Dear readers, please stop telling us our books aren’t real

What makes a book?

Not even a great book, necessarily, but a book in general. Is it, as we are taught as children, that it has a cover and a spine and a blurb and some pictures and a story that ends in happily ever after?

Maybe it’s that huge hardback that has all the pictures of different animals in the zoo, or the tellings of the church, or the one that gives you other words for the words you know?

Is it, as we’re taught at GCSE or A Level or at university, a conduit to the writer, a symbol of their life, a collection of images that mean something else, a hidden language to be discovered by the critic?

Nope…there’s actually only one thing that makes a book…


The words can be any way they wish, really. They can be piled up together as a huge manuscript, typed or handwritten, stapled or tied with string. They can be documents typed out over and over again, telling a story in perfect placement of word after word after word.

The words can be arranged in patterns like in poetry books, where white space tells it’s own story. They can be told in chapters weekly, sent straight to your inbox or collected from a comic book shop like a golden treasure.

All a book really needs to be a book is words.

Words on a page.

Or on a screen.

Real_Real Sassy

I am a digital first author. And we are tired of being told we’re not writing real books. Ebooks are real books. The medium you consume a book through does not define it.

Yes, sometimes it’s gorgeous to hold something in your hands, and we are oh-so glad when you say you would love to cherish this thing we wrote by putting it on a shelf, flicking the pages with your thumbs and dog earring the pages (well, I would, I know some people are against that sort of chicanery).

But publishing is a strange world. Believe me, I’ve had a physical book and it’s hard to sell. The world does not make us J K Rowlings. It does not make us Stephen Kings. Not every author you know is going to be a big time traditional author. Some of us are out here in the middle, just doing our thing and telling our tales.

Ebooks are truly extraordinary things. They have opened up a sphere for everyone to have accessible reading material – audio for those who struggle to see, or to read. Ebook readers help with bigger fonts and brighter screens. They especially help those of us who used to pack ten books for a seven day holiday and had to pay over the baggage allowance (Kindle, I shall be forever grateful).

I know we’re in a time of ‘reality’ and ‘alternate reality’, ‘online’ and ‘offline’, and for some people, things you can’t hold in your hand aren’t real to them. But much like other things you can’t hold in your hand (peace, love, wellbeing, the sound of waves, laughter, memories) they are in existence and bring us joy.  There are books I know only by the voice of the person who read them to me, there are books I remember in my heart as stories that will stay with me, even though I don’t physically hold the book.

A book comes alive when it’s being read – it doesn’t need a dust jacket for that magic to happen.

This generation is less about ownership, and more about sharing and borrowing – we don’t buy albums, we stream them. We don’t buy movies, we stream them. And we have that with books too. As creators and consumers, we’re moving into a new era, and it’s gorgeous, it really is. It means so many more people can enjoy stories and access them. It means they’re affordable and shareable. Ebooks make shouting about that story you loved so much easier.

My books are real. They have words and characters and dialogue and punctuation and a whole heap of heart and soul in there. But even if they didn’t have half of that, even if they were just some words, in some sort of order, telling some sort of story, they would still make a book. Ebooks are not the sad little shadow behind the hardback Peter Pans. They’re out there flying too, zipping through the internet to that person who clicked because they just had to have it right now.

In the older days of publishing, being an author was about hardback and paperback, drinking warm wine in a bookshop for your launch, and squirrelling away in poverty for the sake of your art. Perhaps, if you were lucky, it was the Richard and Judy book club, or a huge advert on the tube that you could pose in front of.

Did any of that change the story? Did any of that change the fact that it was a book and people read it, and they liked it or they didn’t?

I am incredibly proud to be a digital first author, to create stories that are accessible and immediate and alive. Those stories exist in a screen that you can take anywhere with you – you can conjure my books at the touch of a button, whenever you like. You can find that line you loved send it to a friend a million miles away. You can sink deep into that story and find the author and tell them that it made you feel something.

And there’s nothing more real than that.



Q and A with Terri Nixon

Today I’m excited to welcome Terri Nixon to the blog. I was absolutely blown away by her book Penhaligon’s Attic, a historical drama set in Cornwall, and I gobbled it up in a couple of days. When I realised it was part of a series, I immediately pre-ordered book two, Penhaligon’s Pride, and now I’ve finished that, I’m desperate for book three!

Welcome to Terri!

Penhaligons Pride


How did you get into writing?

At the risk of sounding like a cliché, I’ve just always done it. At school I used to write stories for my friends, hooking them up with the boys they fancied; accepting challenges from my colleagues, I used to make up silly (and often quite rude!) rhyming ditties at work; I wrote my first novella in the mid-80s – a sort of chick-lit offering, inspired by Jilly Cooper’s series; I then moved on to horror stories which I had published in several anthologies; and then, in the early noughties, I began writing what would eventually become The Dust of Ancients, the first book in my Mythic Fiction series. I can’t remember a time when I wasn’t writing, to be honest!

