Margaret McDonagh, 1961-2012 – a tribute by Jo Grant, Senior Editor

Much loved, Medical Romance author Margaret McDonagh, known by her friends as Mags, sadly died on Sunday March 11th 2012, aged 51.

Harlequin published her first book, The Italian Doctor’s Bride, in 2006 and she wrote 14 books in total for Medical Romance. Mags excelled at creating warm characters who populated her fictional Scottish town of Strathlochan. She also contributed to the popular Medical continuities Brides of Penhally Bay and St. Piran’s  Hospital. Her stories were always emotional and uplifting and often tackled boundary breaking themes. Her many loyal fans, readers and editors alike, would say that reading a Margaret McDonagh book was like stepping into a real community and visiting with friends both old and new. Her final book, Brought Together by Baby, has just been published in the UK.

I had the great pleasure and privilege of being Mags’s editor and she was so much more than an author to me, she was a kind, warm and generous friend.

Her first book captured my attention with a dishy Italian hero and when said hero rescued an abandoned ginger and white kitten, Wallace, my heart was fully captured. I knew I’d found a talented author who our readers would love, and so started our relationship. Mags’s books were always so full of emotion that they never failed to make me cry, so I often scheduled a work at home day to read her manuscripts. That way I could be in the privacy of my home, cuddled with my very own ginger and white cat when the tears started to fall. I’d then call Mags to let her know that she had reduced me to a blubbering wreck – but in the very best way possible, of course!

Mags was a very private person and although she long suffered  ill health, she was always cheery, generous and warm of spirit, sharing long conversations on the phone and images of the gorgeous heroes she used for inspiration – all in the name of work! She had a love of animals, and she kindly adopted an elephant for me and my husband as a wedding gift knowing I shared her love of animals. She had a true passion for writing, which shines through in the stories she created. Mags often said that her cast of characters were all clamouring to have their stories told and Mags being Mags was determined to give them all the happy ever afters they deserved.

Mags will be greatly missed by her friends at Harlequin, her fellow authors and her readers.

Joanne Grant

Senior Editor (Mills & Boon Modern/Harlequin Presents)

[Note from Kate Hardy: thank you very much to Jo for her heartfelt and moving tribute to Mags. We'd love to share your memories of Mags and her books, so please do leave us a comment. Thanks.]

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21 thoughts on “Margaret McDonagh, 1961-2012 – a tribute by Jo Grant, Senior Editor

  1. Mags sold a year after me and in the early days we shared our confusion and delight as we settled into our roles as authors. Just today, I received books from Finland and I am honored to be sharing a duo with Mags and one of her lovely Italiann doctors.
    RIP, Mags. You are missed.

  2. What do I remember about Mags? So many things.
    She was so very kind. I remember teling her that a member of my family was being bullied at school and she was enraged, sent that member a letter which they would never let me read but they said helped a lot. The industrial sized bottle of arnica she sent me when I fell and bruised my spine and couldn’t sit. Her support when my father died, and she stayed on the phone whille I simply sobbed endlessly and couldn’t get any words out.
    Her legendary folder of ‘heroes’. She never could understand how having a photo didn’t work for me. ‘See if this one is inspirational, Maggie,’ she would say before zapping a photo over to me via email, and I would say, ‘Wow, he’s handsome, but I don’t work with photos, Mags, you know that,’ and she would ring me and laugh, and she had this laugh – a real chuckle of a laugh – which told me she took no offence.
    Her willingness to help a fellow writer. If you were ever stuck you only had to email or phone Mags and she would toss ideas around with you for as long as it took to you to say, ‘That’s it – I’ve got it.’
    Her sense of humour. Remember the cows, Kate? I won’t say anything else about them other than Bluebell.
    Her stubborness. Oh, boy, but could she be stubborn. When she was ill last year she point blank refused to let all of the medical writers know she was in hospital. ‘They’ll want to send flowers,’ we said. ‘No,’ she said. ‘No fuss.’ They’ll want to send cards,’ we said. ‘No – no fuss,’ she replied. ‘They care about you,’ we said, and still the answer was, ‘No, they’re all busy people with their own problems.’
    So many things to remember. So many things I wish now I’d said to her when I had the chance. She died way too young, and my one comfort is she died writing which was her great love though I know Mags would wail, ‘Couldn’t I have at least finished the book before I went.’
    Rest in peace, Mags. I’ll miss you hugely
    Maggie Kingsley.

