It’s said that Gemini is the most versatile (and the most easily bored) sign of the zodiac, so perhaps it’s just as well I have a very varied writing life. The great thing about being a writer who has several other writing-related jobs is that every day is different. As I open my inbox every morning, I never know what’s going to pop up.

Margaret James lets us into her life

Margaret James lets us into her life

It might be a message from a creative writing student - I'm a tutor with dozens of those on my books, a suggestion for an article from the editor of Writing Magazine, I've been a regular contributor to the magazine for more than twenty years. Perhaps an entry to the writing competition I am involved in running or a message from my writing partner on our latest how to writing guide.

But whatever the morning might bring, my afternoon will usually be devoted to planning and writing fiction.

My sixth novel for Choc Lit is Girl in Red Velvet and this is the one that’s most personal to me. My heroine Lily isn’t me, but she is the same age as me, and the novel is set in Oxford, where I spent a decade of my own life. So it’s a city I know very well.

Oxford has changed a lot since Lily and I first lived there during the late 1960s and early 1970s. The colleges are now co-educational, so sneaking a boyfriend or girlfriend into your room for the night is no longer a problem. Or I’m supposing it’s not a problem, anyway. The impossibly grand independent department store of Elliston and Cavell is long gone. So is the Golden Cross, a spit-and-sawdust pub serving dodgy-looking pies, in which Lily has her first experience of getting inappropriately drunk. Sadly, visitors can no longer enter and wander around the colleges, their chapels and their libraries at will – stepped-up security has seen to that.

So writing this novel was a trip down Memory Lane for me, and my research brought back many memories, happy and sad and somewhat bizarre. Did that printer whose window displayed a copy of a book bound in human skin still exist? Did the butcher in the Covered Market still have rabbits wearing their jackets and geese resplendent in their feathers hanging up next to the extremely pungent stall selling joss sticks and cheesecloth shirts?

Sometimes, an author gets a treat, such as a party or a conference. These events are opportunities for lots of networking, dressing up and wearing unsuitable shoes. I say wearing, but half way through any evening of author-partying there’ll probably be little cairns of discarded platform heels lurking in odd corners, and plenty of partygoers networking in bare feet.

After a writers’ party it’s back to the daily routine, yawning a bit, but also re-energised and feeling very blessed by the fact that I earn a living from doing something I love.


Margaret James is the author of sixteen published novels. Girl in Red Velvet, a heartwarming saga based in Oxford, is her latest paperback with multi award winning publishers, Choc Lit.

Girl in Red Velvet is available in all good bookshops, online retailers and via from today - September 4.

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