I met Maggie a few weeks ago and found a kindred spirit. An author who leads her readers on a voyage into the dark recesses of a demented character’s mind. While she toes the gray area between good and evil, Maggie’s novels bring out the worst in it’s people – and you’ll love every twisted page of it.
Here’s her Amazon Bio ~~~ 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, like her first two, features her home city of Bristol. She has recently published her fourth novel, The Second Captive. 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!
Now, dare to read our interview and, just in case, you might want to leave the light on and ignore the terrors just outside the corner of your eye.
Thanks for dropping by my man cave, Maggie. Ignore the bodies in the corner, grab a chair, and get comfortable.
I appreciate your time, John. Just looking around this place has given me an idea for a new psychological-horror based book.
You’re too kind. Now, tell us about your recent release and what do you have planned for the remainder of 2015?
My latest novel is The Second Captive, published in November 2014. It’s based on the fascinating psychological condition known as Stockholm syndrome, in which victims sympathise with their abusers/kidnappers. Until someone has experienced such a situation, it’s hard to grasp how a human being can identify with the person who threatens his/her entire existence. I’m interested in why people act the way they do, so for me, Stockholm syndrome was an incredible phenomenon to explore.
As for the rest of 2015, I hope to write my fifth novel. I’m still toying with the subject though! In the meantime, I’m putting together a series of short psychological suspense stories, which I’ll release throughout the summer. Time allowing, I also intend to pen a non-fiction offering aimed at novice writers. If I can help a newbie or two whilst continuing my own writing journey, I’ll be delighted to do so!
From stalking your Facebook page it appears you like to travel. Where would you go if money wasn’t an object?
That’s a no-brainer. One place stands out for me; Antarctica – stunning, remote, and enigmatic. I have a photo of its amazing ice cliffs in my goals list and I look at it every day, imagining myself there eventually.
Not just Antarctica though. I love South America, having spent ten happy months there in 2010 and 2011, but I didn’t visit the Galapagos Islands, Easter Island, or Patagonia. I’d love to combine these four places into one fantastic trip. Afterwards I’d head off to spend more time in Bolivia, a country of which I have fond memories. Why? Well, it’s where I conceived and gave birth to my first born novel, His Kidnapper’s Shoes. Travellers often overlook Bolivia in favour of the better-known attractions of Peru, but it’s a gorgeous country. The salt flats near Uyuni rank as the most surreal place I’ve visited in my decades of travelling, and the closest I’ve ever felt to being on another planet. They’re incredible!
In your opinion, what’s the worst thing an author can do when writing his novel? For me, it’s slicing a real person’s throat to time how long it takes them to die.
You’ve done that too? Awesome! Hmm, let’s see. I’m torn between two possibilities here. The first would be to sneak his/her personal opinions into the storyline. This often happens with political or religious issues, and I find it off-putting. To me, that’s creating propaganda instead of fiction.
It’s usually easy to spot this one. Typically, a character will espouse a viewpoint that has no bearing on the plot, expanding at length via unnecessary dialogue or inner thoughts. If axing such material wouldn’t affect the storyline, then it’s likely the author is deploying a spot of personal propaganda.
The second is not to care about style, grammar, spelling, etc. On balance, I reckon that’s worse.
When/If you’re afflicted by Writers Block, what do you do?
I don’t often get writer’s block because I’m very much a planner when it comes to my fiction. I’ve tried winging it, but that approach doesn’t work for me; I need structure. I sketch out the format in advance, chapter by chapter, scene by scene, with an outline for what I intend to write. I also note down what I want the characters and reader to feel, along with anything else I judge relevant – tense, point of view, etc. That way, when I sit down to write, I have a guideline in place. It definitely helps.
However, I did get a form of writer’s block on my recent trip to Asia, during which I intended to plan my fifth novel. I came up with the basic theme, but I’m stuck on how to conclude the plot. I still haven’t solved that one! I know that trying to force my brain into creativity never works. Often, if I don’t think too hard about an issue, whether it’s concerning writing or anything else, the right answer surfaces eventually.
Could you describe your novel writing process – from idea to publication?
Sure! Let’s start with the basic idea. Every time I get inspiration, I note it down. I must have over fifty possible plots, all recorded in OneNote. Maybe I’ll never use most of them, but it’s good to have them all in one place. When the time comes for me to start my next novel, I check through my list for anything that leaps out at me, screaming, ‘Write me! Write me!’
Besides ideas for plots, I also work with themes I want to examine. For example, His Kidnapper’s Shoes focuses on the theme of forgiveness. Betrayal is another topic on which I’ll probably base a future novel. Lots of potential there!
I’m drawn to anything that engenders strong emotions and their consequences. The idea for Guilty Innocence came about through considering how it might feel to discover a loved one was hiding a murky past; hence the character of Mark Slater, a convicted child-killer. I doubt any crime, apart from genocide, sparks such fierce emotions as the taking of a young life, and understandably so.
Once I’ve decided on my topic, I start planning. At every stage of my writing, I use Scrivener, awesome writing software that makes organising my work a cinch. To get me going, I have a novel template set up in Scrivener, complete with tabs for characters, location, research etc. I then take a one-sentence summary of the plot and expand it into a full outline. Once I’m happy with my road map, I get stuck into the writing.
