Monday, November 9, 2009

Author Interview: Fiona Ingram

Today we have our first guest author on The Motherhood Muse!

Welcome Fiona Ingram, who recently published the first volume of a new children's adventures series. She is on a blog tour with WOW! Women on Writing, so you can follow her on her tour to learn more about Fiona and her new book, The Secret of the Sacred Scarab.

Fiona is also giving away one free copy of her new book on our blog here today. All you need to do is post a comment on this post and a winner will be chosen at random. Please check back on our blog on Wednesday to see if you won, so we can receive your snail mail address.

Thank you Fiona for being our guest author on The Motherhood Muse today! What an exciting first volume of your new children's adventures series, Chronicles of the Stone. The Secret of the Sacred Scarab is packed with intrigue, suspense, mystery and excitement. I think your book will inspire every reader to seek adventure and develop a sense of adventure. Thank you for answering my questions today and for donating a free copy of your book to a reader of today's post!

Q: When children hear the words "travel" and "adventure" their first thoughts might be of amusement parks, landmarks, monuments or city sites. How does your book inspire its readers to see nature and foreign countries in the same light as travel and adventure?

A: Egypt is such an exotic location and the adventure in The Secret of the Sacred Scarab is so different from anything the average child experiences that it is definitely a way to transform their perceptions. They’ll be reading about two boys their own age standing in front of the Great Pyramid, riding an uncomfortable steed (a camel) across a scorching desert, coming face to face with an angry giant cobra, and experiencing such unusual cultural traditions that it will spark their imaginations. The cities they’ll visit with Justin and Adam (the heroes) will be long-dead cities and temples of incredible magnitude, still impressive even in a ruined state. The monuments won’t be modern statues—they’ll be gigantic statues of long-dead pharaohs, queens and tributes to the many Egyptian gods of days gone by.

Q: The element of an ancient scarab is just one of many images of nature that convey mystery and thrill in your book (camels, desert sands, and serpents were some of my favorites!). When writing this book, how did you approach using aspects of nature to help readers understand and relate to the story being set in Egypt?

A: I think I would never have been able to convey this element without actually being there with my two nephews and seeing and experiencing how, although Egypt is a modern country, at the same time Egypt is incredibly ancient, and its cities have roots that reach far back into the mists of time. You can step from the 21st Century into another age, 3500 years ago, by going round a corner and into a temple still standing centuries later. Step off the tarmac and you’re … in the desert with traditional Bedouins galloping past on their camels! Have you got water and provisions? Will you survive the scorching heat? Can you see in that blinding sunlight? Watch out—is that a scorpion that just scuttled by your feet? Or maybe it was a cobra slithering away… Once Adam and Justin are kidnapped, the last links with civilization are severed and they are in the harsh desert, struggling to survive.
Talking of nature, one need only look at the pantheon of Egyptian gods, most depicted with animal heads. This also intrigues the boys.

Q: Readers of this blog are mothers and writers interested in the concept of motherhood and nature. What advice can you give us on writing about foreign cultures, countries, and landscapes to encourage children to seek adventures in nature?

A: I wanted to inspire readers who enjoy my book with the idea that “You can do it. You can go to an amazing place and have an incredible adventure.” When the boys’ aunt admonishes them and says there’ll be no adventures, just a nice safe tour, Adam says to himself in Chapter One, “Anything can happen in Egypt.” Well, more than anything did happen! Life is an adventure so live it, is my motto. The smallest of incidents in a new and unusual place can prove to be an exciting and elevating experience for a child. We have become cushioned and comfortable in a world with techno-amenities. We have forgotten how to really see/feel/touch/taste/hear the experience of life. Any new and unusual location will spark a child’s imagination. It doesn’t have to be Egypt—it can be a wilderness trail, a national park, a countryside visit, a marine excursion, an encounter with animals, a totally different environment that stimulates the senses. My two nephews were 10 and 12 when we went to Egypt and it was amazing to see them react to the things they had only read about—such as monuments, mummies (yes!), camels, vast expanses of arid desert … When they returned they were certainly different. Their experiences changed them.

Q: How has your love of travel influenced your connection with other cultures and countries from a writer's perspective?

A: I am such a globetrotter that I think my adventure series has just given me lots of excuses to pack and explore! I began travelling from an early age and I found the contact with other cultures shaped my vision of life and matured me. I began to see life differently, and to appreciate how other people live, think, and feel about life. When the idea for the series grew, I just knew setting the various adventures in unusual countries would appeal to young readers. (Hint: the jungles of the Amazon are one such destination!)

Q: In your book Justin and Adam are presented with an opportunity through the line of journalism as their aunt is a writer and traveler. What kind of doors might this open for children who read The Secret of the Sacred Scarab ?

