Interview: Fiona Ingram Author of The Secret of the Sacred Scarab

FINALIST of the 2016 Shelf Unbound Competition for Best Independently Published Book

“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”

Shelf Unbound: How did you go about creating your main characters Adam and Justin Sinclair?

Fiona Ingram: In my case, art definitely imitated life! The whole book is based on a family trip to Egypt. I went to Egypt with my mother and my two young nephews (then aged 10 and 12) and we had the most wonderful adventure. I saw Egypt through their eyes and their enthusiasm, their excitement, and just their whole attitude to being in an amazing and exotic location really inspired me. On our return I decided to write them a short story of our exploits (of course with some embellishments), making them the heroes of the tale. I modeled my fictional characters on my nephews and often included exactly what they said.

Shelf Unbound: This is Book 1 in your Chronicles of the Stone series. Did you map out what’s going to happen in the whole series before you began writing the first book?

Ingram: I didn’t even know I would be writing a book until we came back from Egypt. The short story I planned for my nephews turned into a book that turned into a book series. Interestingly, I was halfway through Book 1 when the story suddenly took flight, the plot became deeper and more complex than I had imagined it would be. There was too much happening to squash into one story and by the end of the book I realized that there wasn’t enough time for them to save the world; my young heroes would need more books. Luckily I had oodles more plot already whirling around in my mind. At the end of Book 1, I mapped out the rest of the books in the series.

Shelf Unbound: What are the challenges of writing a series as opposed to stand-alone novels?

Ingram: In a book series, a gifted author will be able to create characters that readers can relate to, and either love or hate. The readers get to know the characters well as the action evolves and, as each book comes out, can explore something new about their heroes. Characters become friends to the avid reader, who shares in the hopes, dreams, and choices the characters make. Readers are amazingly loyal to their favorite characters, even though they may often disagree with the character’s choices. A good writer can explore these further, enabling readers to begin to make their own choices, especially in a moral dilemma or emotional conflict. The biggest pitfall is a writer’s ability to sustain an intriguing plot and compelling characters over several books. Can the writer maintain readers’ interest and create enough interesting and plausible action to keep the story going? The plot will evolve naturally if the characters are appealing, and if their personal growth and development hold readers’ attention. Again, appealing characters are not worth anything if the action and conflict are not compelling. There has to be a perfect marriage between plot and characters to sustain the strength of a series. I have written books in a series as well as stand-alone books and I enjoy both and find both very rewarding.

Shelf Unbound: What authors or novels have influenced your writing?

Ingram: All the classic children’s books found space on our bookshelves. From The Magic Faraway Tree, to The Hardy Boys, to Nancy Drew, to The Hobbit, to The Wind in the Willows, to The Water Babies and The Secret Garden. While I can’t pinpoint an exact influence, I think one absorbs these tales while growing up and the glimmer is there at the back of one’s mind while writing.

Shelf Unbound: What do you enjoy about writing middle grade fiction?

Ingram: I think it is very important to remember how one felt at the age group one is writing for. I remember the magical Middle Grade years very, very well. That sense of adventure, jumping into anything exciting because who knew where it would end up. I hope I have conveyed that in my adventures when Adam and Justin hurtle headlong into an exciting quest. I just love the action and adventure so much, the sense of uncovering amazing mysteries and solving puzzles. I think I am fortunate in really enjoying myself writing in this genre. Middle Grade is where my heart is and I think it’s the same for so many adult readers who love my books, the ones who are young at heart and still have memories of wanting to save the world. 

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