Author Nigel Blackwell and His Paris Love Match

Like most of the other writers I adore today, I first met Nigel Blackwell on social media back in 2011… that’s how I usually start off with my author interview introductions.  But not this time!

Author Nigel Blackwell
Author Nigel Blackwell

Nigel is one of the very few writers that I actually met in person before stalking on Twitter or Facebook.  One Saturday morning, sitting on the floor of a nearby community college’s writer’s workshop, I met Nigel.  We shared lunch and talked about our writing journeys—kind of odd for strangers, but his kindness and generosity made me feel right at home.  He shared tips, such as craft books that I needed to read, and helped me understand the importance of loglines.  We were instantly friends.

Soon after, I joined Nigel’s local writing group and he was one of the very first (and few) I bounced plot and story ideas off of while writing Football Sweetheart.  He has since helped me with the logline for FS2, and most recently, helped me with my very first book trailer (to be released soon).  Seriously, his generosity goes on for days and days—he is simply a gem.

Oh, and did I mention he’s British?  I could listen to Nigel talk for hours.  I mean it… hours.

But before I ramble on, here’s a little bit about Nigel in his own words:

Nigel Blackwell was born in rural Oxfordshire in England. He has a love of books, a PhD in Physical Chemistry, and a black belt in pointing out the obvious.

As a teenager he toured Europe and loved seeing the wonders of the world and the people in it. Since then he has been fortunate enough to travel across Europe, North America, the Middle East, and Japan, and hasn’t been anywhere that doesn’t have the potential for a story.

He now lives in Texas with his wife and daughter, where they enjoy the sunshine and listen to the coyotes howl at night.

Before we jump into the interview, check out Nigel’s blurb for his debut suspense novel, Paris Love Match

Enjoy!

Paris Love Match

Getting a taxi in Paris can be hell.
Piers Chapman expected a boring business trip to Paris.
Paris Love MatchWhat he didn’t expect was to fight over a cab with a beautiful girl.
After a bad meeting, Sidney Roux just wanted to hail a cab, go home, and have a glass of wine.
She didn’t expect to fight over a cab with some pompous British tourist.
Neither of them expected another man to jump in their cab.
Or to be involved in a gun fight.
Or a car chase through the streets of Paris.
Or for the man to die.
But they’re thrust together when the mob demands they return what the dead man stole.
Will Piers and Sidney work together?
Will they find what he had stolen?
Will they stay alive?
And will they do the last thing they expected?
Will they fall in love?

*****

When you were a small boy, did you dream of one day writing a bestseller, or did you have something else in mind?

When I was five I wanted to drive a train. My dad worked for Great Western Railways. I thought that was so cool, and at age 15 I did drive a train. Ok, it was at the Cotswold Wild Life Park and it used to come of the tracks regularly, but hey, I was a train driver.

When I grew up, I don’t think English teachers in the UK considered anything younger than 100 years old worth teaching! I read a lot even in my elementary school days. At age 12 we had to read Chaucer. I didn’t understand a word! I much preferred the likes of HG Wells, Ian Fleming, Arthur C Clarke, Asimov, and anything that didn’t require translating! That was when I started writing. I used to go through pens like there was no tomorrow; it drove my parents nuts, but they were very supportive. I never gave the idea of writing serious thought. Science and math were pushed hard at school, and that’s the way I went. I’ve been really happy over the past few years to get back to creating stories.

Witney Green - close to where Nigel grew up (photo courtesy of Nigel Blackwell)
Witney Green – close to where Nigel grew up (photo courtesy of Nigel Blackwell)

Where do you find the inspiration for your stories?

I wish I knew. I think everyone has ideas for stories, it’s whether you can fashion them into something that has a purpose. For me, that always takes work.

Once I’ve got an idea and I’m writing, I find that I dream about my stories. Usually between 3am and 5am I have these vivid dreams, like I’m running about as one of the characters. I keep a pad by my bed and write stuff down. I don’t turn the light on, so sometimes it’s hard to read when I get up!

