Name: Maggie James
Where are you from: Bristol, UK
Fiona: When and why did you begin writing?
I’ve wanted to be a novelist ever since I was a little girl. As a child, I was always writing; I had one short story published and won a prize for another. I never doubted that when I grew up I’d make writing my career. As a young adult, however, I lacked confidence; completing a 100,000-word novel seemed an insurmountable task, so for decades I shelved my dream. The urge to write remained, though. Over the years I became angry over my procrastination. Eventually I wrote a few short fanfiction stories, which were well received online, giving me the confidence to try longer ones. After a few months I felt ready to write ‘His Kidnapper’s Shoes’, which I completed in 2011. I’m now a full-time author of psychological fiction novels.
Fiona: When did you first consider yourself a writer?
It was the minute I finished ‘His Kidnapper’s Shoes’. I remember the emotions that surged through me after I wrote the last word. I get choked up just thinking about it. After decades of procrastination, I’d finally written a novel. OK, so it needed severe pruning (60,000 words’ worth!) but I’d achieved my lifelong goal.
Fiona: What inspired you to write your first book?
The catalyst for me was my fiftieth birthday looming on the horizon. Having yearned to be a novelist all my life, I couldn’t stomach reaching fifty without achieving my dream. When I had my epiphany, it was December 2010 and my birthday was the following April. I decided to end decades of dithering and write a novel. And that’s what I did. I wrote every single day until I finished ‘His Kidnapper’s Shoes’ in February 2011. I’ve been writing ever since, with four novels now published.
Fiona: Are experiences based on someone you know, or events in your own life?
No, that’s off-limits for me. I’m a private person; I don’t include my own experiences, or people I know, in my books. You won’t discover any dark secrets about me from my novels! There’s plenty of other sinister material in them, though!
Fiona: What book are you reading now?
I love self-development books, and at the moment I’m re-reading ‘The Miracle Morning’ by Hal Elrod. The first time I read it, Hal’s wise words blew me away. I’m a night owl by inclination, but I’m benefiting greatly from getting up early in the way the book advocates. For some reason I’m more productive first thing despite my preference for late nights. By following Hal’s advice I’m achieving far more these days, with less stress.
Fiona: Are there any new authors that have grasped your interest?
I’ve recently encountered Mark Tilbury, who released his debut novel ‘The Revelation Room’ in May this year. It’s a psychological thriller laced with dark humour, well worth a read. If you’re interested, you can find out more at http://marktilbury.com/, where Mark writes an informative blog.
Fiona: What are your current projects?
After having written and published four novels, I’ve just completed a non-fiction work entitled ‘Write Your Novel!’ I’d love to help other potential novelists, hence the book. It’s aimed at people who have always wanted to write a novel but either lack the confidence or don’t know where to start. That was me not so long ago! The book will be released at the beginning of July 2015.
Fiona: Is there anything you find particularly challenging in your writing?
Two things spring to mind. First, I’m a terrible typist. I’ve spent hours trying to improve my speed and accuracy, but both remain dismal. For a writer that’s unfortunate! I rattle along using two fingers but I misplace letters all the time. Second, I get caught up for ages with editing; I’m always finding something else to tweak! I need to exercise self-discipline otherwise I’d never publish any of my books – each one would stay a work-in-progress!
Fiona: Who is your favorite author and what is it that really strikes you about their work?
I don’t have a favourite author as such, but I’m a huge fan of Stephen King. He’s deservedly been called a master of the writing craft. I am in awe of his prolific output along with the fact that many of his books are extremely long. The last one I read, ‘The Talisman’ (co-authored with Peter Traub), stretched to nearly 1,000 pages, yet the tension and the quality of the writing never flagged. I believe every novelist can learn from Stephen. Even if you’re not keen on his novels, it’s worth reading his semi-autobiography ‘On Writing’.
Fiona: Who designed the covers?
The covers for my novels have been designed by a wonderful lady in America called Donna Casey, who specialises in this area. I’m well aware I lack the skills to produce a good cover, so I’m more than happy to allow her to take the reins. You’d laugh at my attempts to design a cover – amateurish doesn’t begin to describe it!
Fiona: What was the hardest part of writing your book?
To answer, I’ll refer to my latest novel, ‘The Second Captive’. The challenge was to make the antagonist, Dominic Perdue, a likeable psychopath. Sounds a contradiction in terms? I guess it is. Dominic is a damaged individual, blind to many aspects of his character, but he’s the victim of an abusive childhood. Whilst not condoning his actions, I wanted the reader to sympathise with the barrenness of his life.
Fiona: Did you learn anything from writing your book and what was it?
I set myself a challenge with every new novel, one that helps develop my skills. My first three were written in complete chapters without scenes. I was curious, however, about writing in scenes. I decided to try it with ‘The Second Captive’, going a stage further by splitting the novel into two parts along with a prologue and epilogue. To my surprise, I loved writing in scenes and found it a useful literary device. As for the two-part structure, the novel naturally splits into two stages – first Beth’s incarceration, then its aftermath.
Fiona: Do you have any advice for other writers?
For those aspiring to make a living from their work, I’d advise them to treat writing as a business and themselves as the managing director. It’s not enough to write books; you need to market them, maintain a website and/or blog, and learn about the ever-changing world of self-publishing.
Fiona: What makes you laugh/cry?
I find ‘The Big Bang Theory’ one of the funniest TV shows I’ve ever watched. So delightfully goofy. Its lack of political correctness makes me howl with laughter. ‘NCIS’ is another favourite show, one that often has humorous overtones, along with delectable male actors!
Travel also makes me happy; it’s alongside writing as something about which I’m passionate. What else? Food, books and my friends. Critters too! Anything cute with four legs will always bring a smile to my face.
What makes me cry? I get distressed when I hear about cruelty whether it’s towards humans or animals.
Fiona: Other than writing do you have any hobbies?
Like many writers, I read widely, and fast as well. I enjoy most fiction apart from romances. What else? I love food, whether it be cooking or eating it, and eat out a lot. My favourite is Asian cuisine, in particular Indian, followed by Middle Eastern. There’s a fair chance I may be addicted to curry! I’ve been hooked since my first korma.
For decades I’ve been a keen traveller, and there’s still huge swathes of the world I intend to explore. On my last big trip I spent ten months in South America, a continent that’s incredibly beautiful and a breeze in which to travel. I’d love to visit Easter Island, the Galapagos Islands and Patagonia. Colombia appeals, as does seeing more of Brazil. I wrote ‘His Kidnapper’s Shoes’ whilst in Bolivia, so I’d also take a walk down Memory Lane in the gorgeous city of Sucre.
Fiona: Do you have a blog/website? If so what is it?
I blog weekly on fiction-related topics. Here’s the link: http://www.maggiejamesfiction.com
My other links are: