I am delighted to welcome to Bookish Jottings best-selling Mills and Boon Modern Romance/Harlequin Presents author Maggie Cox for a chat about her wonderful books, romantic fiction and her writing secrets!
Thank you so much for joining me here at Bookish Jottings, Maggie. It’s lovely to have you here. Could you please start by telling us something about yourself and the books you write?
I’ve always been a seeker and have been asking the important questions about life since I was a child. ‘Why are we here? What is the purpose of life? Why do so many people suffer?
I can’t profess to have found the answers but there are some things I’ve learned along the way. For instance, I knew from early on that life was a challenge and if I didn’t experience the gamut of heartache and pain, then I wouldn’t learn so much and might possibly take things for granted. I don’t want to be a person who isn’t aware. I believe that to be aware is the only way we can experience true compassion. My intention in my stories is always to try and reflect hope, forgiveness and redemption because that’s what I hold in my heart and I hope I’ve gone some way to achieving that.
You’ve written many wonderful category romances for Harlequin Presents. What originally attracted you to series romance and to the Harlequin Presents line in particular?
To be honest, I never aimed for a specific category. All I ever wanted to do was to write stories about falling in love and all the joy and heartache in between but ultimately for them to have a happy ending! It was the editor who bought my first title (Tessa Shapcott) that thought the ‘Modern’ line would be best for me. Having realised it was the perfect fit for my stories and in the USA Harlequin Presents, of course I had to agree!
What are the challenges of writing books for Harlequin Presents?
It’s funny, but it’s not coming up with the ideas! Life is full of inspiration and it’s just about honing in initially on a kernel of an idea. I might get it from an article I read in a newspaper or magazine or the lyrics of a song I’ve heard that speaks to my emotions. It might even be a conversation I overheard in the coffee shop I frequent. For example, imagining why a particular well-dressed young couple I’ve spotted keep on arguing!
That’s where a vivid imagination comes in handy. The main challenge is to keep the topics as current as I can and to write about a situation that will appeal. But to also make readers wonder how the Hero and Heroine in the story will resolve any difficulties that come up. One thing is guaranteed. There’ll definitely be lots of twists and turns along the way but isn’t that true of all relationships?
Harlequin Presents is the best-selling category romance line in the world. What do you think accounts for its success?
I think that people are fascinated by romantic relationships and in their heart of hearts fantasise about being the heroine or hero of the stories they love. I think the romances at their best, give people hope that if their own relationship isn’t idyllic (or they don’t have one yet) then perhaps there’s something they can learn that will help them to achieve that. I think that we all hope for a better world and one of my favourite pieces of advice is from Gandhi when he said ‘Be the Peace you want in the world’. That is, don’t look for peace outside because all peace comes from within. If you have hate in your heart then that’s what you’re likely to attract… not love!
Your latest book, Required to Wear the Tycoon’s Ring, has just been published. What inspired this book?
I live in Kent which is considered to be ‘The Garden of England and there is a lot of beautiful scenery to enjoy and be inspired by. Along with this, there are many beautiful houses of historical note that can’t help but lend themselves to the imagination. First of all I think about the main characters. In this particular story I asked myself, what if the hero didn’t just inherit a very grand house by dint of his family connections, but decided to buy it because he had become rich after a childhood of poverty and his past love had come from the wealthy family that once lived there. But her father had despised him as not being ‘good enough’ for her. The girl he loved and her autocratic father have long since died and our hero decides to somehow ‘right the wrongs of his past’ by purchasing the house. One day when he is looking over the property, he sees a young woman staring interestedly through the gates and that’s where my story begins….
How would you sum up Required to Wear the Tycoon’s Ring in a single sentence?
True love doesn’t happen just once in a lifetime!
What is Required to Wear the Tycoon’s Ring about?
It is about second chances and that second chance becoming the love of your life that you never looked for. My hero believed he would never love again after he lost his first love but thankfully, life showed him that it had other ideas!
Any advice for aspiring writers?
Let your heart guide you as to what you want to write about and get to know intimately the feelings that drive that impulse. So intimately do you know them, that you can almost taste them! Don’t be dictated by what you think will earn you the most money or what subjects will make you popular. It can’t just be about what things look like. It has to be more important than that. Always write because you can’t imagine doing anything else. That drive will percolate into your stories and make them ones that not only you will treasure but your readers will too.
Who are your favourite authors?
Juliet Marillier and Winston Graham. Juliet Marillier for her Seven Waters trilogy and for everything else she has ever written! Her storytelling is nothing less than sublime. They’re full of great passion and the power of love to heal and transform as well as bringing to readers scenes that make you wish you were there, they are so evocative. I think the genre of fantasy really opens the doors to examining the ‘fairy tales’ that we grew up with and teaches us that wisdom is ageless and timeless and not just for the princes and princesses of the world!
I read the first ‘Poldark’ novel by Winston Graham and was so bowled over by it that I went straight out and bought the rest of them. I have never read a male author that knew the intricacies of the female heart so well that he makes every response and nuance seem so utterly natural. He also writes great male heroes. Not least, Ross Poldark himself.
What’s next for Maggie Cox?
I’ve always wanted to write a full-length fantasy novel but it’s a little bit daunting when there are terrific authors of the calibre of Julier Marillier around! However, she always inspires me to return to that desire and write a fantasy novel of my own. I wrote to her once expressing my feelings and to thank her for the amazing work she’s created. To my surprise she answered my letter and sent me some priceless advice. Her generosity of spirit is amazing. I will always treasure that advice and keep her letter. As to what else is next for me, I honestly don’t know! I’ve learnt that the future is unknowable and that things rarely go to plan. But the important thing is to stay open to possibilities and not get too fixed about outcomes. The most important thing of all I’d say is to just try and enjoy your life and take pleasure in the small things as well as the big! It’s the small things that often turn out to be the most valuable….