Catching up with Margaret James!

Margaret James 1

Welcome back, Margaret! I was amazed when I realised that you were my first guest in 2013!

I was amazed, too! My goodness, doesn’t time fly? Perhaps this is because writing a novel is such a long process and sometimes another year goes by without us really noticing? It’s very good to be back. I see that since we were last in contact you’ve had several of your books published by Endeavour Press.  Many congratulations!

Thank you! I love the cover of your new novel ‘Girl in Red Velvet’, which is book 6 in the Charton Minster Series. What inspired you to create this series?


The inspiration for the Charton Minster stories was driving past a country house in Dorset at least a decade ago. I wondered who lived there and later that evening my imagination started to run riot, conjuring up a whole family and their descendents. The first novel in the series is The Silver Locket, which is Rose Courtenay’s story. The subsequent five novels are about Rose’s children and grandchildren and even her great grandchildren.

Who is the ‘Girl’ in Red Velvet?

The girl in Girl in Red Velvet is Rose Courtenay’s granddaughter Lily Denham, who goes to university in the 1960s and meets two men who become her friends, the three of them have some great fun together, but then Lily finds she is falling in love with both of them. She makes a choice which looks as if it will turn out to be a very bad choice indeed. Or will it? What do all three of these people want and how will they get it? I hope I’ve given them plenty of challenges but that I’ve also given all their stories satisfying endings.

Do you remember the 60s with fondness?

I do because I was young and at university myself and having a lovely time living away from home. It’s quite difficult for younger people alive today to realise what a huge place the world was then. I went from living in a small rural community where I never met anyone who wasn’t British and white to living in a big city where I met and made friends with people from all over the world.

What is next for Creative Writing Matters?

We’re expanding our range of writing-related services all the time. We run two major international competitions (The Exeter Novel Prize and the Exeter Story Prize which incorporates the Trisha Ashley Award for a humorous story) and we offer mentoring and various shorter courses and smaller competitions, too. We’ve found that offering feedback on competition entries has proved very popular so next year we will be doing more in that respect by offering feedback on some of our short story competitions as well as on entries for the Exeter Novel Prize.

What is next for Margaret?

It’s reading the entries for this year’s Exeter Story Prize, which closed on 30 April. We’re constantly astonished and impressed by the range and quality of entries, so although this is a pleasurable task it’s always quite demanding, too.

I wish you every success with all your amazing ventures. Reader’s can follow Margaret on: Facebook Twitter    or you can visit  Margaret’s blog

An interview with Margaret James


You have written many historical and contemporary romantic novels as well as being a prolific journalist and inspiring writing tutor. Could you take us back to the beginning of your career and tell us when your desire to be a novelist began?

Thank you for inviting me to be the first guest author on your blog, Valerie. I’m delighted to be here. Ooh, back to the beginning of my career – that’s a long time ago, almost thirty years. I had two very small children. My husband worked away from home a lot so I wanted to find something to do at home which would earn some money, too.

I decided I would write some short stories for women’s magazines, because that had to be easy, right? No, of course it wasn’t easy. As I soon came to realise, writing any sort of fiction isn’t easy. But, after trying for several months and failing to sell anything, I finally had my first acceptance and this encouraged me to keep going.

Okay, I thought, could I write novel, too? At that time, family sagas were hugely popular so I thought I would try writing one myself. Again, it wasn’t easy, but I was determined to finish my novel and also sell it to a publisher. Rejection after rejection came along, but I carried on sending my novel to agents and publishers because – as many of my friends and family members know – I’m not the sort of person who gives up!  Finally an agent took me on and sold my novel A Touch of Earth to Futura.

I think I was determined to become a novelist because although I could see it would be a challenging career it would also be possible – with a bit of luck – to get somewhere.

What originally drew you to writing romance?

I’ve always been fascinated by how human relationships work – what makes us like one person and dislike someone else, what happens when we fall in love and out of love again, how families work and why family relationships break down. So I think I was always going to be a romantic and relationship novelist.

Your latest novel is a romantic comedy. What inspired the change in direction?

My next novel The Wedding Diary is set in the present day and is mostly about people I haven’t written about before, but it also mentions characters and settings from my most recent historical trilogy – The Silver Locket, The Golden Chain and The Penny Bangle.

What key advice/tips would you give aspiring writers?

If you’ve decided you’re going to be a writer, stick at it and believe you have something interesting to say. There will be times when the going gets hard and you’ll need to be able to convince yourself that it’s worth going on.

Make friends with other writers face to face and online, via Twitter, Facebook and their blogs – most writers these days have blogs and will be delighted if you follow them. Think about joining a local or national writing group in which you can meet people who understand the joys and frustrations of being a writer. Then you’ll never feel isolated and alone.

Read other people’s novels because then you will absorb good practice and realise there are many different ways in which you can tell a story.

What’s next for Margaret James?

I would like to write another novel set in the present day. I also have a Victorian murder mystery simmering on my back burner, but there is a lot of research to do for that one and I don’t know if it will ever come to the boil!

Thank you for taking the time to answer my questions. I shall look forward to reading The Wedding Diary.

More by Margaret:

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