Monday, June 20, 2011

Interview with Margot Finke: June Tour World of Ink Author

Stop the Press!

Author Margot Finke come to The Writing Mama Blog a chat and to share about her 3 recent books for children along with offering readers a FREE eBook...Talk about a "WOW" factor.

Margot Finke is an Aussie transplant who writes midgrade adventure fiction and rhyming picture books. For many years she has lived in Oregon with her husband and family. Gardening, travel, and reading fill in the cracks between writing. Her husband is very supportive, and their three children are now grown and doing very well.

Margot didn't begin serious writing until the day their youngest left for college. This late start drives her writing, and pushes her to work at it every day. Margot said, "I really envy those who began young, and managed to slip into writing mode between kid fights, diaper changes, household disasters, and outside jobs. You are my heroes!"

Her first books, a 7x book rhyming series, "Wild and Wonderful," offers fun facts about animals from the US and Australia.  Educational and fun, eBooks can be read on a computer, laptop, or various color e-Readers.  They are great for classroom or home schooling moms.

Remember, kids today are computer savvy, and ALL 11 of Margot’s books (both hard copy and eBooks) can be viewed on Margot’ Magic Carpet. The latest three are: Taconi and Claude – Double Trouble (midgrade), Horatio Humble Beats the Big D + Ruthie and the Hippo’s Fat Behind.

Visit her  DOWN-UNDER FUN OR  WILD US CRITTERS:  Discover extra fun facts about the animals in her books.
Her Manuscript Critique Service attracts clients from all over the globe, and her website offers a great deal of help for new writers. Nothing gives her a bigger thrill that to hear that a book she helped polish has been published. “This is always a huge YEA moment,” Margot says.

VS: I want to first thank you Margot for being my guest here on The Writing Mama today. To get things started and so my readers and your tour followers can learn a bit more about you, what do you do to help balance your writing life with your family life?

Margot: When our children were young, finding the time for serious writing was near impossible. I am not one of those mothers who have a baby under one arm, stir a pot with her free hand, and scribble plot notes between diaper changes and burps – babies’ not mine! I need peace and quiet.  With three kids under foot, this was hopeless. The moment our eldest left for college I was out the door, buying a computer, joining online writing groups and SCBWI. Free At Last!

These days I have it made; husband retired and willing to cook and keep up our one acre of gardens.  YEA!  Though I do go MIA from writing sometimes, like in the spring, when the bees buzz, and the wind blows the scent of flowers in my window.  Aha. . . don’t blame me too much, even writers are human.

I write from late mornings, through the afternoon, until dinnertime. Then, after dinner until 8pm.  My husband and I have a deal.  I can “compute” all day, but after 8 we spend the rest of the evening together.  And this last year, a lot of my day is taken up with exercises for hip and knee strengthening, and trips to the physiotherapist. And don’t forget book promotion time.  I do more of that these days than I do writing.

VS: I think a lot of moms and dads can relate to you. I know for me...finding writing time is almost impossible, especially now that Summer is here. Okay, hopefully we don't give away your age too much with this next question. How long have you been writing?

Margot: I have written since grade school.  I was lousy at math – all A + for English and writing.  Wrote a school play when I was just twelve.  Parts for everyone  including the teacher.  On the day we opened I wouldn’t have changed places with Shakespeare.  My appalling swelled head lasted until a couple of upper grade kids pricked my bubble.  Served me right too!!

VS: My parents would have loved having you as one of their own. I hated English myself and barely passed. Now, is your family supportive of your writing?

Margot: They think it’s great Mom has books published, but they don’t jump up and down when a new one is published. They have no idea how many I have written. If I become too enthusiastic, I see that glazed look into their eyes, and I know to quit while I’m ahead.  My husband is supportive, as long as I don’t want him to read them.  He is wonderful in all other ways, especially since my hip and knee surgery has put me out of action for some time: he cooks, gardens, and loves me still (40 years).  So I am blessed.

VS: Wow, 40 years that is wonderful. My family is the same way with their support. They know what I do and even tell others, but I can't get to into detail about my books. Okay, we know you wrote a play at age 12, but what was the first thing you ever had published?

