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Plymouth, Devon, United Kingdom
West Country author, winner of Piatkus Entice award for historical fiction 2012.

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Monday, September 27, 2010

Downton Abbey Vs Oaklands Grange

Last night saw the first airing of Julian Fellowes's long-awaited Downton Abbey. I've had very mixed feelings about the timing of this, since I finished my book Tainted Legacy earlier this year and have begun querying agents with it over the last couple of months.
This book is something I've wanted to do for years after hearing some of the amazing stories told by my maternal grandmother of her years in domestic service, but it does seem funny that the final push came after watching Gosford Park for the second time -- also a Julian Fellowes classic.

When I was halfway through TL, I started hearing about this new drama penned by Fellowes, due to come out in the Autumn. It's set in 1912 (as is TL) centered on the goings on above and below stairs of a well-to-do Edwardian family (as is TL) who live in a country house called Downton Abbey. (TL's main residence is Oaklands Grange ... come on, that would have just been too mad for words!)

Downton's family is the Crawley family, Oaklands is home to the Creswells. We have a prim-ish Scottish Housekeeper in each, a politically aware daughter of the house, who fights for women's rights, a well-meaning scullery maid (my MC) and at least one scheming and ambitious servant who's likely to be the cause of more conflict than even they're prepared for. These characters might all appear as clich├ęs on the surface, but hopefully my versions have as many quirks and layers as Julian's, lifting them out of that rather shallow character pool.

The urgency to finish, and begin pitching before DA was aired, pushed me on to some extent, but the ease with which Lizzy Parker began to make herself known to me was bordering on spooky. For starters I had never intended to write an entire novel in the 1st person. I've done that with shorts, and with some success, but the thought of writing a novel that way? Nope. I shudder at the thought.
But from the minute I opened up the blank Word document and began typing, Lizzy was there. I've never written anything so fast, that needed so little editing afterwards. Of course I've gone back over it since, and made changes to sentence structure etc, but basically the book now, is the book as I first wrote it. It still astonishes me how it just fell out of my head and onto the screen.

So anyway, I watched Downton Abbey last night, nibbling at my fingernails in case I spotted massive, glaring errors despite my meticulous research, and ended up both hugely relieved, and HUGELY entertained. DA was enjoyable and beautiful to watch right from the beginning (a train features at the very start, and in TL the main character has just disembarked from one, and walks up an avenue flanked by trees - similar to those being gazed at by Bates from his train carriage. Okay, I'll stop now!)

This blog post isn't supposed to be a review of Downton Abbey, it's just a way of setting down my deep pleasure at the beginning of what promises to be both a wonderful way to spend a Sunday night, and a further research tool for any edits I decide to make in my own MS.

What wouldn't I give for the chance to get that MS into Julian's hands, and ask for an endorsement!

You can follow @DowntonAbbey on Twitter.
And me too, of course: @TerriNixon

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