Saturday, 3 March 2018

The Hippo Hangs Out . . . . with Maggie Christensen

If, like me you’ve had enough of snow, biting winds and just cold weather in general, then I’m sure you’ll want to join me as I head off to the Sunshine Coast of Queensland to chat to today’s guest, Maggie Christensen.

Photo courtesy of Maggie Christensen

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.

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Maggie’s latest book is called The Good Sister and yes, you guessed it, I’m going to be adding it to my TBR mountain!


Two Isobels. A lifetime of regret. A love that spans the years

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.

What is it that links these two women across the generations? Can the past influence the future?

Set in Scotland and moving from the nineteen-thirties to the present day, The Good Sister is a women’s fiction book featuring compelling real-life characters, fascinating plot twists and a strong mid-life heroine. If you like feel-good stories of second chances, you’ll love this new book from Maggie Christensen.

How many of you are now adding it to your own TBR’s after reading that blurb?

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What book/books made you cry and why?
Kristin Hannah’s book The Nightingale.  I’ve read this book twice and cried each time. It’s a brilliant book which follows the lives of two sisters living in France during WW1. I was drawn into their lives as they handled the war in different ways, and left stunned at the massive difficulties faced by the French during the Occupation. I loved this book!

Do you often hear from your readers and what do they say?
I do receive emails and facebook messages from readers. Most of them express delight at finding books which feature older characters and which allow them to feel that life isn’t over at 50. Some have even called my books inspirational.

What’s your favourite motivational phrase?
 I have two – both related to dreams:

‘Go confidently in the direction of your dreams! Live the life you’ve imagined.” Thoreau

“Cherish your visions and your dreams as they are the children of your soul; the blueprint of your ultimate achievements.” Napoleon Hill.

What advice would you give your younger self?
I’d advise her to start writing earlier, to remember to never give up on her dreams, and that it’s never too late to try something new.  I became so caught up in work – writing course materials, reports and conference papers that I didn’t begin writing fiction until I was close to retirement.

Where did your love of books/storytelling/reading/writing etc come from?
I read voraciously as a child – still do! I’m sure my reading fuelled my desire to write. Growing up in Scotland, I read the usual Famous Five books by Enid Blyton, The Chalet School books by Elinor Brent-Dyer, The Abbey Girls series by Elsie J Oxenham, plus the usual classics – What Katy Did, Little Women, Jane Eyre – but the two books I remember most clearly are Brown Mouse and Brown and White by Frank Jennens. They are now sadly out of print and have become collectors’ items.

Image found on Abe Books

I always had my head in a book and living in a house of adults – mother, grandparents and aunts – I used books to shut out the outside world. I’m never without a book and, as soon as I finish one, I start another. I feel I would starve without something to read. There’s always a book – now usually my kindle – in my bag in case I have a spare moment.

As a child, I fantasised about having a twin brother and made up stories about us and about my imaginary friend who was called Ellen. At school I loved writing compositions but there was never enough time to write the long stories I aspired to.

When I was looking for a picture of Brown Mouse I found a couple of copies for sale Maggie but the prices started at just over £100 and that wasn’t including postage!

If you were an animal in the zoo what would you be and why?
I think I’d be a giraffe – I am tall with long legs and a long neck. When I was teaching primary school in Scotland, a group of boys gave me the nickname giraffe, thinking it was an insult. I was flattered as I think they are very graceful animals.

You’re the second person to choose a giraffe Maggie and I totally agree they are extremely graceful creatures. I can see why you wouldn’t be insulted with that nickname 😉

You get a brilliant idea/thought/phrase at an inappropriate moment (eg in the shower or driving) what do you do?
I’d like to think I write it down, but sadly I don’t always, and it disappears. Many of my best ideas come when I’m about to fall asleep or am driving and it’s not always possible to stop and record it. I can also get ideas when I’m ironing and then it’s easier to go to my computer and note them down.

What is your guilty pleasure?
Champagne and chocolate with my lovely husband.

You can find out more Maggie, her books and connect with her using the links below:

I'd like to thank Maggie for taking the time to hang out with me today and for answering my questions. It's been a pleasure having you here on The Hippo.

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