Margot: The first was my “Wild and Wonderful” series.  Seven rhyming e-books about animals from the US and Australia.  They are fun, educational, and great for home schooling or class projects. The two sites below offer more fun facts about the critters in these books:

Down-under Fun

VS: It is said you never for get your first book, but can you share with us a little about your current books?

Margot: I have 3 new books out now + a special FREE story I wrote as a BONUS (pdf ) giveaway. It has all three characters from these books involved in a time-travel adventure. They must find a way to send Taconi and Claude back to the middle of the last century where they belong.  A FREE COPY of “Taconi and Claude’s BIG 2011 Adventure” comes with every hard copy book bought from my website: 

It will also be a BONUS giveaway during my World of Ink Virtual Tour.

* Taconi and Claude-Double Trouble -  midgrade adventure for boys & tomboys
A coming of age story about a young aboriginal boy in the Aussie outback. The time is 1950, and Taconi is pulled in different directions by his dad’s problems, a scary man ceremony, The Dreamtime Spirits, and an elusive magic feather. His only mate is a chatty cockatoo with a parade of funny one-liners.  A tribal gathering finally offers answers Taconi can accept.

* Ruthie and the Hippo’s Fat Behind – rhyming PB
Ruthie becomes a brat when her parents move far from home.  Her parents tear their hair.  Ruthie just scowls and throws tantrums. What is the problem?  Then a wonderful surprise changes everything for the better.

* Horatio Humble Beats the Big D – rhyming PB
Horatio is a smart boy who can’t read.   Words simply jumble together when he tries to read.  When he hears the word Dyslexia he panics and refuses to try Special Ed Class.  But go he does:  and the results are amazing.

** Both picture books include helpful Parent/Teacher guides.

VS: Your books sound delightful. I have read the picture books so I know children of all ages will love, too. Also, thanks Margot for offering such a wonderful FREE eBook and giveaway through your tour. I'm sure everyone will enjoy it. Now, what do you enjoy most about writing?

Margot: I love the sheer pleasure of taking a jumbled bunch of ideas that hit me in the middle of the night, and transforming them into something fun, interesting or dramatic.  Scraps of paper, scribble on in our darkened bathroom, in the hours past midnight, are the basis of most of the stories I write.  The tip-toed path, worn deep from bedroom to bathroom, is a testament to my weird sense of creativity. Seems the deep of night lights a bright bulb in my sleepless brain.

VS: If only we all could have the humor and creativity you have. Can you share what is the best writing advice you ever received?

Margot: Never hurry a revision.  Cultivate patience.  And when really stuck, either by a character or the plot, retire the manuscript to a bottom drawer for a month or three, and let it sulk all by itself.  When you reread it with a fresh focus, whatever aspect daunted you previously, will slide into place without a whimper. Like a “time out” for your child, your manuscript needs to know who’s boss.

VS: Great advice for new and tried authors. Do you have any other works in progress? Can you share a little about them?

Margot: Polishing a sequel to Taconi and Claude-Double Trouble.  This takes the story into the 21st century, with the grandsons of Taconi and the Boss getting themselves mixed up in some scary and dangerous adventures. This tale is more dramatic than the previous one.  It begins with sibling rivalry, and ends when Josh arrives back on Coorparoo Station, determined to settle things with his older brother one way or the other.

Angry and upset, Josh runs off on walkabout with old childhood mate Bindi.  Several near death experiences later, and after being forced to eat emu eggs and snake or starve, a tribal Medicine Man wants Josh dead. He is prepared to see to the matter himself. There are terrible lies to be sorted out, and a friendship with the tribal chief that is a lifesaver.  Even the flying doctor plays a pivotal role.  The beautiful, yet terrifying outback land and its animals play a vital role in their survival – thanks to Bindi and his outback smarts.
VS: The world of children’s book publishing is extremely competitive, with many authors hesitating between trying their luck with a traditional publisher or self publishing. What advice would you offer writers who are oscillating between these two publishing venues? 

