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Friday, July 18, 2014

From Scotland to Australia... Author Maggie Christensen

Aussie authors are taking the world by storm (due in no small part to the work of Romance Writers of Australia). I love showcasing my fellow Australians... and of course I also love the fact that although we all call ourselves Australian, we come from such divergent backgrounds. This is Australia in the 21st century.

Today's guest, MAGGIE CHRISTENSEN, came from chilly Scotland to the warmer climes of Queensland where she now lives.

Born and brought up in Scotland, and attracted by advertisements to ‘Come and Teach in the Sun’, Maggie Christensen emigrated to Australia in her twenties to teach in primary schools in Sydney. She now lives with her husband of almost thirty years near Peregian Beach on the Sunshine Coast of Queensland. She loves walking on the deserted beach in the early mornings and having coffee by the Noosa River on weekends. After spending many years in teaching, lecturing and education management, where she wrote course materials and reports, Maggie began writing the sort of books she enjoys reading, books about women in their prime, their issues and relationships. Now her days are spent surrounded by books, either reading or writing them – her idea of heaven! She continues her love of books as a volunteer with Friends of Noosaville Library where she helps organise author talks and selects and delivers books to the housebound.  Visit Maggie at her WEBSITE

Maggie is offering three copies of her latest book in a Goodreads Giveaway. You can enter directly from the links on this page.

Maggie, I recently enjoyed a cup of tea on your blog, Café Cala and I am delighted to reciprocate. What is your preference in the way of tea?

Thanks so much for inviting me to tea, Alison. I’d love a cup of liquorice tea if you have any. Failing that, Earl Grey would be lovely. (AS:  Earl Grey... sigh!)

You moved from Scotland to Australia at a time when Australia was actively recruiting young teachers from the British Isles to teach in Australian Schools. I’m not sure if you have ever seen the movie “Wake in Fright”, but I would really like to know more about why you chose to make the move to Australia and what you found when you got here?

I have seen the movie and, fortunately my experience was nothing like that! I had the travel bug so after teaching for three years in Scotland I decided to look for teaching position overseas. The options were US, Army schools in Germany or Australia. I didn’t want to go to the US – strange, as I subsequently married an American, the Army schools required a three year commitment while I could come to Australia for only two years. Also I had a great aunt who married an Australian soldier during the First World War and grew up with stories of mad Australian soldiers who visited my family during the Second World War. It sounded like an exciting place.

When I arrived I stayed in an immigrant hostel in Marrickville (central Sydney) for two weeks with other single teachers before finding my own accommodation. After a two week orientation to teaching in New South Wales, I was sent to the outer western suburbs, a long train trip from where I was living. I wasn’t impressed.

This is me with the first class I taught in Australia – note the class size and the fashion! (AS:  Love the skirt... but you look so YOUNG!)

After two years of working in State schools I moved into the private school system which I found much more to my liking and more similar to the schools I had taught in back in Scotland.

I loved the Australian weather from the start and spent the first few years feeling I was on a perpetual holiday.

How did you move from Primary teaching to University level teaching?

My school principal encouraged me to engage in further study, but this led me to a situation in which the school couldn’t afford my qualifications. I moved to teach in a parent co-operative school (a wonderful experience) then to become a tutor in a private college of teacher education. When I was part-way through my Master’s degree I was successful in gaining a position at Goulburn Teacher’s College, which was subsumed into Riverina Murray College of Advanced Education, which became Charles Sturt University. It had always been a dream of mine to be involved in teacher education and I loved teaching at the tertiary level.

You are married to a man from Santa Barbara… how did the two of you meet?

Jim and I met when I moved to teach at Riverina. I had fought against the move, trying to find a position in Sydney instead. But when I moved, there he was. He had emigrated there some years earlier.  He invited me to dinner on my first day in the office and – as he often tells people – I haven’t gone home yet! My advice to everyone is – seize every opportunity as you never know what it might lead to.