Who are a few of your favorite authors?

Lee Child, definitely. His style is crisp and sparse, yet eloquent in so few words. He makes a gripping story from a handful of ingredients and a well-paced revelation of character motives.

Other authors are Paul Wilson (the Repairman), Caleb Carr, Michael Crichton (Esp Great Train Robbery which has great style, atmosphere, and attention to detail), Dean Koontz, and … It’s a never-ending list, which is a good thing, right?

The cover art for your book is amazing.  Did you design it yourself?

LOL. No! I’m an engineer. If I had designed it, it would have been 46pt bold courier on a white background. The ISBN number would have been on the front, too. I mean, everyone loves those 13 digit numbers, don’t they?

Actually, the cover was done by Sarah Hansen at Okay Creations using a great picture my publisher, Jillian Dodd, found. The models in the picture were also in a whole series of related shots that suited the theme of the book, and worked out well for things like the book trailer.

Many writers imagine a celebrity or familiar face when developing their characters.  Did you have anyone particular in mind when writing Piers and why?

Not really. I’m actually terrible at recognizing people, so images don’t stick very well.

Speaking of celebrities, who are you thinking of at this very moment?

Angelina Jolie. My mother survived breast cancer twice. My sister fought it for twelve years. I feel very sorry for her, and hope her preventative surgery is successful. As a celebrity figure she gets a lot of attention, but she does help raise awareness for all those people who face cancer without such public support.

The very beautiful and brave Angelina Jolie and her man, Brad Pitt, in Mr. and Mrs. Smith

Besides writing, what other hobbies do you enjoy?

I love skiing and I love being out on the mountain in the cold air. I used to like surfing, but being in the middle of Texas put paid to that pastime! Of course, dog walking seems to have taken over my life recently.

I wouldn’t be myself without asking about television – what are your four favorite television programs airing today? 

Four?! Unfortunately, I don’t have the time to see much TV. Top Gear would certainly make the list. Sad, I know, but how they take seemingly easy things and effortlessly turn them into a major disaster always makes me grin.

What is your favorite movie all-time?

Arrrggghhh. Just one? Now I’m the other way round to the TV question. Probably The Third Man because of the acting, the atmosphere, and the photography. Oh, and there’s Alien, Gregory’s Girl, 2001, Despicable Me (love the minions!), Romancing the Stone, Indiana Jones, anything James Bond, and … what’s that you say? Oh yeah, sorry, but how can anyone stop at just one?

Jack and Joan… love this movie!!

What snacks do you order when at a movie theater? 

Popcorn. With Butter (even though it’s probably some concoction from a chemical plant).

No doubt… I actually try to stay away from the “butter” at the theater.

You’re originally from England… share a bit about your hometown/region and tell us what made you decide to move to The States.

I grew up in a small town in Oxfordshire. There was very little to do there and unlike everywhere else around it, it wasn’t picturesque (and that’s putting it mildly). The rest of Oxfordshire, however, is beautiful. The UK varies dramatically in just 50 miles. From the rolling countryside of the Cotswolds, to the rugged hills and mountains in Wales, to the wonderful coastline around Devon and Cornwall. I miss that variation.

Montage of the UK - photo courtesy of Nigel Blackwell
Montage of the UK (photo courtesy of Nigel Blackwell)

I came to the US with my job. It was only supposed to be for six months, but 15 years later I’m still here and a US citizen. I love the open spaces and sunshine in Texas. Yes, it gets hot, but I can’t help but smile when the sun is shining.

I consider you one of my favorite Brits (and Donna Newton, of course!!)… and if you haven’t already noticed, I love getting lost in translation with British sayings… have any new ones for me? 

Well, thank you!

After the weekend with Donna at the DFW writer’s conference there aren’t many saying left!