Margot: There is a world of difference between self-publishing and traditional publishing. If you want to take on all the responsibilities and work of self publishing, you had better do your homework. Research the self publishers and POD people. Call the scammers ASAP.  Learn what red flags to look for. Get advice from successful self-published authors.  Be prepared for the expense of editing, art work, and the huge amount of time and money it will take to promote your book.  Unless you have energy to burn, forget it.   

Contacts within the newspaper, radio, TV and the online magazine industry would be very helpful. You have to learn to do everything a traditional publisher does for free. I have not heard of too many writers receiving rejections from self publishers. If you have the money, they will publish whatever you pay them to publish. Often, each extra thing ( like editing) is a charge they add to their basic fee.

However, if you know the ropes, and have the money and energy to do it right, self publishing (POD) can be a great way to go.  Not stumbling into it though, unaware of the pitfalls, but with eyes wide open, and the right knowledge in your pocket.  Writers that have books that cater to a specific niche market can do very well at the self-publishing game.

If you go the traditional route, you often receive an advance, and the editing, placement of books in the larger outlets etc., is done by the publisher. No worries about artists, book set-up, what size, what paper, etc.  Yet you often must wait-and-wait for just a generic rejection.  There is no guarantee of acceptance.  You need patience for this sort of publishing, and an ability to write well and polish every page.  Traditional publishers are picky. Their editors do not have time to mentor new writers. The manuscript you send them had better be pretty much ready to publish. 

Not too long ago, POD and Self Published books were the poor relations: looked down on by traditional publishers, SCBWI, and reading snobs in general.  This is changing FAST, as writers realize that a good edit makes a better story.  Technical know-how is available to the masses now, and e-Books are exploding on the market, thanks to E-Readers and the coming of color.  Large publishing houses are in a state of flux, trying to balance their usual wary, slow evolution, with the jet stream like progress of almost instant books, coming from outside their publishing world.

VS: Hearing your view point is wonderful since you have both print and eBooks published (all traditionally published). Okay, can you share what you feel are the basic ingredients of a story?

Margot: Characters that feel so real they almost jump off the page.. Characters that kids can root for and identify with. A plot that lures and teases, that HOOKS kids early, and keeps them hooked until the end.  This means age appropriate dialogue, humor, + scenes full of action and reaction. Telling about an event is a big yawn.  Creating an active scene that SHOWS what happens will keep kids reading.  Using powerful, active and evocative words paints vivid pictures in the reader’s head.  This is how a great story keeps kids reading.

VS: Margot, have you received any awards for your writing?

Margot: No, I have never won an award. I would love one of my books to win an award. Of course for years I thought the publisher had to recommend you for the awards.  And of course the publisher thought I was taking care of it.  So, no awards.

This year I was put straight by my publisher and a few writer friends.  However some of my books had been published too long, and the one I did sign up for last month managed to get lost on the awards end.  Better luck next year.  Or maybe I should employ an “Awards Form Filler-Iner. That way my applications would never be too late or my entry chewed up.

VS: Margot, I'm sure an award will be coming your way soon and your story is one we can all learn from. Your books are amazing and if only it would count, you have won the "Writing Mama WOW Factor" award in my book. I thank you for taking the time to share with my readers about being a writing mama.

Margot: It was entirely my pleasure, mate.  Thank YOU.

 And don't for get to write a comment on this blog or any participating blog during 
Margot Finke's June World of Ink Virtual Author/Book Tour 
to win a 
of her fun time-travel story.
Margot wrote it specially for kids!
One copy per person.  Please leave your e-mail. 

( Safe sample:   mfinke<@> )


  1. Thank YOU Writing Mama, for hosting me today on my World of Ink tour. Your questions took me to the nub of the writing matter, and I hope readers find my answers helpful and informative.

    Margot’s Magic Carpet
    Books With a WOW Factor

  2. Shhh, a sequel to taconic and claude can't wait! The conversational tone to Margot's interview is terrific. Best wishes, donna

  3. Thanks so much Donna. Much appreciated, mate.