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Write On! Interviews: Author Maggie Freeman

Write On! interviews author Maggie Freeman

Maggie says: “I used to teach Creative Writing and allied subjects in Adult Community Learning in Essex, but when we moved to Chingford about five years ago, I retired, with all the best of writing intentions, of course! But sometimes life gets in the way of doing what you’ve planned, and it’s only five years later that I’m self-publishing The Wives Of King Canute. I decided to try the self-publishing route because I’ve had a total of five agents, none of whom have sold any of my work! Indigo Dreams, the poetry publishers, in 2012 published my Tudor Essex novel Cymberie, now retitled The Girl In The Great House, available on Kindle with Lume Books, together with two later novels.

I belong to Forest Poets in Walthamstow, and I find that’s really helpful in motivating me to write and giving me helpful criticism. I’ve had more poems published in magazines recently. A friend and I have just started a poetry workshop in Chingford; it’s a bit early yet to discover if that will work out.

WO: How would you describe your writing to someone new to it?

MF: Though I began by writing for children, I write novels and poems now. In novels, I aim to create a convincing fictional world, the most important element of which is the characters. They’re always what makes me want to read on when I’m reading. As well, I love the sound and rhythm of words, so I’m conscious of the musicality of what I’m writing. And obviously the plot needs to be interesting.

WO: Can you tell us a bit about your latest book, The Wives Of King Canute?

MF: It’s England in the early 1000s. The country is under attack by Viking raiders. Viking Canute marries Elfgifu, daughter of a Northern noble, to win the military support of her kinsmen. But once Ethelred, the English king, is dead, Canute marries Ethelred’s widow Emma, sister of the Duke of Normandy, in a bid to bring peace to the country. The two women fight for the English throne for each of their sons in this novel of passion, power and bloody revenge.

WO: What inspired you to write in the first place, and what inspires you now?

MF: I’ve written since I was seven years old. My father managed a coconut estate in Tobago, so mine was a quiet and isolated childhood, certainly to begin with. This is a common background for a writer; one that allows time for the imagination to develop. Mrs Alexander came to give lessons to my friend Anne and me among the pillars under our house, and she really encouraged my story-writing. It was so strange to go back to the island years later and be reintroduced to her at church; she was tiny, whereas my recollection – from a child’s perspective, of course  – is that she was a giant!

My English grammar school was not encouraging about creative writing. Though I can remember being told off for chattering to a friend in a science lesson and having to write an essay on ‘being sensible.’ I wrote about monsters coming round the door…

I took to making up stories more seriously when my own sons were little; it was fun and a shared experience. I had two children’s books published by mainstream publishers, and went on to write  educational books for primary school age children. When I began writing poetry it was going to a poetry workshop and, again, sharing the writing experience, that appealed to me. As well as loving the music of words – making up for being tone deaf, maybe!

What inspires me now: that’s difficult to answer. As I’ve got older, I guess my writing is increasingly about trying to understand life, trying to make sense of it. So one of the themes in my current novel, The Wives Of King Canute is pacifism; the old idea of women being ‘peace-weavers’. Not a theme you’d necessarily expect in a Viking novel. Setting a novel in the past gave me a great deal of freedom to use my imagination, though I did do lots of research as well, which I enjoyed.

What next? I have the first drafts of two novels, which I’m being nagged to sort out. But I’m also itching to get on with something new.  

WO: A previous  Write On! theme explored ‘Realities And Perspectives’. With that in mind, we have two questions for you. Do you always write realistically, or aim for alternative realities? Can you always confidently write from someone else’s perspective?

MF: I write with psychological realism to the best of my ability. I want my characters to be ‘true’ and  my settings to feel convincing and ‘real’. But I think any historical novel is, to some extent, portraying an alternative reality. The writer’s job is to make that imaginary world believable.

I nearly always write from someone else’s perspective. I usually have to search to understand a character’s point of view, their perspective in the story. They aren’t the same as me. At the start of writing a novel, while I’m hunting around for my characters’ voices, I’m unlikely to be confident, but I hope to find them as I write.

WO: What one piece of advice would you give an aspiring writer?

MF: Enjoy writing! It’s fun.

WO: Question from Twitter user: @grasshopper2407 Does the place you write have any great effect on your process?

MF: Yes. I’m happiest when I’m somewhere quiet. I find that’s when  it’s easiest to imagine my characters’ world. But I like writing on train journeys, too. It’s something about having people around, without them making demands on me. I tend to write in longhand and then type up what I’ve written, which acts as a preliminary editing process.

WO: Can you tell us anything about future projects?

MF: All I know at the moment is that it’ll be a novel with a forge in it. And it’ll be an adaptation of a folk tale. But I don’t yet know which one.

WO: Lastly, if you could choose one fictional animal/creature to be a pet or companion, who would it be and why?

MF: I’ve thought hard about this. I think maybe a dragon, which could take me on long flights to faraway and fantasy lands. And it would be handy for lighting fires on which to cook an evening meal, and big enough for me to curl up and fall asleep inside the curve of, protecting me from wintry winds.

You can find out more about Maggie Freeman on

The Wives Of King Canute is available to buy from Amazon and will be free on Kindle from 23-25 February 2024.




Issue 19 of Write On! is out now and you can read it online here. Find it in libraries and other outlets. You can find previous editions of our magazines here

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I love the sound and rhythm of words, so I’m conscious of the musicality of what I’m writing.