We are delighted to welcome Author, Maggie Christensen, to the interview page of Autumn Chickens.
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, women who have learned to live and love in later life and the heroes worthy of them, heartwarming stories of second chances. She has recently been called ‘the queen of mature age fiction'.
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 at 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 Noosa library where she selects and delivers books to the housebound.
Welcome, Maggie, to Autumn Chickens, the brand new magazine style website devoted to thinking people in mid-life and beyond. Congratulations on being the very first author to be interviewed for the site.
Thanks, so much Clare. I’m honoured to be your first interviewee.
Can you tell us a bit about your background and how you came to be living in Australia?
It’s a long story. It starts during the first World War when my Grandmother’s sister married an Australian soldier and returned with him to Australia. Then, during the second World War, her son and his friend visited my mother and her family in Scotland and got up to all sorts of things – swopping uniforms, women dressing in men’s uniforms for photos – all very illegal. I was brought up on tales of mad Australians. Also, I remember boxes of dried fruit arriving from Australia every Christmas during my childhood.
Fast forward to me in my mid-twenties. I’d been teaching in primary schools in Scotland and had the travel bug. As a teacher, my choices were to teach in America – which I had no desire to do (interesting as I married an American, but more of that later) – to teach in an army school in Germany, but there was a three year commitment, or to go to Australia for two years. Two years sounded manageable, I had relatives here, and finally, I was lured by an ad of a semi-naked man in swimming trunks, gown and mortarboard with the slogan ‘Come Teach in the Sun’. I could come here for £10. Imagine my disgust as a Scot to then find myself called a £10 pom.
I came for two years, but when the two years were up, I was enjoying life so much I wasn’t ready to go home. After teaching in state and private schools, including a parent -co-operative school, I found a position in a teacher's college, and when it was amalgamated with another in New South Wales, at the ripe old age of 37, when I’d almost – but not quite – given up hope of meeting my soulmate, I met the gentle giant of an American who I’ve now been married to for over 30 years. Needless to say, I stayed in Australia and, to quote the song, I now call Australia home.
When did your writing really take off? What made you decide to pubIish your first book?
My career as a teacher, lecturer and education manager meant that I wrote a lot, but my writing was limited to course materials, conference papers, proposals and reports.
I started writing fiction when I was getting close to retirement and could see a redundancy ahead from my position as Education Manager in a Health Service– a bit like my heroine in The Sand Dollar. At first, I played around with trying to write a Mills and Boon style novel, but they weren’t the sort of books I enjoyed reading, so I began writing about older women like myself, women who’d experienced life.
Then I took an online writing course and looked for a writing group to join. It took me several writing groups, nine more years and a move interstate, before I finally found one I felt comfortable with. It was the women in this group who encouraged me and gave me the confidence to publish my first book, Band of Gold. At that stage I’d also written The Sand Dollar, which I never intended to be part of a series. I’ll be forever grateful to this group for giving me the courage to start out on the steep learning curve of indie publishing. One of them is still my crit partner.
How do you feel about writing? Has it made a difference to your life?
I love writing. I love getting to know my characters, having them speak to me, surprise me. And I love being steeped in the locations as I write.
I find that, as I write more books, my writing has speeded up. I now set higher goals and tighter deadlines for myself and – so far – am managing to meet them.
I know you are a prolific writer. How many books have you published? Do you have any favourites?
I’ve now published 12 books, and No 13 will be released in December. As to a favourite. – that’s a bit like asking a mother who her favourite child is. At the moment, my favourite is my latest, The Life She Deserves. I loved writing Jo and Col’s story. It’s the first time I’ve set a book in a fictional town, and it was as if I was there when I was writing it.
Do you think it is important to write books which feature older protagonists?
Absolutely! As one of my early reviewers put it, not everyone wants to read about twenty-somethings who just want to get married and have babies. I certainly don’t. I prefer my protagonists to be well-seasoned. So that’s what I write, and I receive so many emails from readers who thank me for writing about women with some experience behind them, women they can relate to.
Tell us about your most recent book.
The Life She Deserves is the first in a series set in the fictional Australian country town of Granite Springs. It features Jo and Col who are both about to have their 60th birthday – on the same day! They, along with their former partners, have been friends since they were young. They all grew up together in Granite Springs, but it’s not till a retrospective of Col’s wife’s paintings that they find themselves attracted to each other. The book explores how they cope with their developing relationship and Jo’s family’s reactions to this and to their ageing parent in the small country town.
Two old friends. A new relationship. What could possibly go wrong?
Growing up in the small Australian country town of Granite Springs, Jo and Col have been lifelong friends.
Following Jo’s divorce and the death of Col’s wife, the pair find comfort in their common grief. But as they tentatively explore their new relationship, they have little idea of the challenges that lie ahead.
What they haven’t bargained for is Jo’s interfering ex, along with their three children, all of whom have their own agendas.
Can Jo ride out the storm? Will she be granted the life she deserves?
Thank you, Magggie for such an interesting interview. I hope it inspires many more writers in mid life and beyond to believe in their ability and get publishing. I wish you every success with your latest book.
You can find out more about Maggie and her writing by clicking on the following links.