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, has now been published, and like her first two, features her home city of Bristol. She is currently working on her fourth novel.
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!
TDBW: When did you start writing?
Maggie I started writing when I was a child – simple short stories, one of which was published. Another won a prize. When I reached adulthood, however, my creativity dried up due to a lack of confidence and I didn’t write again until my forties. More than anything, though, I yearned to become a novelist; the urge to write never went away. I dipped my toe very tentatively in the creative waters by penning some short stories. They received good reviews online, and one was published in a magazine, which boosted my confidence. Gradually, my writing grew longer and longer and I realised I was in the right place mentally to tackle my first novel.
TDBW: What was the first story you remember writing?
Maggie: It was a story I wrote for a competition when still a child, about Paddington Bear. Entrants had to submit a short story involving our marmalade-loving friend. I’d never read any of the Paddington Bear stories and knew nothing about him, so I submitted a story involving a bear, but this one lived in a cave, didn’t eat marmalade sandwiches and had never been near Paddington Station! It seems amazing it won a prize, given that I was way off topic with my story, but it did. I still treasure the prize I won (a book).
TDBW: What genre is your most preferred?
Maggie: Both to write and to read, definitely psychological thrillers, crime and suspense novels. Human behaviour and the working of the human mind fascinate me, although I’m sceptical as to whether psychology answers the myriad questions our behaviour poses.
TDBW: What challenges you the most in your writing?
Maggie: Sadly, for a writer, I’m a truly appalling typist, which frustrates me and holds me back from being more productive. I’ve tried everything to boost my speed and accuracy, but nothing has worked. My inability to coordinate my fingers annoys me so much! I still manage about 2,000 – 2,500 words per day, though, and many authors have told me that’s quite a good output.
TDBW: What is your favorite thing about being an author?
Maggie: Where do I start? I love everything about being a novelist, from the writing itself through to editing and publishing. Nothing else compares, apart from my love of travelling. Marketing my books is a new skill I’ve had to learn, and I wasn’t sure how well I’d take to it, but it’s been fine. I’ve learned loads along the way about what works and what doesn’t, and I’m constantly discovering new tricks. Still climbing the learning curve, I guess!
In addition, I’ve been surprised by how much I enjoy blogging and making my website and posts look good. It satisfies my inner geek. I also love the freedom to work anywhere in the world. Travel is a passion of mine, and writing fits in well with that. Just my laptop, an internet connection, and me. In addition, I get to wake up when I choose and to write when I want. My day is mine to structure as I please, and it’s a great way to live.
TDBW: What do you like least about being an author?
Maggie: Other people’s reactions can be strange at times. It’s as though they accept logically that there are people who are novelists, but they don’t expect ever to interact with such unusual creatures. I get the occasional weird or intrusive comment as a result.
TDBW: How many books do you currently have available?
Maggie: I currently have three full-length novels on sale and four shorter non-fiction titles available, based on when I practised as a nutritional therapist. My fourth novel, provisionally entitled ‘The Second Captive’, will be published in October 2014.
To visit Maggie James Amazon author page CLICK HERE!
TDBW: What projects are you currently working on?
Maggie: I have two projects on the go at present. One is to revise and edit ‘The Second Captive’, and then format it for publication; that’s my major goal right now. The other is to write a novella, which I’ll offer free on my website in exchange for newsletter sign-ups. I’m still in the plotting stage with that one, as my novel has to take priority.
TDBW: Do you have any books coming out soon?
Maggie: Yes, ‘The Second Captive’ will be published as soon as possible (October 2014, if all goes well), but I do find the revision and editing process time-consuming. Good job I enjoy it!
TDBW: Which book, or series, is your favorite?
Maggie: I don’t really have a favourite book as such; I enjoy the majority of books I read. However, George Orwell’s ‘1984’ made a huge impression on me when I read it as a teenager, because it shattered my naive illusions that books always end happily. If you mean my own books, ‘His Kidnapper’s Shoes’ will always be special to be because it was my first-born, as well as being written in the beautiful and beguiling city of Sucre, Bolivia, as part of a fantastic year-long trip.
TDBW: Who are some of your favorite authors?
Maggie: George Orwell, George Gissing, Lee Child, Stephen King, to name but a few. Lee Child is pure entertainment, and I’m amazed by how well he writes about American culture, given that he’s British. Stephen King – well, what can I say that’s not already been said? Great stories from a master of the writing craft. As for Orwell and Gissing, their books are deservedly classics. I must reread them some time! It’s been too long since Gissing and I touched base.
TDBW: Which book(s) inspire you the most?
