Saturday, September 3, 2011

Interview with Author Fiona Ingram

Fiona Ingram’s earliest story-telling talents came to the fore when, from the age of ten, she entertained her three younger brothers and their friends with serialized tales of children undertaking dangerous and exciting exploits, which they survived through courage and ingenuity. Haunted houses, vampires, and skeletons leaping out of coffins were hot favorites in the cast of characters. Although Fiona Ingram has been a journalist for the last fifteen years, writing a children’s bookThe Secret of the Sacred Scarab—was an unexpected step, inspired by a recent trip to Egypt. The tale of the sacred scarab began life as a little anecdotal tale for her 2 nephews (then 10 and 12), who had accompanied her on the Egyptian trip. This short story grew into a children’s book, the first in the adventure series Chronicles of the Stone. The author has finished the next book in the series—The Search for the Stone of Excalibur—a huge treat for young King Arthur fans. Although Fiona Ingram does not have children of her own, she has an adopted teenage foster child, from an underprivileged background who is just discovering the joys of reading for pleasure. Naturally, Fiona is a voracious reader and has been from early childhood. Her interests include literature, art, theatre, collecting antiques, animals, music, and films. She loves travel and has been fortunate to have lived in Europe (while studying) and America (for work). She has travelled widely and fulfilled many of her travel goals.

Stanley: Tell us a little bit about your background and how you became an author.

Fiona: I was born and educated in South Africa. I come from a background of theater studies and journalism. I have always written, even if it was just plays, which we acted out for my long-suffering parents when I was young. I have four brothers (a great cast) and we would create these grandiose plots, dress up, and act it all out. I also had a long-running serial to entertain the younger ones and their friends – a ghost story, in weekly installments called Gruesome Gables. Lots of fun. I then chose the stage for a career, studied mime and theater in Europe after university, worked in community and grass-roots theater in South Africa upon my return home and one day made the switch to journalism, much to the relief of my parents. I believe my acting experiences have enabled me to write with strong visual impact.

Stanley: Tell us about your current book. Give a short summary; tell us about your publisher, and also how you got the idea for this book.

Fiona: The Secret of the Sacred Scarab is a thrilling adventure for two boys (12 and 13), 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 Adam and Justin Sinclair an old Egyptian scarab on their very first day in Egypt.  Justin and Adam embark upon the adventure of a  lifetime, taking them down the Nile and across the harsh desert in their search for the legendary tomb of the Scarab King, an ancient Egyptian ruler. With just their wits, courage, and each other, the boys manage to survive … only to find that the end of one journey is the beginning of another! I am a self-published author through iUniverse. Becoming a children’s author happened by accident after I went on a family trip to Egypt with my mother and two young nephews.

Stanley: What is a typical writing day like for you?

Fiona: Lucky me, I can work from home and write all day and all night if I want to. My day starts very early with dropping my daughter off at school. Then I make sure my disabled mom is made ready for her day. Then either some errands, or a Pilates class, then back home and getting stuck into the next chapters. I write articles and I maintain a blog, as well as two other writing projects, so there is a choice if I am not inspired for my main project, which is my book series The Chronicles of the Stone.

Stanley: What do you enjoy most about writing?

Fiona: The best part is reading previous chapters and immediately slipping into the fantasy world I have created. I love the way characters come alive, make their own decisions, and sometimes surprise me.

Stanley: What is the most difficult part of writing?

Fiona: The hardest part is when the scenes have already played out visually in my head, like a movie, and I need to grasp those images and put them into words. Often I find I can’t type fast enough.

Stanley: Why do you like working with children and teens?

Fiona: I think this is because I have three younger brothers, so I grew up taking care of them. Then my book was inspired by the trip to Egypt with my two young nephews. Shortly after our return home, I began fostering Mabel, a young African girl from a disadvantaged background. I subsequently adopted Mabel. Another aspect is how kids embrace the magicality of a world inside a book with enthusiasm. They read, believe, experience, and love what is happening as the story unfolds.

Stanley: Do you make school visits or do speaking engagements? If so, please describe a typical presentation.

Fiona: I find that book readings are a wonderful way of introducing a book to a target audience. My background in theater studies has also enabled me to inject a lot of dramatic excitement into my readings. A captivating book reading is an excellent way to create interest in your book, the kind of interest that remains unforgettable because it is both interesting and fun. I liaise with the teachers a few days before and find out what they would like their pupils to gain from the reading since Egypt is part of the history syllabus. I suggest to teachers that they prepare their class beforehand by doing some research. Then, we can incorporate a fancy dress event (kids love to dress up) with everyone coming as either a pharaoh or (usually) Cleopatra! Classes can also make models or collages to show at the reading. I also use my promotional bookmarks to give a mini talk on creative writing, to show kids how easy it is to write. My bookmarks have illustrations and a bit of story line so this makes it more fun and everyone gets a freebie. If there’s time, I have a general knowledge quiz on Egypt and make it really enjoyable by dividing the group into team A and team B. I choose the most exciting chapter possible when doing the actual reading. Kids don’t have to know everything in advance and a brief outline of the story is enough. Using my bookmark, the kids generally go for the image of the giant cobra menacing my two heroes for a riveting 20-minute read. During my reading, I interrupt myself to ask the kids questions such as ‘Where is so-and-so place?’ or ask them if they know what particular words mean. Since my book is set in Egypt, a country that holds the promise of mystery and ancient magic for most kids, talking about an exotic location holds their attention, and asking them to explain words like ‘sarcophagus’ keeps us busy. I also use posters, pieces of painted papyrus and my real photos from the trip to show the kids that having an adventure is as easy as stepping on a plane.

