I’m so delighted today to welcome author Maggie Cammiss as my guest on Being Anne. Maggie has been a wonderful supporter of the blog, and I’ve enjoyed following her and getting to know her better as she’s been working to make her books available again – I’ll be reading and reviewing Breaking News later this year, and I’m really looking forward to it.
What happens when your life makes the evening news?
Television producer Sara Cassidy has her life all mapped out. She loves her job making weekly feature programmes for TV news channel UK24, and is looking forward to furthering her ambitions in the media. She is devastated when her fiancé makes a shattering confession, but she hardly has time to come to terms with his betrayal when her closest friend is involved in a freak accident and Sara’s world is turned upside down.
As Sara struggles to maintain a professional perspective, she finds solace in a new interest and a blossoming romance. But she has to be careful who she trusts in the cut-throat world of television news. Just as she is finding her feet again the career that means so much reveals its murkier side.
When she suddenly finds herself at the other end of the camera lens, Sara discovers that in the struggle for ratings, loyalty is in short supply.
Let’s meet Maggie…
Maggie, it’s lovely to welcome you to Being Anne – would you like to introduce yourself?
Hello Anne, thank you for inviting me, it’s lovely to be here. A bit about me: I’ve always been an avid reader and scribbler and the first years of my working life were spent very happily in public libraries. Later, I moved into film archives and in 1989 I joined Sky News when the channel first launched. I worked behind the scenes, managing a team responsible for accumulating, cataloguing and maintaining a news footage archive. It was a great job, but now I’m retired, my days are rather different – we have my mother in law living with us and she has Alzheimer’s so every day is a voyage of discovery and interruptions are part of daily life.
My husband wouldn’t necessarily agree but I believe staring into space with a cup of tea and a biscuit beside me is a legitimate use of my time. I am an inveterate eavesdropper and I’ve always got a notebook and pen handy. I’m not quite an insomniac, but I make an awful lot of notes in the dead of night.
So you’ve tried traditional publishing, you’ve tried assisted publishing – this time, you’re self publishing. How have you found the experience?
Self publishing has been a steep learning curve but it’s been well worth it. I used Createspace and KDP (Kindle Direct Publishing) and I feel quite proud of myself now that both titles have been relaunched with new covers. I went at my own pace and as I didn’t have to cajole any disinterested parties into action along the way, it wasn’t too stressful. My experience of assisted publishing was very disappointing and I would advise anyone contemplating taking this route to think very carefully and ask lots of questions. I felt so strongly I wrote a blog post about it: you’ll find it here.
Tell me more about your books – it looks as if you’re a great supporter of “write what you know”…
I came away from the hectic atmosphere of a 24-hour rolling news channel with a gift: masses of interesting background material, and it seemed a pity to waste it. There’s a romance at the heart of both novels, with the overheated environment of a television newsroom providing the setting. The characters and storylines are entirely fictitious but that doesn’t stop old colleagues asking if they feature – I tell them I’ve changed the names to protect the guilty!
Who would enjoy your books? When you were writing, did you have a reader in your mind? A certain background, or age group maybe? Were they exclusively female?
They aren’t aimed at a specific reader or age group (my husband read them both and enjoyed them), but inevitably the female leads and romance aspects will attract a predominantly thirty-something female readership. The television news environment adds some interesting background that appeals to those readers who like to learn about something new.
I’m guessing – amid all the publishing effort – that there’s not been much writing going on lately! But I liked a statement I spotted from you that you could now “concentrate on aspects of writing that interest me”. What are your future plans?
Now that both novels have been safely launched I can get back to the writing (it’s rather time consuming, this self-publishing!). I gave a talk to my local WI recently and I told the ladies that I have a lot to say to women my age, which I haven’t covered in the first two books. I wanted to write a novel that reflects the lives of more mature readers, so my work in progress concerns three women of a certain age, their complicated relationships and some surprising secrets. I’ve also just enrolled in an online screenwriting course run by FutureLearn and the University of East Anglia. I’ve often been told that my writing is very visual; it remains to be seen whether I can translate it for the screen.
Browsing your blog, I loved your diary about your NaNoWriMo experience. It works then?
Writing over 1600 words a day for a month is not for everyone, but it certainly worked for me. It was hard work but at the end of thirty days of intense writing I had the first 50,000 words of my second novel. It needed a lot of work to bash it into shape, but I wouldn’t have had that backbone without the competition.
I noticed you also work with a writers’ group, Cutting Edge Writers. How has that helped you?
I’ve been a member for over ten years now and the group has been tremendously helpful. After drafting both novels I tackled the initial re-writes by presenting a chapter a week to the group. It was hard work but the comments and criticisms I received helped me enormously and incorporating them into later drafts served as a valuable editing tool. Writing can be a lonely pursuit and the regular input and support from people who understand the process was a huge benefit. Sometimes I take the class – I usually tackle some aspect of grammar or punctuation and I get some good-natured moans and groans – but it’s astonishing how many people struggle with the basics, particularly the apostrophe, so it’s a worthwhile exercise. And we have several guest speakers every year, usually published authors, who give us the benefit of their experience.
I laughed when I saw you say that you’re always 30 in your head – hey, me too! But doesn’t writing in rather later life give you more experience to draw on?
Absolutely! But sometimes that gives me another problem – what to put in and what to leave out. Believe me, I could blether on for England, boring everyone stupid and losing readers along the way. So when I’m writing I’m constantly asking myself, ‘Do they need to know that?’ I’ve become much more ruthless in my editing. The first two novels weren’t specifically autobiographical but they probably reflected aspects of my younger self. Some problems are universal but my new cast of characters are older, hopefully wiser, and deal with problems in different ways.
Do you always want to write contemporary fiction? Would you like to try something different?
I recently wrote a time-slip short story which got me thinking about tackling a full length novel on the same subject. It featured a period in our recent history (1943) that interests me, and a family connection, but it would take a lot of research, so that’s on the back-burner at the moment. I also read a lot of crime novels, and I’d love to write one, but realistically, I think the amount of detail checking would defeat me. Having said that, my work in progress has a crime element to it, but it’s more psychological than procedural.
Like most writers, I know you’re a reader too. What writers do you particularly admire? If someone said “your writing reminds me of…”, who would you like them to mention?
Ooh, that’s a tough one. I’m a member of my local library and I have a Kindle. I read an awful lot (I even get up early to fit in a couple of hours with a cuppa before the days really begins) and I’m in awe of writers like Mark Billingham and Lee Child whose books just bowl along effortlessly. Stephen King has long been a favourite because he makes the whole storytelling process seem so easy. I like a complicated plot and a meaty storyline but I also devour books by authors like Joanna Trolllope, Anne Tyler and Anita Brookner, where it’s all about the human condition and how the characters interact with one another. I love discovering new writers, like AD Garrett, who I first read about on Facebook. Social media is really good for introducing me to writers I haven’t tried before.
I’d hesitate to liken my writing to another author. I don’t mean that in a grand way, quite the opposite. I’m a novice; I’m still learning my trade, but I aspire to writing like Kate Atkinson or Jodi Picoult. I can dream, can’t I?
Maggie, thank you so much for joining me – it’s been so lovely to meet you, and I’m really looking forward to reading Breaking News. Maggie’s other novel, No News Is Good News, is now fully available too.