As a teen, Maggie was terribly abused and neglected. At what age did she decide to turn to drugs and prostitution? Is there a single moment from her past where you image her making this dangerous choice?
The abuse Maggie suffered at the hands of her uncle started very early, when she was a small girl (about four or five). She tried everything she could to get away from it--hiding under the beds, crashing on other people's couches when she got older (like the 8 to 11 range), but that didn't help. Alcohol, and to a lesser extent, drugs, are pervasive on some parts of the rez, and so it there was never a moment where she walked up to the line and took a conscious choice to step over it into drugs and alcohol. She was most likely drinking beer by the time she was ten because that was the only life she knew. So she was already pretty wasted when she ran away and got picked up by Leonard Low Dog, who saw a young, vulnerable woman he could use. So he did. He's the one who got her hooked on drugs, which he needed to do to make her pliant to being pimped. I'm sure at first Low Dog framed it as, 'Here, this will help you feel better,' but of course it made everything worse. She was only 14 at this time, so she really didn't know any better. She just wanted to dull the pain she felt inside.
Depressed and scared for herself, the teenage Maggie doesn't believe that she can go on and she is ready to end it all by getting lost in a blizzard. Thankfully she is rescued by Nan, a mother figure that helps Maggie get her life on track. Can you describe the conversation between these two women as Nan convinces Maggie that life is still worth living if only she were to start respecting herself and making better choices.
I think it took a while for Maggie to realize she hadn't died. She was almost frozen when Nan found her, and the pain she was in--both mental and physical--probably didn't lend to coherent conversations for a while. The shock of being warm, cared for, and not abused--combined with the withdrawal symptoms Maggie was experiencing--made for some rough days, but I don't think that her will to live under different circumstances was ever in question.
I think that it wasn't so much Nan convincing her not to die, but Nan telling Maggie that she was safe, that she was going to stay with Nan from now on, and that no one would hurt her anymore--when Maggie heard that, it took away the reason she'd wanted to die in the first place. The first year Nan and Maggie lived together was rough--Maggie had missed so much of the normal stuff in her short life and she had a lot of anger she had to work through--but Nan was patient and caring.
Again, I don't see it so much as Maggie made poor choices that lead her to drugs and alcohol. I see it as she had no other way to cope with the sexual and physical abuse that she was subjected to from a very early age. To me, her story is less about making better choices than being able to move past the abuse she suffered and still become a self-aware woman, not one weighed down by anger and resentment.
Maggie is Native American and as part of her rehabilitation she reconnects to her heritage, including adopting the last name "Eagle Heart". What does she do to further learn about her roots and become a respected member of her community?
This is tricky because Maggie'd lost a large part of that culture--it just wasn't a part of her life when she was growing up. Nan teaches her a great deal of what she knows, but Nan is what is known as a 'wannabe'--she's not an actual American Indian, but someone who idealizes the American Indian cultures. So they made an odd pair the first few years--an Indian who didn't know how to be an Indian, and a white woman who knew everything about being an Indian. Nan taught her how to bead and quill, which are the two Native arts that Maggie then turns into an internet business, making and selling dance outfits. So she becomes a part of her tribe anonymously as Maggie Eagle Heart. She's well-known, but no one knows who she is--that is, until Agent Thomas Yellow Bird tracks her down!
Nearly a decade after getting healthy, Maggie continues to put her love life on hold, that is until she meets James. Despite their different backgrounds the two are perfect for each other. However, before James is in the picture did Maggie try dating at all? Was there ever any man who got her attention before him?
Maggie had no interest in relationships. The closest she'd come to in her life was with Agent Yellow Bird. He's got quite a backstory, but the short of it is that he had found Maggie in a bar, selling herself, and had tried to save her from the life she'd been stuck in. He wasn't interested in buying sex; before Nan, he was the only one who had ever shown any interest in Maggie as a person. I do think that Yellow Bird loved Maggie a little, and I also think Maggie desperately wanted to love him back, but she couldn't break away from her pimp or the drugs. Not being able to save Maggie haunted Yellow Bird for years, and after he became an officer of the law, he did eventually put Maggie's pimp in jail.
After Maggie got clean and settled into life with Nan, she saw no place for a man or a relationship. Every man, except Yellow Bird, had used or abused her, so she had no trust for any of them. It wasn't until she met James that she entertained the notion of even being attracted to a man. The scars of her early years ran so deep that having Nan for a friend and a successful small business was more than enough to keep her content. Because she kept to herself so much, she didn't interact with that many men, anyway. She certainly never planned on being attracted to James! It's such an unfamiliar sensation that she doesn't trust it, him--or herself. For me, James earning that trust is a huge part of the book.
Interested to see how Maggie has turned her life around? A Man of Privilege by Sarah M. Anderson is available at stores and online now. And for more series coverage, make sure to check out the RT Everything Romance Page!