Thursday, May 20, 2010

Literary Words with author Fiona Ingram

Please give a warm welcome to Fiona Ingram,  Author of Children's Book The Secret of the Sacred Scarab.  Fiona is big on literary advocacy.  She believes no child should go withoout,  creating this fabulous tale.  She has always had a love for reading and she states: 

"Naturally, I am a voracious reader and have been from early childhood. I can remember sitting on the bus going home from school, reading, and then missing my stop because I was so caught up in the book. I also went to boarding school at Durban Girls' College and the boarders' section was separate from the school. I used to walk down to College House with one foot in the gutter of the path, so that I could continue reading and not walk into a tree or something. I love all kinds of books, art, theatre, antiques, animals (5 cats, 2 dogs and a ferocious duck called Charlemagne), music, and films. Travel is another passion and I have been fortunate to have lived in Europe (while studying) and America (for work). I have travelled widely and fulfilled many of my travel goals."

Thank you so much for being with us today.

Please tell us a little bit about yourself....

I live in South Africa; I became a children’s author almost by accident, even though I have been a journalist forever and ever. I love books, travel, books, movies, books and more books. I have an adopted African daughter. I live with my disabled Mom and lots of interesting animals including a duck called Charlemagne. (he is in the book too!)

What inspired you to pen your first novel?

I went to Egypt with my two nephews and my Mom a few years ago. I decided to write the boys a short story as a memento. I called it The Secret of the Sacred Scarab – the next minute I had a whole book on my hands and lots of sequel ideas jumping around in my head.

Why choose children’s books?

As I said, it was accidental, or more serendipitous. I didn’t consciously plan it. It was only afterwards I read about all the things I should NEVER have done. For authors planning a children’s book series…  NEVER try to break into the children’s market first. NEVER start your book with a journey. NEVER write sequels until you have a publisher that says it’s a good idea… the list goes on. Alas, I broke every rule.

What would you say is your interesting writing quirk?

I like to listen to either classical music or film track music very loudly.

When did you write your first book and how old were you?

My first book was Gruesome Gables, an ongoing horror saga involving intrepid kids and a haunted house. It seemed to go on forever. I was ten and had younger brothers to entertain.

Do you write in any other genre?

I wrote a Regency Romance for fun a few years ago. It languished in a folder on my computer until I read about a literary agency that was looking for this style of historical romance. I now have a writing contract. Rather nice. I have just finished an historical Viking action novel with another writer as well. Also a departure from my usual genre.

Where do you get your information or ideas for your books?

Imagination. My historical romance came about because I was running a dating agency. My children’s book came about after a family trip to Egypt. I read a lot about earth mysteries, foreign countries, ancient history, theories of pre-civilization etc, and that has given me the basis for my children’s series.

What was the hardest thing about writing this particular novel?

The marketing. I read an article that began, “So you’ve written a book? Ha! Ha! That was the easy part, now for the hard part.” I thought to myself, “What could be harder than actually writing a book?” Yep, the marketing. There are so many books produced now, with the advent of POD and online publishing companies, that we’re overwhelmed by numbers. An author has to fight to get their book recognized.

Can you tell us a little bit about your book, and your trip to Egypt?

It’s a thrilling adventure for two young boys, whose fun trip to Egypt turns into a dangerously exciting quest to uncover an ancient and mysterious secret. A 5000-year-old mystery comes to life when a scruffy peddler gives two young tourists, Adam and Justin Sinclair, an old Egyptian scarab on their very first day in Egypt. I traced our actual footsteps and included a lot of the interesting things that happened to us. Of course, I would have loved to have experienced the adventure I later wrote about!

What do you hope readers will take away from your books?

I hope readers will experience the sense of wonder and awe that an ancient civilization such as Egypt inspires; a sense that here are more enduring factors in life than just the next gossip page, the latest cell phone, the ultimate in fashion etc. My young heroes are challenged in many ways and they rise to the occasions. They survive using their wits, their common sense, and their beliefs that their parents have ingrained in them. They learn about the value of life.

Are you working on anything right now?

Yes, I am trying to finish the next book in the series. It’s a wonderful adventure, of course linked to the first book. The title is The Search for the Stone of Excalibur. So look out, King Arthur fans, this one’s for you.

What do you like to do outside of writing?

I am a very culturally inclined person – anything to do with the arts appeals to me. Music, art, travel to interesting places where I can visit museums and crumbling old piles of ruins, ancient civilization, books (of course), and helping my adopted daughter with an appreciation of the finer elements in life, such as literature, poetry etc.

You are a big advocate on literacy, are there any programs that you are involved with?

It’s difficult to do anything outside of government agencies here in South Africa so I tend to write a lot of articles, and do readings at schools and libraries. I donate my books if I do a reading, and also chat to the kids about the importance of literacy.

What would be the one thing your readers may be most surprised to know about you?

I am completely terrified of needles and if I have to have an injection I usually faint long before the needle gets anywhere near me.

What advice can you give to new and aspiring writers/authors?

Don’t give up; make sure your work meets the industry’s stringent standards; learn all you can from the publishing industry’s marketing gurus by subscribing to newsletters and e-zines; get your work out there any way you can; enter as many book contests as possible. Last and most important piece of advice: TELL EVERYONE ABOUT YOUR BOOK and do something to market your work every day.

How may readers connect with you?  Website, social network sites, etc?
I also have some great “How To Do it” articles on my author site – media room

Do you have a parting comment?  Upcoming events?

Blog tours are an incredible way to spread the word about your work. I did one last year and found myself, my interviews and book reviews all over the Internet.

Thank you again for chatting with us today.  It has been such a pleasure.

Don't forget to follow Fiona on her virtual book tour,  leaving a comment at her pit stops,  including here,  for your entry to win a copy of her book,  The Secret of the Sacred Scarab.