ShortBookandScribes #PublicationDay #QandA with Maggie Mason, Author of The Halfpenny Girls
I’m delighted to have a Q&A with one of my favourite saga writers to share with you today. Maggie Mason’s new book, The Halfpenny Girls, which is the first in a brand new trilogy, is out today. Happy Publication Day, Maggie! I can’t wait to read this book. My thanks to Francesca Banks of Sphere for sending me a copy and for asking me to do the Q&A.
Down on their luck, all the have left is friendship . . .
It is 1937 and Alice, Edith and Marg continue to face hardships every day, growing up on one of the poorest streets in Blackpool. Penniless, their friendship has helped them survive this far, but it’ll take more than that to see them through the dark days that lie ahead . . .
Alice is coping with a violent father and the weight of the duty she carries to support her family, Marg is left reeling after a dark secret about her birth comes to light and threatens to destroy the life she knows, and Edith is fighting to protect her alcoholic mother from the shame of their neighbours and keep her brother on the straight and narrow.
A chance encounter at the Blackpool Tower Ballroom promises to set their lives on a new path, one filled with love and safety and hope for a brighter future. Will The Halfpenny Girls, who have never known anything but poverty, finally find happiness? And if they do, will it come at a price?
The first in a brand new series from reader favourite Maggie Mason, The Halfpenny Girls is the perfect heart-warming family saga about overcoming hardship and the value of friendship. Perfect for fans of Val Wood, Kitty Neale and Rosie Goodwin.
1. The Halfpenny Girls marks the start of a brand new trilogy. Where did the idea come from for the stories of Alice, Edith and Marg and what can you tell us about them? I’m sure they will be strong and brave women like your other female characters.
The ideas for my novels come from so many different sources – something I read, see, or hear about. Often through my research for another book, and, as this one did, from me using an author’s favourite words ‘What if’.
I love writing about friendships among women and knew this was the theme I wanted. And so, I asked myself – what if I had three girls from Blackpool working in our local historical biscuit factory? What if they all lived in the same street and each had family and poverty issues? What if they were the same age, had played together as toddlers, were schooled together and now worked together and what if, they were a support to each other? From this emerged, Alice, Edith, and Marg.
For Alice the adversity is coping with a father who, after a brain injury is a changed personality. From the loving father she knew as a child, he now has violent outbursts. Alice is trying to hold the family together and care for her three younger brothers.
Edith is coping with an alcoholic mother and a sick father. Her spiteful teenage brother isn’t making life any easier. He is disgruntled with, and embarrassed by, his mother and has followed the wrong path looking for a way to make money and get away.
Marg’s mother suffers asthma and needs a lot of care. Her adorable gran has dementia and often causes Marg heartache by not recognising her. The light of her life is her sister Jackie. Marg is determined Jackie’s life will be different to her own and to this end funds Jackie to attend extra tuition in the hope that being educated will enable her to reach for higher things. This and paying for Gran and her mother to be looked after while she is at work, leads her to often borrow money from her loan-shark, gangster-type uncle who she hates.
These explosive situations are the core of the book. The mix is emotional, volatile and tragic, but the love the girls have for one another, and the laughs they have despite everything bring them through – Marg having a small windfall is a turning point in their lives, but will it be for the better?
2. The books you write as Maggie Mason are centred around Blackpool. What is it about this particular seaside town that draws you to write about it?
I moved to Blackpool in the eighties following a sister, who had bought a rest home here. I love the town and its people – they can truly be described as the salt of the earth.
Now it is a very cosmopolitan town welcoming all but still the true Blackpudlians are at its heart as those who settle here soon find themselves moulded into the same vein of friendliness and community spirit.
My thirty years residency has seen many changes. To quote the famous Charles Dickens – I have seen ‘The best of times and the worst of times.’ And harbour a love of Blackpool, the essence of which I want to capture and immortalise in my novels.
3. You’re a prolific writer, delivering several books each year. I imagine that means you have to be pretty organised and focused. How do you approach your writing and how long do you spend planning before you start?
Focused, yes – organised, Oh, I wish!
I am not known as Daft Mary, for nothing. I can often chase my tail and cause complete chaos and mishaps that have my followers of my FB page falling about with laughter and begging me to write a book of my antics!
But at the heart of everything falling down around me, my focus is always on my writing – I have to get up very early to achieve this though, long before the unsuspecting world awakes, and I can disrupt its harmony – that way, I achieve up to 5000 words a day and write four books a year.
For each one I produce a synopsis-type summary for the publishers to approve the idea, and once accepted, a working map of how the story will develop. Nothing detailed, just a page or two of one-line paragraphs of events I imagine happening, though all can go out of the window once the characters come to life as they dictate their own lives to me. But is a good starting point – it informs me that I have enough material to write the book if the characters fail to guide me how their lives went. – sounds bonkers, but I did warn you!
4. You write under three different names. Do you ever find yourself getting muddled up between your pseudonyms? Do you have a different mindset for each persona?
