I’m delighted today to welcome author Maggie Christensen as my guest on Being Anne. Her latest novel, The Good Sister, was published yesterday by Cala Publishing – and the kindle version is on a special 99p/99c promotion until Monday. When Maggie contacted me to ask whether the book appealed to me – and it most certainly did, and I’ve added it to my read and review list for February – I was already very aware of her writing. It was one of the taglines that attracted me first – “heartwarming stories of second chances” – and I suspect Maggie will be an author I’ll be really glad to have discovered.
Let’s take a closer look at The Good Sister:
Two Isobels. A lifetime of regret. A love that spans the years
In 1938, as the world hurtled towards war, twenty-year-old Isobel MacDonald fell madly in love. But fate and her own actions conspired to deny her the happiness she yearned for. Many years later, plagued with regrets and with a shrill voice from the past ringing in her ears, she documents the events that shaped her life.
In 2015, sixty-five-year-old Bel Davison returns from Australia to her native Scotland to visit her terminally ill aunt. Reading Isobel’s memoir, she is beset with memories of her own childhood, and she feels overcome with guilt. When she meets her aunt’s solicitor, events seem to spiral out of control, and almost against her will, she finds herself drawn to this enigmatic Scotsman.
What is it that links these two women across the generations? Can the past influence the future?
Doesn’t that look just lovely? Let’s meet the author…
Maggie, I’ve been aware of your writing for a while, and am already part of your readers’ group – I could tell your books had “Anne will love this” written all over them. But The Good Sister will be the first of your books that I’ve read, so let’s begin by looking at that one. Where did the idea for the story come from? And the characters?
When I was growing up in Scotland, my mother – a war widow – and I lived in my grandparents’ house along with two aunts and a great-aunt. One of my aunts love to tell me the story of the big romance in her life, and it stuck in my mind.
When I began to write I knew that, one day, I had to tell my aunt’s story. I made a few false starts as I couldn’t work out how to tell it.
However, when I wrote Broken Threads, which is set in Sydney, I introduced Bel, a minor character who was born in Scotland and had an aging aunt still living there. The stage was set.
I decided to set The Good Sister in Glasgow, in a house similar to one |I’d lived in as a student. I also gave Bel some of my own history – becoming a teacher and emigrating to Australia. Then I wrote what I remembered of my aunt’s story as Isobel’s story, fictionalising it to fill in the background.
With its dual time thread this book looks a little different from your others. Will it appeal to the same readers?
I hope so! I think it will as Bel’s story in in keeping with my other books. She and Mat are in their mid-sixties and have their own histories. I also hope it may attract readers who are not familiar with my other books, but who enjoy historical romance.
I love reading books with a dual timeframe myself, so it was fun to write one, though incredibly difficult.
Your books have a wonderful tag-line – “Celebrating mature women and the heroes worthy of them”. I think I love them all already. Tell me more…
This phrase was used by a reviewer to describe and I decided it described my books perfectly. I write about mature women who are enjoying life, who still have a lot to give. While my books have a romance in them, they’re not only love stories. Given the characters are older than in most romance novels, there are always other issues to be resolved. They are romantic stories but not Romance with a capital R.
Books featuring mature women can be difficult to find – was writing them a deliberate choice for you?
It was! I did have a go at writing a Mills and Boon type book, but quickly realised I didn’t enjoy reading them, so decided to write the sort of books I did enjoy – books about older women who have experienced something of life. By the time I received a reply to my M&B submission asking me to revise and resubmit, I was well into writing my second book, Band of Gold, which was actually the first one I published.
I find it easier to write about women I can relate to, who I might enjoy sharing a coffee with. I smiled when one reviewer wrote ‘It’s refreshing to read a book which isn’t about twenty-somethings who want to have babies.’
And you started writing later in life? Was it something you’d always wanted to do?
As a child I wanted to write stories and always enjoyed composition time at school, thought the time was never long enough for what I wanted to write. I remember entering a short story in a competition in Girl magazine, but short stories were never my metier.
As work took over – teaching in primary school, lecturing in university, managing an industry-based education department – I became bogged down in writing course materials, reports, conference papers, grant submissions. It wasn’t until I was close to retirement that I returned to my love of writing fiction.
How do you write? What’s a typical writing day?
I wish there was such a thing! I like to get started writing as early as I can as I write best in the morning. Being retired, that should be easy. But the rest of my life seems to intrude – book club, coffee mornings, volunteering at the library. However, I do ensure that I write at least 1000 words each day and I enjoy setting – and meeting – my deadlines. If I get stuck on a scene I’ll go off and do something else – maybe read or get caught up on the ironing where I get a lot of my good ideas.
Planning, writing, editing, getting ready for launch, all that marketing – what’s your favourite part of the whole process? And the most difficult?
I don’t do much planning. I start with an idea and my protagonist and write on from there. I sometimes know how it’s going to end, but not how I’m going to get there. Often my characters surprise me. I love the writing, getting into the skins of my character and living in their world.
The most difficult for me is marketing. After publishing 7 books, I’m still coming to grips with it and on a steep learning curve. It can be so time consuming, when all I want to do is get on with writing my next book.
And what writers do you particularly admire? if someone said “your writing reminds me of…”, who would you like them to mention?
I admire Aussie author Liz Byrski who also writes about older women, Joanna Trollope who writes about family situations and Marcia Willett whose books I love in part because she introduces her readers to old friends they have met in earlier books.
I have been thrilled to have had readers tell me my books remind them of Byrski and Trollope and that they love meeting old friends in my books.
And what’s next for you? Are you working on something new?
When I wrote The End to The Good Sister, I knew it needed a sequel So I’m currently working on that. It doesn’t have a title at the moment which annoys me. I prefer to have my title up front. But it will appear. The book is set in both Scotland and Australia and follows Matt and Bel from The Good Sister.
Many thanks Maggie – I’m so looking forward to reading this one!
About the author
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 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 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 she 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.