Maggie James is a British author who lives in Bristol, a city featured in her first three novels. She writes psychological suspense novels. Maggie kindly took the time to answer my questions.
Tell me a bit about your latest book.
I’m writing my fourth novel at present, which examines Stockholm Syndrome. For those who don’t know, victims become emotionally dependent on their abusers in this fascinating psychological condition. Stockholm Syndrome is best known for occurring in hostage situations, but it can also explain domestic abuse and other such circumstances. The novel is provisionally entitled ‘Training Room’ and focuses on an abduction of a young woman. My antagonist, Dominic Perdue, is not someone to mess with, although he’s far less of a tortured soul than Adam Campbell from my novel ‘Guilty Innocence’.
Where do you get your ideas from?
They can come from anywhere. Conversations I’ve had, news items, or even courses I’ve done – the basic premise for ‘Sister Psychopath’ arose from a writing workshop I took. Anything that gets me thinking about the psychology behind people’s actions will grab my attention. Although I don’t write crime fiction as such, crime tends to feature in my books because it often engenders strong emotions. Once I get an idea, I file it away on a list, ready for future use. Forthcoming themes? I’ve long had it in mind to write a novel centred on near-death experiences, given my own interest in the subject.
Do you have to do a lot of research?
For some areas, yes, for others, no. For example, so far all my novels are set in Bristol, my home city. That makes life easier because I know the area so well; I don’t have to do lots of research, leaving me free to concentrate on the plot and characters. For other research topics – yes. With ‘Guilty Innocence’, I spent ages investigating self-harm; for ‘Sister, Psychopath’ it was traumatic injury. ‘His Kidnapper’s Shoes’ meant I delved into eye colour and genetics.
How do you feel after each book has been published?
I experience an immense rush of satisfaction once it’s done, but getting there is hard! I tend to agonise over whether the book is ready, does it need another round of editing – procrastination, big time! Once the hard part is over, though, and I swing into marketing mode, I get a tremendous buzz.
When is your next book due out?
I’ll finish the first draft by mid-June, with publication scheduled for later on this year, probably August or September. For me, the editing part is always the longest, although I love it. However much fun I’m having, it still takes ages to get from the first draft to the final product, though. I won’t publish a book until I’m sure I’ve polished it as much as I can. I’ll also write my fifth novel, or the bulk of it, before the end of 2015. For that one, I’m doing something a little wacky, by offering readers the chance to become one of my characters. Details are on my website!
What advice do you have for anyone wishing to write their first book?
It’s rather like the well-worn analogy of eating an elephant – one bite at a time. To those who’ve not yet done it, the idea of writing a novel can seem overwhelming. A hundred thousand words, or even more? No way! It’s less hard than you imagine, though. Remember the elephant. Keep writing, day after day, and before long, you’ll have the first draft done. Fifteen hundred or so words a day is very achievable, meaning you’ll be finished in a little over two months for an average length offering. Also, plan your novel; make notes for the structure, plot, characters, everything. You’ll find it keeps the dreaded writer’s block at bay like nothing else! Finally, believe in yourself. You’ll always get doubters, negative Nellies who’ll tell you you’re chasing rainbows by wanting to write a book. Ignore them and do it anyway. Who are they to crush your dreams?
What do you like to do in your spare time?
I’m a confirmed travel-holic and although I’ve not been abroad for a while, I’m hatching plans as to how and when that will change. For me, nothing, apart from writing, holds the same appeal as travel. These two loves are my main passions in life, closely followed by animals and anything culinary. I’m one of those people who go all gooey over anything with four legs, and as for food, I can’t walk past a restaurant without checking the menu. Healthy living has been a priority for the last two decades; I do several yoga classes a week along with a couple of gym sessions. What else? Well, like most writers, I read voraciously, and my love of all things fictional extends to regular cinema visits. I also love driving, and have a couple of long road trips planned.
Which types of books do you like to read?
Most things really; it might be easier to list what I don’t read! I’m not into romances or chick lit, but apart from that, any other genre is fair game. Lately, I’ve been reading way too much crime fiction – the psychological component fascinates me – so I’m doing my best to rectify my addiction to Lee Child novels. To my shame, there’s a plethora of wonderful classics, both old and modern, which I’ve yet to enjoy, which is odd because at one time I read a lot of classic novels. I also devour a fair bit of non-fiction. I’ve found an interest in all matters spiritual has come to the fore recently – a surprise to my former atheistic self – so I’ve been checking out books in that area, with frequent side trips into philosophy.
Website and blog: http://www.maggiejamesfiction.com