I love to challenge myself with each book. For example, in The Second Captive I explored writing in scenes, rather than complete chapters, something I’d not done before. The novel differs from my others, not just because of the scenes but because it was in two distinct parts, along with a prologue and epilogue. For my next novel, I’ll challenge myself to write the first draft much quicker. I aim for 2,000 words per day, but I’d like to achieve 3,000.
After I’ve finished writing, I send a synopsis of the novel to Donna, my wonderful graphic designer. I’ve tried designing my own covers, but I’m aware I lack the required ‘eye’. People judge books by their covers, and a shoddy home made version won’t cut it. You’d laugh if you saw my pathetic attempts!
The next stage is to put the novel aside for at least a month, so that when I edit it, I do so with a fresh eye. I print off the whole document in Word and work through it, noting typos, where the narrative doesn’t flow, etc. I then make any necessary amendments, before starting a more through grammar and line edit, pruning out unnecessary words, using stronger verbs and nouns, and tightening everything. It takes many edits before I’m ready to send the final draft to my wonderful beta readers, who have been a huge source of help. Their feedback was invaluable for my last novel, The Second Captive.
When I’m happy that I’ve polished the book as far as I can, I import it back into Scrivener and compile it into the e-book version, before formatting the paperback one. Pressing the button on Amazon and other publishing sites to release a new book into the world is scary, but so worth it!
Last question. What’s your favored way to write – first, second, third, or any variation, and which is your least favorite option?
Typing first, handwriting second. Despite my appalling keyboard skills, I type my novels. I’m a two-fingered typist and slow as well, although I’ve spent hours trying to improve my skills. Somehow, I just can’t master the ten-fingered approach, and I loathe it with a passion! So I’ve resigned myself to rattling along as fast as I can, and as I’ve said, I aim for 2,000 words per session, which isn’t too terrible, I guess. My wrists wouldn’t bear any more on a regular basis, so as part of my goal to achieve 3,000 words per day, I’ll hand write the last 1,000 and then transcribe them using voice recognition software. I’ve tried to create my novels using such software, but it doesn’t work; I can’t be creative in my head whilst worrying about dictating punctuation, spacing, etc.
Thanks for the excellent interview. Maggie.
Now,lets see what kind of gruesome novels have erupted from her grisly mind.
HIS KIDNAPPER’S SHOES
SYNOPSIS — Daniel Bateman is one angry man. He’s just discovered a devastating truth; the woman who calls herself his mother is really his kidnapper. Snatched from his birth family when he was four years old, Daniel’s always been tormented with vague memories from his former life. When he is confronted with a second shattering revelation, his life falls apart; booze and casual sex help numb the pain.
Daniel knows one thing for sure. He’ll never be able to forgive his kidnapper. Never. Because of her, he’s been denied his dream of becoming an artist. More importantly, he’d have grown up with a mother he could love instead of one he can barely tolerate. And the shadow of his controlling stepfather wouldn’t have darkened his life.
Furious, his life in pieces, Daniel needs the answer to just one question. Why did Laura Bateman kidnap him? He’s not sure he’ll ever find out. The woman now under arrest for his kidnap twenty-two years ago isn’t talking. Laura Bateman doesn’t believe a crime has been committed; to her, stealing Daniel seemed her only option at the time. Until she receives Daniel’s forgiveness, something he’s sworn she’ll never get, Laura’s staying silent as to what really happened all those years ago.
RANDOM 5-STAR REVIEW
An author to watch! Fantastic gripping psychological suspense novel., September 20, 2014
By Maxine (Booklover Catlady) (United Kingdom) This review is from: His Kidnapper’s Shoes – a Psychological Suspense Thriller (Kindle Edition)
A fantastic psychological suspense novel from British author Maggie James. I read this over a few hours and was gripped from start to finish, I love a book like that.
This is the second book I’ve read by her and this book has great insights into the human psyche, the elements of light and shade in the personality. The writing is crisp, honest and is not afraid to table some difficult topics directly, openly.
It’s a suspenseful book that really pulls together pieces of a jigsaw puzzle over it’s pages, I enjoyed the switching POV between Daniel and his mother throughout the book. Some topics are tackled that are not comfortable to read, but enhances the book rather than detracts.
If you like a good read with a psychological twist element then grab this one, you may find yourself like me at times liking then loathing the main characters, but you will feel you know them very well by the end of the novel. I loved it, every word and am keen to read more from Maggie James.
