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Margaret James Interview

Margaret talks to Paragraph Planet

1 - Tell me about your latest novel, The Wedding Diary?

This is a new departure for me. It's a romantic comedy coming after three historical novels. It started life in a workshop at my local writers' group when we were wondering what would happen if a woman won a competition to have a luxury dream wedding, but didn't have anyone to marry. It's a retelling of the Cinderella story.

2 - What is your favourite stage of the writing process?

I'm always happy when I've finished a first draft and find - to my great relief the story seems to work. I enjoy writing second drafts because I'm not usually too pressed for time at that stage. The editing stage is usually a mad rush. I often feel I want to do a lot of rewriting, or even start all over again, but of course there isn't time.

3 - You often interview other authors for Writing Magazine. Have their working methods influenced your own?

I don't think they have influenced me, but I'm always interested in what they have to say about the way they work. I've always been a planner who starts off with notes and who gradually builds a story from the inside out, like a potter making a vase from a piece of clay. I admire writers who don't plan and also those who throw absolutely everything on to the compost heap of their first drafts, and are then happy to let it all ferment for a while. I would hate to waste all those words!

Published authors often offer readers some great tips. My favourite is don't give up. Writers are learning all the time, what you didn't know yesterday you might find out today, and until you have given up, you haven't failed.

4 - How important is an online presence to a writer?

Very important - how else do we make people aware of us and our work? I have Facebook and Twitter accounts.

5 - Any advice for aspiring writers?

If you're thinking of writing fiction, try to work out what kind of writer of fiction you want to be. What interests you about other people? Why they hurt or kill each other? Why they fall in love? Why they become explorers? Why they chase their dreams of wealth, power, love, happiness? What kinds of novels do you most enjoy? Do you want to write those kinds of books yourself? You're more likely to succeed if you enjoy writing your stories, rather than if you slog away at something you hope will make you a great deal of money, but which you secretly despise. If you don't really enjoy crime fiction, for example, it's probably not a good plan to try writing a crime novel.

Margaret's blog here

Paragraph Planet is a creative writing website which has been publishing one 75-word paragraph every day since November 2008. Famous authors, aspiring writers and occasional dabblers have all got involved, submitting a mixture of twist-in-the-tale flash fiction, evocative short, short fiction, openings of published novels or brief moments captured. Get involved here. You can read over 1400 examples in the archive section. There are also interviews with some of the published authors who have submitted to the site, as well as an authors in which you can read an example paragraph from all authors who've submitted, and also link to dedicated pages with more info about regular contributors. Finally, I've started compiling a writing group map to help you find a writing group near you. And if you're still reading, and want to know what else I do apart from Paragraph Planet, here's my own website. All words and images (c)Paragraph Planet 2008-2013