What would you be doing right now if you were not an author?
OK, right off the bat I have to tell you how honest I am. I cannot make things up, yet I write fiction which is all made up. But when it comes to stuff about me, I just . . . tell the truth.
I don’t have a pen name, I use my own photo on web sites and forums, and freely admit that I’m older than dirt. So, given all this … what would I be doing if I wasn’t writing? I’d like to say I’d be cleaning closets and swamping out my bathroom but that would be a lie. Mostly likely, I’d be daydreaming about skiing in the Alps, riding an Olympic dressage horse, or flying a fighter jet.
Five years ago, what were you doing?
I was all excited about flying to London for the launch of my debut women’s fiction, Beachcombing, published by Macmillan (June, 2009). I grew up in England, so this was going home … in grand style … as a published novelist. My friends and family made a big fuss over me; I swanned around bookshops and libraries and pretended to be a famous author. I wasn’t, but I had fun anyway.
Do you have a certain writing ritual?
No. I write when the muse (or whatever) strikes. Some days I manage a whole bunch of words; other days, I get nothing written down. Normally, I need perfect quiet at home, but sometimes I can write a whole load of great stuff while in my daughter’s busy kitchen with teenage kids and their friends (and dogs and cats) rushing around, to say nothing of the ducks, chickens, and horses outside that require feeding and attention.
What has been the toughest criticism given to you as an author?
As a Brit and an author of women’s fiction, I admire Joanna Trollope’s books. About eight years ago I wrote to her (snail mail, to the UK) and asked her to take a look at the first chapter of the novel I was working on. A month later, she wrote back with an honest review.
But it wasn’t the review I’d hoped for. With grace and gentleness, she shredded my work, and she was absolutely right. I learned a lot, and I am very thankful for it.
Ever fangirled another author? Who was it?
Jeanne Ray, author of Julie and Romeo that I found at my library and fell in love with. I then dug up Jeanne’s phone number on the Internet and called. Her husband answered the phone, took a message, and Jeanne called me back. We have become good friends. She stayed with me several years ago while on a book tour in my neck of the woods. Her daughter is Ann Patchett, author of Bel Canto and owner of Parnassus Books in Nashville, Tennessee.
Is there an author you’d like to meet?
Yes, and does it count that I already met him? If so, it’s Bill Bryson who never fails to make me laugh. We connected at a local indie bookstore’s event. He’s just as charming in person as he is in print. I’d also love to meet Lee Child.
Biggest writing pet peeve.
Oh boy, this one’s a biggie and it’s GEOGRAPHY. I’m one of those awful readers who keeps an atlas by her side so that whenever an author cites a real place, I’m on it, immediately. Get the directions wrong, the orientation to other places, and out the window your book goes. If, on the other hand, the author creates a fictitious town, I’m fine with it.
But … much as I adore Stephen King, I wanted to slam him for the awful map in UNDER THE DOME. I hope it was his publisher who messed it up, not him, because it didn’t work, no matter how carefully I followed the roads and paths and directions his characters took in the story. The map failed. Big time.
Do you read other’s reviews of your books?
Yes, I read all of them. The five stars are a big high. They can make one jump off the couch and twirl around like a crazy person. The others make you think, and while I might not agree with everything, there is something to be learned in all of them.
Green … no red. OK, green and red, but let’s make that a delicate shade of pink and a sage green and … oh, heck. I love all colors. I’m a gardener and quilter and I have more flowers and fabric than anyone needs.
Fictional character you’d like to spend the day with
The Cat in the Hat, Lilly from Kevin Henke’s Lilly’s Plastic Purse (I’m a big fan of picture books), and Elephant and Piggy by Mo Willems.
Curry … and sausage rolls, but not necessarily together (British comfort food).
Favorite song and/or singer
Anything by Steely Dan, but in particular, Deacon Blues.
This one’s easy. I love reading Lee Child’s Jack Reacher books, but I rarely admit it. Oops, I guess my secret is out. I’ll have to find another.
A time travel adventure for MG/tween readers (and older ones seem to be enjoying it, too!)
Two girls from two different centuries and the horse that brings them together.
Teenage equestrian Samantha DeVries wants to be the first African American to ride in the Olympics. Her father, a successful trainer, pushes Sam to excel, while Sam’s academic mother tries to instill a sense of heritage in her headstrong daughter who’d rather be riding horses than studying history. But Sam’s beliefs and her carefully constructed world shatter like a jelly jar when she travels through a time portal and lands in the canopy bed of an 1860s Southern belle.
Even more surprised by Sam’s unexpected arrival is Caroline Chandler. She’s a tomboy who wears breeches beneath her crinoline and rides horses bareback, much to the dismay of her critical mother.
But neither girl has time to fret over petticoats and prejudice. The Civil War is raging, and soldiers from both sides are stealing horses. At risk is Pandora, Caroline’s beloved mare. Without her, Sam’s future Olympic horse, Nugget, might not exist in the present.
Neither will Sam if the slave catchers grab her.
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Buy Links for Turning on a Dime:
Amazon US (ebook and print)
Amazon UK (ebook and print)
B&N (ebook and print)
(Maggie, as a teen, jumping her pony, Smokey, without a saddle!)
MAGGIE DANA’s first riding lesson, at the age of five, was less than wonderful. In fact, she hated it so much, she didn’t try again for another three years. But all it took was the right instructor and the right horse and she was hooked for life.
Her new riding stable was slap bang in the middle of Pinewood Studios, home of England’s movie industry. So while learning to groom horses, clean tack, and muck stalls, Maggie also got to see the stars in action. Some even spoke to her.
In addition to writing books for young horse lovers, Maggie also writes women’s fiction, and her new book, TURNING ON A DIME, is a time travel book for MG/tween readers about horses, the Civil War, and two girls from two different centuries. Born and raised near London, Maggie now makes her home on the Connecticut shoreline where she divides her time between hanging out with the family's horses and writing her next book in the Timber Ridge Riders series.
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