practice, and I’ve just discovered I can cry at will. I had no idea I could do that! *runs off to audition for Corrie*
- Where is one place you want to visit that you haven’t been before?
I’d love to go to the Rocky Mountains in the autumn. I’m sure it’d be beautiful, with quiet places to walk, or to sit and read or write.
- Do you have any scars? What are they from?
Hmm! I have an appendectomy scar, a breast-cancer scar, some dinky little keyhole surgery scars from having my gall bladder out, and a little half-moon scar on the knuckle of my thumb, after an altercation with a sharp blade in a leather workshop!
- Are you a morning or night person? Explain.
Definitely a morning person. I’m used to getting up early for work, so even on weekends I get restless by 8am, and convince myself the day will disappear if I don’t get up and ‘at it!’ Plus, you know, toast.
How can readers discover more about you and your work?
Thanks so much for visiting, Terri! Good luck with your latest release!