VS: I want to thank you for being my guest here on The Writing Mama today, Fiona. It’s always a pleasure to chatting with a fellow author. To get things started can you share what do you do to help balance your writing life with your family life?
Fiona: I am strict about my writing hours. My mom is disabled and I have a school-going adopted child so my day has little sections devoted to them. I usually have several hours in the morning and afternoon to write, blog, edit, etc. The evenings are family time.
VS: My day is very much like that as well. I think it is great you section out family time. It’s easy to get lost in your writing if you’re not careful. Fiona, how long have you been writing?
Fiona: I only began writing seriously once I’d actually embraced a career in the theater. I used to write all our production press releases and from there I drifted into journalism. As for the art of entertaining – well, that began at an early age when I would entertain my three younger brothers and their friends with stories of children embarking upon heroic adventures. These adventures always included haunted castles, vampires, werewolves, and skeletons bent on capturing any young person foolish enough to tangle with them.
VS: Wow, you’re not only an author, but have a background in theater as well. From what you’ve shared, it seems you have a very creative side. What inspired you to write books?
Fiona: I began with writing family poems. These were always inspired by a birthday, anniversary or special event. I am quite a good artist and I would illustrate these amusing poems with line drawings. From there I wrote a few short stories while I was studying mime in Paris. I only wrote again, when I was in theater and of course, once I started getting free-lance writing jobs, then it was a ‘real’ career according to my parents.
VS: With all that you have done, what was the first thing you ever had published?
Fiona: I should be honest and say it was a 20-word caption to accompany a photograph in a magazine. I actually was paid for it! As a full-time writer, my first published book is The Secret of the Sacred Scarab. Surprisingly I also wrote two other books shortly after publication – an historical romance, and a collaboration on an historical adventure with a fellow writer.
VS: I would love for you to share with us a little about your current book, The Secret of the Sacred Scarab.
Fiona: I’d love to talk about The Secret of the Sacred Scarab, the first in my children’s adventure series Chronicles of the Stone. It was inspired by a trip I took to Egypt with my mom and my two young nephews (aged 10 and 12). 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. Only when the evil Dr. Faisal Khalid shows a particular interest in the cousins and their scarab, do the boys realize they are in terrible danger. Dr. Khalid wants the relic at all costs. 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. They are plunged into a whirlpool of hazardous and mysterious events when Dr. Khalid kidnaps them. They survive terrifying dangers in a hostile environment (such as a giant cobra, as well as sinking sand), pursued by enemies in their quest to solve the secret of the sacred scarab. They must translate the hieroglyphic clues on the underside of the scarab, as well as rescue the missing archaeologist James Kinnaird, and their friend, the Egyptologist Ebrahim Faza, before time runs out. They must also learn more about the ancient Seven Stones of Power and the mysterious Shemsu-Hor. 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!
VS: Your book sounds very interesting and great for reluctant readers, too. I love Egypt and what a great storyline. What do you enjoy most about writing?
Fiona: I love creating a world where characters come alive, do their own thing, solve their own problems, unravel mysteries, and generally make it a wonderfully exciting and satisfying experience.
VS: You not only sound like the writing bug has bitten you, but also shared the key elements on telling a great story. It’s no wonder why you’re a published author. With that said, what is the most difficult part of writing?
Fiona: Getting it all down on paper. The ideas are the easy part. I find my ideas just erupt in my head and whole scenes play out as the story unfolds. The hard part is being able to type fast enough, in the hope that the images in my head do not fade before I have translated it all into words.
VS: I’ll have to agree on that. It is hard, especially if you’re not somewhere you can just sit and write, all your ideas down as a story unfolds. You have already shared some great insight and I was wondering if you could share the best writing advice you ever received?
Fiona: Never give up. Never give up. Never give up.
VS: Yes, too many new writers give up way to early in the game. Do you find it hard to balance your personal writing time with your other jobs?
Fiona: Not really. My life is focused on writing so everything seems to fit together. I find the most annoying aspect having to get into the car and shop, pay bills, or buy food. Life’s boring chores often get in the way!
VS: Very true about life and the chores and duties of it. I find there are days or a week where I’ll just say, “It can wait a bit. I need to get some writing done.” Do you have any other works in progress? Can you share a little about them?
