Author Spotlight: Maggie Christensen
Describe yourself in one word:
What is your background with regard to writing?
I wrote a little when I was younger and loved writing ‘compositions’ in school. Then, when I entered the workforce I became caught up first with lesson planning, then course materials, reports, submissions and conference papers. The publishing I did then was in academic journals.
When did you first begin writing with a view of embarking on a career as a published author?
It wasn’t until I was close to retirement that I began writing fiction and had the urge to become a published author. I began a correspondence course on writing and completed an online course in Creative Writing and discovered that I hated writing short stories. This led me to begin writing novels.
Tell us a little more about The Sand Dollar:
Jenny is a widow of many years with a two grown children, several grandchildren and a successful career in senior management when, due to a restructure, she finds herself facing a redundancy. When she finds a sand dollar at the back of a drawer, it reminds her of magical visits to her godmother on the Oregon coast when she found the sand dollar on the beach, and she decides to visit her godmother. While in Oregon, she makes a discovery about her birth that sends her on a journey of discovery. Her godmother’s neighbour, a reclusive widower also plays a part in her search for identity and there are a number of twists and turns before Jenny finally finds resolution.
The Sand Dollar tackles some emotion-charged topics, with central character Jenny Sullivan uncovering the secret of her adoption at birth and her Native American heritage. This leads Jenny on a whirlwind journey of self-discovery that spans the United States and Australia. What sparked the concept for Jenny’s story and were the biggest challenges in writing it?
I began Jenny’s story when, like her, I was facing a redundancy, but the similarity ends there. My mother-in-law lived in Florence, Oregon, where The Sand Dollar is set, and on one of our many trips there, we visited a house in Seal Rock and the idea was born. My husband has Native American heritage so I decided to include that aspect of Jenny’s background and I was able to use my own background in universities to flesh our Mike’s background. The biggest challenge was in putting sufficient emotion into Jenny’s character. I’m a pretty controlled person myself and I guess at first I wanted to portray her in that way too. I’m grateful to my writing group and editor for their help in this regard.
What one character trait will most endear Jenny to your readers?
Hopefully her determination to do something for her parents.
What do you want readers to know about the romance genre?
Whatever the age, all women need a HEA
If you weren’t writing, what would you be doing?
More reading, skinny caps by the river and breakfasts by the beach!
What’s next for you?
I’m currently editing The Dreamcatcher which is the sequel to The Sand Dollar and tells Ellen’s story. Ellen is a Native American who owns a bookshop and is introduced to the reader in The Sand Dollar. I’m also writing a sequel to Band of Gold which is Jan’s story. Jan is the sister of my Band of Gold heroine, Anna. I plan to release both next year.
What book is currently on your nightstand?
The Great Plains. I just heard Nicole Alexander speak about it at Kawana and am looking forward to reading it.
What advice would you give your 16-year-old self?
Start writing fiction earlier.
It’s almost Christmas (yes, already!), tell us: what are you hoping to find under the tree this year?
Pile of books by some of my favourite authors – Di Morrissey, Elizabeth George, Caro Fraser, Susan Hill, Erica James… the list could go on and on.
Favourite Christmas recipe?
A Cashew and Chestnut Roast which I also make for Thanksgiving. I get the recipe a few years ago from an old school friend and it’s become a family favourite.
2tbsp olive oil 2 finely chopped onions 4 cloves garlic crushed 1tsp each rosemary & thyme
11/4 cups cashews ground 5 carrots, cooked and mashed
¾ cup whole wheat bread crumbs 1 bouillon cube dissolved in ¾ cup hot water
3 tbsp water 1 cup chestnut puree
Cook onions, garlic and herbs in the oil till onions are soft. Transfer to a bowl and add cashews, mashed carrots bread crumbs and bouillon.
In a small bowl, whisk flour and water to a smooth paste and add to the cashew mixture.
Blend salt and chestnuts or chestnut puree in a food processor till well mixed.
Grease an 8”x4” loaf pan. Spoon half the cashew mixture into the pan, spread the chestnut mix on top, keeping it away from the sides, and add the rest of the cashew mixture.
Bake at 350 degrees for 45 mins or until loaf is crisp on the outside. Allow to cool 15 mins in the pan before serving.
Favourite Christmas tradition?
Champagne with mangoes for Christmas breakfast while opening presents.
Share with us your biggest New Years Resolution for 2015:
Publish two books and write two more – third in The Oregon Coast Series and sequel to current wip.
Favourite travel experience?
Several years ago my husband planned a trip to the US which included visits to all of his favourite places – many of which have found their way into my books. We flew to LA and drove up the coast through San Francisco, stopping at Carmel to visit Clint Eastwood’s hotel and take a walking tour of the town, including trip through Doris Day’s hotel which caters for dogs and their owners. We then went to Yosemite and stayed at the lodge, in a neat little cabin, on to Crater Lake where again we stayed in the lodge (which features in The Sand Dollar), up to Florence, Oregon to visit my mother-in-law, then further north to take the ferry to Vancouver Island, where we walked along the foreshore and visited The Butchart Gardens (which feature in The Dreamcatcher). We did it all in a month and it was a wonderful and memorable trip.
Number one thing to do on your bucket list:
To visit Denmark and other parts of Scandinavia
Milk, dark or white chocolate? Milk especially Guylian and/or Ferrero Rocher
Red, white, bubbly? Depends on the occasion, but probably bubbly.
About the Author:
Born and brought up in Scotland, and attracted by advertisements to ‘Come and Teach in the Sun’, Maggie Christensen immigrated 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.
The Sand Dollar
What if you discover everything you believed to be true about yourself has been a lie?
Stunned by news of an impending redundancy, and impelled by the magic of a long-forgotten sand dollar, widow Jenny Sullivan retreats to her godmother in Oregon to consider her future.
What she doesn’t bargain for is to uncover the secret of her adoption at birth and her Native American heritage. This revelation sees her embark on a journey of self-discovery such as she’d never envisaged.
Moving between Australia’s Sunshine Coast and the Oregon Coast, The Sand Dollar is a story of new beginnings, of a woman whose life is suddenly turned upside down, and the reclusive man who helps her solve the puzzle of her past.