A Publication Day Interview with Maggie Christensen, Author of The Good Sister

The Good Sister

It’s publication day for The Good Sister by Maggie Christensen, as well as being Maggie’s own birthday, so I’m delighted to welcome Maggie to Linda’s Book Bag to tell me all about this latest book and her writing, especially as The Good Sister looks so lovely.

Published by Cala, today, 23rd November 2017, The Good Sister is available for purchase here.

The Good Sister

The Good Sister

Two Isobels. A lifetime of regret. A love that spans the years…

In 1938, as the world hurtled towards war, twenty-year-old Isobel MacDonald fell madly in love. But fate and her own actions conspired to deny her the happiness she yearned for. Many years later, plagued with regrets and with a shrill voice from the past ringing in her ears, she documents the events that shaped her life.

In 2015, sixty-five-year-old Bel Davison returns from Australia to her native Scotland to visit her terminally ill aunt. Reading Isobel’s memoir, she is beset with memories of her own childhood and overcome with guilt. When she meets her aunt’s solicitor, events seem to spiral out of control and, almost against her will, she finds herself drawn to this enigmatic Scotsman.

What is it that links these two women across the generations? Can the past influence the future?

An Interview with Maggie Christensen

Welcome to Linda’s Book Bag, Maggie. Thank you so much for agreeing to answer some questions on my blog about your writing and The Good Sister, which is out today, in particular. Tell me, why do you write?

I write because love it. I become lost in the world I’m creating and my characters become my friends.

Although you now live in Australia you began life in Scotland. How have these locations affected your writing?

I began writing novels set in Australia, in Sydney where I lived when I first emigrated, then on the Sunshine Coast where I live now. I   began writing The Sand Dollar with the Sunshine Coast as the location, but my character Jenny, soon moved to the Oregon Coast of the US where my mother-in-law lived for many years. She moved there from California in her eighties and we made many trips to visit her in Florence. Florence is a picturesque town on the Siuislaw River and seemed to me to be an ideal spot to set a novel. I have set three books in My Oregon Coast Series there – The Sand Dollar, The Dreamcatcher and Madeline House.

While Band of Gold and Broken Threads are both set in Sydney, I returned to The Sunshine Coast for Champagne for Breakfast.

I’ve often been asked why I didn’t set a book in Scotland where I left in 1970, in my mid-twenties, so, when I wrote Broken Threads, I introduced a minor character, Bel, who has an aging aunt in Scotland and set my latest book, The Good Sister there. I really enjoyed travelling back to Scotland in this book, so it won’t be my last one set there.

Your writing is described as ‘heart-warming’. How appropriate would you say this is?

I think it’s because my books leave my readers feeling good. I introduce them to characters they can relate to and might like to have as friends. In fact, I bring back characters from my earlier books into my later books so that my readers will feel they’re meeting old friends again. Despite this, all of my books can be read as stand-alone.

I’ve been told that my books ‘have enough depth and warmth to want to go back and read it again – and again’.

In a world often dominated by 30 something protagonists, you write about mature women facing life changing situations. Why do you choose to write about this demographic?

I write about women over 40 – in their 40’s, 50’s and 60’s. The books begin by placing my heroine in a challenging situation and the rest of the books takes it from there. These are the sort of books I enjoy reading myself.

I believe that older women and the events which impact on their lives are often ignored in literature. 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. In writing about them, I can 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.

I think there are many women who prefer to read about more mature protagonists – ones who are living a full and enjoyable life – not some stereotypical figure who is the image a twenty-year-old might imagine someone over 50 to be. Baby Boomers are the generation that made YA popular and I believe they are now looking to read about other women like themselves.

As one reviewer put it ‘Just because you are over 50 doesn’t mean there isn’t any romance and fizzle left to be had.’

 (As a woman aged 56, I’d definitely agree with that sentiment!)

Without spoiling the plot, please could you tell us a bit about The Good Sister?

The Good Sister is a dual narrative. Isobel MacDonald is nearing the end of her life and decides to document what she remembers as pivotal moments in that life, beginning in 1938, in an attempt to prove to herself and her niece that she was justified in being The Good Sister.

In 1938, as the world hurtled towards war, twenty-year-old Isobel MacDonald fell madly in love. But fate and her own actions conspired to deny her the happiness she yearned for.  Many years later, plagued with regrets and with a shrill voice from the past ringing in her ears, she documents the events that shaped her life.