A: Adam and Justin (like many young boys, including my nephews) are keen on adventure, and the prospects of history and archaeology. To them, digging up old things present myriad possibilities, not just dry, dusty old bits and pieces from long ago. Archaeology smacks of ancient kings, warriors, battles, heroic achievements. One can also delve back into an amazing past and re-interpret old documents and inscriptions. Egypt is an archaeologist’s dream and the amazing projects the Egyptian government is doing, including The Giza Project, (that is the whole area of the Sphinx/Plateau of Giza) will open up many possibilities for academic or archaeological research. One young lad I know is so keen on my book he is using the book’s website to do his school Egyptian project.

Q: Archeology and ancient history help tie readers to the land. How does your adventure series, Chronicles of the Stone, help inspire children to pursue archeology and ancient history in their home tome and to explore the land?

A: I stress the importance of one’s cultural heritage in the book. The boys meet an Egyptologist called Ebrahim Faza, who proves to be a good friend to them in their hour of need. He meets them at the Great Pyramid and explains to them how ancient people viewed life, their future, and their heritage. That was very important for me because we are shaped by where we have come from. Every country has a rich and exciting past, sometimes joyful, sometimes tragic, but by understanding it, we understand who we are as individuals and as a nation. Preserving treasures and artifacts from our history is of paramount importance. Think of what the Declaration of Independence means to every American. It is has shaped the identity of the USA.

Thank you Fiona for stopping by here today on your blog tour! I'm very excited for the second volume of this series to come out. Congratulations on such a successful first book of the series!

In addition to this fantastic insight from Fiona's answers to our questions, Fiona has also provided us with a wealth of information. Below you will find her bio, a synopsis of her book, sites and books to inspire both children and writers!

Author Bio: Fiona Ingram

I can't remember NOT having a book in my hand. My schoolmates called me a bookworm, and nothing's changed since then. I was brought up on the children's classics because my parents are also avid readers. My earliest story-telling talents came to the fore when, from the age of ten, I entertained my three younger brothers and their friends with serialised 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. We also acted out the stories for my long-suffering parents! I graduated from the University of Natal, Durban, South Africa, with a double first in my B.A. (French & Drama). After completing my Honors in Drama at Natal, I then went to the University of the Witwatersrand to do my Masters degree in French-African literature. I also studied drama at The Drama Studio in London and mime at L’Ecole Jacques le Coq in Paris. Upon my return to South Africa, I immersed myself in teaching drama at community centres, and became involved in producing community and grassroots theatre with local playwrights and performers in Natal for several years. A move to Johannesburg took me in a new direction—that of journalism. I have written freelance for the last fifteen years on everything from serial killers to relationship advice. Writing a children’s book—The 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 my 2 nephews (then 10 and 12), who had accompanied me on the Egyptian trip. This short story grew into a children’s book, the first in the adventure series, Chronicles of the Stone. I'm already immersed in the next book in the series—The Search for the Stone of Excalibur—a huge treat for young King Arthur fans. Although I do not have children of my own, I have an adopted teenage foster child, from an underprivileged background who is just discovering the joys of reading for pleasure. My interests include literature, art, theatre, collecting antiques, animals, music, and films.

Book Synopsis: The Secret of the Sacred Scarab

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 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!

Curious to know more! Fiona has provided a list of resources for us below!

Here are a number of fascinating sites that will provide information as well as many fun activities to do with your child or pupils (teachers).



· Learn more about the pyramids (recommended)

· Do hieroglyphics look like Greek to you?

· Ancient tombs of Egypt (tomb adventure)

· Read an Ancient Egyptian story

Fiona has been kind to also include a list of books for us today!

Some interesting books on Egypt to inspire thoughts of adventure and amazing events! All available on Amazon.

Egyptology by Emily Sands

Join Emily Sands' expedition to find the lost tomb of Osiris. A jeweled amulet glows on the cover, inside the book, there are fold-out maps, postcards, drawings and photographs, ticket stubs, mummy cloth, a scrap of papyrus. (Activity book) And, don't miss the hieroglyphs writing kit from the desk of Emily Sands: Egyptology Code-Writing Kit.

Tutankhamun: The Mystery of the Boy King by Zahi Hawass

Journey back to the time of Tutankhamun with famed Egyptian archeologist Zahi Hawass—experience the thrilling discovery of Tut's tomb by Howard Carter, the boy king's life reconstructed (how old he was, how tall, what clothes he wore, what games he played) and most recent studies of Tut's mummy. Gorgeous photographs. (Picture book)

Secrets of the Sphinx by James Cross Giblin, Bagram Ibatoulline

Get the scoop on the Great Sphinx through the centuries, the sculpture of a lion topped with a man's head. Find out about builders of the Sphinx, rediscovery by Thutmose a thousand years later, protecting the sculpture today. Fabulous illustrations, including reconstruction of the Sphinx with a red face and blue beard. (Illustrated chapter book)

The Ancient Egypt Pop-Up Book by The British Museum and James Putnam

Ancient Egypt leaps off the page in this irresistible pop-up book—a 3-D boat on the Nile, Ramses II in his war chariot, whole pyramid complex at Giza, an Egyptian villa, Hatshepsut's temple at Deir el Bahari, Tutankhamun's funerary mask and mummified head, and Tut's tomb. (Pop-up book)

