Writing groups and communities, whether in person or virtual, are must haves for writers. And author Maggie Giles believes in them wholeheartedly. She’s a member of Scribophile, an online group that helps writers gain feedback and learn about publishing, and the Women’s Fiction Writers Association (WFWA), “a professional, enriching, supportive, and diverse international community for writers of women’s fiction.” That’s what Maggie writes: “thrilling women’s fiction,” and so far, fans are pleased with her debut novel, The Things We Lost. One Goodreads reviewer wrote, “Giles drives the tale forward—and backward—with unexpected twists that keep you flipping pages,” while another said, “A thought provoking read and a lesson to take the time to smell the flowers in your own back yard.” The book released a little over a week ago, and Maggie is in the throes of book-launch mania, so I’m extremely grateful she had time to answer my questions.
Christina: Congratulations on the publication of The Things We Lost, which “will have you wondering, what if?” What inspired this story in particular? Is the concept of “what if?” something you’ve grappled with in your own life?
Maggie: Absolutely! I think at one point in everyone’s lives we always consider what if. I believe that everything happens for a reason, but when I got out of a very defining relationship, I found myself wondering how things could have been different if different choices were made. That started Maddie’s journey on her own what if and how one single choice could change the whole landscape of her life. It was a fun experiment to start on that ended up turning into a novel that has readers wondering their own what ifs and if the grass is truly greener on the other side.
Christina: Many people like to hear about an author’s journey to publication. Would you tell us a little bit about yours? Is there anything you wish you could change about it?
Maggie: I think the only thing I’d want to change was the timeline! Publishing is a long road. I didn’t have a background in writing when I decided I wanted to craft a novel so many years were spent learning how to tell a story and how to properly write. (Though my editor really helps with this one!) I have been writing seriously for about 10 years. I have written seven novels and am just getting my first one published. I had an agent offer that ultimately wasn’t the right fit before I met with my publisher Rising Action, and knew they were the right people to champion this novel. I am grateful for my journey as it has afforded me the opportunity to connect with many in the industry and grow my own network to prepare for the launch of my debut. And ultimately, if the process had been quicker, I may not have met the wonderful publishers I have gotten to work with.
Christina: You like to give characters “an unexpected twist.” What’s your writing process like to ensure that this happens? Do you ever second guess yourself in these twists?
Maggie: I tend to have the majority of my novels planned out before I start writing. I consider myself a hybrid of plotting and pantsing because while I have a general idea of the over all plot and storyline, there are always bits and pieces throughout the writing process that come to me unexpectedly. This helps me craft more twists and turns in the novel. I’ve definitely second-guessed myself. But usually, beta readers either reassure me or help me make it better.
Christina: You’ve been a part of Women’s Fiction Writers Association (WFWA) as their social media coordinator since 2014 and admit that you’re “addicted to social media.” For the rest of us, those who can’t seem to get our minds wrapped around the beast that is social media, do you have some tips? How can we get more comfortable with social media? How can we feel like we’re making at least some baby steps? And what platform do you think is the easiest to learn?
Maggie: The best advice I can give is to pick one platform and stick with it. Put your effort and marketing into one place that you know you will work on. The biggest thing with social media is the effort put forward. Consistent, relevant posting is the best way to grow your audience. Social media is really about getting out what you put in. If you want others to interact with you, you need to make the effort to interact with them. Creating these social relationships is how you will find your platform begins to grow. It can be a slow process so don’t get discouraged. Any presence is a presence! My preferred platform is Instagram as I find it is a great way to connect with other writers and readers. Depending on your genre of choice and audience, you may find a certain platform is the better option to put your efforts into.
Christina: Along with a love of writing, you love sewing and knitting. Do you see any parallels between these creative pursuits and writing? Have sewing and knitting informed your writing? What’s the greatest lesson you’ve learned from sewing and knitting?
Maggie: I’m not sure about parallels but they’ve definitely been good outlets for when I need a break from the writing game but still want to pursue something creative. Plus there is a serious sense of joy when you get to wear something you made (especially when someone asks where you got it from!). The greatest lesson I have learned from these activities is patience and that I don’t have to be perfect for something to work out.
Christina: I have to ask about your dog, Bella! How long have you had her? Does she inspire your writing? Is she a good office companion? What’s the greatest lesson you’ve learned from her?
Maggie: Oh thank you! This is probably one of my favourite topics to discuss. Bella is a bullmastiff/plott hound mix. She’s about 85 pounds of cuddles and love. I’ve had her for almost six years now. Which is hard to believe. So she’s seen a ton of my ups and downs with writing. She’s the BEST office companion, but she often wants to be on my lap, which complicates the typing process. I ended up getting her a nice pink couch to call her own when she wants to spend time with me in the office. She’s also taught me patience (though I sometimes still lose them), finding joy in the littlest things whether it’s a long walk on a nice day or an afternoon nap in the sun, and to always shower those you love with much affection.
Christina: What does literary success look like to you?
Maggie: For many this is being a best seller (which would be nice!), making good money (also would be nice!), or being one of the big names that get a big tv/movie deal (also, would be nice!) But for me I think my success will be finding people who enjoy my books and want to read more, and continuing to find joy in my daily writing ventures and the process of bringing a new book to the world.
Thanks to Maggie for agreeing to this interview! If you know of an author who’d like to be featured in an interview (or you are an author who would like to be featured), feel free to leave a comment or email me via my contact page.