Welcome to Clubhouse Chat page. 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 it is via membership or an invite to the tearoom. Every few days, I’ll be sharing a conversation with all sort of writers and authors at different levels of their writing careers. Over tea and cakes, or maybe a glass of something stronger, I shall be chatting with my guest about their work in progress, or latest book release.

Today I’m chatting to Margaret about her writing and books. Welcome to the tearoom.

Hello, Paula – thank you so much for inviting me to chat to you today. It’s a great pleasure to be here. Oh – I see you have my very favourite drink all ready for me – Green and Black’s hot chocolate, with cream and marshmallows floating on top. Delicious!

Lovely to have you here. Yes, thanks to Brutus’ gentle questioning during your journey here, he was able to order ahead of your arrival 😀 Now let me ask you when you first began your writing journey what drew you to your chosen genre?

As a teenager, I loved reading Catherine Cookson’s and Susan Howatch’s novels, and I was very drawn to their huge, sprawling sagas. My first writing project as an adult was a three volume saga set in my home county of Herefordshire. The books were published in the late 1980s. I really ought to get them out of the attic and polish them up for reissue!

The Wonderful Margaret James

How many unfinished projects do you have on your computer?

Sadly, too many to list here! I’ve had sixteen novels commercially published, but there must be enough scribbled plans, synopses, detailed outlines and even first drafts on a variety of discs, in box files and in notebooks to write at least sixteen more.

When reading your work through do you ever find that your daily mood swings are reflected in your writing?

Yes, certainly. I definitely have practical days and I also have imaginative days! But I’m lucky in that respect because I have so much writing-related work of different kinds on the go at any one time.

I’m one third of the team that runs Creative Writing Matters http://www.creativewritingmatters.co.uk/ so I read for all our competitions. I have written three books on creative writing in partnership with Cathie Hartigan, and in the future we hope to write more. I am a journalist on Writing Magazine. I also write fiction. So, deadlines permitting, my average working week consists of a variety of tasks, which keeps me interested in all of them.

Do you write a synopsis first or write the first chapter?

I’m a planner, so I like to start any new project with a few notes which gradually develop into a long-winded and rather messy synopsis for my eyes only. When I set out on any kind of journey, I always like to know roughly where I am going, in fiction and in life. But I’m always prepared to make detours and I always hope to get some surprises along the way.

Were any of your characters inspired by real people?

The characters in my most recently published novel The Final Reckoning were not inspired by any particular individuals, but the characters in my fiction do tend to feature various aspects of people I have known in real life. I use my own real life experiences in my fiction, too.

Is there anything about you your readers might be surprised to find out?

Other people constantly surprise me, but my own life and background are totally transparent. The characters in my fiction often have guilty secrets, but I don’t have any myself. I do occasionally find myself writing about something – being pregnant, having small children, dealing with a difficult family member, perhaps – and remembering how that specific situation impacted on me in real life.

What is your work schedule like when you’re writing?

I work for a monthly magazine, so I always need to be aware of deadlines racing towards me. Luckily, I’m very disciplined when it comes to work, and if I promise someone that a piece of work will be on their desk on a specific day at a specific time, that is when they receive it. After all, magazine pages don’t fill themselves!

Do you set yourself a daily word count?

No, because my different jobs make different demands on me, word-count-wise. A report on a competition entry might be only 200 words long, but every word needs to count. Ditto an article in a magazine. But when I am writing the first draft of a piece of fiction, I tend to get the words down and think about editing them later on. So on a magazine day I might produce 1,000 good words that are almost ready for submission, whereas on a fiction-writing day I could produce 3,000 or more words, many of them destined to be read by nobody but me.

How many hours in a day do you write?

I usually work for about five or six hours on weekdays. But, in the past, when I taught creative writing online, and also wrote a full length novel every twelve months, I often did twelve hour days.

Did you ever consider writing under a pseudonym?

Apart from a few short stories published under a male pseudonym because the central character was a man, I’ve always written under my own name. I know other writers who have half a dozen or more writing names, but I know that if I used a variety of names I would just confuse myself. I know that people write under a variety of names for all sorts of reasons, but I don’t feel the need to hide my identity in that way.

Thank you for inviting me today. It’s been fun to chat to you.

It’s been lovely to meet you, Margaret. If you would like to know more about Margaret’s writing and books please click on the links below.

Amazon author’s page



If you want to find out more about Clubhouse Member’s Books don’t forget to check out the Clubhouse Bookshops too.


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