If I Were a Kid in Ancient Egypt by Cricket Books
Take a step back in time and find out how kids lived in ancient Egypt—eating with your fingers, shaved heads, family fishing trips, popular pets, board games, going to school to become a scribe, and more. (Picture book)

Fun with Hieroglyphs by Metropolitan Museum of Art, Catharine Roehrig

Find out what hieroglyphs mean and how to say them, then write like an Egyptian with 24 different rubber stamps, plus counting, hieroglyphic word puzzles, and secret messages. (Activity pack and book)

The Egyptology Handbook by Emily Sands, Ian Andrew, Nick Harris, and Helen Ward

The companion book to Egyptology, this is a good introduction to the wonders of ancient Egypt—history and dynasties, the great pyramids and tombs, food, dress, work and play, palace life and warfare, hieroglyphs, gods and religion, tales and myths, plus activities to do in each section and stickers. Beautifully illustrated with drawings and historical photographs. (Activity book)

The Riddle of the Rosetta Stone by James Cross Giblin

Find out why this modest-looking black stone is the key to ancient Egypt—where the stone was found, what's inscribed, and how Champollion, having decided at age 11 that he'd read the hieroglyphics, solved the puzzle. (Chapter book, illustrations)

An ABC Escapade through Egypt by Bernadette Simpson

Discover Egypt from A to Z, especially food, animals and culture—dates (Egypt produces the most dates in the world), konafa (traditional dessert for Ramadan), watermelons (cultivated 5,000 years ago), goats, camels and jerboas, village life, city markets and more. Unique and fascinating insights. (Picture book)


Jodi Webb said...

I agree that kids today see traveling as amusement parks and other "created" destinations. This weekend I was at a Reading Festival and at one point the children were asked to draw a picture of somewhere they would like to visit. I think 90% of the drawings were Disney World. I hope your series opens up their eyes to the real world as a destination.

Andrea said...

Wow! Sounds like a fantastic and exciting book. My eight-year-old son loves mysteries (he's a big Hardy Boys fan) and I love Ancient Egypt; it sounds like the perfect book for us to read together. I also love the idea of introducing kids to different cultures, other parts of the world and history through literature.

Fiona Ingram said...

Hi Jodi and Andrea and thanks for your comments. A big inspiration for me in creating my two heroes Adam and Justin was watching my nephews' reactions to an amazing and interesting country. I hope my fans will enoy the other fascinating destinations I have planned in the series.
Andrea, you might like to take a look at The Chronicles of the Stone website There is a very beautiful antique map of the world and it is used to plot the chart of the boys' adventures as they happen around the globe.

Sage Cohen said...

Thanks for the great interview!

Anonymous said...

This sound like a cute book, one my eight year-old would love (and learn something too.)


RAD - Dot Painter said...

Wow, what an experience and inspiration! What location are you looking at to do your next in the series?

Loren said...

Fiona, this book sounds wonderful. I have always wanted to travel to exotic places, (Egypt is one of them). The best destinations, in my opinion, are rich in history. Good luck with your book tour and thank you for sharing your creative talent with us!

Unknown said...

This books sounds perfect for my 7 year old. he loves learning about different places and we have traveled extensively across Europe but were never able to go to Egypt.
This book would help him to see the wonderful sights even if it's only in his imagination!

Unknown said...

Great interview! Being an avid reader of children's literature, your book is definitely going to be on my "to read" list. My kids are still little, but I want them to grow up viewing the world as accessible...that they can go anywhere and see anything they want. Thanks for promoting that idea! :-)

Mary Jo said...

Hi Fiona! Since you're appearing on my writelikeCRAZY blog tomorrow, I've already asked several questions, but just thought of another: do you also write for adults, and if so, how does the writing process differ when writing for children?
: ) Mary Jo

Fiona Ingram said...

Hi there everyone, and thanks for your wonderful enthusiasm over my series. To answer your questions:
Dot, the next destination is actually Britain (England and then Scotland) because the quest for the second Stone of Power takes the boys into the realms of King Arthur and the history of Dark Ages Britain (lots of medieval mystery here). Of course the marvellous sword Excalibur features strongly. Then the next adventure is in South America which is going to be wonderful! I have done lots of research ... now I just need to go there!
Mary Jo: in my opinion, the difference in writing for adults depends on what genre you choose. I have written two historical romances set in the Regency period. They sound and feel (of course) completely different, really just Regency 'romps.' Strangely enough, I felt they were just 'fun' whereas I find my children's books are more weighty, even though there is a lot of fun and humor in the books.

K said...

Thank you everyone for stopping by today for Fiona's interview! And a big thank you to Fiona for sharing with us an insight into writing for children.

Fiona has donated a free copy of her book and using the random number generator, The International Mom (Judy), was chosen! So Judy, as soon as I can bundle my two little ones up and make it to the post office, I will get your free book in the mail to you! Congratulations!

Nishant said...

I hope your series opens up their eyes to the real world as a destination. Work from home India