Welcome to the Author Spotlight, Maggie, and congratulations on the release of ‘ Band of Gold’. Can you give us the blurb?
Anna Hollis is a forty-seven year old schoolteacher living in Sydney. She juggles her busy life with a daughter in the throes of first love, and increasingly demanding aging parents.
Anna’s world collapses when her husband of twenty-five years leaves her on Christmas morning. She makes it through the family festivities, explaining his absence with a flimsy excuse, but later breaks down on a Sydney beach where a stranger comes to her aid.
Marcus King has returned to Australia from the USA, leaving behind a broken marriage and a young son; through their mutual hurt and loneliness, a fragile friendship is formed when he takes up the position of Headmaster at Anna’s school.
Written in first person, present tense the author slips the reader into Anna’s shoes as she struggles to leave the past behind and learns to trust again. Can Marcus be a part of her future?
How would you describe your writing style? Who or what are your main influences?
I’ve never thought about my style. I like to take the reader into my characters’ minds and my protagonists are all confident, independent, mature women facing some sort of crisis in their lives. While I usually write in third person past tense, Anna, in Band of Gold demanded it be in first person, present which helps the reader step into her shoes, though it has some limitations for the writer.
Reviewers have said about Band of Gold:
“It is a fast paced storyline, written in a sharp concise manner which makes it hard to put down at any point … so I didn’t! I loved the author’s writing style, her characters are so well developed.”
“The prose is crisp and precise. The description is minimalist, just enough to create vivid images in the mind of the reader.”
I like to think I’ve been influenced by Liz Byrski, Joanne Trollope, Marcia Willett, Barbara Delinsky, but my style is my own. My critique partner suggests that my style is interesting, well-written, flowing, warm, pleasing, creative, imaginative, very readable, un-put-downable, but I think she’s being kind.
What is the market like for books with more mature protagonists?
I’m hoping there’s a large market out there! I enjoy writing about mature women – women in their prime – so imagine my delight to find a reference to an emerging genre called Baby Boomer Lit with reportedly over 70 million baby boomers. Back in the nineteen seventies, the Baby Boomers created the market for YA literature and they are now in my target group. Just as YA Lit provided them with characters with whom they could identify, so do my books featuring mature characters that reflect them. However, I’m finding younger readers are also enjoying Band of Gold.
Life for older women presents similar and different challenges to their younger counterparts. They still look for a HEA, but theirs may include stepchildren – even teenage stepchildren – and ex partners with their attendant issues. The author can also explore those issues which only emerge with years. Issues such as aging and death of parents, retrenchment, retirement, downsizing, grown children, grandchildren, widowhood and the empty nest syndrome.
What was your path to publication like?
In a word – frustrating! Initially I tried to go down the traditional publishing route submitting to agents and publishers, but my work didn’t fit into their lists. I think my older protagonists may have been the reason. However, I’m now glad I’ve had to go Indie. I enjoy the control it gives me. I’ve found an excellent editor and cover designer and formatter, both based in the UK. I believe it’s important for a self-published author to have a good team to work with, and I’m looking forward to a long and productive relationship with mine.
What has been the biggest learning curve for you in regards to publication?
I guess it’s been the amount of work necessary for promotion once the book is actually published. But also the importance of emotion in writing. I was once told by author Greg Barron to close my eyes and put myself into the characters and feel what they’d feel –excellent advice. I’ve also learnt a lot from my editor who I now imagine sitting on my shoulder as I write, giving me directions and advice.
You have a blog where you interview other writers, how important is it to have a social media presence prior to publication?
I believe this is crucial. Through these interviews, I have not only met and befriended other authors, but have attracted others to my blog and have also been invited back to visit with some of my interviewees. It’s also fun to enjoy virtual coffee with other authors and to bake something different for each visitor. For those who haven’t yet visited Café Cala, I welcome visitors on the second and fourth Thursday of each month. I’m still struggling to develop an integrated social media presence and have only recently joined Twitter.
What are your current works in progress? When will we get to read more of your work?
My next book, The Sand Dollar, is currently being edited and will be published before the end of the year. It is book 1 of my Oregon Coast books.
An unexpected redundancy and a childhood memento take Jenny Sullivan across the ocean to learn a long hidden secret and embark on a journey of self-discovery such as she’d never envisaged. Moving between Oregon and Australia, The Sand Dollar is a story of new beginnings, of a woman whose life is suddenly turned upside down and the reclusive man who helps her solve the puzzle of her past.
I’m currently working on Book 2 of the series. The Dreamcatcher features one of the minor characters from The Sand Dollar. While the Sand Dollar moves between the Sunshine Coast of Australia and Oregon, The Dreamcatcher is set entirely in Oregon. My mother-in-law lives there so I have lots of opportunities for research.
What are your other interests outside of writing?
I love to read, walk on the deserted beach in the early mornings and have coffee by the Noosa River on weekends, the latter two with my wonderful husband of almost 30 years (my own HEA). I also continue my love of books as a volunteer with Friends of Noosaville Library where I help organise author talks and select and deliver books to the housebound.
Is there any other genre you would be tempted to explore?
No, I write the sort of books I enjoy reading most, about characters I can relate to – and I hope that others can too. I also enjoy reading crime and thrillers, but don’t believe I have the right sort of mind to write the twist and turns of these.
Could you give us a sneaky peek at one of your favourite parts of ‘Band of Gold’, please?
‘I don’t want to be married anymore.’
The band of gold, symbol of our twenty-five years of marriage lies on the table between us. I am stupefied, unable to speak. Tears prick my eyes as my first coffee of the day grows cold beside me. The sun is shining brightly through the kitchen window. The turkey is sitting on the kitchen bench waiting to be cooked. My parents, daughter, brother and sister, along with her husband and children are due to arrive in five hours’ time. The house is redolent with the scent of pine needles and Christmas pudding. It’s Christmas morning and my world has collapsed.
‘What do you mean?’ I finally utter, thinking this must be Sean’s idea of a bad joke. My mouth goes dry. My head begins to spin. The bottom has dropped out of my world. I look over at the man I have loved for over twenty-five years, his bushy greying blonde hair, his ruddy cleanshaven cheeks. He looks no different from any other morning. He’s wearing the bright yellow tee shirt we bought on our holiday in Bali last year. His steely blue eyes meet mine. This isn’t happening.
‘I can’t do this anymore, Anna.’ His waving arms take in the kitchen including me, ‘All this; family, house, job. I need to get away.’ He pushes his chair back from the table and strides out of the kitchen. I sit there in a daze, my mind going round in circles. Is it too late to call off Christmas lunch? How can I even think of such a thing? Does Sean mean he’s going to leave right now? How will I explain his absence? God, this is really going to be the Christmas from Hell.
Maggie is kindly gifting one ecopy of Band of Gold to one lucky reader. All you have to do to be in the running is leave a comment below:
Thank you for taking part in our Author Spotlight Maggie!
Thank you so much having me, Sarah.