Maggie: Any books that are unusual in some way, or have some element that intrigues me. For example, I loved Emma Donaghue’s ‘Room’. Some people don’t like the way she wrote the book from the child’s point of view, but I think that’s an amazingly brave thing to have done. It’s the more difficult option, rather than the safe one of telling the story from the mother’s viewpoint. Similarly, when I read Fay Weldon’s ‘The Life and Loves of a She-Devil’, I was blown away by Weldon’s willingness to take the novel into the realms of the weird and wonderful.
TDBW: Do you listen to music when you write? If so, what band(s) do you play?
Maggie: Definitely not – I’m not a fan of music at all. I don’t listen to music when not writing, so to do so when I’m squeezing my creative juices would be a big no-no for me. Complete silence isn’t necessary, though – I live near a busy road, so that would be impossible anyway.
TDBW: Any hobbies?
Maggie: I’m very much into health and fitness, without going overboard about it – I do several yoga classes a week, as well as lots of walking and the occasional gym session. I also used to work as a nutritional therapist (hence the four nutrition titles) and I retain a keen interest in human nutrition. Linked with that is a love of food and eating out – I’m the ‘go to’ person when my friends need restaurant recommendations! I’m passionate about foreign travel and have been lucky enough to have travelled extensively in my life so far, with more trips planned. Other than that, I enjoy camping, driving, doing my best to speak half-decent Spanish and finding new four-legged friends to pet. Animals are a life-long love of mine!
TDBW: Tell us some more about yourself including your website and where we can find you on social media sites:
My website: http://www.maggiejamesfiction.com (includes my blog)
My body aches. The wall against my back grinds into my bones, as does the bench under my bottom; however much I fidget, I can’t get comfortable. I guess they don’t build police cells with such considerations in mind. There’s no clock and I’ve lost track of how much time I’ve spent in this place. Two, maybe three hours? I wonder – why, I don’t know – how much longer they’ll keep me here. I remind myself it doesn’t matter. I feel strangely disconnected from such things. All I can think about is my son.
The door swings open. I don’t bother to look up, not at first. A pair of black shoes steps in front of me; slim legs encased in pale tights lead up from them. The police officer who arrested me. I register her voice telling me to stand. I glance up, observing the harsh judgement staring back from her eyes. She’s young, probably mid-twenties. No ring on her left hand and I’d bet she doesn’t have children. Her body doesn’t look like it’s ever split itself open forcing out a child. This isn’t a woman who spends her nights attempting to soothe a bawling copy of herself to sleep, whilst trying not to scream with frustration and sheer bloody exhaustion. She’s not a mother. Had she found herself in my place, would she have done what I did? Perhaps not. However, she’s not yet walked a mile in my shoes; if she’s lucky she never will, so what gives her the right to judge me?
It seems she’s taking me somewhere. They must be going to question me. Looks as if the doctor who examined me has decided I’m fit to be interviewed.
It’s not going to do them any good. I won’t be giving out any answers. Even if I talked for a week, a year, forever, I’d never make them understand. They’re police officers; rules and their enforcement are everything to them, all black and white and rigid. According to them, I’ve committed a crime. I believe what I did was right and the only thing possible in the circumstances.
What’s that saying, about the law being an ass? I reckon it’s true. On the one hand, it states we’re supposed to protect children from danger. Love them. Keep them safe. Punish those who hurt them. Yet I’m the one they’ll put on trial. Even though I protected my son, took him away from harm. To my mind, it makes no sense for them to judge me with contempt in their eyes. They’re firing accusations at me that would only apply to somebody who doesn’t love her son in the way I love Daniel. It’s a crazy world we live in.
I hear your voice in my head, Gran, reassuring me, telling me not to worry.
The police officer orders me again to stand up. This time her tone is sharper, and I get to my feet, thankful not to be sitting any longer on that unforgiving bench. It makes no difference where they take me anyway. Here or in a police interview room, I’ll still need strong tea and time alone with my son. Doesn’t seem like I’ll be getting either one anytime soon.
I follow the police officer along the passageway to another room. I take in my surroundings. This room’s not built for comfort either. Magnolia walls, beige carpet. A table and chairs and some sort of recording device. Nothing else.
The police officer yanks out a chair and orders me to sit down. She thrusts a paper cup of water in front of me and I gulp it down in one go. My eyes focus on a chip in the wall. I let them wander over the blemish and idly wonder whether, if I stare at the mark long enough, it counts as meditation. Another part of my brain registers somebody pulling out the chair next to me and sitting down. From my peripheral vision, I see it’s a man, suited in dark grey; I guess this must be some sort of legal representation provided for me. Somebody else is in the room too, a mental health social worker, from the words filtering into my brain, although I’m not paying much attention to what’s being said. Two police officers pull out the chairs opposite me and sit down. One is the young woman. The other is male, considerably older. I continue to stare at the wall. I won’t say anything. They can’t make me.