  3. I’ll miss Mags hugely, too. I’ll miss sharing music with her – now, I didn’t get Eduardo Verastegui (though I did like the pics), but she introduced me to Josh Groban, and ‘Awake’ is still one of my favourite albums to work to. The pictures – she always knew when you’d hit a wall and suddenly a picture would pop up in your inbox to inspire you. The Northern Lights calendar she sent me for Christmas (she was waiting for me to actually get to see them for myself and send her photographs/ a postcard, as I did from Vesuvius). The general naughtiness (I admit now that I was responsible for her addiction to the coconut version of Ferrero Rocher). The handbags (hers were Kipling, mine were Radleys, and there would be gleeful emails or phone calls when a new one was bought).

    Maggie, I’d forgotten about the cows! And I remember she was cross that the copyeditor missed the joke and corrected that dedication to a ‘moving’ experience, when we all knew it was supposed to say ‘moo-ving’.

    And do you remember when she talked me into putting antlers on all the ponies at Christmas at the riding school in ‘A Christmas Knight’, because that’s what happened in the riding school she was involved with?

    So many little lovely things. She’ll be very much missed.

  4. Oh, I’d forgotten the antlers. And I said to you, Kate you’ll never get away with that, and Mags said, ‘Yes, she will,’ and you did. And how we used to make each other dares – hope our editors aren’t reading this – as to what crazy things you in particular could manage to get past your editor, and Mags’ dares were always the most outrageous, and when you actually got some of them past she was tickled pink!

  5. Sadly I didn’t know Mags as well as you did, ladies, but how wonderful to hear your memories of her. I became friends with her – either accidentally or inevitably – online, simply because it was impossible not to be completely charmed by her infectious warmth and sense of fun. She commented on my blog, which led to exchanged emails, and seeing her name appear in my inbox always lifted my day immeasurably. Generous, funny, interested and wise, she was one of life’s gems. Her loss leaves a huge hole in the romance community and on the book shelves, but she leaves us all the richer.

  6. What a lovely tribute.
    I love hearing your memories and I really feel for her family and close friends who are left with a gaping hole.
    Mags was very unique – one of life’s truly nice people and, added to that, was a humour that was soooo sharp. She was incredibly kind and wise (and funny) to me during some difficult times and I shall always thank her for that.
    She was also an amazing writer – she absolutely loved the characters and worlds she created and it told from the very first page.
    It seems way to soon to be writing this – Rest in peace, Mags.
    cxxx

  7. Caroline Anderson here, sitting in Kate’s office following lunch together in Carluccio’s to celebrate Mags and her love of all things Italian.

    Memories – endless, encyclopaedic knowledge of the nuances of the ‘bible’ we used for Penhally and St Piran series; like Maggie, industrial bottles of arnica gel following an injury; strange, intriguing parcels that never failed to arrive for Christmas or birthday, and always caused a chuckle; long telephone conversations about plots, life and gorgeous (usually Italian!) men; and her amazing, funny, highly individual and often stubborn but always sincere take on life.

    Can’t believe you aren’t still there, Mags. Miss you, but will be thinking of you every time I hear anyone chuckle in that rather naughty way you had, or hear an injustice, or see an elephant.

    RIP, creator of believable worlds, warm and compassionate human being and most generous friend.

