In The Spotlight: Author Don Nixon
Well it’s Tuesday again and I would like to welcome to the Blog a writer I’ve known since we first published him at Bridge House and he has gone on to have many successes including a new novel …
Over to you Don, tell us something about yourself …
I live in Shropshire. I have worked as a tutor for the Open University. I also did some work for the Open University in prisons and I think my experience meeting prisoners in a variety of different prisons from Category A to Open has influenced my fiction writing and the fact that I have tended to focus on crime short stories. The first short story I wrote was about a prisoner just released.
Have you always wanted to be a published writer?
I had never thought of writing until my wife started to go to a local writers’ group. She discussed what she was writing with me and I became interested. She encouraged me to submit a short story to a magazine and to my surprise it was accepted and from then on I was hooked. I began to enter writing competitions and had some success with short stories. I had a crime short story accepted by Tindal Street Publishers for their crime anthology Birmingham Noir and another by a Canadian publisher in Calgary. I also won the short story prize for the Writers’ and Artists’ Yearbook competition in 2004 which involved a meeting with an editor from Bloomsbury Publishers and I suppose that encouraged me to go on. Since then I have had a number of short stories and articles published, including some by Bridge House Publishing. I also began to write poetry which I find I greatly enjoy doing. I won or was short-listed for various poetry competitions and was lucky enough to win the formal poetry prize for two years running 2012 and 2012 at a prestigious international poetry festival at Lake Orta in Italy, the patron of which is Carol Ann Duffy and other leading poets from all over the world are there.
Last year I also won the Leeds Peace Poetry prize. Meeting poets at this and other festivals has been a wonderful experience and a great encouragement. My daughter says I am a schizophrenic writer — poetry on the one hand and gritty crime fiction in the other. Some time ago, I went to my wife’s writers’ group to hear a talk by a writer who writes Westerns. He gave very good advice. Almost as a joke I began occasionally to jot down ideas for a Western. I found that Westerns are very popular on library shelves and so I read some and found the genre has very specific rules. I decided to try and get my effort into some kind of shape.
Do you have an agent? If not did you try to get one? Any advice about that?
No I haven’t tried to get an agent. Most agents don’t seem to want to handle short story writers or poets so I haven’t bothered. Now with a novel under my belt I may consider it.
Do you belong to a writing group? Crit group? Have you had someone professionally critique your novel before submitting or publishing?
I don’t belong to a writers’ group but have occasionally gone to a local group when they have a guest speaker as happened with the Western. I have not had anyone critique my novel though I got some very good feedback from an American publisher to whom I first submitted it. They rejected it but made many suggestions and said they would consider it if these suggestions were acted upon. As one basic suggestion involved a major rethink of part of the plot I decided not to do this.
Tell us about how the western came to be published … I saw a competition from – Creative Print Publishing. Last year they asked for submissions of novels in different genres — each month for 8 months there was a different genre. I noticed that one month was devoted to the Western genre so as I had one finished, I sent it in. It won and the prize was publication, marketing. royalties etc. Creative Publishing is in the self assisted publishing business but as I had won the prize it was all free for me and I cannot speak too highly of their professionalism.
What was the editing process like and how long did it take? Did you work with an editor?
The editing process was detailed and helpful. I doubt if I would self publish as I believe the labourer is worthy of his hire. In this case my novel was chosen by an editor who presumably thought it had merit and had commercial prospects as they were paying for all aspects of its publication and royalties.
How much marketing have you had to do and how have book sales been?
The publisher has done the online marketing with Amazon, Waterstones, Kobo etc. Already there is a good review on Amazon. The opening chapter can be read on Amazon. I will arrange local newspaper interviews and local radio. It is too early for me to know what the sales have been like. I have also been asked to talk to a group about writing and will take some copies along. I have also put the cover on my Facebook page.
Okay so tell us about the novel …
The novel is a Western adventure . The background of is I think fairly accurate. It is set in Southern Texas and across the border in Mexico. The story is about a young man with a chequered past in a race against time to save a man from being hanged. He rescues a rich Texan saloon owner from a stagecoach robbery and in return she employs him to cross the border into Mexico with a ransom in emeralds to buy the freedom of her former lover from the corrupt governor of the province. In the course of the journey he comes into conflict with a local bandido war lord and has a number of adventures during the course of which he gradually comes to terms with his troubled past and falls in love. I am thinking of writing a sequel.
