I’m delighted to welcome back Maggie Christensen to Linda’s Book Bag. I have had the pleasure of interviewing Maggie on publication day for The Good Sister in a post you can read here. Then, when I began my ‘staying in with…’ posts. Maggie kindly agreed to come along and tell me about another of her books, Champagne for Breakfast in a post you’ll find here.
With Maggie’s latest book Isobel’s Promise released earlier this month I wondered what it was that drew Maggie to set part of her story in Scotland and luckily she agreed to tell me in today’s guest post.
A promise for the future. A threat from the past. Can Bel find happiness?
Back in Sydney after her aunt’s death, sixty-five year-old Bel Davison is making plans to sell up her home and business and return to Scotland where she has promised to spend the rest of her life with the enigmatic Scotsman with whom she’s found love.
But the reappearance of her ex-husband combined with other unexpected drawbacks turns her life into chaos, leading her to have doubts about the wisdom of her promise.
In Scotland, Matt Reid has no such doubts, and although facing challenges of his own, he longs for Bel’s return.
But when an unexpected turn of events leads him to question Bel’s sincerity, Matt decides to take a drastic step – the result of which he could never have foreseen.
Can this midlife couple find happiness in the face of the challenges life has thrown at them?
A sequel to The Good Sister, Isobel’s Promise continues the story of Bel and Matt which began in Scotland.
A Guest Post by Maggie Christensen
When I left Scotland for Australia in my mid-twenties, I never thought that, fifty years later, I’d still be here. I loved Scotland and thought that a two-year stint on the other side of the world would satisfy my wanderlust and I’d return to live in the land of my birth and perhaps even find the little cottage on Loch Lomond that I pictured myself living in.
But it wasn’t to be. After two years I wasn’t ready to return and, after many trips back ‘home’ to visit family and friends, in 1980 I and my American-born husband took out Australian citizenship. I was here to stay.
But, as they say, you can take the girl out of Scotland, but you can’t take Scotland out of the girl. And I’ll always have a soft spot for what is still my native land.
I have fond memories of youth-hostelling in the highlands, of walking up the side of Loch Lomond, hiking across Rannoch Moor, and evading the midges on summer evenings.
From my student days in Glasgow, I remember drinking in pubs on Byres Road on lazy afternoons, moving my student lodgings every year from tiny rooms to large shared houses, walking in Kelvin Park on long summer evenings, and queuing for the cinema on Saturday nights.
As a younger child, my memories are of playing peever in the backyard, eating Edinburgh rock, drinking IrnBru and collecting bees in jars during the summer holidays that seemed to last forever.
But not all memories are pleasant ones. I don’t miss the cold and snow which always gave me chilblains, the icy pavements I skidded on when I was hurrying to work, or the seemingly constant light rain which made my hair frizz.
It strange to me now that, when I started writing fiction, it didn’t immediately occur to me to set my books in Scotland. But when a reader asked me why I hadn’t, I suddenly realised that I had a wealth of memories to draw on – of places I knew and loved and could visit again, albeit virtually through my writing.
So, a couple of years ago, I decided to give one of the minor characters in my book, Broken Threads, an old aunt in Scotland. This was prompted by the passing of an aunt of mine who would call me every year on my birthday and, in her thick Scottish accent, ask ‘Do you know who this is, Margaret?’
While Bel’s Aunt Isobel is not modelled on this aunt – she’s modelled on another one – she became the basis for my first Scottish novel, The Good Sister, which was published last year. I loved writing that book so much. As I wrote the places of my childhood and teenage years came alive for me again and it was as if I was back there – in Scotland. Even words and phrases I hadn’t heard for years came back into my mind as I wrote.
It was inevitable that I would continue Bel and Matt’s journey in Isobel’s Promise. Writing this book took me back to Scotland again, to the beautiful Loch Lomond where Matt lives, to the Glasgow of my student days – Byres Road, the pubs, now much gentrified and into the heart of the city whose renaissance I had first researched while writing The Good Sister.
While I’ll never go back to Scotland to live, I will set more books there. It’s too tempting a prospect to once again steep myself in the countryside I still love and to bring back memories that I’d all but forgotten. While Scotland may be a world away from where I live on Queensland’s Sunshine Coast, I can open my computer and be there in a flash – enjoy the scenery, hear the dialect, and visit all my favourite places with my characters.
(And not only have you made us want to read your books, Maggie, but you’ve made me want to visit Scotland.)
About Maggie Christensen
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.