Maggie Cobbett

I live on the edge of the Yorkshire Dales and write in a variety of genres. My books include ‘Shadows of the Past’, a three part saga spanning 60 years in a fictitious French village, ‘Workhouse Orphan’, a historical novel based on the humble origins of a great-uncle and ‘Anyone for Murder?’, one of three collections of short stories. My only non-fiction book to date is ‘Easy Money for Writers & Wannabes’, advice on thinking up and submitting ‘fillers’ to magazines and newspapers

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How long have you been writing for? How much of that time have you spent writing fiction?

I’ve been writing for most of my adult life, with fiction being my first love and occupying around 75% of my writing output. Many of my short stories have won competitions and/or appeared in magazines.

What’s the average word count for the books you write and how long does it take you to write your average book?

Word count varies depending on the subject matter. ‘Shadows of the Past’ is 130 000 words +, as befits a saga. The other books are very much shorter.

How much do you research for a book before you start writing?

A great deal. ‘Shadows of the Past’. particularly the section dealing with WW2 and the German occupation, required extensive research. Much of this I did in France, visiting/revisiting locations, interviewing local people and making use of museum archives. ‘Workhouse Orphan’ took me to Ripon Workhouse Museum, Beamish Museum and the National Coal Mining Museum for England.

What do you find most difficult about writing a book?

Knowing when to stop.

Which of your books was the most difficult to write and why?

‘Workhouse Orphan’ because of the family connection and emotions stirred. I wrote much of it with tears in my eyes.

Would you publish with a traditional publisher if they contacted you? Why?

I’d certainly consider it to widen my experience and, potentially, my readership.

How many unfinished or unpublished works do you have?

Nothing major but quite a few fragments that I’d like to build on one day.

Writing can be a lonely job. Do you take any special steps to ensure you remain part of the world?

I belong to Ripon Writers’ Group, York Writers, Promoting Yorkshire Authors and go to as many literary events as possible. Since 2006 I’ve attended the Writers’ Summer School (Swanwick) every year.

Do you read your reviews? How do you deal with bad ones?

I’m always very grateful for reviews, even the less favourable ones, because they can add verisimilitude to the others. Reviews show that readers have really engaged with the book.

Do you plot your stories in great detail before starting to write, or fly by the seat of your pants?

I’m more of a pantster than a plotter and love it when my characters take on a life of their own.

Of all the characters in your stories, which is your favourite?

Jean-Claude in ‘Shadows of the Past’, because he’s based on someone who was very dear to me.

What advice would you give to a new author?

Stick at it. Successful writers are those who’ve never given up.

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