Crime author Maggie James has a new book out at the moment, After She’s Gone, and I invited her over to the blog to have a chat this week.
Maggie, for readers who might not know you, can you tell us a bit about yourself?
Hi, Rachel, and thank you for having me on your blog! My name is Maggie James, and I’m a British writer of psychological suspense novels. Well, that’s how I view them, but some of my readers class them as crime fiction as they all contain crime of some sort. My publisher slots them into “women’s fiction” and “domestic drama”, so who knows? I’ve written five novels, one novella and a non-fiction book. My latest novel, After She’s Gone, deals with the twin themes of arson and murder. I’m very much drawn to examining the emotional effects of crime on its victims, and so far that’s driven my writing.
What attracted you to writing in the crime/thriller genre? Was there a particular author that inspired you to do so?
When I wrote my first book, His Kidnapper’s Shoes, I finished it first and only then did I think about genre. Perhaps that’s unconventional, but I was driven to get the book out of my system; it was only when I came to publish it that I needed to consider which category it suited. So no particular author inspired me to write in this genre, but once I started, I found I loved it. I may branch into other genres in future – perhaps dystopia or erotica – but for now I’m happy sticking with psychological suspense.
Do you outline/plot, or do you prefer to start at the beginning and see where the story takes you? Why do you prefer this method of writing?
I’m very definitely an outliner/plotter. I’ve tried starting at the beginning and seeing where the story takes me, but it doesn’t work – I feel adrift without the structure of an outline. I use the Snowflake method, whereby you take the basic idea for the book and expand it into an entire outline. I can’t plot in too much detail, however; after a while I need to throw myself into writing the book and work out any remaining issues as I go.
What does your writing space look like? Do you have any pre-writing rituals to get you “in the zone”?
I’m lucky enough to have my own office at home, using a spare bedroom. I’m naturally tidy, so it’s set out exactly how I like it, with all my files, books, etc., to hand. I don’t use any pre-writing rituals to get myself in the zone, as having my outline completed in Scrivener is sufficient. Scrivener is dedicated writing software that makes every stage of writing a novel a breeze (well, except for actually getting the words out of my head!) I couldn’t imagine completing a book without it.
By nature I’m a night owl, but for some perverse reason I’m more productive in the mornings. By the afternoon I’m running out of creative juice, and in the evenings I prefer to socialise or go to the gym. So I structure my working day accordingly; I write, plot and edit in the mornings, with the afternoons reserved for blogging and promotional work.
By nature I’m very goal-driven, so my word count targets help in motivating me. My main distraction, as it is for many people, is social media. My preferred platform for promoting my books is Facebook, so I log on to do marketing work but end up chatting with friends. I’ve tried using software to block myself from Facebook, but somehow I always forget to switch it on…