Stanley: Do you have a website? If so, please give the URL. If not, where can readers go online to learn more about your book(s) and to order?

Fiona: Readers can visit http://www.secretofthesacredscarab.com for more information and purchase details. It is a fun, interactive website incorporating the journey the young heroes take, as well as hints and clues about the story, photos from my actual trip, and some general knowledge about Egypt. There is a wonderful Curse of Thoth to interpret at the end of the journey, which takes readers into the first chapter of the next book in the series.

Stanley: What are you working on right now?

Fiona: I am working on editing the second book in the series. In Book One, Adam and Justin discover that the ancient scarab they were given is, in fact, the First Stone of Power, one of seven scattered around the ancient world thousands of years ago. A race against time and uber-baddie Dr. Faisal Khalid ensues. The person who unites all the Stones of Power with the Stone of Fire, (swept away when the tomb of the Scarab King collapses) will be able to read the ancient and magical Book of Thoth. The reader will gain mastery of time and space, and hold dominion over the beasts of the earth, creatures of the sea, birds of the air, and be able to achieve immortality. (The amazing thing is that this is a real legend, not something I made up.) Scary stuff as readers realize when they encounter the ruthless Dr. Khalid. Once the first Stone of Power came to light, it is only a matter of time before the others begin to surface, manifesting usually in the weapons or regalia of long-dead warriors and kings. Such is the case with the second stone which might just be hidden in the hilt of the most famous sword in history—the sword of King Arthur, the sword Excalibur. My second title is The Search for the Stone of Excalibur. The quest takes Justin and Adam to Scotland. The continuing books in the series take Justin and Adam all over the world on their quest for the remaining lost Stones of Power.

Stanley: What is your best tip for aspiring authors?
Fiona: I have some great articles on my website www.FionaIngram.com with all the steps I took to get to where I am now. However, 3 simple tips should help.
i)                    Don’t give up. Even if you feel beaten, down, depressed, unappreciated, whatever, do not give up your project. Make your mantra for success and say it every day. (Mine involves being a world famous, best selling author with as much money as You-Know-Who)
ii)                  Make sure that your manuscript/book is as perfect as can be, and if that means spending money on editing and proofreading, do it.
iii)                Do not stop marketing: Even when your book is out there and you’ve sent off your press releases, don’t stop spreading the word! Do something every day (either online or physical) to continue your marketing thrust. Remember—marketing doesn’t sell books … marketing gives you exposure and exposure sells books (my thanks to marketing guru Penny Sansevieri of Author Marketing Experts for those words).
Stanley: What advice would you give children and teens as they prepare for life?

Fiona: Find your moral compass early in life and stick to it. It is easy to be swayed and influenced by friends and peers into doing something that you may later regret. We all know instinctively what is right and wrong, and life will test you later on. In my book, my young heroes face challenges they never thought they would ever encounter. Their reactions showed them who they are. Don’t wait for life to spring a big surprise. Get ready now by making your personal life code one you can admire and respect. Be the best person you can possibly be, every minute of every day. Don’t worry; it’s easier than it sounds!

Stanley: Is there anything else you would like to share with our readership?

Fiona: I’d like parents to know that there’s a lot of educational material in the book that will help children enjoy their history and geography classes so much more. The story makes Egypt come alive for readers. As the heroes learn about their new environment, they remember things because they either need that information to survive (shifting sand and facing a giant cobra), or else to work out more clues (deciphering ancient hieroglyphics). Illustrations include a map of the journey and the Egyptian hieroglyphic alphabet. Clever readers will take note of the Tablet of Thoth right at the beginning…. There are clues hidden on it.

For parents wanting to introduce their kids to reading, or who would like to encourage their kids to read more, I have some wonderful articles on my website. Technology and computer-driven entertainment have had an impact on literacy and reading. Kids may need help discovering what a wonderful world is contained within books. Visit my media page on www.FionaIngram.com for fun, easy, and family-oriented ideas to make reading part of your children’s lives.



Places where book is available for sale: Amazon, B&N and publisher's website.


 

Stories for Children Publishing will be touring The Secret of the Sacred Scarab written by Fiona Ingram, which is the first book of the Chronicles of the Stone children’s book series, all month long in September 2011.

You can find out more about Fiona Ingram’s World of Ink Author/Book Tour schedule at http://storiesforchildrenpublishing.com/FionaIngram.aspx. There will be giveaways, reviews, interviews, guest posts and more. Make sure to stop by and interact with Ingram and the hosts at the different stops by leaving comments and/or questions. Ingram will be checking in throughout the tour and is offering an additional giveaway for those who leave comments throughout the tour. 


Also, don't forget to join the "Book Lovers" blog hop http://familiesmatter2us.blogspot.com/2011/09/book-lovers-blog-hop-932011.html

3 comments:

  1. Secret of the Sacred Scarab is a good read. Not only entertaining but educational. Fiona did a great job.

    A. Lightbourne
    SciFi/Fantasy Author

    ReplyDelete
  2. I loved this book and have reviewed it on my blog. It not only is a great read for kids, but it is a wonderful example for those who want to write for this age group. It uses dialog, details, and action to keep the reader hooked.

    ReplyDelete

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