Today’s special guest is British author of psychological suspense novels, Maggie James. We get to hear a bit about her newest book, Guilty Innocence, and other fun things.
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 milestone birthday along with a healthy dose of annoyance at having procrastinated for so long in writing a novel. His Kidnapper’s Shoes was published in both paperback and e-book format in 2013, followed by her second novel, entitled Sister, Psychopath. Her third novel, Guilty Innocence, has now been published, and like her first two, features her home city of Bristol. She is currently working on her fourth novel.
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!
Welcome, Maggie. Please tell us about your current release.
Guilty Innocence is a psychological suspense novel. It’s a gritty story examining child murder and dysfunctional families; the novel tells of one man’s struggle to break free from his past.
What inspired you to write this book?
I was intrigued by the idea of how it would feel to discover that someone you love has a secret past, especially if it involved a horrific crime. The characters of Natalie Richards and Mark Slater were thus born in my head and hassled me endlessly until I wrote their story. Mark was once wrongly convicted of child murder, a fact he conceals from everyone, including his girlfriend Natalie. The truth, of course, will out, and it will devastate Natalie as Mark struggles to confront his demons.
From Chapter 1 – The Letter
Natalie Richards’s first reaction to the letter in her hands is one of suspicion. A response fuelled by her misgivings, the ones prompting her to search through her boyfriend’s possessions, like an addict seeking a fix. Who the hell is Joshua Barker, and why does Mark have a letter addressed to him?
She first discovers it at the bottom of his bedside cabinet, when she’s almost given up on finding anything. From the outside, the letter holds no clue as to the explosive nature of its contents. She almost misses it; it’s tucked away at the very bottom of the last drawer, under a pile of bank statements. Natalie flips through them quickly; what she’s seeking isn’t likely to be concealed amongst cash withdrawals and direct debits. She goes to replace the bank statements and close the drawer, when she notices the envelope. It’s lying face down, almost as if it’s hiding. In the interests of being thorough in her search, she pulls it out.
She reads the letter, the name of Joshua Barker nagging at her as she does so, its vague familiarity teasing her. As the contents sink into her mind, the realisation of who Joshua Barker is claws its way to the surface in her brain, exploding through her skull in a myriad of disbelief and denial.
Natalie hurls the letter from her grasp as though the paper has burned her. Which, in a way, it has. It lands near the door, the momentum causing it to slide partly underneath, as if to crawl away from her. A low moan escapes her as she sinks to the floor, her stomach clenching in rebuttal of what’s hammering through her brain. She stares at the cheap melamine bedside cabinet as though it has betrayed her by offering sanctuary to Joshua Barker’s letter. Would to God she’d never decided to search through Mark’s things. She’s been expecting to find shit, but not something that stinks this bad. Nobody could have anticipated the contents of the letter taunting her from the other side of the room. You screwed up again, Natalie. Drawn to bad boys, aren’t you? Well, they don’t come much worse than this one.
She huddles against Mark’s bed, which is neatly made, of course. Everything with Mark is always tidy, regimented, in its place. The almost antiseptic neatness of his cramped flat reveals little about the man she’s been dating, on and off, for the last four months. The on part is mostly down to her; she doesn’t let herself wonder if Mark ever contemplates pressing the off button.
Natalie’s come here today because she suspects her boyfriend may be seeing another woman. Given her track record with men, it’s the obvious conclusion when Mark seems distant, evasive, oblivious to her hints about taking their relationship further. Getting their own place. Perhaps a baby in due course. So far Natalie has only given the vaguest of suggestions on the baby issue; Mark’s abrupt withdrawal when she does so silences her immediately.
Finding a man who wants what she does - commitment, togetherness, stability - doesn’t come easily to Natalie. She knows men like that exist. Take her cousin Janine, for instance. Married for five years now, with a two-year-old daughter and another baby on the way, her husband Gavin the archetypal faithful adoring partner. Janine, though, has the shining example of her parents, happily married for thirty years. Not so with Natalie. Before the divorce, her father seems determined to bed every available woman in Bristol. Eventually he walks out on his wife and eleven-year-old daughter and doesn’t come back. His contact with Natalie is reduced to sporadic Christmas and birthday cards that eventually peter out. Callie Richards, angry and embittered, is left to bring up her daughter alone.
No wonder Natalie has a track record of always going for the bad boys. A psychologist might say she’s on a mission to find and reform her errant father. The finding’s not been a problem; it’s the reforming that’s proved a fruitless quest so far with the men she dates.
What exciting story are you working on next?
I’ve written my fourth novel, provisionally entitled The Second Captive and am currently engaged in revising and editing it, ready for publication in October 2014. I seem to be unusual amongst writers in that I really enjoy the editing process. The novel examines the fascinating psychological condition known as Stockholm syndrome, in which victims become emotionally attached to their abusers. I’m drawn to dark themes and unusual psychological issues for my novels.
When did you first consider yourself a writer?
Before I wrote my first novel, His Kidnapper’s Shoes, I wrote some short stories, which I published online and which received very favourable feedback and reviews. I guess I started to believe I was a writer back then. Writing is something I’ve always wanted to do, but I went for decades without doing anything about it. Believe me, I’m making up for lost time now!
What’s your work day like?
In the mornings, I work on all matters writing-related, whether it’s writing, revision, editing or getting my work formatted for publication. Although I’m more of a night owl, I find I’m better at creative pursuits first thing in the day. Can’t explain why, but that’s the way it is, so I don’t fight it! After lunch, I tackle marketing-related projects, such as scheduling promotions, writing blog posts, having fun on social media or sundry stuff such as updating my website. I don’t normally work evenings or weekends, although when life gets hectic around publication time that can change.
What would you say is your interesting writing quirk?
Hmm, I’m not sure I have any quirks as such! Or maybe I can’t spot them? I do like to be very organised about writing – I’m a planner rather than a pantser – and that seems unusual amongst writers, as is the fact I tend to write linearly rather than skipping around in the plot when writing. For real quirks, ask me again in ten years – I’m sure I’ll have acquired a few by then!
As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?
I always wanted to be a novelist. Nothing else, just that. So when I found myself approaching a milestone birthday and I still hadn’t written anything, it was time for drastic action. I quit my job and went off travelling for a year, with a secret agenda I didn’t reveal to anyone. That was to come back with a novel completed to first draft stage – and that’s exactly what I did. I spent two months in the beautiful city of Sucre, in Bolivia, writing His Kidnapper’s Shoes. The sense of achievement I experienced after I typed the final words will stay with me forever.
Anything additional you want to share with the readers?
I blog regularly about all things fiction-related on my website, so come along and say hello! I really enjoy blogging, and I welcome guest posts; I have guidelines for bloggers available on my website. I also love interacting with my readers, so do connect with me via any of my social media links.
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Buy links for novels: