Friday, April 8, 2011

Interview with Author Margot Finke

I'm pleased to share with you an interview with a special lady, Margot Finke. She is the author of many great books for children, including her two recent releases, Horatio Humble Beats the Big D and Taconi and Claude - Double Trouble.
Margot Finke is an Aussie transplant who writes midgrade adventure fiction and rhyming picture books. For many years she has lived in Oregon with her husband and family. Gardening, travel, and reading fill in the cracks between writing. Her husband is very supportive, though not interested in children's books . Their three children are now grown and doing very well.

Margot didn't begin serious writing until the day their youngest left for college. This late start drives her writing, and pushes her to work at it every day. Margot said, "I really envy those who began young, and managed to slip into writing mode between kid fights, diaper changes, household disasters, and outside jobs.  You are my heroes! "

Margot, how long have you been writing for children, and what encouraged you to begin doing so?
I have always written “stuff,” but it was my stint as a teacher’s aide that encouraged me write down the stories I told the different classes about Australia, and their weird and wonderful animals.  However, it wasn’t until our youngest went off to college that I buckled down and became a serious writer. 
When we first arrived in Oregon from Australia, I didn’t want our children to forget their Down-under heritage. I put a map showing Aussie animals on our kid’s bedroom wall. Every night I told them a story about a different critter.  These are the stories I told the school kids too, only sometimes I changed them around, and the children noticed the different endings. A teacher suggested I write them down. I did, and  they became my  “Wild and Wonderful” series: 7 rhyming picture books about animals from the US and Australia.
Those sound like some fun and exciting stories, Margot! You have several books published by Guardian Angel Publishing. Would you tell us a little about these and your reasons for writing them?
My two latest rhyming picture books, Horatio Humble Beats the Big D, and Ruthie and the Hippo’s Fat Behind, have  sneaky hidden agendas.  They were both born due to what I learned as a teacher’s aide.
Many kids suffer deeply due to big changes in their lives. Changes they have no control over: like a death, a divorce, a move far from friends and family etc. “Ruthie” is such a child, and she reacts with snotty behavior and tantrums her parent find hard to manage. Finally, something wonderful happens to change her back to a sweet and loving girl.  Kid friendly and fun to read, the parent/teacher guide offers a helpful Q and A plus links to more serious help.
It seems that Dyslexia and other learning problems beset many of today’s children – especially boys. “Horatio Humble” is a smart boy, yet he can’t read.  He thinks going to Special Ed classes will brand him dumb. However, go he does, with amazing results.  The story encourages these kids that they CAN learn to read. The parent-teacher guide suggests early diagnosis + links to helpful websites and advice.
Like a lot of boys these days, my son was a reluctant reader. This prompted me to write books with a WOW factor that grab their attention. I wrote  “Taconi and Claude– Double Trouble“ with boys (and tomboys) in mind.  Plenty of action, fast pace, an Aussie outback setting, + the surprise and mystery of an aboriginal tribe and its Dreamtime beliefs.  This historical novel, set in the early 1950’s, would make a great home school or class history project using the help in my Teacher’s Guide:  

I also include a glossary of fun and interesting Aussie sayings, words and names.
It's a wonderful thing to encourage children to read and enjoy books. Do you think it will make it easier for them with the growing popularity of e-books?
I think anything that encourages children to quit watching junk TV, and playing mindless and often violent computer games, is absolutely wonderful!  And kids today are computer savvy – unlike many of their parents.  They jump at the chance of books read on an eReader,  PC or laptop.  These books are cheaper, greener, and you can carry dozens around in a lightweight and very cool reader.  Computers and all their adjacent technology are the future – like it or not.  And the youth of today are ready to jump on it.
This isn’t to say that paper books are defunct.  NO WAY.  It just means there is room for more than one way to enjoy reading books, magazines, newspapers, or technical data for college or school.

I shared some e-books on my new e-reader with my grandsons on a recent visit, and they loved it! I notice on your website that you provide helpful information and critique service for other authors. Would you tell us something about that?
Manuscript Critiques are something I love doing.  When I started out, I was lucky enough to be mentored by several wonderful writers in an online list.  I have never forgotten the time they took to guide me, point out my strengths and weaknesses, and help me tighten and improve my writing skills.  Later I did critiques for free.  I felt it was a way to pay back the tutoring I had received.  When many more writers approached me for help, I started to charge a fee.  These days, I sometimes have so many critique clients it’s often hard to find time for my own writing, not to mention promoting my latest books.  Yet the thrill of hearing that a book I helped polish has been published never fades.  This is always a YIPPE moment for me.
If there is one thing I would advise new writers to do it’s join a really good critique group.  Then read lots-and-lots of books.  This will give you a feel for the genre.  Write, rewrite, and then rework it again until it is as good as you can make it. The two things I see most often in manuscripts is wordiness (overwriting) and weak, verbs.  Make your writing as tight as granny’s new girdle, and dig deep for active and powerful verbs.  Follow this with a fast pace and rich characters that readers can identify with.  Finally put the manuscript aside for a month or so.  When you reread it again, with fresh eyes, you will be amazed at what jumps out at you needing attention.
 And always remember that two small things often play a big part in your success – luck and patience.  Those who have the patience to stick with it, no matter how large the flood of rejections, are the writers who finally become published.  LUCK?  That’s sending the right book, at the right time, to the right publisher.  Or, meeting the right editor at a conference you almost didn’t attend, with exactly the MS she was looking for.
I benefited from one of your workshops at the Muse Online Conference where you helped me polish up Animal Sound Mix-up and encouraged me to submit it to Guardian Angel Publishing. Since it was accepted and published, you can have one of those YIPPEE moments over it! What led you to submit to GAP, and what has been your experience there?
I knew one of their Illustrators, Kevin Scott Collier, who has since won several illustrating awards, and now has his own children’s animated TV show.  He recommended me to the CEO, Lynda Burch.  He also illustrated “Rattlesnake Jam,” my first book with them. This is a fun rhyming romp, with a crazy Gran cooking up rattlesnake jam, and Pa, who caught the rattlers and longed for Rattlesnake Pie.  A great book for boys – all that yuck!!
As a publisher, GAP is very hands on, eager to find new ways to promote our books, and new outlets where they can be sold.  They encourage the writers and illustrators to share promotional ideas,  and team up to do book signings and virtual book tours.  They are growing fast, yet maintain that personal touch.

