Tag Archives: writing

Welcome to Maggie Christensen

Australian author Maggie Christensen joins me today.

Congratulations on the release of Band of Gold, Maggie. Was there something in particular that inspired you to write this story?

Thanks, Sandy. A number of years ago I heard a story of someone who placed his wedding ring on the table on Christmas morning. It stuck in my mind and when I started wondering what might happen afterwards. Anna and Marcus appeared and Anna’s story began to take shape.

What did you find were the advantages and disadvantages of writing in first person and present tense?

It wasn’t really a choice. Anna’s voice came to me as soon as I began to write. I think the advantage was that it was easy to see the story though her eyes, and I didn’t have to worry about changing POV. As I was writing, I really stepped into Anna’s shoes, and the present tense made it more immediate. I guess the disadvantage was that everything was from Anna’s perspective, so there was no opportunity to see events form anyone else’s point of view. I have to say that, although I don’t normally write first person present tense, I really enjoyed it.

What did you like most about writing Band of Gold?

I enjoyed my characters. The story flowed well for me, and I think I fell a little bit in love with Marcus. I particularly enjoyed using familiar settings. Manly Beach was the first beach I visited in Australia when I lived for several years in Sydney, and I now live close to beautiful Peregian Beach.

Do you find your readers come from all age groups, or, because your books deal with mature-aged heroines, your readers tend to be in that age group?

When I began writing about women in their prime (I love this phrase), I thought I was targeting older readers – baby boomers. However I’m finding that my readers do come from all age groups. I guess women experience marriage and career crises at all ages, so the situations my protagonists find themselves in are easy to relate to.

Do you think there is an advantage to having background knowledge of two locations, i.e., Australia and Oregon in the US, and how helpful has this been in writing The Sand Dollar?

Definitely! I would never have contemplated Oregon as a setting if I hadn’t spent time there, and I don’t expect I’d be writing about Australia if I didn’t live here. I find that when I write, it’s as if I’m actually in the setting. For example, my current work, The Dreamcatcher, is set in Oregon, and I spend my days there when I’m writing.

What do you envisage writing in the future?

I’m presently writing what will most likely be book 3 in my Oregon Coast series. It picks up Ellen from The Sand Dollar and tells her story. Book 2 stalled part way through so I plan to go back to that one, which tells the story of Rosa, also from The Sand Dollar, and set in the Sunshine Coast in Australia.

Also, although I wrote Band of Gold as a stand-alone book, Anna’s sister Jan has started telling me her story too, so that book is also in the cards. Plus a few more ideas which are still in their infancy.

I intend to keep writing books with mature protagonists, as these are the ones I can relate best to.

That’s great, Maggie. I know what it’s like to have characters start to tell you their story. I’m sure a lot of people think writers are a bit cracked when we say we hear voices in our head, but our characters become like real people to us, don’t they.

Here’s the blurb for Maggie’s book, and an excerpt:

Band of Gold deals with the tricky topic of new romance after a failed marriage.

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?

Excerpt

‘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.


Look for Band of Gold at:

Amazon: http://amzn.to/1owK2w6

Barnes &Noble: http://bit.ly/1sZmp2

The Book Depository: http://bit.ly/1nbUiHf

Facebook:  https://www.facebook.com/maggiechristensenauthor

Website:  http://maggiechristensenauthor.com/

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/8120020.Maggie_Christensen

 

Thank you, Maggie, for being such a lovely guest. I look forward to seeing The Sand Dollar and The Dreamcatcher available in the near future.

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What’s acting got to do with it?

On the last (Sir) Michael Parkinson Show, he interviewed actor Sir Michael Caine and asked him for advice on acting and why he was so successful.

Michael Caine replied that the audience could tell if you were just saying your lines and then thinking about what you had to say next while you waited for the other person to say their lines. He said you had to listen to what the other actor was saying. “You must react to them,” he said.

This could be interpreted as being the same for writing. The author must be involved with the story and the characters to the extent that she/he reacts as her characters would as she writes. If she doesn’t feel what her characters are feeling, if she’s not gripped by the scene unfolding under her fingertips, then her story and her characters will not ring true and will not capture her reader’s interest.

