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Friday, 2 April 2010

Fiona Ingram

Now, this is a new concept. Children's writer, Fiona Ingram, has turned her website into an interactive journey following her characters, Justin and Adam from her book, The Secret of the Sacred Scarab through Egypt on an exciting adventure.

Those who survive the journey and manage to translate the Curse of Thoth will be able to read the first chapter in Adam and Justin’s next adventure—The Search for the Stone of Excalibur—as they hunt for the Scroll of the Ancients.

The Secret of the Sacred Scarab is 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 book for children (and adults) aged ten and above.

Fiona Ingram's Blog or email Fiona for a more immediate contact: fiona.ingram@telkomsa.net

Fiona has been a journalist for the last fifteen years, so 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 her two nephews (then 10 and 12), who accompanied her on the Egyptian trip. This short story grew into a children’s book and the first in the adventure series Chronicles of the Stone.

Fiona is writing the next book in the series—The Search for the Stone of Excalibur—a huge treat for young King Arthur fans.

I've a few questions myself I'd like to ask:

Have you ever wrote for the adult market?
A few years ago I wrote a Regency Romance because I love Georgette Heyer's Regency Romances. They have to be very detailed and historically accurate because Regency Romance fans are sticklers for detail. I never did much with the manuscript until recently. I submitted it to a new publisher and landed a contract. I had already written most of another regency novel so I hope they will take that as well.

Is more care and attention paid to vocabulary in children's writing than adult?
Without using jaw-breaking vocabulary, writers should filter in challenging words because kids love new words, and (surprise!) love learning new things. They feel more empowered by learning and then using a new word.

Do you sometimes feel you have to be a teacher and teach through your books?
My books are all about history, geography, archaeology, mythology (lots of 'ologies') so the books will always be educational. My heroes go on a series of adventures involving a quest; they delve into new places, discover things about countries and cultures they never knew, and uncover ancient secrets. Kids love anything exciting and mysterious.
The trick is to inform without overloading them with information. Kids who have read the book really love the plot, Egypt, the legends, and the aura of ancient mystery and suspense that pervades the adventure.
I make sure that anything I tell my readers about the place or culture has to be directly related to the plot and what the heroes need to know to survive. That way the information comes across as vital, and not something superfluous.


Most people believe that it is considerably easier to write for children than for adults, has this ever been said to you?
When I began my children's novel I did not know that many people find it hard to write for kids - well, I didn't find it so, but I have read that some writers struggle.
There is always a tendency to 'talk down' to kids, whereas, because kids 'read up' or aspire towards a higher level, the writer should always address kids on a mature level. Never treat them like kids. I always think of my readers as small big people. They are capable of sniffing out a patronising phrase from ten miles away.

Thank you Fiona for your time. It's been a pleasure.
If anybody else has a question for Fiona please put it in the comment box below, and she'll get back to you shortly.

7 comments:

  1. Hi Louise,

    If it's not too late, can I ask Fiona a question about dialogue in children's fiction? Does she think it's best for the child characters to use current slang or avoid it, in case the story becomes dated? And, if she avoids it, how does she make the dialogue sound modern and appealing to young readers? Thanks very much, Clair.

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  2. That's a good question.I'll prod Fiona and she'll get back to you.
    Thanks Clair.

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  3. Hi Clair,
    That's a very good question and something I had to tackle. The advice I received from my editor is: do not tie yourself to an era by using particular slang, unless of course, the story is deliberately set in an historical period and such language would lend authenticity to a story. The best way to deal with the 'current' slang is to keep the dialogue simple and clear. You can use a few 'modern' expressions that have stood the test of time eg I think 'cool/nerd/geek' etc will always be in vogue. Just avoid very specific words like "phat" (meaning cool) which are very new, very specific and possibly won't last. (Hey, I could be wrong and we might see "phat" get into dictionaries.) Instead, use words that are simple, and ask kids of the age you're targeting how they would say something. I have a teen daughter to rely on.
    Slang changes with each generation and fashion/music fad; you want your story to remain timeless.
    Advice from YA author Marcus Dino: "In my opinion, don't overly stress popular culture with young people today. We're talking nanoseconds when we discuss the life span today of any big fad among young people."

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  4. I've a question but it's not to do with writing for children, more writing in general. I see that you once used to be a journalist, and wonder if that's the secret of getting published because every writer I've come across used to be a journalist in a formelife.

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  5. Now here's the interesting thing: I never set out to be a journalist. I drifted into writing from doing so much theater marketing. From marketing my own productions I began marketing other people's work. Then, once I was a journalist, I never set out to be an author. I went to Egypt and came back with a short story that turned into a book. Otherwise I'd still be writing articles and editing other people's work. I don't think being a journo is the secret to getting published. It hasn't helped me at all because books and magazines/newspapers are worlds apart, and I don't know anyone famous or influential in either fields. You have to decide you want to get published and find the way that suits you: either self-publish, or find an agent once your work is completed. If you want to know more about the publishing and marketing aspect of writing, please look at some of my articles on www.FionaIngram.com (Media Room).

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  6. Phat....Unless I am wrong...I think I first heard it in a movie and it meant; Pretty, Hot and Tempting. It was a term used for girls you found very attractive.
    Just throwing that out there. It might mean 'cool' now, but the letters actually stood for something else when it started.
    Just shows how slang can change, so it is hard to use it in a story and be understood.
    A. Lightbourne http://alightbourne.netau.net/

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  7. Never knew that!
    When I heard my son using it I told him off for being rude! And when he explained, I told him off again for being cheeky (because I thought he was taking the mick).

    I hate slang, but as you say it becomes part of our language in the end.

    And you have to use it to make the dialogue/characters more real. But I agree with Fiona, keep it simple else you could date your novel.

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