    Caroline xxx

  8. Mags and I sold our first books within six months of each other, and we bonded over being new to the Mills & Boon family. She was always easy to “talk” to in e-mails, and we often shared our thoughts privately with each other. When I made a big decision a couple years back, she was very supportive of my concerns and desires. She also was “there” for me when I brought my mother home on hospice to care for her – as Mags had been a caregiver for her parents, even with her own challenging health issues. She oozed of love for her characters and books, and by the number of fans she’d acquired – they loved her books and characters just as much. I wish Mags were around to continue sharing her happily-ever-afters with us.

    My heart aches over her loss. Our Medical Romance line has lost a shining star.
    I miss you Mags.

  9. I’m so very upset to hear of Mags’ passing. We never met in the flesh, but emailed each other often and shared similar taste in heros – swapping pictures, drooling over David Gandy …

    Mags was a huge support to me as an unpublished author,encouraging, informative, kind and generous beyond measure. She was so modest as well,I remember her saying she didn’t want to ‘foist’ a signed copy of one of her books on me if i didn’t want it. As if …

    I’m struggling to take this news in and am very, very sad.

  10. Lovely to hear all the wonderful stories about Mags here today. Just finished reading her latest book and I thoroughly enjoyed it. I will be so sad not to read any more of her moving tales of Strathlochan.

  11. I wasn’t fortunate enough to meet Mags in person but through her emails and her wonderful stories I felt as if I knew her. She was a brave and special person and will be very much missed.

  12. I was reading a McDonagh book when I found out she passed away. I read the book with a heavy heart. She is the author that drew me into reading medical romances. And thinking–this is it, this is the last McDonagh book I will read caused such an ache in my heart. I hurt for her family and all of her friends, I ache for all the readers that will not hold any new books by Mags. Her stories were rich in community and warmth.

  13. So lovely to read everyone’s tributes to Mags. Although I exchanged only a few emails with her, Mags’ warmth and generosity of spirit made me feel immediately at ease. I’m so sorry that I did not have the opportunity to know her better.

  14. I didn’t know Mags at all, but had thoroughly enjoyed reading her stories over the years. I emailed her one day to comment on the fact we were sharing a 2-in-1 and how thrilled I was to be sharing my debut book in the same covers as her. I didn’t really expect a reply, I know how busy we all are and I’d heard she’d been ill. Then one day I received a reply from her congratulating me on my book, her words were very touching and welcoming. Through her email I got the feel of her being a special person just as everyone has mentioned- warm, friendly and with a great sense of humor. The romance writing community has lost a talented star and a good friend. RIP Mags x

  15. I was so sad to hear about Mags’ passing. Although I’d never met her in person, her emails were always so full of joy, warmth and heart. We would talk about our passion for books and animals and I always looked forward to hearing from her.

    Her books were simply outstanding. She wrote from the heart and raised the bar by writing with great sensitivity and compassion about boundary pushing topics such as emotional and physical abuse, and she even created a heroine with HIV in her penultimate book, Italian Surgeon, Forbidden Bride that just blew me and everyone else who read it away.

    I am so sad that I’ll never hear from her again and that I’ll never have another Margaret McDonagh book to look forward to ever again, but she left behind such a wonderful legacy I shall treasure and cherish.

    Rest in peace, Mags. You’ll never be forgotten.

  16. This beautiful tribute and all the wonderful memories that have been shared here make me wish I’d had the opportunity to meet Mags. She sounds like a special woman, very brave and a real trooper soldiering on without complaint. Sad to think the shelves won’t be graced with any more of her wonderful stories.
    Thank you to Kate and Joanne for this lovely post.
    Rest in peace, Mags.

  17. Mags, was, quite simply, one of the nicest, kindest people you could hope to meet. There are far too few people like her in this world, people who care more about others than they do about themselves, who go the extra mile to offer help and encouragement, who are always there when you need to moan or celebrate.

    Mags was special. Her books were special, too, filled with wonderful characters whom you remembered for ages after you finished the story.
    Our lives will be that little bit poorer for losing Mags, but so much richer for having known her.

    Jennifer.

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