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Australia Day

Australia Day 2013 should have been full of barbecues, picnics, thong-throwing competitions, and happy families celebrating their pride in their country while newer residents proudly took their citizenship oath. But Cyclone Oswald lashed Queensland’s coast, creating six tornadoes and the biggest flood in Bundaberg’s recorded history. Thousands of homes were inundated, thirteen washed away, never to be found, others teetering on holes created by the torrent. Businesses suffered devastating losses, caught by Nature’s intensity and the Burnett River breaking its banks. Boats were washed away, some completely disappearing, some found days later as broken hulks on the rocky shore, debris scattered like broken dreams.

The town was in shock. But as the water receded and help flowed in, Bundabergians created their own Mud Army and went to work helping those whose lives had been traumatised.

One year later, the town has mostly recovered. Some businesses never re-opened, some houses never re-built, some folks still fighting insurance companies and unable to return to their homes, but the ghost-town atmosphere that pervaded North Bundaberg in the months following the flood has been replaced by a thriving community spirit.

So this Australia Day I reflected on that wonderful Aussie spirit, that pride in a country of extremes, from tropical rainforests, snow-covered mountain ranges, vast Outback plains that seem to be either in drought or flood. We started as a penal colony of convicts and guards and evolved into explorers and farmers and graziers and nation-builders. But it wasn’t easy. This is a harsh and often unforgiving land, and it took guts to try to conquer it.

It’s those aspects of the Australian landscape and psyche that I’ve tried to capture in my books. I love this unique land of ours and want to share it with my readers. In Dance with the Devil the rugged Great Dividing Range became as huge an obstacle for Emma and Drew to conquer as the killer who held an innocent life in his hands. In Black Ice a hit-and-run on the Sunshine Coast and a mud slide in the Blue Mountains nearly meant the end for Kirri and Daniel. Deadly Tide was a favourite to write, set as it was on a trawler off Bundaberg’s coast. Putting Sam and Chayse in such a confined space gave lots of opportunities for sparks to fly, and some unusual dangerous situations, and researching beautiful Lady Musgrave Island was no hardship for this dedicated writer J

Until Death was more citified, encompassing Brisbane, Sydney and the Hunter Valley region where Libby and Connor had to cope with a natural disaster as deadly as the killers hunting them.

Dangerous Deception allowed me to indulge in more exotic locations such as Central Queensland’s Carnarvon Gorge before bringing Breeanna and Rogan back to Melbourne. But I couldn’t resist having them go via the Gold Coast hinterland in a daring escape that has them jumping off a mountain.

Ladder to Amphitheatre tunnel entrance at Carnarvon Gorge

The plot of Fatal Flaw only allowed me to take a slight deviation from Brisbane’s suburbs, Chinatown, and nearby Mount Glorious, but it’s Mark’s trip to the sapphire diggings outside Emerald that gives him a clue to who wants to kill Julie’s father.

Grievous Harm (to be released later this year), traverses a lot of New South Wales and Queensland, and depicts the harshness and grandeur of the Outback. This is the darkest of all my novels, and I hope readers can forgive me for what I put Kate and John through. They really deserve their HEA.

What I also strived to do was give my heroes and heroines the kind of courage our early settlers had to have in order to survive. They have to battle not only the highs and lows of falling in love, but danger in various guises and a land that can be as deadly as any determined killer.

We didn’t have prawns (shrimp) on the barbie this Australia Day, but lamb chops (after all, Australia was supposed to ride on the sheep’s back at one stage in our history), and I counted my blessings that I live in this wonderful country that gives me such fabulous settings in which to tell my stories, and planned my next research trips to those states and territories I haven’t yet written about.

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Quirky humour

It happened a while ago, but I thought I’d share with you. When I told my daughter that my sixth book was titled Fatal Flaw, she quickly came back with, “And I guess the sequel will be called Treacherous Tiles, … Continue reading

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Soooo long

When I looked at how long it had been since my last post, I realised just how quickly time passes and how hard it is to keep up with so many things in our lives. Sometimes I despair of ever catching up.

