MAGGIE JAMES: What I did at 50

I’m delighted to welcome author Maggie James on my blog today, as part of my ‘What I did at 50’ series. If you have ever wished to undertake a travelling adventure, this read will interest you!

Maggie James

Maggie James

Tracey: Welcome, Maggie! Tell us your story.

Maggie: Thank you. Ever since I was a little girl, all I’ve ever wanted to do was to write novels. When the time came to seek my first job, however, I went into accountancy. As a young adult I lacked confidence and earning my living through writing fiction seemed impossible. In contrast, accountancy was a secure, well-paid profession. It didn’t appeal, but I’m comfortable with figures and so I entered the world of finance, where I stayed for nearly three decades.

My writing ambitions got buried under the realities of life: relationships, travel, a mortgage and the like. Time slipped by; I’d not written anything since my teenage years.

The dream never left me, though. I still intended to write a novel – someday. That day kept moving forward, always on the horizon but just out of reach. At one stage I even questioned whether it had just been a childish notion, one I should forget.

My answer always came back to one thing. On my deathbed, would I regret not having pursued my dream? The answer was always a resounding YES.

I dipped a toe in the water by penning a short story and was encouraged by the positive response it received online. I wrote some more, each one longer than the last, until my final effort was 27,000 words in length. I then decided to move on to novels. I was still stumped, though, about what to write.

~

Then I had a falling-out with my employers. For a few weeks, I stewed in my anger, until I had an epiphany, realising it could be one of the best things ever to happen to me. Wasn’t this the perfect time to put my novel-writing dreams into action? As well as indulge my lifelong passion for travel? With that in mind, I laid plans. First I’d save as much money as I could. Then I’d hand in my notice, go travelling for a year, and come back with a finished novel.

Maggie James

Happy Traveller: Maggie in Ecuador

And that’s what happened, albeit with a few hiccups along the way. Once abroad, my procrastination continued; three months into my trip, I’d not written a word. However, in Vietnam I engaged in a conversation that sowed the seed of the idea for His Kidnapper’s Shoes. We were discussing what happens to children who go missing, and I said I believed such events rarely had a happy ending. ‘Not so,’ said another traveller. ‘Sometimes kids are stolen to order for people who can’t have their own.’

That got me thinking. How would it feel to discover, as an adult, that you’d been kidnapped as a child? I was fascinated, and knew I’d found my storyline. If only I could quit procrastinating…

Matters came to a head in December 2010 in a small town called Arica in northern Chile.  My frustration was growing that despite all my plans, I still hadn’t written anything. One evening I was browsing the website of an author whose work I very much admired. I discovered she was a prolific writer, despite holding down a full-time job. I felt ashamed. Here was I, complaining about how impossible it was to write while getting on and off buses, planes, etc., and yet this woman was churning out excellent fiction while working. No excuses, just action. I resolved to change my ways. Time to throw procrastination out of the window, and get to grips with writing a novel.

~

I’d heard about a city in Bolivia called Sucre; other travellers were raving about this place. By all accounts it was beautiful and a great place to stay. I made a decision. I’d go there and remain as long as it took until I’d completed my first novel. I’d write every day, without exception, until the first draft was done. Sorted!

…50…

The next day I booked a bus ticket to La Paz, my resolve strong. Something inside me had changed, and this was crunch time. The fact a milestone birthday was approaching strengthened my decision. In four months’ time, I would turn fifty; I couldn’t bear the thought I’d reach that marker without having written a novel.

Sucre turned out every bit as lovely as I’d heard, surrounded by rolling hills and graced with beautiful colonial architecture, its streets filled with locals in colourful attire. I found a cheap hotel and booked myself some Spanish lessons to improve my grasp of the language; I was all set to go.

~

First I made some rough notes in an Excel spreadsheet about each chapter, along with a tab for each character. Then I opened Microsoft Word and set to work, determined to make good on my promise. I wrote every day and kept a tally of my word count; it was both exciting and motivating to see the numbers build up as chapter after chapter was completed. I began His Kidnapper’s Shoes at the end of December 2010 and finished it towards the end of February 2011.

Writing the last sentence proved hugely emotional; I burst into tears, and then went to a local cafe to celebrate.

His Kidnapper's Shoes_cover BLOG

His Kidnapper’s Shoes

BUY His Kidnapper’s Shoes HERE

At the time, Amazon’s Kindle programme was in its infancy, and wasn’t something I knew much about. When I looked into it, however, I liked what I read. Self-publishing appeared to have huge advantages over the traditional route to publication, with no downsides. I was ecstatic, and decided this was the path I’d take.