Sadly, as my workload has increased, hubby’s mobility has slowly decreased, meaning he can no longer take responsibility for all the housework and cooking and shopping. He is now reduced to doing what he can as he dodges my trail of destruction – all meant to be helpful as I take a much bigger part in our care. This has resulted in shortening the time I had to devote to writing activities. Something had to give, and so, it is a long time since all three of me were in operation. Molly Kent – the gangster thriller writer, has had to be shelved for now.
So far though, despite everything I have written suggesting I might, I haven’t yet muddled Maggie, Molly and Mary up. They are all essentially, me. One never goes anywhere without the others. If I am at a Maggie event, then Mary and Molly have a part to play – all be it a bit part, they are showcased.
5. You became a published author quite late in life. When you were younger and doing various different jobs did you ever imagine that you would be a writer one day? Was it something you always wanted to do?
To answer the first part, I held a dream – that dream became a reality through hard work, tears, many disappointments and me thinking it would never happen, but never giving up.
The second, is YES! With a passion that merited a capital letter ‘yes’. Always an avid reader, and scribbler – my teachers used to tell me off for writing too much when set an essay. Then one day my sister-in-law gave me a book by Catherine Cookson – The Dwelling Place. That book inspired the writer in me. The year was 1972 I remember the feeling now as suddenly I wanted to write the stories, not read them. And not just write but write like Catherine – she didn’t just hold my interest and take me to different places but dragged me into the book. For the first time, I was that girl I was reading about. I was struggling to keep my siblings together in a cave-home. I was the one raped and left with a child. I was weeping, praying, feeling, and experiencing the words – I wanted to do that for others, something inside me came alive. My quest had begun. My journey is too long to tell here – but I did it!
6. How much research do you do for your books and how much of your own background and experiences go into your stories?
I have lived through many traumatic personal and worldwide events, and these have touched every human emotion in me, which gives me my knowledge of how it feels to despair, to fear, to have your heart broken, to know joy, and the whole spectrum of what anyone can go through in life, even the threat to my own life and to my way of life. I haven’t been raped, but in my job as a Probation Service Officer, saw the pain of this and held the hands of sobbing women – all of which is a huge pool for me as an author to dip into to bring my stories alive.
My research is on a need-to-know basis. Some authors need to know every bit of information they can about their setting and time period before they put pen to paper, but that’s not me. I love to visit the actual setting if it is possible. I don’t gather a lot of information before writing the book though, as the two things go hand-in-hand – the story begins, I need to know something for a scene, I stop, I research, then armed with what I need I write the scene. Unconventional, but it works for me.
7. Finally, what’s next for Maggie Mason? Do you have a book on the horizon for after the Halfpenny Girls’ trilogy is finished?
Not yet, I still have number three of the trilogy to write so that is my priority – besides the edits to book two, and all the promoting etc. I try to avoid overloading the creative part of my brain. But whatever it is, it will be set in my beloved Blackpool. . . Oh, dear, you’ve set me thinking now . . . what if a young woman falls asleep on the beach and when she wakes, she cannot remember who she is or where she came from . . .
Thank you so much for hosting me. I have loved answering your questions and I hope your followers enjoy my answers. Much love, Maggie x
Thanks so much for such lovely, full answers, Maggie. I’m really looking forward to all of The Halfpenny Girls trilogy and that possible next book sounds brilliant too.
Maggie Mason is a pseudonym of author Mary Wood. Mary began her career by self-publishing on kindle where many of her sagas reached number one in genre. She was spotted by Pan Macmillan and to date has written many books for them under her own name, with more to come.
Mary continues to be proud to write for Pan Macmillan, but is now equally proud and thrilled to take up a second career with Sphere under the name of Maggie Mason. A Blackpool Lass is her first in a planned series of standalone books and trilogies set in her home town of Blackpool.
Born the thirteenth child of fifteen children, Mary describes her childhood as poor, but rich in love.
She was educated at St Peter’s RC School in Hinckley and at Hinckley College for Further Education, where she was taught shorthand and typing.
Mary retired from working for the National Probation Service in 2009, when she took up full time writing, something she’d always dreamed of doing. She follows in the footsteps of her great-grandmother, Dora Langlois, who was an acclaimed author, playwright and actress in the late nineteenth – early twentieth century.
It was her work with the Probation Service that gives Mary’s writing its grittiness, her need to tell it how it is, which takes her readers on an emotional journey to the heart of issues.
Mary Wood can’t wait to start this book
Daft Mary is the answer , I’ve only discovered your books Mary but am already addicted, I am a big Rosie Goodwin and val wood fan and I’m now a Maggie Mary daft Mary fan
Loving the theme
Loving the book already
Daft hee hee 😀
Looking forward to this new saga, you are a fantastic writer and I have read many of your books, and the only problem I find when starting one of your new stories is putting it down and getting on with the housework, and before I know it I have finished and waiting for the next one. keep up the good work.