My eldest brother often forwards jokes, pictures, and other various emails and usually I have a laugh and sometimes feel sad if they are heart-rending, but tonight he sent one with a lot of pictures. One of those pictures showed a huge block of concrete in a forest, possibly part of a bunker from World War II. A seed must have fallen on a small crack in the concrete and sprouted, because a tree was growing from the top of the concrete, its roots following the crack to the ground. I was struck by the sheer determination of nature to reclaim the forest. It reminded me of all the civilisations that ended up becoming an archaeologist’s dig. Now, you might think that that would be enough to make me throw up my hands and ask why I should bother to keep on imagining, and writing, and creating stories, but what has survived all those centuries and the passing of so many peoples? Storytelling!

Whether you are a native in an isolated village in the jungle listening to the elders recount tales of their long-dead ancestors, or a songwriter crafting a ballad of lost love, or a child cradled on a parent’s lap while being read a little Golden Book, you will be taking part in the oldest of traditions – storytelling.

As a writer I feel connected to that never-ending thread. Oh, I’m not saying that my stories will live on, never to be forgotten, but I feel great joy that I am connected to something that will only end when humankind ceases to exist.

Long live storytelling!

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Strawberries and books – but missed out on the chocolate

Soon-to-be-published YA/NA urban fantasy author Cheryse Durrant and I shared a stall at the Bargara Strawberry Fair today. The Fair is run by the Coral Coast Community Care Inc and supports their charitable work in the community. It might still feel like winter in the southern states, but Queensland lived up to its “Beautiful one day, perfect the next” slogan and turned on sunshine, blue skies and a balmy breeze. Lots of food stalls, craft stalls, entertainment, art exhibition, and us with our giveaway basket of books from our publisher Clan Destine Press, copies of my thriller Fatal Flaw for sale, and flyers about the fantastic prizes to be won on the Cheryse Durrant website over the coming four months.

Did I mention that there was at least a truckload of strawberries on sale? There were even strawberries dipped in chocolate, but unfortunately the chocolate wasn’t gluten free, so I had to stick with delicious berries au natural.

One of the highlights of the day was handing the prize for the Years 9-10 Poetry Competition to the winner, Jerry McGiffin. It’s not easy for young writers to maintain their enthusiasm for writing when their mates are keen on sports or movies or whatever and don’t have the same passion for creating stories and characters. I hope all parents and teachers support their children who have the desire to write.

 

 

 

The second highlight of the day was presenting the basket of books by the Clan Destine Press authors to the winner, Marietta McLellan. Marietta was thrilled with her prize, even driving back to the Fair at the end of the day to pick it up.

We had many chats with people who, like us, love reading. I even had some people tell me they’ve read all my books and enjoyed them. It’s such a thrill to hear that, as it makes all the hard (and often lonely) work of writing so worthwhile.

 

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Johnno Award

It was a great night, made even more so by having my friends share it with me. Winning the Johnno Award for “outstanding contributions to writing in Queensland” from the Queensland Writers Centre is something that really means a lot to me. During my years on the QWC Management Committee, it was always my dream to see QWC not as the hub of writing in Queensland, with spokes, like a wheel, going out to connect to writers and writing organisations, but rather as the centre of a web linking all these with QWC and each other so they can benefit from each other’s knowledge and talents.

It’s also something I have tried to achieve with WriteFest – offering the opportunity for writers and industry professionals to network, learn and grow. To see how QWC has reached out into the regions and become such a hugely positive force for writing, not only in Queensland, but throughout Australia, is truly wonderful.

Receiving the Award from QWC Management Committee Chair Kevin Gillespie

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Gold Coast Writers Festival

The Gold Coast Writers Festival is on 26-28 October, and I’m heading off on the 25th on the long drive down. There’s a fabulous line-up of authors, publishers, and industry professionals all sharing their expertise with aspiring writers as well as giving readers insights into the industry.

