I’m absolutely delighted to have Margaret James on the blog today. As I mentioned in the write-up of Choc Lit on Tour, I loved her session, especially her answers about which book she’d like to have written and which inspired her the most. Here’s her Q&A – and a whole lot more besides. Enjoy!
Thank you for inviting me to chat to you, Georgia. It’s great to be here!
You’re very welcome! Where are you in your writing career right now?
My latest novel for Choc Lit is Girl in Red Velvet, which is published in ebook format on 25th April 2017. It’s set in 1960s Oxford, a place I know very well because I lived and worked there for several years when I was in my teens and early twenties.
When the story begins it’s 1966 and Lily Denham is seventeen, all set to begin her studies at Oxford University. On her first day she meets best friends Harry Gale and Max Farley and is enchanted by their mischievous charm. The three students become great friends and enjoy all that university life has to offer, from hedonistic parties to punting along the river on sunny afternoons.
But Lily soon realises she is falling in love with both of her new-found friends, men who could offer Lily two very different futures. Harry is generous and kind, hardworking and ambitious: he would make a dream husband. Max embodies the spirit of the sixties, being adventurous, rebellious, madly attractive but a little bit dangerous, too.
Lily soon realises that making the wrong decision could have devastating consequences for them all.
You’ve had an enviably varied writing career. What were you doing five years ago?
I was teaching creative writing for the London School of Journalism, writing regular columns and doing author profiles for Writing Magazine (www.writersnews.co.uk), and also putting together a guide for creative writing students with fellow creative writing tutor Cathie Hartigan.
Book One: Girl in Red Velvet is your long-awaited new novel. Who and what inspired it?
I’ve always loved Wuthering Heights, a novel I must have read a hundred times, and Girl in Red Velvet could be described as Wuthering Heights fan fiction because it was inspired by the situation in that classic novel. Two men, one woman – how could this set-up possibly work out without destroying one, two or all of them? I hope I’ve suggested some answers.
What’s next for you? Where do you hope to be in five years time?
Many, many years ago I wrote a paranormal novel called Elegy for a Queen which was way ahead of its time genre-wise and got some lovely rave rejections from mainstream publishers before it was finally published by Solidus, a small imprint in the UK. Paranormal is hugely popular nowadays, so I hope to have written and had published another paranormal story. I also hope to resuscitate and rewrite a couple of mystery novels I first wrote back in the 1990s.
Book Two: Name the book you wish you had written!
It’s One Day by David Nicholls, a romantic novel about two people who meet on their last day at university and agree to see each other on the same day every year until – well, I won’t give the story away! The hero and heroine of this novel, Dexter and Emma, became so real for me that as I read their story I could see them, I could hear them, and if they’d walked into the room where I was sitting reading I wouldn’t have been at all surprised.
I loved that one too, Margaret.
Book Three: Is there any particular author or book that made you want to be a writer?
When I was a teenager I was profoundly moved by Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird, and I thought how wonderful it must be to take your reader to a completely different world. I wanted to see if I could do it, too.
And finally, what’s the best writing advice you’ve ever been given?
Choose your rut carefully, because you’ll be in it for a long time. My first novel was published in 1988. It was a historical romance, and this turned out to be a good rut for me.
I can’t thank you enough for coming on, Margaret. Some fascinating answers and some great advice. Very best wishes for the new novel, it sounds fab.
If you want to find out more about Margaret and her long career in all things writerly, check out her Amazon author page here: