Dead exicted to welcome Maggie James to CrimeBookJunkie today! Rather than my usual template of author questions, I have tried something a little bit different. And from Maggie’s response: “That was the most challenging, and also the most enjoyable, interview I’ve ever done. Thank you!” ~ they seemed to go down well!! For those of you not so familiar with Maggie, here is a wee bio ….
Maggie James is a British author who lives in Bristol. She writes psychological suspense novels.
The first draft of her first novel, entitled His Kidnapper’s Shoes, was written whilst travelling in Bolivia. Maggie was inspired by an impending birthday along with a healthy dose of annoyance at having procrastinated for so long in writing a book. His Kidnapper’s Shoes was published in both paperback and e-book format in 2013 and has been followed by three more novels and a novella. Maggie has also written a book for would-be authors, entitled Write Your Novel! From Getting Started to First Draft. She is currently working on her sixth fiction title.
Before turning her hand to writing, Maggie worked mainly as an accountant, with a diversion into practising as a nutritional therapist. Diet and health remain high on her list of interests, along with travel. Accountancy does not, but then it never did. The urge to pack a bag and go off travelling is always lurking in the background! When not writing, going to the gym, practising yoga or travelling, Maggie can be found seeking new four-legged friends to pet; animals are a lifelong love!
1. Of course, we need to start with the obvious…Can you tell us a little about yourself..warts and all! ?
No warts on me, I swear! Where to begin? My writing makes a good place to start, I guess. The only career I’ve ever wanted is that of a novelist, so having fulfilled my lifelong ambition delights me. I’m also a travel junkie, so my plan is to tour the world with my laptop and a notebook full of plot ideas. Back to South America soon, I think!
What else? I’m very much into healthy living; I eat well, go to the gym most days (not least because the owner brings his gorgeous dogs to work!) and do four yoga classes a week. Talking about yoga leads me to my burgeoning interest in spirituality. I’ve been a personal development fan for years, but recently my exploration of the unknown has led me to question many things. Who knows where my journey will take me?
Hmm, I’ve just remembered a couple of warts! I’ve been told I’m judgemental, something I don’t dispute. In addition, I can be impatient. God help anyone or anything that’s slow! Let’s say my internet connection is taking a while. That’s guaranteed to get me shouting ‘TODAY WOULD BE NICE!’ at my computer. It doesn’t help, but I still do it. I’m working on both traits but it’s an ongoing battle; self-improvement always is.
2. You’re a psychopath…I am your victim– do your worst! Pretend I wrote a really bad review of your book and now is your chance to get your revenge!
I’d hit you where it would hurt most– I’d find out where you live, and then steal your beloved dog Buster!
‘No! Anything but that! Can’t I have the boiling oil and pincers instead?’ shrieks Noelle…
In reality, I doubt I qualify as a psychopath; such individuals don’t adore puppies and kittens the way I do. Bad reviews are a fact of life for all authors. ‘Pride and Prejudice’ has thirty-four 1-star bashings on Amazon UK, including one from someone who dubs it ‘claptrap from start to finish’! Well, that’s Jane Austen put in her place…
3. I love animals, and I know you do too! Can you tell us about your furry babies? Have any of your animals featured in your writing?
I don’t have any furry babies at present, thanks to my tendency to go off travelling. However, in the past I’ve fostered homeless cats, something I did following the death of Sophie, my beautiful black puss who lived with me for nine years. I often wish I could give her one last kiss and cuddle, and like many pet owners who have made a tough end-of-life decision, I still wonder whether I did the right thing.
Before I became a full-time writer, I set up a dog walking business and spent hours each day with some gorgeous pooches.
None of the animals I’ve loved have featured in my novels, but my next one will have Oreo, a handsome black and white puss, in a starring role. Well, maybe just sleeping or washing his paws! One of the main characters in the book is named after a friend of mine, so I’m going to slot her cat in as well.
4. Can you tell us about any upcoming projects on the horizon? How about a Crimebookjunkie reveal…LOL! #YouHeardItHereFirstFolks
Sure! I’m in the process of getting my books turned into audio versions; I made a narrator an offer recently for Write Your Novel, and I’m hoping to follow through with ones for my fiction titles soon. I’m excited about this new venture, and delighted to have found some great people to narrate my books. I’m also looking into the possibility of getting them translated into foreign languages, especially Spanish and German, but that project’s still in the early stages.
What else? I’m busy revising and editing my next novel, Burning Obsession, a story about a serial arsonist who’s targeting Bristol. After the charred body of Ellie Golden is discovered in a burned-out house, a family member is arrested on suspicion of her murder, shattering relationships already worn thin. Only Lori, Ellie’s sister, believes the police have the wrong man. Whilst coping with her grief, she struggles to support her mother Louise, for whom Ellie Golden was to have been a living kidney donor. Meanwhile, more fires blaze across the city. Who is burning Bristol, and why are the fires moving ever closer to the Goldens?
I have ideas for my next two titles after that, which will probably form part of a trio of novellas. I’m also planning to release another non-fiction book aimed at helping newbie writers.
5. Can you tell us about the funniest thing that has ever happened to you as a writer?
I’m struggling with this one – not much is springing to mind! When I was a child, I wrote, and had published in the local newspaper, a story about Paddington Bear. How that happened baffles me, as at the time I hadn’t a clue who Paddington Bear was. As a result, my little tale centred on him living in a cave somewhere remote, without a marmalade sandwich, duffle coat or suitcase in sight. Fairy lights also played a part, but don’t ask me how or why! I’d like to think my sparkling writing (straight from the pen of a seven-year-old!) swung things my way, but I suspect the editor took pity on me.