- The novel can be bought (print or download) on Amazon and other on line book sellers – Waterstones, WH Smith, Kobo etc. It can also be obtained
- on order from booksellers. Some short stories I have written which are published in anthologies are also on Amazon.
Did you have any say in the cover design?
The publisher was very good about this and incorporated my ideas into the design as I wanted it to relate to the story of the novel hence the noose, the cacti and the emeralds.
So what’s next?
I am thinking about a sequel to Ransom. This time it would be set on the Canadian border and Rockies – an area I know well. I am also playing around with ideas for a crime novel. Some of the short stories I have had published could form the basis of an opening chapter. A Routine Job in the current Bridge House Crime After Crime springs to mind. At the moment however I am writing poetry as I will be reading later this year at some poetry festivals. I am also thinking about assembling a collection of my poems which have done well in competitions with a view to publication. Basically I write because I enjoy it. Anything else such as winning a competition or publication is a bonus.
Any advice for writers who are trying to get their work published?
Enter competitions. That way you hone your craft and you have something to put on your CV.
Tell us something random about you for the pure hell of it
I got married in Canada in a snow storm and had to dig a way through the snow from the apartment to get to the church on time. My wife though it might be an idea for opening a story in the romance genre but I usually need a body to crop up so if I use it I suppose something nasty will have to found in a snowdrift and it will be back to crime.
Finally: can we post an extract of your novel?
Yes with pleasure and you can read the first chapter on Amazon …
Chapter One, Ransom
It was a good spot for an ambush. The canyon sides sloped steeply. Here the pass shrank to its narrowest point.
High among the rocks, Brett watched the two men below. They struggled to haul a boulder into the middle of the trail. Earlier, he had seen them hide their horses beyond the bend in the dirt track so that the driver of the stage would not be suspicious when he saw the rock blocking his way. Landslides were common in this stretch of southern Texas. It would not be the first time the driver had to clear the way ahead.
Brett eased himself into a more comfortable position and rested his Winchester Repeater on a ledge in the outcrop of the scree. Squinting along the barrel, he brought the older of the two men into his sights. The man was fiftyish and his grizzled beard was flecked with white. Unlike his younger companion, a Mexican with a swarthy skin and long black hair tied Yaqui Indian fashion at the back, the greybeard was very pale. Brett guessed the unhealthy pallor meant he had not been long out of the State penitentiary.
Brett had been following the trail of the Mexican for the past three weeks after he had found his partner knifed and robbed at their camp north of the border crossing. The local sheriff hadn`t been too interested in his story. To him, Brett and his partner were just another pair of out of work vaqueros – young men who just drifted to and fro across the border and were probably up to no good. Knifings and robberies were commonplace in the little border towns. After quickly jotting down a few details, the sheriff was soon back at his poker game.
Brett realised there was going to be no help from what passed for the law in that part of southern Texas. Angry at the murder of his friend, He determined to find the killer himself. The Mexican had been over confident and had made no effort to cover his tracks. The trail led north. Brett finally found him one night in a saloon in San Antonio.
After leaving the orphanage, Brett had worked for a time in the noisy engine room of a Mississippi sternwheeler and there he had picked up how to lip read. The Mexican was sitting with two other men and from across the saloon, Brett had easily read their plan to hold up the stage to Santos. He had followed them the next morning as they left town. The third man was not with them.
Brett`s mouth set in a grim line. He couldn`t prove that the Mexican had killed his partner but if the murderer was caught holding up a stage then he`d hang for that instead.There was always the possibility that there could be a bounty on his head. That would come in useful as most of the money he`d earned across the border as a mercenary was now gone. It might be best to take the greybeard alive he decided as a live prisoner usually brought a higher reward and the Mexican would be an extra bonus. Brett settled back to wait.
The trap was set.
Copyright Don Nixon Creative Print Publishing, 2013. Reproduced with kind permission of the author.
That’s great thank Don. To order the book from Amazon click on the cover …
Next Week in the spotlight … the talented author Holly Stacey