From Exploring The Dark Side Of The Mind to Cheerleading For New Writers. An Interview With Maggie James.

Posted on 14th August, 2015

This week I'm delighted to welcome a new visitor to my blog. Maggie James writes novels of psychological suspense based around intricate relationships and complex characters. She has also recently written a “how to” books for writers.
Welcome, Maggie. Thanks for coming along to answer my questions and talk about your writing.

First of all, why psychological suspense? Is this the genre you enjoy reading?

Yes, very much so, although I enjoy most genres. I do prefer thriller and suspense novels, however, especially ones with an element of psychological drama. That’s why I write in this genre. I'm fascinated by the workings of the human mind, not that I set much store by conventional psychological theories. They seem to change every decade, and I believe that our brains are too complex to be explained by such simplistic hypotheses.

Tell us about your early writing. Were you a child writer?

Yes. As a child, my ambition was to be a novelist when I grew up. It never occurred to me that I might be anything else. Things didn't turn out that way, not at first, but when I was a young girl I was always writing stories. I won a prize for one and had another published, and a historical novella I wrote proved popular with my classmates at school.

Let's talk about Sister, Psychopath. Well, the title gives away a certain amount(!). I'm not going to ask you about Chloe, the sister of the title, but about the other sister, Megan, who narrates the story and whose personality informs the writing. Did you go through a process to fix on Megan's character?

The character of Megan came into being when someone told me about a real-life murder case. A mentally disturbed woman became fixated on one of her colleagues, a married man with a young child. They never had an affair; everything took place in her imagination. In her warped brain, she decided the only way they’d ever be together would be if she murdered his wife and child, which she did. Her daughter became suspicious and reported her mother to the police; the woman was found guilty and jailed.

Once I heard this story, I was fascinated. At first I intended Sister Psychopath to be based on it, with Megan as the daughter. I posed the question: how would it feel to make such a discovery about your mother? After turning over various plot possibilities in my mind, I decided to take the novel along a different path. The mentally disturbed woman became Tilly Copeland, with Megan as her long-suffering daughter. Resemblances exist between the two cases, but Tilly doesn't commit murder, so Megan has no need of the police. For me, introducing Chloe as her sociopathic sibling gave the story an edge it would otherwise have lacked and allowed me to do more with the plot.

Right at the start of Sister, Psychopath, Megan announces to the reader her disturbing views of Chloe's psyche; and in the first chapter of His Kidnapper's Shoes, Laura is coping with the accusation that she kidnapped Daniel; so my question is this. A lot of writers would have revealed these things gradually, but you dump the reader right into the middle of the situation. was this a style that developed or did it come naturally to you from the outset?

I guess it must come naturally as I never considered beginning either book any other way. I've done the same with my other two novels. Guilty Innocence starts with Natalie's discovery of Mark Slater's conviction as a child killer, and The Second Captive begins with Beth Sutton escaping her captor. I must prefer starting my fiction with a bang!

Tell us about your writing process and publishing choices.

I’m by nature a planner, something that's reflected in my writing process. Despite being a night owl, I’m more creative and productive during the mornings, so that’s when I write. I do a minimum of 3,000 words on my latest novel, or if I am editing or plotting, a set number of chapters. Afternoons are spent on marketing activities, blogging, and anything else related to my fiction.

As for publishing choices, I'm beyond grateful to Amazon and those other sales platforms that have facilitated the self-publishing phenomenon. A year or so ago, I was offered a traditional style contract for my non-fiction books, but I didn’t hesitate in turning it down. For me, self-publishing is the right choice. Why would I wait up to 2 years for publication and then receive a paltry 10% of my earnings via the traditional route when I can publish a book within hours and receive 70% royalties from Amazon? I get to choose my own titles, covers, and set the course for my writing career. None of that would be possible had I elected for the traditional route, assuming I landed a publishing contract. To be honest, I can’t understand why anyone might opt for the old-fashioned way, given the enormous benefits of self-publishing. I realise a few authors want to see their novels stocked in their local bookshop, something that’s difficult for self-published writers, but for me, that’s not an issue.

You have recently written a "how to" book for writers. Tell us a little about it.

Having waited several decades to write, I now can’t imagine pursuing any other career. As I mentioned earlier, it was always my dream as a child; I can’t understand why I procrastinated for so long. So many people tell me, once they find out I'm a novelist, that they'd love to write a book. I understand that desire; after all, once I stood in their shoes. Hence my latest book, Write Your Novel! From Getting Started to First Draft. I aim to inspire would-be novelists with the confidence they need. I aspire to being their cheerleader, their hand-holder, addressing issues such as mind-set, finding support, and procrastination. I help them carve out time to write and together we smash through the excuses that are holding them back. So far the feedback has been positive; several people have told me how much it has helped them.

Maggie, many thanks for joining me today. 

Maggies's links:

Her website and blog

Chat with Maggie on Twitter

Maggie's Facebook page

Connect with her on LinkedIn

Maggie's Google+ page

Her Pinterest page

For the books Maggie as written and those she likes to read, go to Goodreads

Maggie's books at Amazon:

His Kidnapper's Shoes

Sister, Psychopath

Guilty Innocence

The Second Captive

Write Your Novel! From Getting Started to First Draft

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Comments (3)

Thanks for commenting, Mark, and for reading my books!
I also like to hear the story behind the story. For me, it adds to the pleasure of the book. I'm pleased you enjoyed the interview, Mark. Thanks for visiting and leaving a comment.
Having read all of Maggie's books it was interesting to read about about how Sister Psychopath was created. I too had noticed that her books do begin with a bang, but I like that about them, and the pace never slows down either.

A really interesting interview.