There’s “tosh,” which means rubbish (as in that’s tosh); “give it some welly,” means to speed up, or use more muscle to get something done; and to “get shirty” means to get annoyed. Another favorite of mine is to be “at her majesty’s pleasure,” which means you’re in prison (they’re called Her Majesty’s Prisons). And if you know all those I’d say, “well stone the crows,” which means I’m amazed (though in your case I wouldn’t be!).

Nigel, I get shirty way too often.  LOL.  Thanks for the new phrase!

Lastly, you recently adopted a beautiful dog… tell us a little bit about her and how you instantly fell in love. 

Ha ha! I didn’t instantly fall in love. An Alsatian attacked me when I was young, and I haven’t wanted to be near a dog since. But my daughter’s wanted a dog or cat for a long time, and some friends of ours were moving into a smaller place and couldn’t take her. When I went round to see her I was hyperventilating, but she’s really well-behaved and it’s worked out well for both of us. She’s a cutie, loves to walk and is unbelievably obedient. Though she does consider a large portion of the kitchen floor an extension of her sleeping area.

Sideni - photo courtesy of Nigel Blackwell
Sideni (photo courtesy of Nigel Blackwell)

*****

Isn’t Nigel great?

Need more Nigel?  I mean, c’mon… we all need more Nigel in our lives… catch up with him at his website, or follow him via his Twitter and Facebook accounts.

Do you have a question for Nigel?  Have you read Paris Love Match yet?  Have any fun (and clean) British sayings you’d like to share with us that might get lost in translation over here in the states?  We’d love to hear from you! 

Be sure and stop by Goodreads for a chance to win a copy of Paris Love Match!

Why It’s Worth a Watch Wednesday – Messin’ with Momma is a Bad Idea

This week Amber West and I review two new 2012 midseason replacements starring two of Hollywood’s biggest stars on Why It’s Worth a Watch Wednesday — Fox’s Touch, starring Kiefer Sutherland, and ABC’s Missing, starring Ashley Judd.

What would you do if your child went missing while studying abroad?

This frightening situation is the premise behind ABC’s new drama Missing.

The series begins with Becca Winstone (Ashley Judd) as she witnesses, or overhears really, an explosion that kills her husband (CIA Agent Paul Winstone, played by Sean Bean from Game of Thrones) while talking to her son, Michael, on the telephone.

Missing then fast forwards ten years when a now eighteen year old Michael (played by Nick Eversman) informs his mother that he has been accepted to an architectural summer program in Rome.  Becca’s hesitant at first, considering Venice is where her husband was murdered, but agrees to Michael’s study abroad opportunity.

The two only have each other, and they share a very close relationship as apparent with their secret “I love you” code — 235@W’ — “23” is Michael’s soccer number; “5” because the heart is the 5th largest organ in the body; and “@W’” because Becca is the head of the Winstone household, thus making her Winstone Prime.

A concerned mother...

A little while into Michael’s trip, all texts and calls stop.  Making her worry even more, Becca receives a phone call from the architectural program that Michael has missed multiple courses and has since been withdrawn from school.  Becca decides to do what any mother would do — she takes it upon herself to travel to Rome to search for any leads and clues into her son’s disappearance.

A mother with one concern -- find her son...

Becca first visits Michael’s apartment where she discovers spoiled food on the table and his cell phone plugged into the wall charger.  What teenager goes anywhere without his or her cell phone?  She’s reading his outgoing call history when she is interrupted by a man with a gun.  A struggle ensues, but Becca kicks some serious booty, grabs his gun, and flees from the window after she hears the Italian police.

How in the world can a soccer mom (literally, she’s a soccer mom) and flower shop owner disarm and kill a man so effortlessly? Well she has bruises, but still.  Because like her deceased husband, Becca is a retired CIA agent (she retired following her husband’s death).