My thoughts drift away. Your voice, gentle and soothing, is in my head again, Gran, telling me Daniel didn’t mean to be so cruel towards me. I draw comfort from your words. I was always able to talk to you, something that was never possible with Mum, not with her being the way she was. You have to reassure me that everything will be all right with Daniel, Gran. He’s the only one whose opinion I care about; I don’t give a toss what any of the others think.
Ian is included in my indifference. My husband has never truly mattered to me. It sounds cruel to admit it, Gran, but I only married Ian for what he could do for Daniel. To provide my boy with the father figure he desperately needed. I wasn’t interested in myself; finding a man to love was never on the agenda. I had my son for that, and he was all I had ever wanted or needed. Ian – I’ve grown fond of him, even if I can’t love him, but it’s always seemed to be enough. For me, anyway.
I think it’s worked out well, despite my lack of feelings. Who says marriage has to be about love and living happily ever after? I’ve done my best to give Ian what he needs, even if I’ve always been out of reach for him emotionally. He’s never been able to touch the true Laura, the essence within; I suspect it’s been a disappointment to him. You see, Ian really does love me; and there’s no denying he’s been a good husband. He’s given my son and me a home and security, as well as his name. He’s provided me with the family life I craved, even though I never considered having a child with him. I’m not prepared to walk down that road again.
You and Ian would have hated each other if the two of you had ever met, Gran; chalk and cheese doesn’t come close to describing it. He’s Mr Conventional, with the career in financial planning and the golf club membership. The man who can’t see any other way through life except doing what people expect of him. You know, Rotary Club dinners, drinks with business associates, that sort of stuff. All the things you, with your batik skirts from Bali and your silver earrings from India, would have scrambled to get away from as fast as possible.
Anyway, I know you understand. You always did. I’m certain you don’t condemn me, not like the police officer who brought me here.
Not like Daniel, either. Right now, he’s judging me. I’ll change that, though. I have to.
To lose my son for a second time would be unbearable. I won’t lose him. I can’t. I yearn to make things right between us. Since the day – when was it? Probably a few days ago, perhaps as long as a week, I’m not sure. The day when Daniel burst through the door, shouting, thrusting those papers in my face, the ones saying ugly things, making him turn against me. Ever since then, I’ve felt as if a fog has invaded my brain. I can’t think straight and all I want is for Daniel to tell me it’s all right. That he didn’t mean those awful things he screamed at me.
It doesn’t matter if they lock me away, if only Daniel will look at me and tell me he understands. Until he comes to me and tells me the words I crave to hear, then I won’t speak. I can’t talk to him when he has such fury towards me in his eyes; his forgiveness will be the trigger that releases my frozen tongue. Given the chance to be with him, instead of this place, I’d find the words to explain and everything will be all right. He won’t stare at me as if I’m something vile found stuck to the sole of his shoe. There’ll be no more yelling or accusations; he won’t tear me apart with words loaded with blame and anger. He’ll be my son again, my beautiful Daniel, and the world will be as it should be once more. I don’t care if they lock me up in jail. That won’t matter at all, so long as he doesn’t hate me.
He’s angry with me now, but I’ll change that. He’ll remember how I always loved him, even though, as a young child, he’d push me away when I tried to cuddle him. His rejections always pierced me deep inside, every time. I’d remind myself that being a mother is more than hugging your child. It’s being there for them in the night when they wake shouting and desperate from some dreamtime terror. It’s nursing them when they’re feverish and sponging them down when they’re soaking the sheets with sweat. It’s listening to stories of their day at school, plastering skinned knees, pinning their paintings of wobbly houses on the fridge door. I did all those things. I was always a mother to Daniel where it really counted. He’ll realise that eventually.
He’ll tell me he understands. Then everything in my world will be all right again.
I vaguely register words coming at me.
‘…Laura Bateman, you knowingly and wilfully broke into the Cordwells’ flat…’
‘…quite deliberately… without thought for the distress and hurt you would cause…’
‘…for reasons unknown at this stage …’
I don’t deny the breaking and entering part. In that respect, I admit I’m guilty. My mind spins back through the years and I remember my fear as I stood outside that flat, summoning up the courage to carry out what I’d decided to do.
I planned it very carefully. I thought of nothing else since I found they were going to take Daniel away from me. The only question was when to act, and sooner was better than later. My son’s wellbeing was at stake.
More words filter through the fog in my brain.
‘…best in his field…find out why she did it…’
They’re so stupid. I did it to get my son back. What other reason could there be?
Except they say Daniel’s not my son.
They say he has another mother.
There’s that ugly word they keep throwing at me.
They say I kidnapped Daniel.