Welcome to Clubhouse Chat page. For those of you who are not a member won’t be aware that the location of the Clubhouse is shrouded in mystery. The only way to visit the clubhouse is via membership or an invite to the clubhouse tearoom. Every few days, I’ll be sharing a conversation I’ve had with a guest over tea and cakes, or maybe a glass of something stronger, about their work in progress, or latest book release. I’ll be talking to all sort of writers and authors at different levels of their writing careers.
Today, I’m welcoming Maggie Cobbett to the Clubhouse Tearoom to chat about her writing. Maggie, first let’s order our drinks. What would you like?
Hmm, may I be a bit cheeky, but my favourite alcoholic drink is Pineau des Charentes, but it’s pricey in the U.K so my consumption is very moderate.
Of course you can. The clubhouse has everything here.
Oh, thank you. And thank you for the invite too. Here comes our drinks.
Yes, the service is fast. Now we have our refreshments, let’s start by asking you what writing elements do you think is your strongest points, and what would you like to do better?
As a former language teacher, I think it’s fair to say that my grammar and spelling are strong points. On the other hand, that same background makes it difficult for me to write in the less formal style required by some publications. I do try, though.
Tell us a little about latest writing project. Is it a new idea, or one you have been mulling over for some time?
I’m drafting an account of my experiences as a television/film extra, some of which have already been the inspiration for magazine stories. Writing a non-fictionalised account of the same period, though, is an exercise in not treading on toes and risking legal action, so I’m not sure when (or even if) it will be published.
The idea of developing ‘Bill’s Last Night’ into a radio play is also ticking over. It began as a short story published in The Weekly News, became a five-minute play produced at the 2019 Writers’ Summer School (Swanwick) and still has scope for expansion.
How many unfinished projects do you have on your computer?
There are quite a few fragments that I may develop later. Years ago, for example, I won a competition with the first chapter of a novel for children, but I never took it any further and am still waiting for inspiration to strike.
Do you write a synopsis first or write the first chapter? Do you plan your story, or let the characters lead you?
I usually plunge straight in and see where the story takes me No one is more surprised than I am at some of the twists and turns that ensue.
Were any of your characters inspired by real people?
Yes, many of them. This is particularly true of the core of my saga ‘Shadows of the Past’, which began as a memoir of a strange summer I spent in France as a schoolgirl. Names are changed, of course, but some individual characters are almost word for word as I remember them. Others are a composite of people around at that time.
What did you learn when writing your book? In writing it, how much research did you do?
I did a great deal of research for ‘Shadows of the Past’ and ‘Workhouse Orphan’. ‘Shadows’ took me back to France on several occasions to interview people about the ongoing effects of the German occupation of WW2. ‘Orphan’ took me into many archives, museums and even down a couple of coal mines.
What is your work schedule like when you’re writing?
Very hit and miss, but I can work for twelve hours at a stretch when inspiration strikes. Fortunately I have an understanding family and am allowed to get on with it. Tea is supplied at regular intervals by request.
Did you ever consider writing under a pseudonym?
No. I put so much hard work into my writing that I want everyone to know it’s mine. For the same reason, I’ve turned down offers of work as a ghost writer.
How do you select the names of your characters? Do you know everything about them before you start writing their story?
Names are often mixed and matched from people I’ve known in the past. Former pupils from my language teaching days are particularly useful for this and have provided both heroes and villains. I also use place names if they suggest a character to me. Seaton Carew in County Durham, for example, became a pompous Shakespearean actor.
I don’t know everything about my characters before I start to write and they often surprise me. Those in the background to begin with, for example, sometimes push their way to the front and completely upstage my original main protagonists. (Maybe that’s a legacy from my years as an extra!)
What was your hardest scene to write?
The deprived childhood of my ‘Workhouse Orphan’ involved writing some tough scenes, because the story is based on the little I know of a boy who married into my family way back. Some passages reduced me to tears as I wrote them, particularly the deaths of his parents and best friend.
Thank you Maggie for chatting about your writing with me. How interesting that you based your character on someone from your family history. I did the same with my first short story.
Thank you again for inviting me, Paula.
It’s been lovely to catching up with Maggie. I hope you have enjoyed your wine.
Very much so. Thank you for spoiling me.
My pleasure. If you want to find out more about Maggie and her books please visit her website. They’re available from Amazon as downloads, paperbacks and one even as an audio-book, ‘Workhouse Orphan’. Maggie says it was a real labour of love.
It you want to find out more about Clubhouse Member’s Books don’t forget to check out the Clubhouse Bookshops too.