In 2015, sixty-five-year-old Bel Davison returns from Australia to her native Scotland to visit her terminally ill aunt. Reading Isobel’s memoir, she is beset with memories of her own childhood and overcome with guilt. When she meets her aunt’s solicitor, events seem to spiral out of control and, almost against her will, she finds herself drawn to this enigmatic Scotsman.

As the story unfolds a link appears to connect these two women across the generations.

As The Good Sister is published today, how will you be spending the day?

Today is also my birthday. I’ll be starting the day with breakfast with my husband in our favourite restaurant, Season, on Noosa Main Beach. We celebrate all of our important occasions there – birthdays, anniversaries, Christmas Eve and a few others in between.

Then, we will have champagne, cheese and biscuits by the Noosa River at sunset, before returning home for a special meal there.

During the day, I shall no doubt be checking Amazon and other sites plus Facebook., and making time to write more of my next novel which is a sequel to The Good Sister and presently without a title.

(Oh! That sounds wonderful. Happy personal, as well as book, birthday Maggie.)

In The Good Sister the past has a profound impact on the present. To what extent do you think we are shaped by our past?

I think we are inevitably shaped by or past. It is always with us. But I also believe that we can make what we want of the present. We have the choice to live as we wish, to let our pas to hinder us or to use it as a stepping stone and learn from it.

How did you go about researching detail and ensuring The Good Sister was realistic?

The story of ‘old’ Isobel is based on a story my aunt told my cousins and I ad infinitum about her love life. I knew I had to write it sometime, and it seemed to work in this story.

When I was writing The Good Sister, it was amazing how many words and phrases from my childhood came back to me. I ran the first draft past my cousin’s daughter who lives in Glasgow to make sure I hadn’t made any mistakes and was delighted when she said she recognized the street where the family home is located before I named it! I stayed in a bedsit in that street as a student, so could picture the house.

I also had to do a lot of research on Isobel’s early life – of Glasgow during the war period. I found this fascinating and discovered resources designed for primary school children particularly helpful. I was also fortunate enough to find an old street map of Glasgow online. I referred to old photographs of my parents and talked with my oldest cousin who was around 10 during the war.

And, since it’s quite a few years since I visited Glasgow I used the Internet to research the changes which have taken place in present day Glasgow, plus all the customary research on restaurants and their menus which I love to do for all of my books.

 If you could choose to be a character from The Good Sister, who would you be and why?

Bel. There’s a bit of me in Bel as I emigrated from Scotland in my early twenties to lured by ads to Teach in the Sun. I also fell in love with Matt while writing it – as I tend to do with all of my heroes as they all have a little bit of my husband in them.

I know you support readers in your local community. Would you tell us a bit about this please?

I belong to a volunteer group in our local library called Friends of The Library. It is a group which provides services such as literacy tutoring, IT help, assistance in running library events. Members also provide services (book delivery, reading groups, conversation) to those who are housebound or in nursing homes and unable to visit the library. I chaired the group for three years, but now my contribution is to select and deliver books to some housebound ladies. It’s a most rewarding activity. Most of the ladies have led interesting lives and have a vast collection of stories to tell.One was PA    to a former Australian Prime Minister.

When you’re not writing, what do you like to read?

I love reading women’s fiction featuring older women (Elizabeth Buchan, Marcia Willett, Liz Byrski, Hilary Boyd, Joanna Trollope) and crime (Sue Grafton, Anne Cleeves, Susan Hill)

Thank you so much for your time in answering my questions Maggie and happy birthday!

About Maggie Christensen

maggie

After a career in education, Maggie Christensen began writing contemporary women’s fiction portraying mature women facing life-changing situations. Her travels inspire her writing, be it her frequent visits to family in Oregon, USA or her home on Queensland’s beautiful Sunshine Coast. Maggie writes of mature heroines coming to terms with changes in their lives and the heroes worthy of them.

From her native Glasgow, Scotland, Maggie was lured by the call ‘Come and teach in the sun’ to Australia, where she worked as a primary school teacher, university lecturer and in educational management. Now living with her husband of thirty years on Queensland’s Sunshine Coast, she loves walking on the deserted beach in the early mornings and having coffee by the river on weekends. Her days are spent surrounded by books, either reading or writing them – her idea of heaven!

She continues her love of books as a volunteer with her local library where she selects and delivers books to the housebound.

A member of Queensland Writer’s Centre, RWA, ALLi, and a local critique group, Maggie enjoys meeting her readers at book signings and library talks.

You can follow Maggie on Twitter @MaggieChriste33, find her on Facebook and visit her website. You’ll also find Maggie on Goodreads.

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