Thank you so much for featuring me! Yes, I’d be happy to talk about my writing history. I’ve always wanted to be a full-time novelist; as a child, I never doubted I’d write books as an adult. When I left school, however, I became an accountant, a career I followed for nearly thirty years. Why? Because in my twenties, I fooled myself into thinking I lacked the necessary life experience to be a novelist. Back then, completing a novel had morphed in my mind from a childhood dream into an insurmountable task. How the hell could I manage 80,000 words, and on what theme? Later on, my excuses changed; I persuaded myself I didn't have the time (despite getting the same twenty-four hours per day as everyone else!) Decades went by without anything changing.
The urge to write never deserted me, however. It nagged me, reminding me that my life was flying by and I was no nearer to achieving my ambition. Fed up with my procrastination, I dipped my toe in the water by penning short fan-fiction pieces, which, to my delight, were well-received, thus boosting my confidence.
Not long afterwards, I had a disagreement with my employers, one that proved impossible to resolve. Outwardly I pretended everything was fine but inside I seethed. Unable to find a way forward, I decided this contretemps might prove itself a blessing. From that moment, my attitude changed. I resolved to quit accountancy and indulge my lifelong wanderlust for a year, and to write a novel whilst away.
Almost three months into my trip, I still hadn’t written a word, thanks to the constant travelling. One night, disgusted by my ongoing procrastination, I had an epiphany. As a result, I travelled to Sucre, a Bolivian city I’d heard was stunning, with the intention of staying there until I completed my novel. I already had the germ of an idea for the plot, gleaned from a conversation I’d had in Vietnam. So that’s what I did. I found a quiet hotel in Sucre and wrote every day until I finished His Kidnapper’s Shoes. An emotional moment for me; five years later, I still get tearful every time I remember it.
Upon my return to the UK I set up a dog-walking business to support myself whilst I carried on writing. Since then I’ve published three more novels, a novella, a box-set and five non-fiction books, finally becoming a full-time author in December 2014. I’m now working on my fifth novel.
Sometimes you need your life to change before you can grasp the big dream and run with it.
You write psychological thrillers. These, although they usually contain a crime or two, aren’t the standard police procedural or detective story. What made you look at the idea from a different angle?
I’m primarily drawn to the psychological aspect. Human psychology is, I believe, incredibly complex, beyond what conventional theories can explain, and I’m fascinated by its quirks. I love writing about strong emotions, and to do so, I need to examine the events that inspire them. For me, the most interesting provocations involve crime. Abduction and murder hold the power to invoke heart-rending emotions: anguish, rage and hatred. Wonderful material for any novelist!
I agree! You need to make readers feel it too.
Do you read thrillers and crime books yourself, or do you ever stray into new territory?
My reading tastes are broad but my preference is for thrillers and suspense novels. I think it’s essential for novelists to read widely in their chosen genres, as we learn so much that way. Whether a novel is good, bad or indifferent, it teaches me something.
Although not a thriller or crime writer, Stephen King is a master of his craft. I’m enthralled by his story-weaving abilities. I also love many of the classics, such as those from George Orwell, Thomas Hardy, George Gissing and Jane Austen.
I’m a great Austen fan myself. Do you ever have a hankering to write in a different genre yourself? If so, what.
Yes, it’s something I’ve considered. For years, I always thought I’d write erotica. Somewhere along the way, I lost the desire (no pun intended) to write steamy sex stuff. When I got the idea for His Kidnapper’s Shoes, it was the story that appealed, not the genre. It's possible I may explore dystopia or science fiction in the future. I can’t imagine writing romances or historical novels, though.
I love science fiction but despite a science background, I never feel competent to get the facts right!
Do you design your own covers? They have a real ‘house style’ to them and always look menacing. Don’t you ever hanker for something bright?
My artistic skills fall far short of the level required to design my own covers! Instead, except for Blackwater Lake, for which I bought a pre-made version, I have a lovely woman who designs my fiction covers. She’s fun to work with and we’ve ensured they have a consistent style in keeping with my genre. As for their colours, I can’t imagine my novels with pastel shades or hot pink tones on their covers. Bright hues wouldn’t fit my dark themes!
True. That would surprise readers. If it’s not a state secret, what are you working on at the moment?
My sixth fiction title, Burning Obsession, is undergoing revision with a view to publication this summer. This part always takes the longest due to me tweaking every word a thousand times! I’ve completed the first draft and am now working on various plot amendments, before the detailed editing starts. Burning Obsession examines a serial arsonist at work in my home city of Bristol, involving a dead body that turns up along the way…
I’m also getting my titles narrated into audio format, and I’d like them translated into other languages. Spanish would be my first choice, as that opens up Spain and Latin America to me. I’m also putting together a non-fiction work aimed at encouraging
would-be novelists. If I can help other people to fulfil their writing dreams, I’ll be very happy.
That’s great. I must catch up on some of your other work. Thanks for sitting under my spotlight and I look forward to Burning Obsession when it’s published.
If you'd like to check out Maggie's brilliant books, you can find them here, on her Amazon page.