Fiona: I have finished Book 2 in the Chronicles of the Stone. It is called, The Search for the Stone of Excalibur. Of course, it concerns King Arthur and the famous sword Excalibur. It’s a wonderfully exciting story, set in Scotland mostly, but with enough adventure to satisfy the most demanding hero.
VS: Can’t wait for its release. Another time period and topic I love reading about. Fiona, what tips can you give writing parents with children at home to help them see publication?
Fiona: Manage your time. Be scrupulous in your writing habits, and let your family share in your projects. Once they know what you’re doing, you’ll find they will be proud to be helpful and understanding. Also … never give up, never give up, and never give up!
VS: Okay, let’s get back to writing a book. What do you think are the basic ingredients of a good book?
Fiona: A solid structure, an exciting plot, believable, real characters, and a satisfying conclusion. Also, not too many implausible coincidences.
VS: All very important indeed. What is required for a character to be believable? How do you create yours? (answer only if your book is fiction)
Fiona: I read many newsletters and blogs about creating characters and I find I don’t do everything like the advice offered. In my children’s book, my main characters, my young heroes, are modeled on my two nephews of that age. Once I had the boys down as real, solid characters, the other characters just seemed to arrive, fully fledged in my head. I think a character must ‘feel real’ to be believable. They may only have a small part to play, but the density of the character must add weight to the scene. Everything they think, do, and say must make the reader accept them as ‘real people.’ Many of my minor characters are absolutely marvelous and often I reread bits where they appear, just to enjoy them.
VS: Very true about characters needing to feel real. I talk to mine a lot…my family thinks I’m a bit nuts. Have you received any awards?
Fiona: Yes, I have entered as many book contests as possible.
Book Award Nominations & Wins:
Finalist Children's Fiction USA Next Generation 2009 Indie Book Awards
Finalist Juvenile Fiction USA National Best Books 2009 Awards
Winner Pre-Teen USA 2009 Readers' Favorites Awards
Number 2 in the USA Children's & Teens Book Connection Top Ten Favorite Books of 2009 for Kids, Tweens & Teens
Winner Silver Medal Teen Fiction 2010 Nautilus Book Awards
Finalist Children’s Fiction 2010 International Book Awards
Winner Bronze Medal Pre-Teen Fiction 2010 Moonbeam Book Awards
Finalist 2011 Rubery Book Awards
Children’s Literary Classics Seal of Approval 2011
VS: Wow, I knew about some of your awards, but what a list. Is there anything else you would like to share with us about being a “Writing Mama” before we go?
Fiona: Books are wonderful things. Simply having twenty books or more in the house immediately increases your child’s chances of going to study at college. Books in a home, or a parent involved with books is a great way for kids to enjoy reading. Make sure your children or young relatives are exposed to books from an early age. Books are the mark of a civilized society and hold all life’s lessons.
I am passionate about child literacy and have written many articles on the subject. (www.FionaIngram.com) I know from personal experience how a child can struggle with reading. My adopted daughter (an African child) was illiterate when she came to live with me. I had to teach her to read and that was an enlightening experience.
VS: It’s been great having you here Fiona today and thank you so much for sharing so much about you, your book (The Secret of the Sacred Scarab) and tips on writing. I wish you much success with your next book and future creations.
Remembering kids today are computer savvy, ALL of Fiona Ingram’s books are available both in hard copy and eBook.
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.
In addition, come listen to Blog Talk Radio’s World of Ink Network show: Stories for Children. The hosts VS Grenier, Kris Quinn Chirstopherson and Irene Roth will be chatting with Fiona Ingram about her children’s book series, writing, the publishing industry, and the trials and tribulations of the writer’s life.
The show will be live September 26, 2011 at 2pm EST. You can tune in at the World of Ink Network site at http://www.blogtalkradion.com/worldofinknetwork. You can listen/call in at (714) 242-5259. (Note: if you can’t make the show, you can listen on demand at the same link.)
To learn more about the World of Ink Tours visit Stories for Children Publishing at: http://storiesforchildrenpublishing.com
Follow the World of Ink Tour and leave a comment per tour blog stop. (must leave a real comment about the author, tour or book. Saying “this is cool” or “I love your book” will not count.) Make sure to include your safe email so we can contact you if you are the winner. Example: vsgrenier AT storiesforchildrenpublishing DOT com. (One bonus entry per blog stop)
Ask a question per World of Ink Tour blog stop. (One bonus entry per tour blog stop)