Friday, January 23, 2015

Interview with children's author Fiona Ingram

Today’s spotlight shines on children’s author Fiona Ingram and the second book in her Chronicle of the Stone series, The Search for the Stone of Excalibur. Fiona is doing a virtual book tour and this is one stop along the way with Women on Writing's The Muffin.

Fiona Ingram was born and educated in South Africa, and has worked as a full-time journalist and editor. Her interest in ancient history, mystery, and legends, and her enjoyment of travel resulted in The Secret of the Sacred Scarab, the first in her exciting children’s adventure series—The Chronicles of the Stone. This was inspired by a family trip the author took with her mom and two young nephews aged ten and twelve at the time. The book began as a short story for her nephews and grew from there. The Search for the Stone of Excalibur is a treat for young King Arthur fans. Fiona is busy with Book 3 entitled The Temple of the Crystal Timekeeper, set in Mexico.

While writing The Secret of the Sacred Scarab, Fiona fostered (and later adopted) a young African child from a disadvantaged background. Her daughter became the inspiration for the little heroine, Kim, in The Search for the Stone of Excalibur. Interestingly, the fictional character’s background and social problems are reflected in the book as Kim learns to deal with life. Fiona’s experiences in teaching her daughter to read and to enjoy books also inspired many of her articles on child literacy and getting kids to love reading.

Welcome, Fiona. Please tell us about your current release.
In Book One: The Secret of the Sacred Scarab, when cousins Justin and Adam Sinclair visit Egypt with their aunt and grandmother on the trip of a lifetime, they have no idea what is in store for them. Having escaped the clutches of the evil Dr. Khalid in Egypt and rescued the first Stone of Power, Justin and Adam are keen to embark upon the next adventure. The Search for the Stone of Excalibur grew from Book One. This quest takes them to Britain, and unravels the mystery behind King Arthur—half myth, half legend—and his fantastical sword Excalibur. What gave Excalibur its incredible powers, so great that even historians have recorded its singular abilities? Could it be that a Stone of Power is embedded in the hilt? Right from the start, this adventure is not like the first. For one, Aunt Isabel has sent a girl, Kim, along with the cousins. Will this mess up the boys’ plans? And how annoying that Kim has such good ideas when the boys are stumped…

What inspired you to write this book?
I am a huge King Arthur fan and having travelled all over Scotland, visiting castles, I decided that Britain would be the location of the boys’ quest for the second Stone of Power. The legends and stories about King Arthur and Excalibur are the perfect vehicle for this book. There is so much magic and mystery surrounding this historical figure that I had enough material to craft a fascinating adventure. If you love history, geography, action, adventure, archaeology and a story that grips you from page one (plus lots of danger!) then this is the book for you. This will also appeal to any young explorers who want to save the world or (for those readers a little older) remember their plans to do so!

Adam was so close that he could have reached out and touched the rider. The spectral figure drew his sword from its scabbard and held it aloft. It seemed to Adam that he saw every detail with strangely magnified clarity. It was the same sword from the museum, but it looked so different now. The metal gleamed with a peculiar bluish sheen. Curious characters embossed the length of the blade. At the top, just under the crossguard, was a small circle with a seven-pointed star inside it. Sparkling gems decorated the hilt and pommel, with two dragons’ heads facing inward on the crossguard. The stone between the dragons’ open mouths glowed brilliant red. Suddenly, a fiery, almost blinding light shot from the stone, dazzling him. The white horse reared on its hindquarters. The radiant beam lit up the forest as the warrior whirled the blade around his head several times. Adam fell to his knees, shaking with a mixture of terror and excitement as he realized the second Stone of Power was embedded in the sword of Arthur. But the stone in the museum sword was nothing like this one.

What exciting story are you working on next?
My next project (almost completed) is Book 3 in the series: The Temple of the Crystal Timekeeper. It’s chock full of excitement, an exotic environment, lots of danger and definitely an adventure any kid would enjoy! Continuing the adventure that ended in Britain just a short while ago, cousins Adam and Justin Sinclair, with their friend Kim Maleka, are now hunting for the third Stone of Power, one of seven mysterious stones lost centuries ago. The third stone might be located in an ancient city, hidden in the depths of the Mexican jungle. Of course, their old adversary Dr. Khalid is close behind as the trio travels through the jungle in search of the lost city of stone gods. This time Adam will clash with a terrible enemy who adopts the persona of an evil Aztec god, Tezcatlipoca. Will they emerge alive from the jungle? Will Dr. Khalid find the third Stone of Power before they do?
When did you first consider yourself a writer?
I started off as a story teller aged ten, entertaining my younger brothers and their friends with tales of brave kids embarking upon adventures, usually populated with monsters, vampires and other interesting creatures. Then I graduated to writing plays which my (4) brothers and I would act out for my long-suffering and patient parents. Then I wrote comical poetry for the family, and finally after being an actress and drama coach for a while (after university and overseas training), I drifted into writing and publishing, somewhere I am happiest!

Do you write full-time? If so, what's your work day like? If not, what do you do other than write and how do you find time to write?
Yes, I write full time and in a variety of genres. I write middle-grade adventure and animal rescue books under my own name. I also write historical romance under a pseudonym (Arabella Sheraton). Added to that is teaching novel writing for an online writing college—it’s very fulfilling to watch new writers grow. I also edit for a big US book review site. I write every day and give myself a day off occasionally to recharge the batteries. Because I do lots of different things I tend to work on one thing for a couple of hours, and then give myself a break and work on something else. I start early in the morning and have a charming little office at the bottom of the garden, surrounded by trees and flowers, and a small fountain. It’s just big enough for me, my bookshelves, my two dogs’ baskets and lots of books and CDs.

What would you say is your interesting writing quirk?
I’m not sure—one can consider from a writer or a reader point of view. I like to research everything in depth, and try to create the scenes so that readers imagine it as a movie. I have had a few people tell me that when they read my books it’s like a movie in their heads. If you mean do I have a special ritual before starting to write, or play music etc., then nothing so interesting. I get into the office, dig in and write!

As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?
I first wanted to be a nurse, but my grandmother sensibly suggested I do a stint at a local hospital during a school holiday when I was at high school—I discovered I hated the sight of blood. Then I wanted to be an actress and even won scholarships after university to study drama in London and mime in Paris. Upon my return home I found treading the boards was not exactly what I had imagined, although the overseas experience was just incredible and added to my ability to write. Finally, I came back to my creative roots and moved into editing and publishing; my mother’s invitation to take us to Egypt kick started my career as a children’s author.

Anything additional you want to share with the readers?
This is a note for parents/grandparents or anyone with young relatives. Learning to love reading is the best gift in the world for any child and will change their lives. From a love of reading, a child will develop a love of learning new things and embrace education. With an enquiring and questing mind, that child will achieve anything they set their sights on. However, loving to read is not natural, as in learning to speak or walk. A love of reading must be taught, so that reading becomes associated with pleasure. To do this, read with your child or young relative as much as possible. Have fun reading with that child. Let them read anything their heart desires, even if it is only comics. From enjoying one kind of reading matter, a child will soon explore further. Let them see you reading often. Have books in the house. Get movies of kids’ books and then buy the original books. Reading is an advantage, so make sure your child has every single one you can offer.

Thank you, Fiona!

1 comment:

Fiona Ingram said...

Thanks so much for hosting me, Lisa!