A former Midlands journalist went part way round the world to "find" her first novel. Graham Young reports.
It’s easy to say that everyone has a first novel in them – the hard bit is getting it out.
Even a talented, Royal Television Society gold award-winning TV journalist like Maggie Fogarty needed to find the right time and the right place.
But, when she did, there was no stopping Maggie’s urge to scratch her literary itch.
And so the year she spent in one of the world’s most famous principalities is now reflected in the title of her debut novel: My Bermuda Namesakes.
Her partner, Paul, is a digital forensics consultant, so when he got the chance to go and work in Bermuda, Maggie followed him... and got typing.
Originally from the Yardley Wood area of Birmingham, Maggie has now returned to Britain with husband Paul ready to oversee the renovation of their dream property in Cornwall.
And I wouldn’t put it past bubbly Maggie to work her way through the project by typing up another story.
“I was born in Sorrento Hospital and grew up in Moseley, Sparkbrook, Hall Green and Yardley Wood before I bought my first house in Hampton-in-Arden,” she says.
“I went to Swanshurst Girls’ School and on to the then Wolverhampton Poly.
“That was against my mother’s wishes, but I liked the course which was English with American Literature and History.
“And hey... my tutor was Howard Jacobson, who later won the Man Booker Prize in 2010 for The Finkler Question.”
Maggie’s RTS prize was for a documentary about the 30th anniversary of the Irish Pub Bombings in Birmingham.
“We looked at the impact it had on the Irish community,” says Maggie, whose mother is now in a care home after her father passed away.
“They had all kept quiet about it for so long because they just wanted to get on with life.
“Because I had an Irish background – I used to go to church and the youth club at Our Lady of Lourdes in Trittiford Road – they opened up to me.
“Now it’s hip to be Irish with the St Patrick’s Day Parade and so on.”
Maggie’s novel describes Bermuda as “an achingly pretty mid-Atlantic Ocean sub tropical island known for its pastel coloured buildings with trade mark white lime washed rooftops.
‘From space it must look like an elaborate pink, lemon and white iced celebration cake”.
But the subject beneath a place synonymous with film stars like Michael Douglas and Catherine Zeta-Jones is a darker story about a graphic designer trying to recover from a head injury.
Central character Josie James (JJ) has all but lost her short term memory after stepping in to the path of a motorcyclist.
After arriving on Bermuda for specialist treatment, she finds herself accused of a crime she didn’t commit.
With two other namesakes already on the island, can brain specialist Dr Silver unearth some lost short term memories to help to prove her innocence?
Maggie’s novel began life as a story short-listed in the Writers and Artists Year Book 2011 Short Story Competition.
“There are a lot more head injuries than people think, from viral problems to strokes and road accidents, which I used to make the story more dramatic,” she says.
“Because I couldn’t work as such in Bermuda, I thought I would use the time on my hands in Bermuda to realise a lifetime ambition and write a whole novel.
“I just used to write so much per day.
“One of Josie’s namesakes is a force for good, another a force for evil, but the story is all about how she can prove that she was set up.”
My Bermuda Namesakes has been published via Amazon, so that the only copies that will ever exist are confirmed orders.
“The publishing landscape is changing a lot,” says Maggie.
“The royalties are very good with e-books and, if you can make it work, there’s more money left for the writer.
“I decided not to try for a traditional publisher, even though I’ve got good contacts.
“Amazon now has a massive reach and is very good at cross-promoting books.
“We bought the cover artwork online – it was originally pink, but we changed it to blue to reflect a tropical island.
“Although you have to do the formatting yourself, it’s an advantage if you are already a journalist or professional writer.”
Maggie hopes that any success she has online, though, will not be at the expense of stores like Waterstones.
“I love going into bookshops and can spend hours in them,” she says.
“I don’t think people will stop buying books, you can’t get a beautiful one on a Kindle.”
What did she make of the island of Bermuda?
“It’s main businesses are tourism, insurance and banking, but although it’s expensive like Monaco, the taxes are low,” she says.
“You’ll see things like red telephone boxes, so it’s like Britain in the tropics – surreal.
“John Lennon spent his last summer there, and the Double Fantasy album was named after a flower in the botanical gardens.” Maggie, who has also acted as a ‘visiting editor’ for the BA and MA Broadcast Journalism courses at the University of Staffordshire, hopes her novel will appeal to anyone interested in vulnerability and the effects of head injury.
“JJ thinks she has become a better person,” she says.
“She doesn’t see her problem as a disability. She is just different and has to keep a diary, but is not someone to be pitted.”
Although Maggie has finally got that all-important first novel out of her system, marriage to Paul is proving to be more difficult still.
“We’ve been together for 25 years!” she laughs. “I’ll never say never, but maybe it’s because we haven’t had children and you are then less bothered... we just haven’t got round to it.”
Perhaps they need a holiday with a good read: My Bermuda Spouse.
* My Bermuda Namesakes by Maggie Fogarty is available only at www.amazon.co.uk and is priced £7.19 for paperback and £2.49 for Kindle purchase.