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 serialized 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 (graduated cum laude). 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 have already completed 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 discovering the joys of reading for pleasure. My interests include literature, art, theatre, collecting antiques, animals, music, and films.
Fiona’s latest book is the middle grade adventure novel, The Secret of the Sacred Scarab – Book 1 in the Chronicles of the Stone series.
Thank you for joining us today, Fiona. Can you please start off by telling us a bit about yourself?
I am a South African children’s author. I graduated in theater studies, switched to journalism, and then after a family trip to Egypt wrote my first children’s book The Secret of the Sacred Scarab. It is the start of my adventure series The Chronicles of the Stone. When I am not writing I love reading (of course), movies, theater and anything cultural, spending time in my beautiful home with my mom, my adopted daughter and a menagerie of animals! I also love travelling and the good part of writing my book series is that I absolutely have to go to each new country that my young heroes visit.
When did you first get bit by the writing bug?
I began life as a raconteur of tales extraordinaire rather early (age ten). I have three younger brothers and as big sister it fell to me to entertain them quite often. I had a long-running serial called Gruesome Gables, about four children (us, of course) who somehow end up in a haunted house, in the middle of nowhere. The children are stalked by every possible monstrous creature imaginable, but they always manage to escape. That was the beginning. I also wrote a lot of humorous poetry about family members, so until I switched to full time writing I kept my writing talents bubbling away.
Why did you decide to write stories for children?
I am not sure. Possibly because of my early experiences with my younger brothers; possibly because I took my two nephews to Egypt and their infectious enthusiasm for every minute in a foreign environment inspired me; possibly because I remember my own childhood and the magical world of books so clearly. I have written other material – two published historical novels and co-authored another. But my main love is my children’s series.
Do you believe it is harder to write books for a younger audience?
I don’t know. Some people say so. I find myself hopping quite easily into the brain of each of my young heroes and somehow the story flows. I believe a good story holds its own with any audience. Children are remarkably perceptive and clear about what they do and don’t like. Just telling a captivating story with believable characters that hold their interest is the secret to successfully writing for children.
What is your favorite part of writing for young people?
Anything can happen! Adventures are especially predisposed to amazing events taking place quite naturally. In The Secret of the Sacred Scarab it is quite possible to go to Egypt with your aunt and your gran, get given an ancient scarab by a strange peddler and to be catapulted into the craziest adventure possible, riddled with danger and with terrible enemies leaping at you from all sides.
Can you tell us what your latest book is all about?
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. Only when the evil Dr. Faisal Khalid shows a particular interest in the cousins and their scarab, do the boys realise 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!
What inspired you to write it?
I actually went to Egypt with my two nephews (10 and 12 at the time) and my mom. It was a fabulous trip and we had such an adventure. All sorts of things happened, alas, not half as exciting as in the book, but exciting enough! When we got back home I thought I’d give my nephews an unusual souvenir – a short story of an amazing adventure with them as the two heroes. Well, the short story grew into a book, and the end of the book heralded the beginning of another. Then I found myself planning subsequent adventures…
Where can readers purchase a copy?
Amazon e-book: http://www.amazon.com/Secret-Sacred-Scarab-Chronicles-ebook/dp/B005CRRU5E/ref=sr_1_3?ie=UTF8&qid=1311106921&sr=8-3
Amazon paperback and hard cover Book Link
Please check on the book site Purchase Page for links to other outlets for e-book, paperback and hard cover. Young explorers will enjoy an interactive journey through Egypt, following Justin and Adam’s exciting adventure on http://www.secretofthesacredscarab.com. Readers can also browse the first chapter of the book. 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.
Do you have a website and/or blog where readers can find out more?
Yes, please visit me on www.FionaIngram.com for details about my work. I also have articles and other points of interest on my Media Page, especially tips on getting kids to enjoy reading, and how parents can instill a love of books into their children. Please also visit the Facebook Fan Page and ‘like’ the book!
What is up next for you?
My editor is busy fine tuning The Search for the Stone of Excalibur, which is Book Two in the series. I am about to begin The Temple of the Crystal Timekeeper, Book Three, which takes my young heroes off to another exotic location. This time they are jetting off to Central America and will find another hair-raising adventure as they search for the Third Stone of Power. Lucky me I have to go on ahead to check out the terrain…
Do you have anything else to add?
I have been fortunate to attract the interest of a British film company who read a review of the book, bought it, loved it, and contacted me. I signed a movie option this year and it looks as if The Secret of the Sacred Scarab will be made into a film next year some time.
How exciting! Thank you for spending time with us today, Fiona. We wish you much success.