Author Interview: Maggie James author of Deception Wears Many Faces and her newest book Silent Winter

I am so chuffed to have Maggie James here on The Crime Warp today. Maggie is one of those authors who is very generous with her time in helping other authors and I really value her friendship. Apart from that she's gort a really sick and devious mind which she puts to good use in her  crime writing. Here's her bio:

Maggie James is a British author who lives near Newcastle-upon-Tyne. She writes psychological suspense novels.

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!

Here's a taste of her most recent book Silent Winter 
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No sound. No light. No hope.

On an icy November night, Drew Blackmore is beaten unconscious, then abducted.  He awakes to find himself in total darkness, naked and chained to the floor.  Fed just enough to keep him alive, Drew is unable to identify his captor, or the reason for his incarceration. As reality fades, hallucinations take over. Can Drew escape his prison before madness claims him?
Meanwhile Drew's wife, Holly, despairing of ever seeing him again, turns to his brother for comfort. As the worst winter in decades sweeps the UK, she learns of Drew's tragic past. Could his disappearance be connected with that of a prostitute years before? 

A story of how the mind responds to solitary confinement, Silent Winter examines one man's desperate attempt to survive the unthinkable.

Liz:  Could you describe how the germ of an idea develops into a full-blown novel

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Maggie: I start offline, using pen and paper. First I write down a one-sentence idea for the plot. For example, ‘Guilty Innocence’, my third novel, began with the following idea: how would it feel to discover that the person you’ve been dating is harbouring a terrible secret? In the book, Natalie Richards is devastated when she finds a letter that indicates her boyfriend, Mark Slater, may be living under a new identity after murdering a two-year-old girl. I then needed to answer the following questions: was Mark guilty? What actually happened the day Abby Morgan died? How does Mark confront the demons that have hounded him ever since, including his relationship with the chilling Adam Campbell?

Once I have the initial idea I make notes, seeking to expand that first sentence into a paragraph, a page, two pages, and so on, until I have the basic outline for the story. I then set up a file in the writing software I use (Scrivener) and split my notes between chapters; I also type up some ideas about my characters – age, interests, temperament, etc. I keep going until I’m ready to start writing, or until I’m sick of plotting! Often it’s the latter. I find that once I start to write, I tweak the storyline anyway, so planning in great detail would be a waste of time. I do, however, think I need to plot more tightly with future novels.

Liz:  Do you ever suffer from writer’s block and if so how do you overcome it?

Maggie: I don’t, for the reasons outlined above; I already know where the story is going. I
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have, however, battled writing fatigue, when the words get stuck because my brain is tired. That happened after the publication of ‘The Second Captive’; I was very pushed for time to complete the book before embarking on a two-month trip to Thailand and Cambodia, and after I finished it I felt drained. I wasn’t sure if I’d ever get another idea for a novel, and I needed a break. Fortunately, as it turned out, my laptop died during my time away, leaving me free to enjoy my travels and forget about writing for a couple of months. OK, I could have bought a new laptop in Bangkok, but I chose to go with the flow and put my writing on hold. After my return to the UK, I switched to non-fiction and wrote ‘Write Your Novel! From Getting Started to First Draft’, aimed at would-be authors. A sort of literary palette cleanser, if you like. Eventually I got my writing mojo back. I suspect many novelists go through times when they wonder if they’ll ever write again – it seems a common occurrence.

Liz:Do you have a particular writing routine you follow?

Maggie: Although I’m more of an owl than a lark, I find I write better first thing in the morning. That can include plotting and editing time, as well as creating new material. I work on whatever I’m doing until my brain is tired or once I’ve written my allotted word count for the day – usually anything over 2,000 words.
In the afternoon, I switch to marketing and other ancillary writing tasks. As any full-time author will tell you, there’s more to being a novelist than typing words into a computer. For instance, I need to keep my finances on track, to plan future promotions and to use social media for business purposes. I try to ensure I spend more time on writing activities than on the other stuff, but it doesn’t always work that way!
I tend to keep office hours, finishing at five p.m. and taking weekends off, unless I’m under pressure from an editing or publishing deadline. That works for me. I know the maxim is ‘write every day’, but my brain needs time to recharge.

Author as a Person 

Liz: Who are your writing heroes and why?

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Maggie: I’m a huge Stephen King fan – the man is a genius, and I’m in awe of his prolific output. Dozens of titles, many of them over seven hundred pages long! His wonderful time-travel novel, ’11.22.63’, is one of the best I’ve ever read – a rollercoaster read topped by a perfect ending. Just imagine what the world would have lost if Stephen’s wife hadn’t fished ‘Carrie’ out of the waste bin and insisted it had potential.

Liz: Which author are you cosying up with tonight?
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Maggie: I’m halfway through Steven Cavanagh’s ‘Twisted’, and loving it. It’s less dense than ‘Thirteen’ – another great read – with fewer characters, but just as entertaining. I have no idea how it will all pan out, or what twists Steve has in store, but I’m happy to cosy up with him tonight and find out. Friends of mine have raved over the book, and I’ll definitely be reading more from this author.

Liz: Who or what inspires you to keep writing?

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Maggie: My lifelong ambition to be a novelist – it’s the only career I’ve ever wanted, and I consider it the best job in the world. For me, anyway! As a little girl, I dreamed of writing novels full-time, and churned out lots of stories. As a teenager, though, that all fell away and I didn’t write again until my forties. All the while my childhood dream nagged at me, reminding me time was ticking away and that I’d done nothing about it. A forthcoming milestone birthday proved the catalyst for me to realise my ambition. I handed in my notice at work, went off travelling for a year and returned to the UK having written ‘His Kidnapper’s Shoes’ while in Bolivia.

Liz: Do you linger in your research period or do you rush your research to get stuck into the writing?

Maggie: Definitely the latter. I’m glad I don’t write historical fiction, or some other genre that requires masses of research, because it’s not my favourite pastime. I don’t hate it, but I don’t love it either. I’d rather be writing or editing.

Liz: Thanks so much Maggie for this wonderful interview. 
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