While on the run, Becca reaches out to an old ally (Giancarlo Rossi, played by Swept Away’s Adriano Giannini) who informs her that the man she just killed in her son’s apartment is former Italian intelligence.  This just keeps getting worse…

Becca and her ally, Giancarlo

Becca manages to track down Francesca, one of the most dialed phone numbers on Michael’s cell phone, at her place of employment (a nightclub).  Francesca admits to seeing Michael the day he disappeared and sends Becca to a soccer bar hangout where Michael likes to frequent.  Once there, Becca runs into two more men with guns.  She escapes by stealing a moped and drives back to the nightclub where she finds Francesca murdered.  This just keeps getting worse…

While resting at Giancarlo’s, Becca continues to study Michael’s phone and from a photograph discovers a surveillance camera out on the street behind her son’s apartment.  She tracks across town, breaks in, disables the security alarm, and hacks into the video footage of the day her son disappeared (she knows Thursday was the last day Francesca saw him alive).  Becca watches the surveillance as two men grab Michael and throw him into the back of a black van with French plates.  A mother’s worst fears realized… 

A distraught mother...

Becca returns to Giancarlo’s where the two discover the black van is registered to a warehouse in France. Becca’s next stop — Paris.

**Missing was filmed on location in Europe (eight different cities, I believe) — the settings are real, not studio CGI imagery.**

In the meantime, viewers meet the Italian based CIA operatives who are now hot on the trail of Becca, led by Agent Dax Miller (Cliff Curtis, Trauma).  These agents have access to Becca’s CIA file, but learn very little because of the size of said file — “the thinner the file, the better the agent.”

CIA Agent Cliff Curtis

Becca is “persona non grata” in France, and the CIA must intercept her before she crosses the border.  They send in a team who singles her out, and a fight ensues (yes, another fight).  Despite Becca’s phenomenal fight skills, the agents subdue her.

While in CIA custody, Becca somehow manages to befriend Agent Miller and he allows her three hours in France to do what she needs to do.  She immediately tracks down the warehouse and finds evidence that her son was indeed held prisoner in this location from his wall etchings — 235@W’.

Becca’s visit to the warehouse is interrupted by a guard, who she disarms and incapacitates before going about her business searching for any clues or evidence as to where Michael might be being held now.  She discovers a package of surveillance photos in a desk drawer — photos of her son since he was a small boy.  Finished at this location, Becca picks up a phone and dials the CIA requesting Agent Miller.  She lays the receiver down, allowing a trace.

Obviously she’s not completely against working with the CIA, but she has her own mission to worry about.  Nothing will stop her from finding her son.  Seems like the kidnappers picked the wrong woman to mess with…

Messin' with Momma is a bad idea...

The pilot ends with Becca walking along the streets of Paris studying the photographs from the warehouse.  Once again she is being followed and is shot in the shoulder, causing her to fall over a bridge and into a body of water.  This just keeps getting worse…

Only two episodes of Missing have aired to date, and the action does not slow down.  Becca is a woman on a mission, comparable to a female Jack Bauer.  Seriously.

Seriously, messin' with Momma is a bad idea...

Missing was a television series that my guy wasn’t all that interested in.  He thought it was just going to be another one of my mysteries that I can’t live without, so he declared Missing as one I could watch without him — we have his, hers, and ours programs.  After telling him all about the action in the first two episodes, he now wants to check it out.

But because only two episodes have aired, I must award Missing with the SSTV rating.  Not only do I like Ashley Judd (I can watch Double Jeopardy and High Crimes over and over again), but the non-stop action and actual European filming adds heat to the already rapidly boiling water.  It may not take many more episodes for Missing to be upgraded to the MacTV rating, but we’ll see…

What do you think? Have you caught an episode of Missing?  Does Becca remind you of a female Jack Bauer?  I’d love to hear from you!

Now click over to Amber’s blog and see what she thinks about Kiefer’s new series, Touch.  And speaking of Jack Bauer, will Kiefer be able to shake his popular 24 personality we’ve all grown to love over the years with his new role?