What (or who) was the biggest influence in starting your writing career?

I have always wanted to write fiction but became caught up in the demands of my day job where I was involved in writing course materials, reports, submissions and academic papers. I initially tried to write about younger heroines, but when I began to read Liz Byrski, Anna Jacob’s contemporary novels, Joanne Trollop, and Marcia Willett, I realised the books I wanted to write were the ones I enjoyed reading – books about women like myself who had experienced more of life’s challenges. I began writing these books when I was facing a redundancy like the heroine in my next book, The Sand Dollar.

As a hybrid writer (traditional and indie published) myself, I am interested in why you chose to go the self publishing/indie route and how you have found the experience?

Initially I attempted to go down the traditional route contacting agents and publishers, but found my writing didn’t suit their lists. I suspect it was because my heroines are older women. So I decided to self-publish and began my research. In the process I have found a wonderful editor, and cover designer and formatter, both of whom live in England. I really believe this makes communication easier as I can send off an email in the evening and waken to find their reply in my inbox. I have also built up a good relationship with our local bookshop owner, where I am having my formal launch at the end of this month. I like the control self-publishing gives me, although I sometimes think it would be useful to have the marketing arm of a publisher behind me. I know there is a market out there for my books – it’s a challenge, as an indie author, finding the best way to tap into it.
(AS:  I agree that indie publishing opens up options for those of us who don't fit neatly into the "boxes" dictated by the mainstream publishers.  You are also lucky to have a good relationship with your local bookshop...That has not been my experience.)

Your debut novel Band of Gold is a contemporary story set in Australia. What was the premise behind this story?

The book focuses on the situation faced by Anna when her husband of twenty five years leaves her on Christmas morning. It follows her life through the next year as she attempts to leave the past behind and forge a new life for herself. Some years ago I heard of a woman to whom this happened and it stuck in my mind. When I stared writing I began to wonder what might happen next, and Anna and Marcus came into being.


Anna Hollis believes she has a happy marriage. A schoolteacher in Sydney, Anna juggles her busy life with a daughter in the throes of first love and increasingly demanding aging parents.

When Anna’s husband of twenty-five years leaves her, on Christmas morning, without warning or explanation, her safe and secure world collapses.
Marcus King returns to Australia from the USA, leaving behind a broken marriage and a young son.
When he takes up the position of Headmaster at Anna’s school, they form a fragile friendship through their mutual hurt and loneliness.

Can Anna leave the past behind and make a new life for herself, and does Marcus have a part to play in her future?
·      Buy links for the book


I begin to run. If I can run fast enough maybe I can forget, forget that my husband has abandoned me, that, at the ripe old age of forty-seven, I’ve become a statistic, an abandoned wife, a single mother.

By the time I stop, the beach has become deserted. It’s too early for the evening parties and too late for the family gatherings. I gaze along the sand, deploring the debris my fellow humans have left behind and begin the run back. Halfway there, the memory of Sean’s face at the breakfast table rears up again and I slow to a halt and drop to my knees in despair, tears once again streaming down my cheeks.

‘Are you all right?’ The voice comes from somewhere above my head. I look up into a pair of concerned brown eyes framed by black-rimmed spectacles. Floppy brown hair is falling over the lenses and, as I look, a hand pushes back an errant lock.

‘Are you all right?’ the voice repeats. ‘Is there anything I can do?’

I rise slowly, gulping back the tears, embarrassed to have been caught in such a state. ‘I’ll be right, thanks.’ I brush the sand from my knees and I wish I could brush away his presence as easily. ‘Really,’ I assure my prospective rescuer, and run on, feeling his eyes boring into my back as the distance between us lengthens. 



    Goodreads Book Giveaway
        Band of Gold by Maggie Christensen

          Band of Gold

          by Maggie Christensen
            Giveaway ends July 31, 2014.
            See the giveaway details
            at Goodreads.
       Enter to win