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Author Interview: Maggie McIntyre Chats about Olivia’s Pirate

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Get ready to learn more about the book Olivia’s Pirate in this discussion with sapphic author Maggie McIntyre.

Join us for an exclusive peek behind the scenes as we quiz Maggie McIntyre about Olivia’s Pirate, writing, reading, and more.

This book is part of the Long-Distance Relationship category in the 2024 IHS Reading Challenge.

Why did you write Olivia’s Pirate?

The true story of Grace O’Malley a notorious pirate queen who dominated the west Irish coastline in the late 16th century needs to be more widely known. A contemporary of Queen Elizabeth 1, she sailed around the coast of Ireland and England to visit her at Greenwich on the Thames to plead for her sons’ release from prison. But rather than tell her story, my novel focuses on a fictional descendant’s daughter who comes to London seeking a publisher for her mother’s book all about Grace. Olivia, a publisher, is taken aback by the appearance of the eccentric young Irish woman, Niamh, in her London office. They are drawn together, despite a complete contrast in their lives and experiences, but face stormy seas as their relationship deepens. This novel echoes my deep love for the Irish people and countryside and was informed by a visit to Westport, the ancestral home of the O’Malley family.

Who is your favorite character in the book?

Niamh Fitzgerald is my favorite young heroine in the book. She lives in a draughty medieval castle on the wild Atlantic Way, caring for her ninety-year-old grandmother on a tiny income, and has had to give up a promising career as an art historian. Her only passion is for her stunning white horse, and she has little experience of life beyond Ireland. We don’t have much in common, except that I studied Art History, have a passion for horses, and have an equally appalling dress sense. Niamh is so lovely, I am sure she will turn up in a future book before long.

What was the biggest challenge writing this book?

I tend to veer towards age-gap and ice-queen scenarios. The biggest challenge is to show the transformation throughout the novel, as the ice-melts and the older woman deals with her sometimes unwelcome feelings and buried emotions. It takes sensitive writing to deal with this realistically, but also retain the magic of falling in love at any age.

What part of Olivia’s Pirate was the most fun to write?

I enjoyed writing about the chaotic family life that Olivia has to cope with at home, caring for her late sister’s five children while their father goes off to Antarctica on an expedition.

How much research did you need to do for Olivia’s Pirate?

I read all I could find on the history of Ireland in the 16th century, and spent some time based in Galway and Sligo, absorbing more of a feel of contemporary Ireland and the landscape where Niamh lives.

If you’re planning a sequel, can you share a tiny bit about your plans for it?

Olivia’s old friend Fenella, on hearing about Olivia’s new-found happiness on coming out and marrying a woman half her age, comes to ask her advice on her own dilemma, dealing with emotions she has never before encountered. Falling in love is not for the faint-hearted, and Fenella has taken quite a tumble.

What is your writing process like?

Inspiration for a new story might come from a title which floats down out of the blue, or a character who walks into my mind, hazy at first, but then becoming more and more real as we talk to each other. I have a general idea of the main arch of the book, and the signposts within it, but characters can decide to go another way, and all I can do is scurry behind them, scribbling in my notebook as they do things that may surprise me.

Where do you usually write, and what do you need in your writing space to help you stay focused?

I write in my bedroom which doubles as an office. I need quiet and a sense of peace. I write best in the early dawn between 5 and 8 in the morning, after a cup of tea, and I find opening the window to let in the fresh air and birdsong helps me concentrate. I write on a wide screen at 200% zoom, so I can correct errors easily as I go.

What’s your favorite writing snack or drink?

My morning protein drink consists of 300mls plain yogurt, a small banana, a tbsp of peanut butter, a splash of maple syrup, 2 tbsp of porridge oats, 1tbsp chia seeds, 1 raw egg. 100 grams of blueberries. Whizz up and serve chilled. This power drink will keep you going from dawn to mid-day.

What is the most valuable piece of advice you’ve been given about writing, and by whom?

Be kind to yourself. You’ve done your best. No one cares and the next book will be better.

What has helped or hindered you most when writing a book?

Time!! Like a room of one’s own, you also need uninterrupted hours to write.

What do you do to get inside your character’s heads?

I daydream about them until I know them intimately. I do this especially when at the gym or in the swimming pool.

What author in your genre do you most admire, and why?

Lee Winter set me going and showed me the kind of books I would enjoy writing. I admire her writing and the way her characters develop.

Have you ever cried when writing an emotional scene?

No, I am a pretty tough cookie.

Have you ever fallen in love with one of your characters?

I might have fallen for Isabel Bridgford but I am too old for her. I find strong women characters who take on leadership responsibilities very attractive.

What type of books do you enjoy reading the most?

Honestly, I like contemporary les-fic romances with a strong erotic undercurrent.

Are there any books or authors that inspired you to become a writer?

Charlotte and Emily Bronte, Jane Austen and Colette for her lyricism. I also read everything of May Sarton and Jane Rule.

What books did you grow up reading?

As a young teenager I was very into Colette, and DH Lawrence, and the anonymous author of “Olivia”. Prior to that I read all the pony books of Monica Edwards, Ruby Ferguson, and the BlackStallion series. Monica Edwards taught me how to write realistic dialogue.

What books have you read more than once in your life?

All of the above writers are still on my bookshelf. I also re-read Kipling and Dickens regularly.

Describe your favorite reading spot.

In bed.

Meet Maggie McIntyre

Maggie McIntyre is a Lesfic Bard award-winning novelist whose work includes both contemporary romance and fantasy-historical series. She has a weakness for ice queens and age gap stories, but her works all have a happy ending. She has three series of books available now on Amazon. Isabel and Friends centers around the lives and loves of women who work for a London-based radical aid agency, Behind the Camera delves into the passionate adventures within a Californian Media Company, and High Queens of Hesperia is an epic fantasy saga including a three-way love affair between main characters battling an evil empire.

Maggie lives in Lancashire, England with her extended family, and more than forty chickens. She writes every day when and where she can. You can connect with Maggie through her Facebook “Maggie McIntyre Readers Group.”

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