Come back next week when Amber and I review something…

Remember to stop by the #watchwed hashtag in Twitter to discuss any of today’s reviews, or to mention any television programs that you’d like to see on Why It’s Worth a Watch Wednesday in the future.

A Recap of The WatchWed Review System:

GTV (Gourmet TV): Everything we want and more
MacTV (MacNCheese TV): Guilty pleasure. Not perfect, but is satisfies
GMacTV (Gourmet MacNCheese TV): A combination of fine wine and comfort food
JFTV (Junk food TV): It’s not great for us, but we’ll go back for seconds
TBPTV (Twice Baked Potato TV): Part gourmet and delicious, while absolutely horrible for our cholesterol
SSTV (Still Simmering TV): It has potential, but the jury is still out
NIV (Nyquil Induced Viewing): Perfect for that late night television sleep timer
LOTV (Liver&Onions TV): Do we really have to explain? Blech

Friday FabOoolousness – June’s MarvOoolous Mashup & Blog Awards

This month, fellow writer & Twitter friend, Raelyn Barclay awarded me with my second blogging award – the Versatile Blogger Award.

THANK YOU, Raelyn!  Winning this award for my Tele-Tuesday and Friday FabOoolousness posts means so very much to me.  I hope to share the things that make me say Ooo with others out there, whether it is television, movies, authors, novels, mysteries, or other bloggers.

From now on, anytime someone clicks on the Versatile Blogger Award icon on my site, they will experience Raelyn’s fabOoolous blog!

This award comes with a few fabOoolous rules:

  1. Thank and link to the person who nominated you.
  2. Share seven random facts about yourself.
  3. Pass the award along to 5 new-found blogging buddies.
  4. Contact the winners to congratulate them.

Before I share seven random facts about me, I first pass the baton.  The Versatile Blog Awards go to:

  1. Amber West
  2. Ellie Ann Soderstrom
  3. Sonia G. Medeiros
  4. Catie Rhodes
  5. Jess Witkins

 Congratulations!

In addition to these 5 versatile blogs, click on these fabOoolous sites in my June edition of MarvelOoous Mashups!

What’s the first rule of Author Club?  WRITE a GOOD story! Oh, what a great post by Andrew Mocete.  Brad Pitt even helps him out with the rules….

If you are your TV like Catie Rhodes suggests, I’m in trouble.  My DVR is jam-packed full of random programming – does that mean that my head is jumbled with complete randomness?  Uh-oh…

Bond, James Bond.  Who doesn’t love 007?  Piper Bayard and her partner Holmes break down some of the Bond films in their new series: Classic Spy Films.

Trapped in a city surrounded with zombies, what do you do?  How about Vote Your Own Adventure by Mark Lidstone.

Let’s flip the switch now to grammar.  Remember that class?  Take the Homonym Hell test issued by Girls with Pens.

Sticking with the writing theme, check out the writing series by Angela Ackerman and Becca Puglisi, aka The Bookshelf Muse – 7 Deadly Sins of Writing.

My last mashup goes to the great Jenny Hansen.  This week, we celebrated the release of James Rollins’ new novel, The Devil Colony.  On Tuesday, we partied like it was going out of style on Twitter, and Jen deserves a prize for all of her fabOoolous posts.  Check out a few of the devilish blogs she put together for the event:  Devilish Snacks, Devilish Movies, a Devilish Playlist, and a fabOoolous Devilish mashup.

In addition to my awards & mashup, I was “tagged” (kinda like – Tag; You’re It!) by two fellow Twitter friends & bloggers this month.  It may have taken me a while to get to the game, but sure, I’ll play….

First up, Angela Wallace:

Angela tagged me and the rules state that I must answer these questions & tag eight other bloggers.

