Fiona Ingram, author of The Secret of the Sacred Scarab, launches her blog tour!
& Book Giveaway Comments Contest!
Born in Durban, South Africa into a family of five, reading and adventure were always a big part of Fiona's life. Fiona's book has been in the works since she developed a passion for Egypt at the age of eight after her mother gave her the encyclopedia Time-Life Ancient Egypt. That passion led to a trip to Egypt with her two nephews, a short story about Egyptian adventures, and ultimately her first book for children, The Secret of the Sacred Scarab--the first in a series called Chronicles of the Stone.
But it's been a long and winding road to the release of Fiona's first book. Along the way, she spent several years in France earning her Master's degree in French-African literature, teaching drama, working in community theater, and working as a journalist. She now lives in Johannesburg where she's working on the next book in her series, The Search for the Stone of Excalibur.
The Secret of the Sacred Scarab was nominated as a Finalist in the Children's Fiction section of USA 2009 Next Generation Indie Book Awards, as well as the USA National Best Books 2009 Awards.
Find out more about Fiona by visiting her websites:
The Secret of the Sacred Scarab
By Fiona Ingram
A 5,000-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!
Reading level: Ages 9 - 12
Paperback: 272 pages
Book Giveaway Comments Contest!
If you received our Events Newsletter, remember, we are holding a contest to win a copy of Fiona's book, The Secret of the Sacred Scarab, to those that comment. So, grab a cup of coffee, pull up a chair, and enjoy the chat, and share your thoughts, and comments, at the end. We will randomly choose a winner from those who comment. Enjoy!
Interview by Jodi Webb
WOW: So many times we hear that old chestnut, "Write what you know." You're from South Africa and have an adopted daughter (and were once a young girl yourself). So why didn't you write an adventure story about two young girls in South Africa instead of an adventure story about two young boys in Egypt?
Fiona: I have four brothers, grew up with all their friends, and was happier playing cricket and football and climbing trees than playing with dolls. So, I guess I am more comfortable with the idea of boys...possibly since three of my brothers are younger and were naughty little beasts growing up.
Then, of course, the deal maker...we took my two nephews to Egypt. That trip was the spark behind the whole series. It was such an exciting and eventful trip that on our return, I decided to do something different...write them a short story about two boys who went to Egypt and had an incredible adventure. I modeled the heroes Justin and Adam very closely on the characters of my nephews. They are very different: the older one is bold, feisty and adventurous. Perfect to lead the expedition. The younger boy is more spiritual, imaginative, creative and discovered heroism within him. Perfect for the role of Adam, who is the bearer of the sacred scarab. The short story just grew into a book, and by the time I had added the whole mythology behind the seven Stones of Power, I knew it couldn't end with just one book. I had created a series.
To return to your question, why boys? Egypt is a 'guy' place if you have any aspirations of heroism. I think girls would be uncomfortable with being kidnapped, tied up, thrown over the back of a camel, dragged through the desert, and faced with an enemy (waving a gun) while the whole place comes crashing down. It's a guy thing. That said, there's a feisty young girl who joins the boys from Book Two and she shows them a thing or two.
WOW: That sounds fantastic! I can't wait for Book Two. So what made you decide to take the story you had written as a "souvenir" for your nephews and decide to publish it for a larger audience?
Fiona: The cute story ended up being a book, so I had to publish it. Imagine an inexorable force that just keeps pushing you from behind, even when you are thinking, "No...I can't do it...I will never get anywhere...this is nonsense!"
WOW: So tell us how you defied those forces of doubt. Tell us about your road to publication.
Fiona: Talk about a 'long and winding road!' The story just became a book without me trying very hard. Once that was done I thought fame and fortune were just around the corner. A very long corner as it turns out...I was so naive. I got the Writers & Artists Yearbook which leans heavily on British publishers and agents. I found about 35 British agents who said they accepted children's book proposals, sent them three chapters and a really polite (a.k.a. groveling) letter as per the example chapter in the Yearbook. Thirty-three sent back the letter that says, "I haven't actually read it" formulaic response. Two bothered to give me an analysis of my writing (very positive) and said I should cut the book in half and persevere. A friend then suggested I go with a self-publisher and showed me a book she'd been given. Hey, it looked like a real book! I contacted the USA publishers (iUniverse) and the rest is history. From writing to rejections to acceptance to book production--about three years (feels like three centuries).
WOW: Those three years are going to be affecting the next decade of your life since The Secret of the Sacred Scarab is the first in a series: Chronicles of the Stone. What was the tipping point that turned this from a standalone book to a series?
Fiona: When I began researching the 'mythology' behind the Book of Thoth, the Stone of Fire, and the seven Stones of Power, I discovered such a deep and wonderful world of legends and ancient teachings that the book began to grow almost a 'super identity.' This back history became so compelling that by the time I actually fixed the legend of the Book of Thoth into the story, I knew that it wouldn't end with the first book.
Luckily, my decision came at the right time. I think my choice of Egypt and the legend behind the Book of Thoth as a starting point laid a very strong foundation. The fact that I knew so early it would spill over into more books made me write with a different 'eye.' In fact, I took quite a chance in giving my first book a 'cliffhanger' ending, letting readers know the books would continue. Everyone who has reviewed or read it says they want to read the next one.
WOW: Who could stop with just one of your books! Can you give us a sneak preview? Will the same characters be returning in the next books or will each feature new characters?
Fiona: The two heroes, Justin and Adam, are fixed for the series, as are Aunt Isabel and James Kinnaird (the archaeologist), and several of the other characters will pop up again in time. Now that James and Isabel are totally dedicated to the quest of retrieving the seven Stones of Power it will be easy for the heroes to go with them on their travels. New characters: Kim, Aunt Isabel's African foster child, causes a stir with the heroes who don't really want to share the fun with (horrors) a girl! In each book the heroes need someone to help, to guide them along the way, and these characters will appear.
Each adventure takes them to new countries, and they meet new people who are in some way linked, either historically or materially to the quest. These places are already planned. Countries--next is Britain (The Search for the Stone of Excalibur), then it's off to South America and the impenetrable jungle and lost cities (The Temple of the Crystal Time-Keeper). I won't tell you more but there are some wonderfully exotic places, steeped in myth and legend, and ancient ruins and some equally fabulous artifacts.
WOW: What do you think are the advantages of writing a series? Any disadvantages? Do you worry it will seem too "cookie cutter?"
Fiona: I am very conscious of the 'cookie cutter' problem because I have many favorite authors who just seem to churn them out after a while. I enjoy writing a series. One can really build upon characters, develop the underlying themes, and do justice to one's literary creation. The end of the story then becomes the beginning of another. Writing the second book has been quicker because Dark Ages Britain (the time when the historical Arthur lived) is not as complex or as well documented as Ancient Egypt. The themes are different, but the medieval world of ancient manuscripts and monasteries is as fascinating. Secret associations, poisons and cures...murder most foul...lots of good stuff. I don't get bored with the characters at all because their responses to each new story and situation bring out different aspects of them.
Each book has such a strong theme, an unusual artifact related to the stone of Power it contains, and a powerful message that goes beyond the mere story. For example: Book One emphasized the value of cultural heritage; Book Two will highlight the value of recorded history and (often dangerous) power of knowledge; Book three will uncover pressing environmental issues, and so on. Each country I have chosen also has a unique aspect that enables me to 'give more' to the reader without consciously hammering home a message. The underlying thread--uniting the seven Stones of Power--will keep the books focused on a final outcome.
WOW: Any advice for writers considering developing a book series?
Fiona: My decision to start the series came early, and I think it's because my 'back history' is so powerful. If the story is very strong (and elastic) and can be written to cover several books, then go for it. The Harry Potter series is possibly the best example. However, one can easily write a brilliant series based on heroic characters who then engage in different adventures/quests etc. Look at all the Patricia Cornwell, Ian Rankin, Kathy Reis detective series. They all go from case to case, with maybe a few personal threads that carry through to the next story. I think the story should tell the author where to go, not the other way around. Listen to your characters. Often I have ideas of where I want the plot to go and suddenly, the characters make another decision.
WOW: Do you have a favorite series (children's or adult fiction)? Any theories about why readers love a series?
Fiona: I love the Chronicles of Narnia the best. Maybe because I just enjoyed it so much on first reading. I think readers love a series when they bond with the character/s and don't want to let them go. You know the feeling when the book is coming to an end and you read slower and slower to delay the inevitable end. I loved the River God series by Wilbur Smith because I thought the main character was amazing. No surprises--it's set in Egypt!
WOW: Your nephews as well as a pet duck named Charlemagne made appearances in The Secret of the Sacred Scarab. Will any more family members or friends be turning up in future books?
Fiona: I will possibly run out of animals soon because Jasper and Chloe (my two new dogs) and some of the cats (who didn't get a part first time round) appear in Book Two. I like to put familiar links into my writing to make it more real for me. My adopted daughter Mabel appears as Kim. She came to live with me soon after our return from Egypt and her friendship with my youngest nephew inspired me to put her in the stories. My mother (the boys' Gran) may have to curtail her activities in the quest because some of the places are just not designed for elderly people. However, her words ring in the boys' heads quite often, so she remains in spirit. The characters are all set for Book Two and Three already.
WOW: So what can we expect next? Is Book Two finished?
Fiona: I am nearly finished with Book Two and struggling at the moment to juggle all the marketing for Book One with writing time. Some good news: an agent has requested to represent me based on reading Book One, and all the reviews and book nominations it has received. (Tip: get reviews and enter as many book competitions as possible.) So I am writing as fast as I can to get the next one out there. I have already written two historical 'Regency romp' romances (not published) and some short younger children's stories. I have six more books to go in The Chronicles of the Stone so any other projects will be shelved for a while.