This is an amazing blog. Looking forward to reading it. Daft Mary haha love it xx well done Maggie, Mary & Molly eekkk take care vanessa
The answer is:-
Love all your books
Can’t wait to start this book Mary. I am sure it’s going to be as good as all your others
The answer is Daft Mary
Mary Daft, but you’re not daft…….. not really. Love to you & Roy xx
Sounds a terrific read, looking forward to it.
Daft Mary in answer to the question. The book sounds a terrific read.
Answer :Daft Mary lol The book sounds great, really looking forward to this, ad I now as usual will be a fantastic read.
So lovely to read this blog Mary . Love hearing about all that goes into your preparation for your books . It certainly is reflected , makes your books very interesting as well as enjoyable .
Answer to the question : Daft Mary 🤣😂
Mary Wood, I love all your books, can’t get enough of them.
Hi Mary or should I say “Daft Mary “
Looking forward to reading this set of books xxx
Daft Mary’s books are most enjoyable! x
Your lovely Mary, even though the answer is daft Mary. Looking forward to reading about the Jam Factory Girls, loved Blackpool Lass x love to you and Roy x
“Daft Mary”….is the answer to the question, but she isn’t daft at all…she writes amazing books !!
Looking forward to this one!
So looking forward to reading this. What a lovely blog xx
Daft Mary 😆
Answer to the question Daft mary haha makes me chuckle xx I had no idea about Molly either xx vanessa
Daft Mary haha. Love you 😍
Daft Mary x
Love you and all your books!! X
Answer: Daft Mary 😁😁
So looking forward to starting this first part of new trilogy. Daft Mary?🤔 Nothing daft about you Mary/Maggie/Molly. Very lovely and talented writer.
Hi the answer is Daft Mary.
Congratulations on your publication day Mary xx
Haha daft mary xx
Congratulations Mary on the publication of your new book❤️ I also love Blackpool! I was always so excited when I was younger and we had trips or spent weekends there. My brother and I when we both old enough to “spot the tower,” and I loved the windmill that sat just before you’re into the heart of Blackpool. I also used to be crazy about Catherine Cookson’s books, loved them and your books draw me in, just as you described how you felt, Mary. I love books that make you feel a part of the story and feel different emotions.
The answer is daft Mary. But you’re far from daft!
I enjoyed reading your Q&A’s, thank you 😃 xxxx
What a lovely informative interview.
Can’t wait to read the book.
Answer to the question is ‘Daft Mary’.
After reading your interview I would so love a book of your life story. I feel it would be as absorbing as your books.
Look forward to these books as per usual.
You are also known as “daft Mary ”
What a great blog, this book looks to be as popular as the other Blackpool themed books.
Daft Mary….should be Lovely Mary. Love your books and you x
The Halfpenny Girls would not exist if it had not been for Daft Mary. Keep on writing and we will all keep on reading.
answer Daft Mary just finished resding halfpenny girls and loved it x
Daft Mary, love all your books. Have just downloaded your new book, can’t wait to read it xxx
Answer is Daft Mary.
Cannot wait to read this as my hubby and I have our names used for characters in the book.
The answer is Daft Mary ,looking forward to reading this book 📚 xx
The answer is Daft Mary 😊 Looking forward to reading this book. We spent our summer holiday in Blackpool every year when I was a child x
Haha I eventually got on here ‘daft Mary ‘ lol
Answer is daft mary Can’t wait to read your new book
Daft Mary. Can’t wait to read another new book ,excited love your books.
Daft Mary! Another of your wonderful books to enjoy!
All your books are brilliant and love that you feel like you are in the story. Daft Mary you definitely arent
So excited too read this one.
Answer to the question is Daft Mary but should be Lovely Mary xx
The answer is Daft Mary but my darling friend is far from it. Her books are wonderfully written and so moving, I’m halfway through it already and love it.
Thoroughly enjoyed the blog too, a great interview with Mary x
Got mine delivered today, can’t wait to enjoy on my week off . Thank you daft Mary xxx
Answer Daft Mary
After reading your interview I would so love a book of your life story. I feel it would be as absorbing as your books.
Look forward to these books as per usual
It has to be Daft Mary – love it
Wow we all love to read the great reviews Answer cto question, Mary Wood
Daft Mary,but your are a beautiful soul,lots of love xxx.
Daft Mary x Happy Easter love reading about friendships so much xx
For some reason I cannot see my own comment, which I left on the first day – I so love this interview and loved taking part – your questions brought out me as Mary/Maggie and even a little bit of Molly. Thank you so much, I am really grateful for the lovely way you have showcased me work. Much love and take care, Mary – Maggie xxx
It’s my pleasure. Thank you for answering my questions so fully. I loved reading them and so did your many fans! xx
The answer is Daft Mary. Can’t wait to read this book.
Daft Mary love the name by beloved friend such a great day when I met you in Blackpool
‘Daft Mary’. You are such an inspiration and a lovely lady that is why your books are a joy to read. Cannot wait to read this new one X
Daft Mary, but you’re not haha.
A lovely review 😊
Daft Mary, Can’t wait to read this one, sounds brilliant. Lots of love xx