1. Do you think you’re hot? I’ve never considered myself hot, like most girls I’m sure.  However, when I darkened my naturally blonde hair to a deep red (not fire engine red), something happened.  Blondes have more fun, but men like red heads!  My new hair color definitely compliments my fair skin and light eyes better than the blonde, but I miss my pretty highlights.

2. Upload the picture or wallpaper that you’re using at the moment.

Having fun in a picture booth….

3. When was the last time you ate chicken? Last night; we eat chicken a lot in my house.  This time, I served chicken with cream of mushroom and sautéed garlic & green beans.  It received rave reviews.

4. What song/s have you listened to recently? “Independently Happy” by Blue October.  BO is my motivational music at the gym.

5. What were you thinking as you were doing this? Holy Toledo this is taking forever….

6. Do you have nicknames?  What are they? I’m T-BRAT for those of you who don’t already know.  T-Brat stands for a few different things: Tiffany-Brat (my brother refused to call me Tiffany growing up, I looked more like a Brattney); Tech-Brat (Guns’ Up, Red Raiders!); and, T-bird-Brat (my very first car was a cherry red Ford Thunderbird).

I have another nickname, but in order to keep the blog clean, think the Meredith Brook’s lyrics….”I’m a _____” – You fill in the blank.

Now, I tag 8 friends: Tymothy Longoria, Robyn Sadler, Jennifer Starks, Haley Whitehall, Mia Castile, Nichole Chase, Leah Lozano, and Elizabeth Sogard.

Next, we have Julie Glover

This tag requires me to type the phrase, “Writing is like…..,” and finish it, post it on my  blog, and then tag three other bloggers.

Writing is like….staring out the window and dreaming of all the wonderful things in this world that you’d like to accomplish but having the ability to transcribe those thoughts into words.  Writing is capitalizing on your imagination, taking the journey you’ve always wanted to travel, and silencing the voices in your head.  (Okay, other writers will understand that this doesn’t make me crazy!)

Now I tag –

Amy Thomas, my friend Wordluster on Twitter, and the creator of my Facebook writing group Young Adult Sisters (and Brothers).

Shellie Sakai, my WANA alumnus, and fellow writer in the fabOoolous Round of Words in 80 Days challenge (aka Row80).

Liz Schulte, another fellow writer and Twitter friend who graciously invited me to join HP’s Writing Group on Facebook, as well as the proud author of the new thriller, Dark Corners.  Check it out!  I’m pretty sure Liz is still up in the clouds….as she should be!

Finally, to my 7 fun facts – This time I tackle the top 7 travel destinations on my bucket list:

1.        Italy – specifically Positano, Rome, and Vatican City.  I want to experience the history, the architecture, the food, and the wine – Now, that’s a vacation!

 

2.       Hawaii – any island, just take me to the beach!  Perhaps a trip while Hawaii Five-0 is filming would be best….it might increase my odds of meeting Alex O’Laughlin. 

 

3.       Canada – I’d like to travel at least once to the west (Vancouver) and once to the east (Prince Edward Island).  Anyone with me?

 

4.       The Caribbean – specifically Jamaica and The Bahamas.

 

5.       Paris – do I really have to explain?  What female doesn’t want to travel to Paris?  See the Eifel Tower?  Eat a fresh macaroon and drink a cup of black coffee at a Parisian café?

 

6.       Germany – my great-grandfather emigrated from Germany to New York.  I’d like to experience the land of my ancestors, and participate in the real Oktoberfest.  Beer & Frankfurters, please!

7.       London – like most Americans, I’m infatuated with the Royal family.  I’d like to see Buckingham Palace, the changing of the Queen’s Guards, ride the London Underground, and experience a culture and history we’ll never quite understand in the states.

 

Who are your favorite fabOoolous bloggers? Do you have a bucket list of places to travel?  If so, please share!  Leave a comment; I’d love to hear from you!

One final note, if any of the award recipients or tagged bloggers don’t feel like playing, no worries!  I realize this isn’t everyone’s cup of tea.