On Saturday I’ll be joining Rowena Cory Daniells and Tony Cavanagh on the The Thrill of the Chase panel, with the CEO of the Queensland Writers Centre, Meg Vann, as chair. Meg also runs the Brisbane arm of Sisters-in-Crime and I’m sure she will have some interesting questions for the panel. The audience might go away with more than they bargained for :-)

The panels at the festival are free, with seminars and workshops costing a minimal fee. It’s going to be a great event and I hope both writers and readers take advantage of the hard work the Gold Coast Writers Association has put in to bring this fantastic opportunity to the Gold Coast.

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Congratulations to a friend

It was one day after Valentine’s Day, but my friend Louise Cusack‘s life was full of rose-tinged thoughts when her fantasy romance trilogy was epublished by Momentum Books on 15 February. Although the books had been previously print published in Australia, epublishing meant they were now available internationally.

Epublishing is a wonderful avenue for Australian authors to get their books out into the world. My books have Australian settings, which can make them difficult to sell overseas, and particularly into the USA, but with the growing trend towards readers purchasing ebooks it means my stories can now reach a greater audience and show readers from other countries aspects of Australia, and particularly Queensland, they won’t find in most travel brochures. For example, the amazing Amphitheatre at Carnarvon Gorge in Central Queensland is a wonderful example of nature’s force and I knew I had to use it when writing Dangerous Deception. The opening to the Amphitheatre is high up on a cliff face and can only be reached by climbing a series of ladders.

 

When you get to the entrance of the tunnel (which is formed by an enormous slab of rock splitting apart and creating an opening), you then have to traverse about 40 metres of uneven rock as well as concrete steps made by the Park Rangers. This photo was taken from almost inside the Amphitheatre looking back to the entrance in the cliff face.

When you step inside the Amphitheatre, it’s like walking into a massive cathedral. You gaze up the vaulting slabs of rock to the tiny opening at the top where sunlight enters. The floor is grey dirt, and amazingly ferns grow in abundance, perhaps watered by rain seeping through fissures in the rock. They certainly wouldn’t get much rain through the small top opening.

When we were there a young couple joined us, and the woman took out a flute and began playing. Magic. It was the only word to describe it. Pure notes lingering then rising to the tiny patch of sky above. The acoustics are so good they have had choirs perform there for the fabulous resonance.

There’s something spiritual about Carnarvon Gorge, and even more so about the Amphitheatre. It was something I felt just driving from the highway to the Gorge and became stronger the moment I walked into the Amphitheatre.

Aboriginal rock paintings adorn the cliff walls further into the gorge, and it’s easy to visualise them living here and enjoying the abundant wildlife. With a creek traversing the length of the gorge, there is ample water and lush grasses to attract wallabies, goannas and birds.

Unfortunately, feral pigs have also made the gorge their home, and their habit of rooting up plants for food has led to some destruction of the creek banks. The Park Rangers try to keep their numbers under control, but eliminating them entirely would be almost impossible.

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That crazy Chaos Fairy

I couldn’t believe how long it’s been since I last blogged! I thought that once I returned from the McGregor Summer School I would have a few winding-down days, then jump back into writing and organising WriteFest, the Bundaberg writers festival. But no, that crazy Chaos Fairy (my friends call her the Curtis Chaos Fairy) swatted my darling daughter-in-law, Cheryse Durrant, and she ended up with a broken leg (Cheryse, not the Fairy, darn it). Luckily we have a car that Cheryse can manoeuvre herself into the passenger seat with her leg in the knee-to-ankle brace, because trips to the physio and doctor would have been impossible in her smaller car.

Now I’m getting back to editing Grievous Harm, the story that features one of the minor characters in Fatal Flaw. GH is darker than FF, and covers a topic that sends chills down the backs of parents. It’s a story that I found myself writing in spite of my natural aversion to the topic, but the characters demanded the story be told in a certain way and I went along because I agreed with them. Sometimes I wonder where some of these characters come from. I hope they’re not from a deeper side of my personality, because that would be too scary to live with. Ruth in Fatal Flaw is a character I was fascinated by. She had so many different facets to her, so much so that I wondered how each of us would have acted in her situation. I had a sneaking sympathy for her, and I wonder if any of my readers felt the same. I would love to hear readers’ thoughts on Ruth.

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