Today, I’m writing to you from my office in Bath which will soon be replaced with an office in Northumberland, now that we’re making the Big Move North. I’m so excited about returning to the countryside where I grew up and looking forward to introducing my son to all the best beaches (there are so many to choose from) in time for Christmas. But, if there’s one person I don’t have to convince when it comes to the beauty of the North-East, it’s lovely fellow author and friend Nicky Doherty, one half of the bestselling writing duo that comprises Nicky Black.
Nicky Black is a collaboration between two friends, Nicky and Julie, who have known each other for around twenty years. They both had careers in urban regeneration back in the 90s, working at the heart of disadvantaged communities in the North East of England. During that time, they experienced the real grit and struggle of peoples’ everyday lives, as well as their humour and determination to lead a happy existence, whatever that meant to them.
Julie has had a career as a script writer, and Nicky has transformed two of Julie’s early scripts into novels. The first is called ‘The Prodigal,’ and the second is a work in progress called ‘Tommy Collins,’ which will be released in the Spring of 2018. To find out a little more about this dynamic duo, I asked Nicky to answer a few short questions which she kindly agreed to do. Here goes…
- Tell us a little about yourself – don’t be shy!
I’ve been enjoying reading these interviews with some fabulous authors, so delighted to be here.
I was born and brought up in Alnwick, Northumberland, a very beautiful place that I didn’t appreciate at the time. When I’d finished my degree, I moved back to Newcastle and worked in urban regeneration for twelve years. Then I thought I’d give London a go for six months when my contract was up and ended up staying fourteen years. The last couple of years there weren’t very happy ones for me, so I ditched it all last summer and moved back up north. I also turn fifty this year which I can hardly believe. I’m officially middle-aged and the healthiest and happiest I’ve been in years!
[Blogger’s Note: I don’t think any of us can believe that you turn fifty this year, Nicky. What’s your secret?!]
- How about your latest book – what can readers look forward to when they pick it up?
Well, my latest book is a couple of years old now – I’ve been working on the second one since August last year. In the first book, The Prodigal, readers can expect quite a moving story, although it’s set amidst a fairly gritty backdrop of urban decay. Whilst it’s a crime novel, at its heart is a love story between a detective, Lee Jamieson, and Nicola Kelly, who is questioning her loyalty to her violent, drug-dealing husband now she has small children. Needless to say, it’s not an easy ride for either of them. I’ll leave it there as I don’t want to give away the plot…
The next one, Tommy Collins, is set on the same fictional council estate ten years earlier in 1989, and is about a young man who organises raves. It’s his escape, and he gets the chance to organise a massive party, make some serious cash and leave his life of poverty behind. Only, he borrows money from the wrong man. The Detective Chief Inspector, Peach, is a dream to write.
- Who is your hero in real life and in fiction?
Annie Lennox. I’ve always been fascinated by her: her voice, song-writing, her effortless androgyny, her dedication to making the world a better place. She’s fierce yet gentle. I can’t explain it, but that voice stops me in my tracks every time I hear it even after all these years. It may sound weirdo stalkerish, but I can’t imagine my life without her music. She also delivers the best “huh!” in pop, in my opinion.
Fiction – I had to look at my bookshelves to answer this one, but it didn’t take long. I’m going to say Heathcliff. He’s just so tortured. I know he’s a cruel character and doesn’t behave in any way heroically, but man, he breaks my heart. And he comes good in the end like all the best heroes.
- Who are your three favourite writers – and why?
Roddy Doyle. Funny, moving, gritty – three of my favourite things in any drama. He has this ability to capture mood, emotion and place without describing it in any great detail. It’s all in the dialogue. The Woman Who Walked into Doors is my favourite book of all time, A Star called Henry a close second. I met him recently and he signed my dog-eared copy of The Woman Who Walked into Doors. I’m well chuffed.
Donna Tartt – in contrast to Roddy Doyle, she describes places and people in such detail and with such elegance, I’m in awe. Perfect dialogue, too, and the stories are gripping as hell. The Goldfinch blew me away.
Hmmm. This is hard. I think I’ll say Pat Barker, though I haven’t read anything by her for a while (must rectify that). The Regeneration trilogy is so evocative and sad, but there’s always a message of hope in her books. And she’s a Geordie which is always a winner J. Oh, Catherine Cookson – what a storyteller. (There’s too many, I’ll stop now…).
- When you’re not writing, what is your favourite way to spend your time?
I’d like to say something cultural or healthy, but I binge watch TV I’m afraid. Once I’m into a programme, I’m addicted and have to get through it as quickly as possible. At the moment, it’s Suits for entertainment value, and Mindhunter for pure drama and a banging 70s sound track. When I’m not working, writing or binge watching, I love a good night out on the town.
- What do you consider to be your greatest achievement?
Deciding to change my life and following through (that bit’s important), despite how difficult it all was. I left my job, a relationship that made me unhappy and my life in London to start afresh and give myself space to write. Happiness and a life not bogged down in stress and mistrust can’t be bought. I’m lucky that I have a great family, no mortgage, no kids, so it was achievable. I haven’t achieved what I ultimately want yet, but I’m working on it. I have a plan, and I like that.
- What was your favourite book as a child?
Easy. The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett. I love a rebel, especially one who goes on such a journey of self-discovery. I can’t remember how many times I finished it and went right back to the beginning again.
- Have you read any books recently that have really captured your imagination?
The Summer of Impossible Things by Rowan Coleman. It’s not easy to pull of time-travel and make it plausible. That takes some imagination; I loved it.
- If the Prime Minister knocked at your front door and asked to borrow a book, which one would you recommend they read?
Anything by Michael Morpurgo or Joyce Stranger, since she seems to think animals can’t feel pain or emotion. Even if they didn’t, we feel pain and emotion for them, and that should be enough.
- Finally, if you could be any character from a movie, which would it be?
Louise, from Thelma and Louise! Not that I want to shoot anyone or drive off a cliff, but I admire her loyalty, her badass independence and her bravery. And I love Susan Sarandon. She can do no wrong in my eyes.
Thank you for having me, Louise, and best of luck with Dark Skies – looking forward to another fix of Ryan!
…Thanks, Nicky! Love your answers and, as a big fan of The Prodigal, I am already looking forward to reading your next book when it comes out. I admire your decision to change the things that weren’t working in your life and strive for a better happiness – that’s a decision I also took a few years ago. You only get the one life, so we might as well use it wisely! For now, I’m off to listen to some Annie Lennox and plot the next DCI Ryan book…
Wishing you all a wonderful week ahead!