NAW Interview with Maggie James

Maggie JamesMaggie James is a British author who lives in Bristol. 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. Her first novel, His Kidnapper’s Shoes was published in 2013, followed by her second novel, entitled Sister, Psychopath. Contact her here or on facebook/ twitter.

NAW- Tell us about your book The Second Captive. How did you get the idea for it? What is it about?

The Second Captive was inspired by hearing about a young woman who returned home after a five-year absence, refusing to say where she’d been or what had happened to her. I was immediately intrigued as to her reasons, and the idea of Stockholm syndrome came to mind as an explanation. For those who don’t know, Stockholm syndrome is a fascinating psychological condition in which hostages or abused individuals bond with their captors/abusers. This is what happens to Beth Sutton, the protagonist in The Second Captive. Here’s a taste of what the novel is about:
What happens when you love the man you should hate?

Beth Sutton is eighteen years old when Dominic Perdue abducts her. Held prisoner in a basement, she’s dependent upon him for food, clothes, her very existence. As the months pass, her hatred towards him changes to compassion. Beth never allows herself to forget, however, that her captor has killed another woman. She has evidence to prove it, not to mention Dominic’s own admission of murder.

Then Beth escapes…

And discovers Dominic Perdue is not a man who lets go easily. Meanwhile, despite being reunited with her family, she spirals into self-destructive behaviour. Release from her prison isn’t enough, it seems. Can Beth also break free from the clutches of Stockholm syndrome?

A study of emotional dependency, The Second Captive examines how love can assume strange guises.

NAW- Tell us about His Kidnapper’s Shoes. Tell us about the character of Daniel. How did you develop the character?

His Kidnapper’s Shoes intertwines the story of Laura Bateman with that of Daniel, the man whom she brought up as her son. The novel starts with Laura in custody for the abduction of Daniel when he was four years old. The narrative switches back and forth between Laura and Daniel’s points of view, revealing from each perspective what happened and how it gets resolved. Daniel is furious at discovering his whole life has been based on a lie, whereas Laura is in denial that she’s committed a serious crime.

Daniel’s not an overly likeable character. To begin with, he’s arrogant and cocky, traits that mask his deep-rooted insecurities. During the course of the novel, he’s forced to confront the demons that stem from his childhood, including his abduction and life with his difficult stepfather. Trial by fire, if you like! He emerges a more mature, less judgemental individual, one ready to put his difficult past behind him. And definitely more likeable.

His Kidnapper’s Shoes was my first novel, so I didn’t have in place my current methods for character development. I did draft out notes for how I wanted Daniel to develop, from promiscuous womaniser to someone who deals with his issues instead of dodging them with casual sex. I was also keen for him to resolve the hatred he feels towards Laura. One of the key themes of the novel is forgiveness, so it was important for me to address this issue.

NAW- What drew you to the suspense genre?

It’s a genre in which I like to read, so it seemed natural to write in it as well. For novelists, I believe it offers a wealth of possibilities, especially psychological suspense, my particular niche. The workings of the human mind fascinate me, although I believe we’re far too complex to fit neatly into conventional psychological theories.

NAW- Tell us about your other works.

My second title, Sister Psychopath, examines life with a sociopathic sibling. Megan Copeland copes with low self-esteem and a mentally unstable mother, whilst enduring the taunts of her younger half-sister, Chloe. Chloe is a ruthless character who’ll stop at nothing to get what she wants, even if it’s everything Megan holds dear. You can’t choose your family, as the saying goes…

My third, Guilty Innocence, tells the story of Mark Slater, wrongly convicted of killing a toddler when still a child himself, and who has shouldered the burden of his troubled past ever since. Now living under a new identity, his life falls to pieces when his girlfriend discovers his secret. Not to mention what happens when his nemesis, the violent and psychopathic Adam Campbell, re-enters Mark’s life…

NAW- How do you write plotting in advance or letting the story find its own course? Do you carry out extensive research for your works? How do you go about it?

I’m very much a plotter, preferring to plan in advance how my book will develop, chapter by chapter, scene by scene. For me, it’s reassuring to have a solid roadmap in place before I start writing. I use the Snowflake Method of plotting, taking my original idea from a one-sentence summary to several pages, complete with character notes. I use the writing software Scrivener for every stage of the process; it keeps me organised and on track. I do believe that plotting the story in advance helps prevent writer’s block; there are no excuses for not writing when everything is already mapped out. Similarly, I think this approach reduces editing time considerably, because the first draft is much more polished.

As for research, my novels don’t require a great deal, not like historical fiction, for example. So no, I don’t do extensive research, although every title of mine has required some, of course. The most difficult part has been to get medical procedure correct, needed for both Sister Psychopath and The Second Captive. For that, I’ve called on obliging friends who have far more knowledge than me about that kind of thing.

Setting my novels in Bristol helps reduce the amount of research I do, because I know my home city so well. That may change if I base my fifth novel in Cambodia, which is a distinct possibility.

SecondCaptive book cover

NAW- Tell us about your publishing journey.

I originally intended to pursue the traditional route for publishing His Kidnapper’s Shoes; my plan was to seek out a literary agent once the book was completed. Then a friend recommended I look into self-publishing as an alternative. I’m very glad I did. Once I’d read up about publishing via Amazon, I couldn’t see any point whatsoever in pursuing the traditional route, and every benefit in self-publishing. So that’s what I did. Since then, I’ve been offered a publishing deal for my non-fiction nutrition titles. Although I was flattered, I had no hesitation in saying no. I love the freedom to chart my writing career the way I chose that self-publishing gives me. It’s far more lucrative, for one thing!

NAW- Tell us about yourself. What do you do when you are not writing?

I’m a British author who lives in Bristol. I writes psychological suspense novels.

The first draft of my first novel, entitled His Kidnapper’s Shoes, was written whilst travelling in Bolivia. I 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 my second novel, entitled Sister, Psychopath. My third novel, Guilty Innocence, like her first two, features my home city of Bristol. I’ve recently published my fourth novel, The Second Captive.

Before turning my hand to writing, I worked mainly as an accountant, with a diversion into practising as a nutritional therapist. Diet and health remain high on my 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, I can be found seeking new four-legged friends to pet; animals are a lifelong love!

NAW- Please name your favourite writers. Are there any who you’d like to name as an inspiration?

I’m a big fan of Lee Child, and filled with admiration for the way he’s able to write American thrillers despite being British. Stephen King is another favourite, and I particularly liked ‘11.22.63’, a wonderful and intriguing novel. How anyone can write such long titles is beyond me, although my own books are steadily increasing in length. Any writer who’s prolific, in the way that Child and King are, is an inspiration, because I know only too well the slog that’s involved in crafting a novel from start to finish.

NAW-What are you currently reading?

I’m currently in between books, but the last one I read was a non-fiction title – Brian Tracy’s ‘Maximum Achievement’. I’d heard good things about this one, and it didn’t disappoint, despite the sometimes old-fashioned tone of the writing. It’s deservedly a classic in its field. Next, I’ll be reading a crime thriller shortly to be released by an author friend of mine (Deadlight, by Michael Smart). I read voraciously, although my reading’s taken a back seat recently thanks to the pressure of publishing The Second Captive.

NAW- What will you be working on next?

I’d like to offer a free short story to anyone who signs up for my newsletter, so that’s my next project. Once that’s completed, I’ll commence plotting my fifth novel. I’m in two minds as to its theme. I’m strongly drawn to writing a novel about extreme betrayal, whilst having wanted for a long time to examine near-death experiences. I suspect I’ll go with the former, and perhaps set it In Cambodia rather than repeating the theme of setting my books in Bristol.

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