‘A good novel is like a holiday for the brain’
Corby author N V Peacock talks to Julia Thorley about why she’s never regretted her decision to quit the day job and write full time.
It’s not that long ago that N V (Nicky) Peacock was pursuing a successful career in sales. Her decision to change tack and become a full-time author was undoubtedly the right one, as she has just seen her third adult crime thriller, The 13th Girl, published by Hera Books. She began writing supernatural young adult novellas and horror short stories, but then came her first full-length novel, Little Bones.
“I very nearly missed a great opportunity. I’d submitted Little Bones to six agents, but not had a single reply. Then I saw that Avon, which is a commercial fiction division of HarperCollins, had an open submission window so I sent in my manuscript, not expecting to hear anything. This was in 2020 and due to Covid I was working at home. When I saw a random London number that I didn’t recognise show up on my phone I ignored it. Thankfully, Avon persisted and emailed me, and within a year my debut novel was published as an e-book and in paperback.”
Next, Nicky found an agent to help her through the publishing world. As she puts it, “I was put out to market!” The result was a two-book deal with Hera Books. The Brother was published in July 2023, quickly followed in January this year by The 13th Girl.
Nicky admits she has a dark streak somewhere in her psyche. She loves true crime podcasts and has a fascination with serial killers.
“It’s true, I’m intrigued by the darker side of people’s personalities, but I don’t like to see anyone struggling. Mental health is a theme that is central to The 13th Girl, and is something we can all relate to. How do we ensure that anyone enduring poor mental health can access the help and respect they deserve? Who decides what is ‘normal’ anyway?
“I had a very permissive upbringing and I suppose I was rather a dark child. In junior school, I wrote a scary story about a scarecrow that comes to life and my teacher called my parents in to make sure everything was all right at home! Perhaps I was influenced by having an older brother; maybe that led me to seeing TV shows that, strictly speaking, were above my age.”
Nicky is fond of Northamptonshire and all her books are either set in this county or feature a lead character who has a connection here. She was delighted to sign copies of her latest thriller in the Kettering branch of Waterstones recently, and she still runs the Corby-based creative writing group that she started at a time when she needed help.
“Back in 2010, There was nowhere I could turn to find the support and advice I was looking for on how to write and how to navigate the publishing industry. I couldn’t find a local writing group so I started my own and it’s still going strong. There are about 30 members now and most of them have ambitions to be published; some already are. There are short story writers, novelists, poets and even some playwrights. It’s all the same job, really: telling stories that will appeal to an audience.”
Nicky is generous with her time and is happy to share what she has learnt with up-and-coming writers.
“I tell them, ‘Do it, but do it right. Join a group and find a mentor. Plan your plot, but be prepared to be flexible as you go along’. New writers sometimes overlook how important theme is, yet this is what sells the book. Writing is an art and art is subjective, of course, but it’s also a business, which again can be hard for some creative people to get their heads around. Without it, though, it’s a bit like having a child you just want to play with.
“I’ve had amazing support from my mentor [best-selling Northants author] Jane Isaac, who has given me lots of help and encouragement. The best advice I was ever given was ‘Don’t kill any animals. Readers hate it when you do that!’
“I nearly went into teaching, but I’m so glad I made the leap of faith into writing. Each book is a standalone, because I don’t want to end up telling the same story over and over again. This is more interesting for me as a writer, but also, being pragmatic about it, it means I can reach a wider audience. A good novel is like a holiday for the brain. If I can take my readers on a five-star cruise, then I’m happy.”