6. You write about some pretty disturbing topics — so tell us, what is YOUR worst fear?
My worst fear is, sadly, something that comes true for many people. A long time ago I read something that has always stayed with me, a woman describing how terrible it must be to die with regrets. I agree; to come to the end of your days and realise that you never did the wonderful things you’d planned is tragic. We all think we have so much time left, but our lives flash by so quickly. I’m on a mission to live the width as well as the length of mine.
7. You not only write about psychological thrillers, you also write about…writing! I loved your book by the way. Who gave you the best advice when you were starting out, and what was it?
Thank you for your kind comment, Noelle! One of my aims is to support would-be novelists, which is why I wrote Write Your Novel! From Getting Started to First Draft. Advice that has helped me includes the following, although I can’t recall the sources:
i) Less is more, both for word count and characters. Spare your reader literary indigestion! As for characters, ask yourself: do they play a valid role in the plot? If not, axe them.
ii) Don’t revise as you spit out your first draft. Writing and editing use different parts of the brain, and you’ll slow yourself down if you attempt both at once.
iii) If you’re struggling to write a scene, the reader will have difficulty reading it. If the words aren’t flowing, you need to re-examine your plot.
iiii) Use strong words, not weak ones shored up by a qualifier. ‘Gigantic’ is better than ‘very big’.
8. Five words to describe yourself….
Well, we’ve covered judgemental and impatient, so I’ll find five new ones. Driven. Left-brained. Punctual. Reliable. Kind (a sucker for anything with four legs, as well as two-legged critters who are hurting).
9. Why should readers buy your books? Here is your chance toplug anything you want as well Maggie!
They shouldn’t if they’re offended by sex or swearing. My recent books haven’t featured much of either, but the earlier ones do. So if that’s not your thing, then please don’t buy my books. I don’t include gratuitous sex or profanity, only when it suits the story I’m writing, so I’m unapologetic on this score. Otherwise, if you’re as fascinated by the working of the human mind as I am, come and explore its dark side with me. You can:
i) delve into the psyche of a child abductor in His Kidnapper’s Shoes;
ii) explore a twisted sibling relationship in Sister, Psychopath;
iii) discover the truth behind my protagonist’s dark secret in Guilty Innocence;
iiii) experience the horrors of Stockholm syndrome in The Secret Captive;
v) find out what secrets lie hidden at Blackwater Lake;
vi) begin your literary masterpiece after reading Write Your Novel! From Getting Started to First Draft.
10. Where can readers connect with you/find out more about you?
I love connecting with my readers, and I’m active on social media. Come and say hi! Here are my links:
Website and Blog, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+, GoodReads, Pinterest, Amazon, Authorgraph
11. Favourite book you read in 2015? And why?
A good question, and to answer it I’ve looked back through my Goodreads account for 2015. One novel I loved was ‘The Post-Birthday World’ by Lionel Shriver. She amazes me with the complexity of her writing, the way she handles so many nuances at once. Following recommendations from friends, I enjoyed Donna Tartt’s ‘The Goldfinch’, although I found it too long. Anything from Stephen King usually gets the thumbs up from me, and I adored ‘Mr Mercedes’ and ‘Needful Things’.
As for non-fiction, Jeff Olson’s ‘The Slight Edge’ blew me away. It’s an amazingly insightful book that tells how seemingly inconsequential decisions make a huge difference in our lives. Many a mickle makes a muckle, as the saying goes! OK, you asked for my favourite, and I’ve given you five; if I have to pick one, I’d go with ‘The Slight Edge’. It’s a game-changer.
12. If you could collaborate with ANY author, who would it be? Why? What would you write?
I worship at the feet of Stephen King, so if, in a parallel universe I ran into him grocery shopping in Maine, I’d wear him down until he agreed to co-author a novel with me. Of course, I may have to disguise myself as Peter Straub, the only other novelist he’s written a book with so far. As for why, the man’s a genius with words – need I say more?
Stephen King is, of course, no stranger to writing weird paranormal stuff. For me, it would be fun to branch out into a new genre. I’d persuade him into a plot that involved an antagonist with the ability to transport himself instantly to a different location. This guy’s a dark, disturbed soul; he kills men by draining their life force to feed his powers then whizzes himself far away in a nanosecond. One second he’s sucking out a man’s soul, the next he’s in another city, thus establishing the perfect alibi. Why do all his victims resemble each other, however, and why does our killer find it increasingly difficult to leave them behind? What is the significance of the Latin verses he chants before he strikes and the rosary beads he leaves on each corpse?
Or perhaps we’d try some metafiction. How about this? As Stephen King writes his latest tale of darkness, a disturbing trend emerges; his characters come alive and intrude into his life, bringing their unholy plotlines with them. Soon his world disintegrates as he fights to subdue his protagonist, a man hell-bent on ruining everything his creator holds dear. In a desperate attempt to regain control, Stephen plots his murder, but how can you kill someone who knows your every thought?
Wow Maggie!! Thank you so much! Some great answers there! Except for #2….anyone touches Buster and they will pay…dearly…and painfully! LOL