Today’s guest is indie author Maggie Christensen. Her new novel, The Good Sister, is published by Cala Publishing. We’re discussing her writing, her inspirations, and the joy of revisiting familiar characters.
Hi Maggie. Tell us a little about your novels to date.
I write what I call mature women’s fiction. My characters are all over 40, mostly in their 50’s and 60’s. They celebrate women who’ve found a reason to live and love in later life and the heroes worthy of them. They all have a touch of romance, but are not strictly romance novels. I introduce a woman facing a challenging situation and follow her journey. They are heartwarming stories of second chances, and I like to bring back characters from earlier books so that readers feel like they’re meeting old friends.
There are three books in my Oregon Coast Series – The Sand Dollar, The Dreamcatcher, Madeline House. They can be read as stand-alone books or as a series, all set in the small town of Florence on the Oregon Coast. Each book features a different heroine and many of the characters appear in each book. They examine issues such as the discovery of the secret of the heroine’s birth (The Sand Dollar), nightmares and feelings of dread (The Dreamcatcher), and fleeing from domestic violence (Madeline House).
There are also three books set in Australia – Band of Gold and Broken Threads are set in Sydney (Broken Threads features the sister of Anna from Band of Gold) and one – Champagne for Breakfast – set on the Sunshine Coast of Queensland. The Sydney books examine the issues of a husband leaving on Christmas morning (Band of Gold) and the death of a beloved child (Broken Threads). Champagne for Breakfast, although set in Australia, is an offshoot of the Oregon Coast books fitting timewise between books one and two and featuring a minor character from The Sand Dollar. It looks at the issue of a woman turning 50 who has just finished her long-term relationship with her boss.
My most recent book, The Good Sister, is set in Scotland and links to my Sydney books.
You’ve obviously become very fond of one of your characters in particular. Where did your inspiration for Bel come from?
The inspiration for Bel came from an aunt of mine. I had an idea to make her the owner of a fashion boutique and featured her as a minor character in Broken Threads. But the Bel in Broken Threads did not become the person I’d intended her to be, so I gave her an aged aunt in Scotland who became the older Isobel in The Good Sister. Her story is one my aunt told me as a child and I knew I wanted to write it one day.
How did you set about researching the historical elements of your novel?
The Good Sister is my first historical novel. For this one I searched through the internet for information about Scotland prior to and during WW2. I also trailed through old photographs of my parents and their generation who grew up in that period and talked with a cousin who was a child during the war. Much of my information was gleaned from material written for primary school children in Scotland.
Personal writing choice: pen or keyboard?
Definitely keyboard. I only use a pen if an idea comes to me when I don’t have my laptop with me.
When do you know a novel is complete?
I usually aim for a certain word count, but sometimes the story won’t let me go. I keep writing till I feel all the threads have been resolved.
What is the best part of being an author?
I love it when the ideas come to me and I become lost in the world of my characters. But I also love it when I receive feedback that readers have enjoyed my books.
And the worst?
Marketing. This takes so much time when I’d rather be writing.
Who are your writing heroes?
Joanna Trollope, Liz Byrski, Marcia Willett, Erica James
If you had to be stranded on a desert island with three fictional characters, who would you choose, and why?
Simon Serrailler from Susan Hill’s Simon Serrailler books because he’s such a lovely character. He’d be an interesting conversationalist and would spend time sketching the island. He’s somene I’d love to meet in real life.
Isobel Dalhousie from Alexander McCall Smith’s Sunday Philosophy Club series because of her intelligence and integrity. She’s someone I’d like to spend time with and get to know
Kinsey Millhone from Sue Grafton’s Alphabet Series because she’s such a quirky character. I think she’d be a fun companion.
I find it interesting that all three are from books in a series. I guess that’s because a series helps the reader to become more familiar with characters and consider them as friends.
I’m currently editing the sequel to The Good Sister. The working title is Isobel’s Promise. I also have some ideas for another couple of books featuring minor characters from The Good Sister, one set in Australia and one in Scotland.
Thank you very much for taking the time to answer these questions!
After a career in education, Maggie Christensen began writing contemporary women’s fiction portraying mature women facing life-changing situations. Her travels inspire her writing, be it her frequent visits to family in Oregon, USA, her native Scotland or her home on Queensland’s beautiful Sunshine Coast. Maggie writes of mature heroines coming to terms with changes in their lives and the heroes worthy of them.
From her native Glasgow, Scotland, Maggie was lured by the call ‘Come and teach in the sun’ to Australia, where she worked as a primary school teacher, university lecturer and in educational management. Now living with her husband of over thirty years on Queensland’s Sunshine Coast, she loves walking on the deserted beach in the early mornings and having coffee by the river on weekends. Her days are spent surrounded by books, either reading or writing them – her idea of heaven!
She continues her love of books as a volunteer with her local library where selects and delivers books to the housebound.
A member of Queensland Writer’s Centre, RWA, ALLi, and a local critique group, Maggie enjoys meeting her readers at book signings and library talks. In 2014 she self-published Band of Gold and The Sand Dollar, Book One in the Oregon Coast Series and in 2015, The Dreamcatcher, Book Two in the Oregon Coast Series, and Broken Threads, the sequel to Band of Gold. Madeline House, Book Three in the Oregon Coast Series was published in July 2016, and Champagne for Breakfast, an offshoot from the Oregon Coast series set in Noosa, and The Good Sister, featuring Bel from Broken Threads in 2017.
Maggie can be found on Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads or on her website.