Interview by Ceri Wheeldon
As part of our series of interviews with authors who write for women in midlife and beyond, whose books feature central characters that women over can relate to, Maggie Christensen shares her inspiration behind her latest book , The Good Sister.:
A little about yourself:
I was born and grew up in Scotland, moving to Australia to teach in primary schools in my mid-twenties. I’m now in my early seventies and live on Queensland’s Sunshine Coast only ten minutes from the beach with my husband of over 30 years. When I’m not writing, I love to read or walk along the beach with my husband and have coffee in one of our favourite cafes.
When did you start to write?
I’ve written material of one sort or another all my life. During my working life it was confined to course materials, conference papers, reports and submissions, but when close to retirement, I began to write the fiction I’d always wanted to write.
What have been the challenges for you?
Self-publishing has been- and continues to be – a steep learning curve. I’ve been fortunate in that the writing community both in Australia and in other parts of the world, is a very supportive and sharing one and I’ve learnt a lot. Marketing continues to be an enormous challenge – trying to ensure that my books can find their way to the right audience.
What did you do prior to this?
My working life was in Education. Starting as a primary teacher, I moved into teacher education in Universities, then to management of an industry based education facility before moving to management in colleges of complementary medicine.
When was your first book published?
My first book, Band of Gold, was published in 2014. It begins on Christmas day when Anna’s husband puts his wedding ring on the table and tells her he doesn’t want to be married any more. Written in the first person, it allows the reader to step into Anna’s shoes as she navigates the next eighteen months.
What is the title of your latest book?
My latest is The Good Sister
What was the inspiration behind your latest book?
This book was inspired by an aunt who shared our home when I was growing up. She was fond of retelling the story of her lost love, and when I began writing, I knew I had to tell her story one day. It took me a while before I figured out how to do it. In The Good Sister, old Isobel’s story in that of my aunt.
What can you share with us about the plot – without spoiling the ending!
Set in Scotland, The Good Sister is a dual narrative, a beautiful Scottish based wartime saga that fuses the past with the present, through two unforgettable women, who are both named Isobel.
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.
Who are the key characters – and how do you hope readers over 50 will relate to them?
The key character are Bel who is in her sixties, her aunt Isobel in her nineties and Isobel’s solicitor Matt who is in his sixties. I hope readers will relate to the challenges Bel and Matt face as they feel an unexpected attraction to each other, and also to Isobel who both wants the memories of her earlier life to stay alive through her niece, and seeks justification for her actions.
What do like the most about the character/s you have created?
I feel they are real characters – people my readers might want to meet and have a coffee or glass of wine with. I also like that Bel appears in an earlier book as a minor character so readers who have read my earlier books will feel they are meeting an old friend. I like to do this in my books as I’m a great fan of Marcia Willett who does that too.
Are there any key issues you wanted to draw attention to?
The book highlights the changes in morality over the years which has made Bel’s life so different to that of her aunt – and the guilt experience by the younger Bel as she read her aunt’s memoir and realises how unkindly she treated her mother and aunt as a young girl.
Regret and misunderstanding colour much of the older Isobel’s experiences while past hurts and repressed guilt taint the younger Isobel.
What do want readers to take away having the read the book?
I want them to have had an enjoyable read, to have immersed themselves in the characters’ lives, to feel some sympathy for Isobel and hope for Bel.
What’s next for you – will there be a sequel with the same characters?
For the first time, I’m writing a sequel to The Good Sister. When I wrote The End, I felt I couldn’t leave Bel and Matt there. So, this next one – currently entitled Isobel’s Promise – picks up where The Good Sister leaves off. I have just finished the first draft and it should be published mid-year.
What 3 tips would you offer women looking to write their first book?
Read a lot.
Write something every day
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, her native Scotland 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 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 over 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 selects and delivers books to the housebound.
A member of Queensland Writer’s Centre, ALLi, and a local writing group, Maggie enjoys meeting her readers at book signings and library talks. In 2014 she self-published Band of Gold and The Sand Dollar, Book One in the Oregon Coast Series and in 2015, The Dreamcatcher, Book Two in the Oregon Coast Series, and Broken Threads, the sequel to Band of Gold. Madeline House, Book Three in the Oregon Coast Series was published in July 2016, and Champagne for Breakfast, an offshoot from the Oregon Coast series set in Noosa, and The Good Sister, set in Scotland and featuring Bel from Broken Threads in 2017.