Another interview with a great author, Maggie James.
I have read one of her books and am looking forward to reading more. She is very talented. Please check out the links for her books and give them a go.
I want to thank Maggie for taking the time to answer my questions.
Let’s start with getting the formalities out of the way-
Tell me a little about yourself, age, location, family, etc.
I’m a British author, aged 54, living in Bristol. It’s been my home city for most of my life but I’m considering a change. Where to? I’ve no idea – ask me in a year or two! I love to travel, and there are many exciting places to choose as a base. I’m usually laid-back and happy, and I believe in living life to the full. I don’t have a family, other than two brothers, so I’m a free agent.
What is something you’d like to share that most people don’t know about you?
I’m an open book in many ways and a private person in others. I give visitors to my website a feel for certain parts of me: the fact I’m a foodie, I love animals and I’m a travel-holic. About other things, though, I’m tight-lipped. You won’t find me discussing politics, for example. I never put my opinions or values into my fiction because I believe the author needs to get out of his/her own way to tell the story. To sum up, there’s nothing to share I haven’t already.
What books have you published and/or had your works featured in?
So far I’ve published four psychological thrillers and four non-fiction offerings, the latter based on the time when I worked as a nutritional therapist. The focus of my writing is fiction, however.
What has been your favorite story or novel to write and what inspired you to write it?
I’ll always keep a soft spot in my heart for His Kidnapper’s Shoes, because it was my first-born, but back then I was far less organised with my writing. The novel took longer to complete than it should have done, although that’s not a bad thing; I rocketed skyward on a huge learning curve. I’m still on it!
The Second Captive was great fun to write, so I’ll say that’s my favourite. By the time I started, I had three novels under my belt, so I had more of a clue what I was doing. In addition, Stockholm syndrome, on which the novel is based, is a fascinating psychological condition. For those who don’t know, it’s the tendency of a captive to bond with his or her abductor. Stockholm syndrome applies to a range of scenarios and I wanted to examine the subject from an angle other than a hostage situation. Hence the character of Beth Sutton, kidnapped by Dominic Perdue in an attempt to conquer his inner demons.
I love to challenge myself with each book; for The Second Captive I made myself write in scenes. It’s also the first of my novels that uses a two-part structure together with a prologue and epilogue.
What inspired me to write the book? A news item about a young woman, missing for years, who refused to reveal where she’d been. My curiosity was piqued. What caused her absence? Why wouldn’t she discuss what happened? Stockholm syndrome entered my mind as an explanation, and the idea for The Second Captive was born.
I really enjoyed reading His Kidnapper’s Shoes. What inspired you to write this story?
I was talking with a group of people about kids that go missing. The consensus was that, sadly, such stories rarely end well. One person, however, made the point that sometimes children are stolen to order for people who can’t have or adopt their own. That got me thinking. What emotions might surface if someone discover he/she was kidnapped when a child? Fury, bewilderment, a sense of betrayal? Hence the character of Daniel Bateman, abducted as a toddler by Laura Covey and raised as her son. Years later, he uncovers the terrible truth… but why did Laura snatch him?
What has been your greatest accomplishment to date?
I’d say becoming a full-time novelist. Five years ago, I was in a comfortable rut, working as an accountant, with a decent salary, but frustrated because I wasn’t pursuing my literary ambitions. I decided to travel for a year and write my first novel whilst away, meaning I’d complete it before my fiftieth birthday. And that’s what I did. It took a long time to extract myself from accountancy and make novel-writing my career, but I’m delighted that I did.
Who does the covers for your books and do you help in designing them?
I use a wonderful lady in the USA called Donna Casey, who has designed all my covers. I allow her a free rein because I’m clueless when it comes to designing a book cover! I give her a synopsis of the plot, so she has an idea at which to aim.
What author(s) inspired you the most to become a writer and at what age? What was it about them that inspired you? What would be your favorite book(s) by that author?
I can’t say any particular author inspired me to become one myself; I’ve always wanted to write novels. To my shame, I procrastinated for decades. I’m now making up for lost time!
Stephen King is a huge role model, as he is for so many novelists. Why? He’s prolific yet always writes quality material. My favourite book by him? I loved 11.22.63 – an enthralling time-travel novel, which weaves the Kennedy assassination with a tender love story.
You write mostly thriller books. What characteristic of that genre do you feel is most important when writing? Or the most fun for you to write?
Something I think is important when writing thrillers is foreshadowing (planting hints about events yet to come or those that have happened.) It’s a literary device to build tension, and one that’s hard to plan, at least for me. What I do is drop these clues into the narrative once I’ve completed the first draft and have a bird’s eye view of the story. It’s great fun to do! Hard, though – you don’t want to reveal too much, too soon.
Would you ever consider writing in a different genre? If so, what would it be and why?
I expect I’ll write in a different genre at some point. Ones that appeal include dystopia, erotica or fantasy novels. I doubt I’ll ever write historical novels or romances because I rarely read such books. I’m a firm believer in a novelist reading widely in the genre in which he/she writes; it’s a great way to learn the ropes.
When writing, how much research goes into your work? What has been the most interesting thing you have had to research? What has been the most fun thing in your research?
The amount I do depends on the plot of the novel. With Guilty Innocence, I needed to research police procedure, something about which I know little. Mark Slater, the protagonist, is given a new identity upon release from prison for murdering a child, so I checked out the procedures involved in that. For obvious reasons, the details are kept secret, but a retired police officer I know helped with the broad approach.
In Sister, Psychopath, some scenes take place in hospital. I don’t have a medical background, so I needed to research comas and persistent vegetative states. A long time ago, a friend of mine was sectioned under the Mental Health Act, and I drew on my experiences in visiting him in a locked psychiatric ward for some parts in the book.
The most interesting thing I’ve researched? Stockholm syndrome, the theme for The Second Captive, was intriguing. I’m interested in the workings of the human mind, so what I uncovered fascinated me. Unless you’ve experienced such a situation, the complex emotions involved are hard to fathom.
As for the most fun thing, researching the cafes and restaurants I use in my books! The foodie in me revels in that. This was especially true for Sister, Psychopath. (Note to self – must set more plot elements in restaurants!)
How do you come up with or what inspires you to come up with the ideas for your novels?
I keep a notebook full of possible plot scenarios and always carry with me a method of capturing ideas when they strike. Sure, that’s clichéd advice for writers, but it works. When the right idea hits me, my intuition shouts, ‘write about this, and soon!’ I’m often buzzing for hours, turning plot permutations over in my head.
Ideas can come from a cornucopia of sources, including conversations with other people, stuff I read online, and television programmes. I watched a TV documentary a while ago about con artists and their duplicity; I suspect betrayal will feature large in a forthcoming novel. I’m drawn to topics that engender strong emotions, and the documentary participants told some heart-breaking stories.
What are you currently working on and what else do you have planned for 2015?
I’m set to publish a non-fiction offering, called Write Your Novel!, aimed at would-be novelists who lack the confidence to start. Not so long ago, that was me! So many people tell me they yearn to write but haven’t a clue how to begin. That’s a shame; life’s too short not to pursue one’s goals.
What else for 2015? I’m considering a trilogy of novellas, sticking with the psychological suspense genre. I’ll make one of them free. Why? Well, I’d love to encourage more people to read my work.
On a more personal note –
What are some of your likes and dislikes in movies, books, food, drinks, activities, music, etc, or anything else you would like to let us know about you?
Movies – I enjoy going to the cinema, although my tastes are very much mainstream rather than art-house films. Give me a good action movie, and I’m happy! No comedies, animations, or chick flicks for me.
Books – I read voraciously in most genres and plenty of non-fiction too. Not surprising for a novelist, I guess!
Food – I’m a passionate foodie, ironic considering that as a child I was a fussy eater. I love anything to do with food – cooking, eating, reading or talking about it. I’m always on the hunt for great new restaurants. Favourite food? Asian, in particular curry. I’ve been addicted since my first taste of korma. Any rice-based dish goes down well with me.
Drinks – I’m a light social drinker, preferring wine and cider. I can take or leave alcohol; if someone told me I could never drink it again, I wouldn’t be bothered. And I don’t drink tea or coffee.
Activities – travel ranks on a par with writing as one of the great passions of my life. I’ve been privileged enough so far to travel widely, and I intend to carry on doing so. What else? I’m very much into health and fitness, having been a committed gym member for a decade. I also do four yoga classes a week. It’s the one time I take life at a slower pace. Other interests include camping, driving and animals. I’m a sucker for anything with fur, feathers or scales. For several years I fostered homeless cats, and I once ran a dog-walking business.
Music – I’m not into music on any level. I rarely listen to it, don’t own an iPod or MP3 player and I loathe live music. Give me peace and quiet any day.
What is the best thing a fan has said to you? The most funny thing? The worst thing?
The best thing was a comment I received years ago when I was writing fanfiction – ‘you can really write.’ Back then I lacked confidence so those four words made a big difference.
I guess the worst is that so many people are nosy about novelists’ finances. I frequently get asked whether it’s possible to make a living as a novelist, how many books I’ve sold, etc. For me, such matters are private.
No funny comments spring to mind – give it time, and I’m sure someone will say something amusing!
Where can fans find and contact you on the web? Blogs, websites, etc.
My website and blog are on http://www.maggiejamesfiction.com. I blog weekly on topics of interest to fiction readers – author interviews, book reviews, discussion topics, etc. As for social media, I’m active on the main sites, with my links listed below. Come and say hi!
Sales links: His Kidnapper’s Shoeshttp://smarturl.it/hiskidnappersshoes
Sister, Psychopath http://smarturl.it/sisterpsychopath
Guilty Innocence http://smarturl.it/guiltyinnocence
The Second Captive http://smarturl.it/thesecondcaptive