What is Penhaligon’s Pride about?

Penhaligon’s Pride is the second book in a Cornish drama series set in the early 1900s. There are breaches of trust; the dangers of working in the tin mines; secrets hundreds of years old that won’t stay hidden; and the ferocity of the Cornish coast that brings out the best – and the worst – in the people who live with it. The central family, the Penhaligons, are neither the richest nor the poorest in the community, but they have their own struggles and joys, bitter-sweet tastes of first love, and brushes with danger and death. It’s very community-driven, with a full supporting cast! The central story is of how a careless slip of the tongue results in a deadly blackmail attempt, and all that stems from that.

Penhaligon’s Pride is a sequel – did you always know there would be more than one book?

I actually thought Penhaligon’s Attic (the first book in the series) would be a standalone; it was supposed to be a traditional Edwardian ghost story, all wrapped up and solved. But after I’d put it away for couple of years and written two other series, the premise changed, the ghosts disappeared, and I’d already discovered the joy to be found in creating characters I could visit again and again. So when I re-started it, I knew it would be a more complex story than I could contain in one book, and that I wanted to follow the characters through several storylines. I have deliberately not called it a trilogy, as it could conceivably continue long beyond three books.

Who is your favourite character in the book and why?

I think Anna Penhaligon (formerly Garvey) has to be my favourite. She’s come from a privileged background, and she’s had to flee her home, with her daughter, to start afresh in a close-knit town where she knows no-one. But she’s come through her various trials with a wry sense of humour intact, and with a strength she never knew she possessed. She’s become the heart of a community that initially mistrusted her, and running a pub frequented by working men whose tempers often flare, she’s shown she suffers no fools. Anna is in her mid-thirties, and she’s strong but fallible; she’s a warm, compassionate woman, and her love for her family is what drives her. Sometimes down entirely the wrong road…

What are you working on at the moment?

With the third Penhaligon book finished, and under contract, I’ve been able to turn my attention to the Mythic Fiction series that sprang from The Dust of Ancients. The one I’m writing now is a prequel, set in the English Civil War era, and anyone who’s reading The Penhaligon Saga, will recognise the main story as one that’s coming to light in that series, through the discovery of some old journals. The book is called The Unquiet Dawn, and I hope to release it in the first quarter of this year. I’m also gearing up for the launch of my scribbling alter-ego, Polly Duncan, who keeps nagging me to give her a fair crack of the WIP. (see what I did there?!)



Terri was born in Plymouth, UK. At the age of 9 she moved with her family to Cornwall, to the village featured in Jamaica Inn — North Hill — where she discovered a love of writing that has stayed with her ever since. She also 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.

Penhaligon’s Pride is her eighth novel to be published.

Amazon Author Page:
Twitter: @terriNixon


Cover reveal!

In case you missed it, the cover for Prosecco and Promises is up! It’s also available for pre-order on Amazon, or on Netgalley if you’re a blogger.

As many of you might have guessed, it’s time for Mia’s story (though you’ll still see a bit of Savvy here and there too!):

Since her mother died when Mia was a child, her dad has been her best friend and her idol. Now, the cancer he survived years before is back, and this time there’s no fighting it. To make matters worse her dad’s last request is for Mia to leave him and visit her mother’s family on the Italian island of Ischia so she doesn’t have to be there at the end.
Arriving at the sun-soaked island, Mia is embraced by the warm, crazy family she doesn’t know. While she waits for the phone to ring with the dreaded news, Mia desperately looks for a connection to the mother she never knew. Stumbling upon an antique shop run by the charming Antonio and his grouchy but handsome grandson Salvatore, she throws herself into helping with the shop restoration. As Mia and Salvatore’s bickering soon turns to chemistry, will she risk having her heart broken when she knows what’s waiting for her at home?
p and p

My 2017 Review (and my goals for 2018)

2017 has been a strange year – on a personal and professional level, it’s been a triumph for me. On a political and wider world level, I’ve spent most of the year wanting to bang my head against a wall. These two things are not unconnected.

Writers work best when we have something to say, and whilst my books are by no means searing political commentaries, they are a way for me to work out my snarkiness, focus on human interactions and (shocker) give everyone a fairly happy ending.

We need a little light relief in our lives these days. We need books that make you laugh and cringe and smile and sigh. We need books about food, books we can enjoy with a glass of wine, books we chat about at book clubs, hand over to our friends, dog earred and devoured.

This year I have been outraged, screamed, cried, pulled at my hair. I’ve had more arguments with people about the future of our country, about my heritage, about our place in the world. I have become more ballsy, and inversely, more anxious. I have doubted myself, felt sick at the arguments, felt my cheeks redden and my stomach clench. I have been obnoxious and sincere and desperate.

That is starting to be an element of my personality, I fear, this awkward little voice telling me I’ve done something wrong. But that’s okay, everyone learns which voices are intuition and which are anxiety. The wolf you feed is the one that wins, after all.

Photo by Brooke Lark on Unsplash

And yet, this flash of real world has not damaged my insatiable belief that I am meant to be writing. In fact, this year, I’ve smashed my own targets, pushed my limits and done things I wasn’t sure I could do (that little voice has learnt, professionally at least, to fuck off):

  • I signed on to write a three book foodie series with Canelo.
  • I wrote a domestic noir thriller under a different name (in a month!).
  • I wrote a Ruby Tuesday novella.
  • I ran workshops locally.
  • I got a day job where I get to be a professional writer.
  • I committed to learning as much as possible about writing, through self publishing podcasts, TED talks and marketing books.
  • I got signed by an agent.
  • I had an article published on The Creative Penn’s website. (I’m a total fangirl)
  • I passed my MSc in creative writing for therapeutic purposes.So what’s next?

Well, I’m hoping 2018 will be less of a political shit storm. But in the meantime, I’m going to keep chugging along and pushing more boundaries:

  • Writing a book for my agent
  • Writing the third in the Martini Club series
  • Giving a talk on my creative process at a lit fest (will be working on my public speaking!)
  • Aiming for paperback
  • Making the most of my rights
  • Looking into running a summer writing retreat
  • Possibly giving a talk on my MSc research (eep, again with the public speaking

What are you proud of having achieved this year? How are you challenging yourself next year? Be loud and proud about your goals – they might not always happen at once, but if you keep the dream alive and keep your focus, they get closer. And then there’s always another dream.

Uncategorized, writing tips

The Choir on Hope Street gets a gorgeous new look!

I’m so excited to have my lovely friend Annie Lyons on the blog today. Annie wrote one of my favourite books of 2017 (which will incidentally be featured in that post next week) The Choir on Hope Street.

It is just so uplifting, life-affirming and funny. I’ve read every one of Annie’s books and she only gets better. This book absolutely made me want to sing!


It is a truth universally acknowledged that there is nothing more joyously rewarding than singing in a choir. I have been the proud member of my beloved Churchfields Community Choir for nearly three years and can honestly say that singing with them has brought me levels of happiness that I hadn’t experienced since I wore out the cassette reel on my treasured Adam and the Ants Prince Charming album in the early eighties.
When I wrote The Choir on Hope Street, I wanted to convey this happiness – this love for music and singing. I wanted to show the sheer joy you can feel as you channel your inner Carole King or Rihanna – as the real world melts away and for a blissful moment, hearts rule heads and music does its awesome thing.
Of course it’s tricky to convey all this in a book cover but I am delighted to reveal today that those clever people at HQ have done just that with this brand new beauty of an eBook cover.
So, stick on your favourite tune (I recommend Crazy in Love by Beyoncé for this particular moment) and feast your peepers on this!

The Choir on Hope Street_FINAL

Gorgeous or what?
If you’ve already enjoyed The Choir on Hope Street, you are also already one of my favourites. If not, you can find out more about the story by following this handy link.

I absolutely loved this book, and some choice friends and family members will be getting the paperback as Christmas presents – share the love, raise your voice and get singing about this book. It’s a winner!


The number one reason you should be writing right now

It was my birthday this weekend – and just before, it had been a day of much bookish chat, possibility and relief. Exciting things are happening, and I’ll keep you posted as soon as I know anything. But the reason I’m mentioning this is that I was chatting with someone who was just starting out on a really exciting project, and he said he was writing just because he enjoyed it.

When was the last time you did that? Wrote for fun? When it wasn’t for a pitch, or you planned for it to be a novel, or you’d worked out that you were going to self publish? When was the last time you removed all of the expectation of that story, and just let it tell itself?

Ironically, ego is the greatest barrier to creating something you’re proud of. Because you’re obsessed with writing something worthy, something important, and special. And that’s hard! Because you’ve built it up in your head. Who on earth can manage to work efficiently on a project whilst thinking ‘this is going to be really important’?

I’m not against wanting to create a work of art or being dedicated to perfection, but you know yourself better than anyone, and writing, like most creative pursuits, is about vulnerability – so ask yourself, why does the thing you’re writing need to be important? Why does it need to defend your desire to write?

And whilst you’re asking yourself questions, what about these:

Would you still write if no one read or liked what you wrote?
Would you still write if what you wrote was not important, but just fun, or entertaining?
Would you write if you got bad reviews?
What happens if you write something that isn’t important?
What is the worst thing that someone could say about your books?
Is there anything that could stop you from writing?

People write for a hundred different reasons – because it makes them feel good, because it’s fun, because it’s therapeutic, because it’s the easiest way for them to communicate, because they want to be heard…no matter what your reason is, let it come from love and passion, not ego. Ego doesn’t create good writing, it creates inauthenticity.

Find your reason, and enjoy the process. Writing is a gift- don’t waste it worrying on being the best.