Examining the emotional effects of crime with Maggie James

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.

I use word targets to keep myself motivated. I aim for at least 2,000 words per day and it’s so inspiring to see the totals mount up. I also set myself a date for completing the novel, but I’m usually wildly optimistic when I set it, which means I never make those!
How do you structure a typical day to ensure you avoid distractions and hit your word count targets?

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…

We all occasionally hit a brick wall with our creative endeavours – what do you do to overcome any stumbling blocks?
I’ve only once hit a major brick wall in the creative sense, after the release of The Second Captive in 2014. I published the book shortly before embarking on a two-month trip to Thailand and Cambodia, and life at that point was frantic. My intention was to plot my next novel while abroad, but I simply couldn’t manage it. None of my ideas came together in the way I wanted, and to make matters worse my laptop was dying. In the end, I decided to rest, relax and enjoy my holiday, and to divert my writing efforts into a non-fiction publication. I’d had it in mind for a while to publish a book to help would-be novelists get over their fears about writing. The result was Write Your Novel! From Getting Started to First Draft, and it worked wonders in restoring my creative juices – a kind of literary palette cleanser, if you like!
Congratulations on signing with Bloodhound Books – what else have you got planned for 2017?
For me, the last twelve months have been a whirlwind, and it’s time to slow down. Bloodhound Books will republish Guilty Innocence and The Second Captive over the course of 2017 and I’ll need to get involved with that. My writing plans for the year include completing another novel, and I’m currently plotting that one. Following the success of Blackwater Lake, I’d also like to write another novella to offer as a signup incentive for my mailing list.
​It’s hard to know how it will all pan out, because in April I travel to Canada on the first leg of an extended overseas trip. I’ve long had a severe case of wanderlust, which I indulge as much as possible! The plan is to revisit Toronto and then head over to French Canada, before dropping down into the USA and heading south through Mexico and Central America into South America. I spent ten months in South America in 2010/2011, and it’s a fascinating continent. I’ve no return date – the trip will take as long as it takes, and along the way I need to accommodate writing my fiction which may mean stopping off somewhere for a few months at a time.

Finally, where can we buy your books?

All my books are available on Amazon. Here are the links:

After She’s Gone
Her Kidnapper’s Shoes

​Thanks for being a guest on the blog, Maggie!
To find out more about Maggie James, click on the links below:


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