Did you miss us? After a year-long reprieve, The Armitage Authors Network is happy to be back! Our first duty upon our return is to interview fellow Armitage adorer and N&S fiction writer, Nicole Clarkston. If you haven’t already discovered Nicole’s work, then we’re doubly pleased to introduce you to her!
Armitage Authors: You’ve been a fan of Richard’s for a good while. Tell us a little about how you discovered Mr. Armitage.
Nicole Clarkston: North and South! I was stripping and refinishing my wood floors one week in the summer of 2011, when my husband was out of town. I had small children and I would put them to bed and work all night, so I needed something for noise while I worked. I had moved all the furniture out of the downstairs, so I dragged my laptop around the house and queued up my Netflix account. I found this miniseries I’d been wanting to watch, and immediately I was sorry that I had waited so long to see it. What a glorious piece of fim-making!
The moment I saw that stern glower from the scaffolding of the cotton mill, I could see that this actor truly lived and breathed his role. He could do more with a flicker of an eyelash than most actors can do with explosive emoting. He is so subtle and powerful that he brought John Thornton to life in a way that I do not think any other could have. He began the movie scarcely likeable, but by the end he had so masterfully filled the part and grown the character that I had ceased all my work just to stare at the screen. I think I may have even been drooling. Just a little.
What character was it that first impelled you to write fan fiction?
I believe it was Thornton. I found him inspiring because of what he had overcome to position himself at the peak of his world, but he is also so vulnerable when he discovers that he can’t earn his way into what he desires most.
One of the things I loved about Mr Armitage’s portrayal is his artless, honest expressions. I grew up the daughter of a simple, hardworking man who speaks little but clearly, and he reinforces his words with deeds. I learned to value those qualities, and Armitage-as-Thornton possesses such strength and dignity that I instantly felt that his was a character to be trusted and respected.
Atop these other virtues we then add the rare glimmer of his heart-stopping smiles, and we can easily see that this is a character of depth and passion as well. Armitage captures this complex man with both precision and power, recognizing that the industrial titan of a man carried around with him a wound which had never healed and an ache for more from this life.
What was your first published work?
The first book I ever wrote was No Such Thing as Luck, a variation which picks up during the time after Mr Hale’s death. Margaret has gone to live in London, and she and Thornton never expect to see one another again. The alteration to this story is Mr Bell’s machinations, setting both Margaret and Thornton off to Spain- coincidentally at the same time.
While I was working on No Such Thing as Luck, I had also started writing Rumours and Recklessness, a Pride and Prejudice variation. By the time it published a few months after my first book, I was already working on Northern Rain, another N&S story. I seem to like alternating, so The Courtship of Edward Gardiner, another P&P story followed Northern Rain.
I am currently continuing that pattern, of always having both a N&S story and a P&P story in the works. The two worlds reflect well off one another in my mind. Thornton and Darcy are of different characters and backgrounds, but share the same integrity and passionate love. Margaret and Elizabeth are likewise dissimilar in personality, but in essentials they possess a common strength and dignity.
My current N&S story is a format I have never before tried. The main narrative flows concurrently with a series of flashbacks, if you will, mirroring the past into the present and shining light on the depths of these character-building moments. I am absolutely loving getting to know Thornton in his developmental years, and I keep picturing a very youthful Richard in the role. He was pretty cute at age 16, if you ask me!
Were you a writer before you found Richard Armitage?
I suppose that would depend upon how you define “writer”. At age 8 I would lie in bed after watching Walt Disney’s Robin Hood and spin further yarns about the characters in my head. In Jr High I was constantly toting around a notebook full of stories I was writing, but I never allowed anyone to read them. In my freshman year of college, I took a writing class from the most detail-oriented professor on campus and loved every minute of it. By the time I was a young mom, my writing had taken the form of anecdotal emails composed to amuse my family members (usually after some horribly embarrassing parenting episode had taken place and there was nothing left to do but laugh about it). I continued to daydream my own fictional adventures, but though I always had this desire to write a book, I never had the courage to do so.
Perhaps it was Richard’s performance, perhaps it was the timing, but eventually I couldn’t stand it any longer. I kept seeing John Thornton and Margaret Hale’s story playing over and over, in so many different ways, and I was distractingly obsessed with them for well over three years before I finally gave in. The idea for No Such Thing As Luck had been tormenting me for days, until I couldn’t sleep one night, so I crept out of bed and opened up my laptop. I tried to tell myself that I would “just” try writing one book, and I wouldn’t allow any of my friends to read it. I was terrified of showing it to anyone I knew because I was just certain that it wouldn’t be their “thing”. It was better in my mind to present my writing instead to total strangers who already knew and loved North and South.
You must know by now that I have overcome my initial fears. Since that first terrifying night at my laptop, I have published a second North and South inspired novel, Northern Rain, as well as two Pride and Prejudice inspired stories (Rumours and Recklessness and The Courtship of Edward Gardiner). I also have a third North and South story in the works entitled Nowhere but North, as well as a third Pride and Prejudice book titled These Dreams. Both are on track to be published in 2017.
I continue to refuse to allow my personal friends to read my work because I am such a bashful writer. The joy I have found in other North and South lovers, however, more than makes up for any lack of courage on my part. I have met friends in nearly all corners of the world through the magic of self-publishing and social media, and it has been a privilege to share in their enjoyment of Gaskell’s amazing story and the talented actor who carried the torch.
Is fanfic just a hobby for you or do you hope to go further with your writing?
I think there is a stigma attached to the word “fanfic” and yes, perhaps someday I would like to write a completely original story just to say that I did it. I write what I love, however, and what I love most right now is these characters. I enjoy spending time with them and reading other works about them, so at the moment I am wholeheartedly devoted to the world of fanfic.
What would you ask Richard Armitage if you bumped into him today?
Oh, my, I think I would be too bashful to say anything at all! I wouldn’t want to pry into his personal life, so if I had the courage to speak, I would probably ask something ridiculous, like, “What it was like to go galumphing across the wilds of New Zealand wearing those massive boots in The Hobbit?” Or perhaps I would ask, “Exactly how many takes were required to film ‘The Kiss,’ and who was the lucky woman who taught you to do that?” Or, in reality, I would probably just offer him a cup of coffee, and would probably spill it on him. He’s probably safer if I never bump into him.