Thank you, Margot, for sharing with us. It has been delightful! Readers, please hop in with your comments and questions for Margot! Here are some links where you can see more about Margot and her books: 

Margot’s Magic Carpet:
Taconi Sample Chapter

Taconi Reviews:
Down-under Fun – information about the Aussie animals in my books:


billkirkwrites said...

Excellent interview Connie. I think "luch and patience" is going to be my new mantra. Very good advice, Margot, and I really appreciate reading about your personal commitment to your story.

Karen Cioffi said...

Wonderful interview. I love Margot's books.
I agree patience and perseverance are key to a writing career.

Beverly Stowe McClure said...

Nice interview. I enjoyed learning more about Margot. I got a late start with my writing too. Trying to make up for all those years.

Sharon Reece said...

This post gave me another idea. We have tons of interesting stories from our life in Brazil. Hmmm...maybe they will become books.

Thanks for your visit and comment on my blog yesterday, Connie.

Blessings to you!

Unknown said...

Nice to meet you. What a great interview. Just love the covers on those books. Keep up the good work.

Carol said...

What a great interview! Enjoyed your post.
Thank you for the visit and nice comment on my blog :)

Sharon K. Mayhew said...

Wonderful made me think back to my teaching days and my reluctant readers. :)

Robyn Campbell said...

I loved learning more about Margot. Well done interview. Thanks for the visit over at my place. Have a great weekend.

Esther Joy said...

Thanks for posting this interview! I've been working on a series of children's books dealing with divorce issues. I've written 4 and now am trying to get them illustrated. I know they still need plenty of "tweaking" but you helped with ideas on this. Thank you!
Esther Joy Grusing Hunter
Author of Joy in the Mourning by Friesen Press

Magic Carpet of 16x Books said...

WOW! I really appreciate all the comments and kind words. Connie asked some terrific questions - thanks mate.

Divorce is a great topic for a children's book. Are you self publishing? Good luck!!

ROBYN and Carol:
Thanks you.

Margot’s Magic Carpet
Kids Books With a WOW Factor!

Magic Carpet of 16x Books said...

It really helps when teachers and parents pinpoint leaning problems early. The Teacher's Guide in Horatio Humble advises this and offer helpful links.

I love all those covers too. And I so envy the artist's talent. I am still stuck at stick figures - sob!

Us late bloomers need to form a club. It is never too late to begin writing!!

Books with a WOW factor!

Magic Carpet of 16x Books said...

Thanks so much for being fans. And I think luck and patience are often under appreciated. The longer you wait for that first acceptance, the more time you put into polishing, tweaking and reworking your story. Result? Perfection!!

Connie Arnold said...

Thank you all for your visits and comments. It was such a pleasure to interview Margot and share it with you!

Dixie Phillips said...

Awesome interview, Connie and Margot! Lots of writing nuggets! Applauding loudly... Bravo!

Anonymous said...

Great interview. I'm Margot's biggest fan.
J. Aday Kennedy
The Differently-Abled Writer & Speaker
Children's Author of Stella the Fire Farting Dragon (April 2010)

Magic Carpet of 16x Books said...

Oh, I LONE you Jessica.

And Dixie, thanks so much for your nice comment.

Connie did an awesome job of interviewing me. A good interviewer (like Connie) always knows the right questions to ask.

Many thanks to ALL of you.

Margot’s Magic Carpet
Kids Books With a WOW Factor!

Manuscript Critiques - Writing Help

Susan Fields said...

Great interview! My kids are all still at home, but old enough that they don't need my constant attention. I'm actually glad I didn't start writing when they were very young - I'm afraid it would have been too frustrating and I wouldn't have done either well. I know a lot of young moms who manage it beautifully, though!

Magic Carpet of 16x Books said...

Susan, you are a woman after my own heart. Doing two things really well (at the same time) was never my long suit. Kids and husband had to come first when thy needed me the most.

Now that they have flown the coop, and my husband is retired, my writing is center stage. Alan now has the time, and he is happy to cook and take care of our large garden.

However we do have a deal. I quit computing at 8pm every night, and we spend the rest of the evening together. It is a compromise I am happy about. The man deserves a medal for being wonderful when my knee and hip problems were at their worst. I got a late writing start, but it has worked out just fine - 40 years happily married this coming February, and out kids turned out pretty great as well!!