~

Upon my return to the UK, I self-published the novel, and got to work on writing others. I’ve now completed six novels, a novella and a non-fiction book aimed at would-be writers. I’ve signed publishing contracts for all my full-length fiction, including His Kidnapper’s Shoes, but recently reclaimed my rights to four titles, which now fall under my own imprint.

Nearly nine years have passed since I flew to Thailand to begin a new life, and I’m delighted at how things have turned out.

Fifty is the new thirty!

Tracey: Thanks to Maggie for sharing her story of travel, adventure and writing. Read more about her book, His Kidnapper’s Shoes, below.

His Kidnappers Shoes - Try 2 half size

His Kidnapper’s Shoes: BUY HERE

Blurb:

Daniel is my son. He has always been mine. And he always will be.
On some level deep inside, Laura Bateman knows something is wrong. That her relationship with her son is not what it should be. That it is based on lies.
But bad things have happened to Laura. Things that change a person. Forever.
For twenty-six-year-old Daniel, the discovery that his mother is not who he thought comes close to destroying him. As his world turns upside down, he searches for sanity in the madness that has become his life. Daniel is left with nothing but questions. Why did Laura do something so terrible? Can he move past the demons of his childhood?
And the biggest question of all: can he ever forgive Laura?

Find Maggie on:

Twitter: @mjamesfiction

Web: www.maggiejamesfiction.com

Facebook: Maggie James Fiction

Goodreads: Author Maggie James

The Vagabond Girl

traveller Jacky
On The Road again – Jacqueline Goede

I’ve just completed the third draft of what will become my sixth novel, The Vagabond Mother. The material for this book has been heavily drawn from the young adventurers I’ve been lucky enough to meet and chat to over the past few years. One of them is 21 year-old Jacqueline Goede. She’s had experiences most of us could only dream of. Because she’s gone out there and DONE it! To find out more, read our interview.

Interview with Jacqueline Goede

Tracey: Hi Jacky, thanks for agreeing to take part in an interview for my website. I wanted to talk to you because you’ve lived first-hand some of the experiences of my character in a new novel I’m writing. First – could you tell us a bit about yourself?

Jacky: I’m 21 years old and grew up in Germany but left soon after my high school graduation when I spent all my savings on a round-the-world ticket in 2014. Since then I haven’t really turned back “home”.

Tracey: In my fledgling novel The Vagabond Mother, Maya can hardly lift her rucksack off the ground when she first starts out on her journey. What was it like for you the first time you set out carrying your belongings?

Jacky: My parents who both went backpacking in their youth constantly reminded me to only take things I really need. I was also more and more disgusted with the consumerist lifestyle I had led before, constantly buying new clothes when old cheap ones broke and it was a more than welcome opportunity to really go through my possessions and sort out the important stuff. Consciously making an effort to only get second-hand or fair trade clothes really narrowed it down. It also helped that I originally thought I’d return after one year of travel to start Uni, so I left a few things behind, knowing I could get back to them in a few months’ time. But don’t get me wrong, my backpack WAS heavy and towards the end a total pain in the ass to carry around. 

 Tracey: When was the first time you ever hitchhiked?

Jacky: The first time out of necessity in the countryside of Galway when my best friend and I were a bit lost and wanted to get to a paintball game we had signed up for. But I don’t really count that experience as the first time for some reason. The second timJe I hitched when I wanted to do the Golden Circle in Iceland. I even made a sign back then, something I don’t really do anymore because it seems to be a bit easier to decline people with a “bad” vibe (although I only had to do that twice in my nearly four years of hitchhiking).

Tracey: Do you feel especially vulnerable travelling alone as a woman?

Jacky: I wouldn’t pick vulnerable as the word for this. I feel jealous of my male friends since they seem to be able to do things I don’t really feel comfortable doing simply because I have a vagina and less biceps. I met a lot of guys who’ve slept in city parks and streets or subway lines, something I could probably do as well but chances that I’d maybe get raped or mugged simply because a women seems to  be an easy target, are, I think, quJacky:ite higher for me. Then there’s also the annoying question of other people: “So you travel all on your own? Aren’t you lonely/scared/concerned for your safety?” The quick answer: “Nah, not really.” I trust my gut feeling when it comes to people. What I’ve learned actually though is that there are A LOT of real, genuinely nice and compassionate human beings out there and most of them don’t qualify as serial axe murderers, rapists or thieves.