WOW: Book nominations? Don't hide your light under a basket--tell us more.
Fiona: The Secret of the Sacred Scarab was a Finalist in the Children's/Juvenile Fiction category of the 2009 USA Next Generation Indie Book Awards and in the USA National Best Books 2009 Awards.
WOW: Congratulations! We're looking forward to more books and more awards!
Want to join Fiona on her blog tour? Check out these dates and mark your calendar! You can also snag a copy of WOW's Events Calendar HERE.
Blog Tour Dates: Come and join the fun!
November 2, 2009 Monday
Fiona will be chatting with WOW! Women On Writing at The Muffin. Stop by and share your comments! One lucky commenter will win copy of Fiona's book!
November 3, 2009 Tuesday
Fiona Ingram who just launched her children's adventure series, Chronicles of the Stone, stops by Cathy C. Hall's blog, Finders & Keepers, to tell us what it's like to commit to writing not just one, but an entire series of books.
November 4, 2009 Wednesday
Stop by 5 Minutes for Books today to read a great review of The Secret of the Sacred Scarab. Fiona will also return to the blog on November 8th to tell us about her journey into rediscovering children's classics.
November 5, 2009 Thursday
Need help transforming a non-reader into a reader? Fiona Ingram, author of The Secret of the Sacred Scarab, has some ideas that she shares with Write For a Reader. And don't miss the review of her thrilling new book for young adventure seekers!
November 6, 2009 Friday
Fiona stops by WordHustler's blog today for a candid interview with Anne Walls! Anne's interviews are always fun and informative, so be sure to stop by.
November 8, 2009 Sunday
Fiona's back at 5 Minutes for Reading to tell us about the joy of rediscovering children's classics with her daughter. What's your favorite children's classic? Stop by and share your thoughts!
November 9, 2009 Monday
Stop by The Motherhood Muse today for an interview with Fiona about how nature gets her creative juices flowing. And don't forget to enter to win a copy of The Secret of the Sacred Scarab!
November 10, 2009 Tuesday
Fiona stops by Write Like Crazy today to share some advice with young readers.
November 11, 2009 Wednesday
Need suggestions on getting your child to read more? Stop by fellow children's book author Christine Verstraete's blog, Candid Canine, and read Fiona's post today.
November 12, 2009 Thursday
Stop by Mom-e-Centric today for a fun visit to Egypt with Fiona Ingram!
November 13, 2009 Friday
How can you tempt your child away from video games, televisions, and computers and interest them in a great book? Stop by A Book Blogger's Diary and get a few ideas from children's author Fiona Ingram.
November 16, 2009 Monday
Stop by Booking Mama and read a review of The Secret of the Sacred Scarab today, then come back tomorrow for a guest post by Fiona and a chance to win a copy!
November 17, 2009 Tuesday
Fiona is back at Booking Mama to give readers a few ideas on transforming their non-readers into readers. Be sure to comment today for your chance to win a copy of The Secret of the Sacred Scarab!
November 18, 2009 Wednesday
Ready for adventure? Stop by Margo Dill's blog, Read These Books and Use Them, for a chance to win a copy of Fiona Ingram's children's book, The Secret of the Sacred Scarab, and learn some great activities you and your child can do while reading!
November 19, 2009 Thursday
Stop by the Friendly Book Nook for a review of Fiona's book, The Secret of the Sacred Scarab.
November 20, 2009 Friday
Fiona stops by Jerri Ann Reason's blog, Education Uncensored, for a surprise guest post!
November 23, 2009 Monday
Stop by Misadventures With Andi today for an interview with Fiona Ingram and a review of The Secret of the Sacred Scarab.
November 24, 2009 Tuesday
Can't get enough of the mysteries of Egypt? Author Fiona Ingram tells you where to go to learn anything and everything about this fascinating country.
November 25, 2009 Wednesday
In today's busy world, how do you find time to read to your child? Fiona Ingram has answers--and a great book your family can read. Stop by Readaholic today and enter to win a copy of The Secret of the Sacred Scarab!
December 4, 2009 Friday
Wonder about developing your own children's series? Fiona Ingram stops by Day By Day Writer to tell you how she's doing it.
We may have many more dates to come, so be sure to check out our Events Calendar HERE.
We hope you are as excited about the tour as we are! Mark your calendar, save these dates, and join us for this truly unique and fascinating author blog tour.
If you have a blog or website and would like to host one of our touring authors, or schedule a tour of your own, please email Angela and Jodi at: firstname.lastname@example.org
** Please feel free to copy any portion of this post.
Be sure to comment on this post to enter in a drawing for a copy of Fiona's children's book, The Secret of the Sacred Scarab. And check back in a couple of days in the comments section to see if you won!