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SYNOPSIS — When they were children, Megan Copeland adored her younger sister Chloe. Now she can hardly bear to be in the same room as her. Megan believes Chloe to be a psychopath. After all, her sister’s a textbook case: cold, cruel and lacking in empathy. Chloe loves to taunt Megan at every opportunity, as well as manipulating their mentally ill mother, Tilly, a woman blind to Chloe’s sociopathic nature. Chloe currently has her eye on James Matthews, Tilly’s employer. Except it’s not James Chloe wants, but his wealth. Moreover, she has every intention of getting her hands on it, and soon. James, however, is preoccupied with his own conflicts. Both his marriages have been failures. Now Megan’s former lover, Toby Turner, is causing him to question everything in his life. When Tilly, under Chloe’s malignant influence, becomes dangerously unstable, the consequences turn ugly for everyone. Megan’s world falls apart, allowing long-buried secrets to rise to the surface. Her sister’s out of control, it seems, and there’s little Megan can do about it. Until she realises Chloe is targeting Toby Turner next, and planning to step well beyond the rules… A study of sibling rivalry and dysfunctional relationships, Sister Psychopath tells the story of one woman’s struggle to survive the damage inflicted by her sociopathic sister.
RANDOM FIVE STAR REVIEW
A psychological thriller that will leave you at the edge of your seat! By Sheri A. Wilkinson on August 2, 2014 Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Megan and Chloe Copeland are sisters. Maggie lives with her mother Tilly, a woman suffering from mental illness. Chloe is cruel to her mother, actually she is manipulative, mean spirited and cruel to just about everyone, Megan included. In Megan’s opinion Chloe is showing signs of being a sociopath.
Chloe manipulates her mother into destroying the life of her boss James Matthews, a man that both Tilly and Chloe have their eyes on. Only thing is, Chloe is just after his money. Then there is Toby Turner, Megan’s long time friend and one time lover. When Chloe decides to mess with Toby, Megan has had enough and decides to try to stop her sister at any cost.
A well written fantastic psychological thriller, that delves deep into the pysche and mind of the mentally ill. I could understand Megan’s frustrations, insecurities, and difficulties living with a bipolar/schizophrenic mother.
The secrets, twist, turns and surprises made the story more compelling, I truly could not put it down. Sister Psychopath is family dysfunction at its worst. I strongly recommend to those who love psychological thrillers.
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SYNOPSIS — Two eleven-year-old boys. One two-year-old girl. A murder that shocked the nation. Ten years after being convicted of the brutal killing of a toddler, Mark Slater, formerly Joshua Barker, is released on parole from prison. Only the other boy jointly sentenced for Abby Morgan’s murder, the twisted and violent Adam Campbell, knows the truth. That Mark played no part in Abby’s death. Four years later, Mark’s on-off girlfriend discovers a letter revealing his conviction as a child killer. At risk of having his protective cover made public, Mark’s need to confront the injustice of his sentence becomes overwhelming. Desperate to find answers, he initiates a friendship with Abby’s older sister, something strictly prohibited by the terms of his parole. Rachel Morgan, however, unaware of Mark’s former identity, is battling her own emotional demons. Meanwhile, circumstances have thrust Mark back in contact with Adam Campbell, who, aged twenty-five, is more domineering and chilling than ever. Can Mark rewrite history and confront his nemesis? A gritty novel examining child murder and dysfunctional families, Guilty Innocence tells of one man’s struggle to break free from his past.
RANDOM FIVE STAR REVIEW
A Deep, Dark Thriller By Beth on March 3, 2014 Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I’ve lately become quite a fan of the author and have enjoyed some of her other books so I knew this would be equally good. I have to admit that I spent much of the book truly disliking Natalie and her sneaking, deceitful ways. Even if Mark were guilty no one deserves a girlfriend like that. It’s a testament to the author’s talent that she can write such a disagreeable character who provokes such a strong response.
This was such a deep, dark, thought provoking story. It was a fast read but it stayed with me even after I turned the last page. Mark’s journey and struggle to prove his innocence was so emotional and suspenseful that it left me mentally exhausted but it was totally worth every moment that I spent holding my breath! This was another excellent book by a truly talented author. Thriller fans are sure to thoroughly enjoy it!
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THE SECOND CAPTIVE
SYNOPSIS — Stockholm syndrome: the psychological tendency of a hostage to bond with his or her captor. 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.
PULSE QUICKENING SUSPENSE By Michael W. Smart on November 24, 2014 Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
In my reviews of previous Maggie James novels, I’ve mentioned her uncanny talent for planting you inside her characters’ heads, conveying a sense of logical rationality to their psychological dysfunctions. It’s worth repeating, since Maggie’s latest release, The Second Captive, is another excellent example.
The psychological flaws of her characters, so convincingly drawn by an author having no background in psychology, are testament to her talent. Her characters grope like blind persons through the maelstrom of their lives, bumping into bits and pieces of a deeper mystery surrounding them, which they cannot see. If you weren’t inside their heads, you would consider their behavior aberrant, certainly deviant, the kind of morbid and tragic stuff you see on the evening news. Being inside their heads, their behavior is rendered understandable, even reasonable. It’s a perspective this author excels at, creating histories and circumstances for her characters which draw the reader into a fascinating psychological pathology.
The Second Captive also illustrates Maggie’s mastery at combining psychology and suspense. She weaves the threads of these disparate characters and their histories into a compelling mystery, hinted at along the way, but revealed to her characters and readers alike, only after unsuspected twists, turns, and false starts. The kind of suspense to keep you planted in one spot turning page after page until you reach the end, leaving you in hungry anticipation for what Maggie James will conjure up next.
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