Tracey: When you first slept ‘in the wild’ on your own, where were you and how did you choose a spot to sleep?

Jacky: Truly in the wild and on my own I camped out in a place called Paradise, Glenorchy on the South Island of New Zealand. I got eaten by sandflies and mozzies, it was next to a beautiful glacial stream in the middle of an enchanted forest (they filmed Lothlorien in the Lord of the Rings trilogy there so imagine that minus elves and hobbits). I just wanted to be alone in the bush so I had hitchhiked there without really knowing where I’d end up. Back in those days I actually carried a hammer (yeah, you’ve read that right) with me everywhere I went. Not too big, not too small, but enough to seriously hurt someone if smashed in the right place. Felt a bit safer than just me, myself and I with a pocket knife. So after crossing that river, which turned out to be quite treacherous in places, and hiking upstream for a while I finally found a flat piece forest clearing with easy water access and simply put my tent up and read for a while with my hammer next to me.

Tracey: Tell us the countries you’ve travelled in.

Jacky: Since I left home I went to Ireland, Iceland, Singapore, Australia, New Zealand, New Caledonia, Japan, Spain, Germany, Switzerland and Morocco. Before that I travelled around France and Scotland quite extensively with my family.

Tracey: What drives you to live a life of – let’s face it – poverty and often deprivation?

Jacky: I like the simplicity and that I constantly have to figure out new ways of getting where I want to be. You have to work with the things you have or find out how to get the ones you need. In addition, the prospects of having an actual pension you can live on when you’re old are quite slim for my generation in Germany. I’ll work until I’m seventy or eighty anyways so why not do it anywhere in the world?
When I was still in school I really didn’t have a lot of faith in the good things in the world. Following the news can be quite depressing at times. But all the random acts of kindness and generosity and love I met along the way, they really restored faith in humanity for me. That’s also one of the reasons I chose this. Good things come to you all the time and you really realise that when you don’t own a lot of things that would distract you from that.

Tracey: In my WIP, Maya adopts the term ‘vagabond’ to describe herself. What description do you prefer? E.g. adventurer, explorer, foot-traveller, tramp, vagabond…

Jacky: It’s really hard to stick a label on myself when it comes to anything. People are never just one thing, you are made up of a bunch of traits that all come together in the grand colourful picture. I may be an adventurer at times but then there’s also weeks where I consider my adventure to be the trip to the grocery store or the beer in the pub when I meet up with my friends after work rather than climbing up some mountain side and nearly losing my shoe during a river crossing. 

Tracey: Which is your favourite country or place out of all those you’ve visited?

Jacky: I’d consider Iceland to be my home and favourite place in many ways, because I have a nice life there, a lot of wilderness to explore and friends that I see as my family. There, I just like to be. After all though, home is just a feeling and I miss my time in New Zealand or even those two weeks in New Caledonia on some days as well.

Tracey: Tell us a funny story about one of your experiences as a hitchhiking traveller.

Jacky: Ufff there’s heaps of them but if I have to choose one, I was once hitchhiking in the middle of nowhere in North Iceland when suddenly this massive red jeep splattered with mud stops next to me. I was trying to get back to Reykjavik that day. The guy rolls down his window and tells me in very broken English over a lot of weird noise coming from the inside of the car that he can only take me to the next intersection. In these cases, when you’re out in the country side on the only road there is, a short distance is better than nothing so I opened the door, put my backpack in and climbed behind it. Turns out in the backseat there’s a big fluffy sheep fastened in the seatbelt, bleating at full force because this obviously is not its preferred mode of transport. Turns out this guy had found his neighbours missing sheep and was going to bring it to him, picking me up along the way because why the hell not?

Tracey: Where do you see yourself in five years’ time?

Jacky: Hard question to answer. I don’t even really know where I will be in a year or next month, really. I want to visit a lot of friends all over the world, trek through South America or the Pacific Northwest or even to Everest Base Camp but who knows where I’ll end up J Really I just hope to still be happy with whatever path future me has chosen.

Tracey: Thank you so much for answering these questions for us. I’m really looking forward to weaving some of your responses into my next draft of The Vagabond Mother.

Here are some of Jacky’s amazing photos, taken on her travels

vista with Jacky

See more of Jacky’s photos on Instagram