25 June 2016 - MARGOT FINKE - Guest Author





MARGOT FINKE
- Guest Author -

G'day folks,

Today, I interview an inspiring Aussie author, living in the USA.

Welcome, Margot ...



1.   TELL US A LITTLE ABOUT YOURSELF AND YOUR WRITING JOURNEY.
I am an Aussie transplant now living in Oregon, USA. Originally from Victoria, and then Queensland, I married a New Yorker, and moved to the US with him and our 3 kids many years ago. All are now grown, successful, and have done their duty by gifting us with 4 wonderful grandchildren—the light of our lives. 

We live in the country, in a white two story farmhouse that was built around 1900.  Summer in our garden, under old oak and fir trees, enveloped by the scent of the flowers, and the buzz of the bees, is idyllic.  Except in spring, when the deer sneak in at dawn and breakfast on our new rose leaves and tulip buds.  Grrr!  Hummingbirds live with, and are fed by us all year round. Many other birds come and go with the change of each season. Winter can be chilly and wet, or very cold and snowy. Either way, we hunker down and turn up the central heating, or throw another log on the fire.

2.   WHEN AND HOW DID YOU BECOME A WRITER?
Hard to say, really. I always wrote short bits and pieces. Being an avid reader really helped. Then, when our last child disappeared down the road, headed for College, I dived into writing mode with a vengeance.  Kids and family first—them ME time!!

3.    WHAT TYPE OF PREPARATION DO YOU DO FOR A MANUSCRIPT? DO YOU PLAN EVERYTHING FIRST OR JUST SHOOT FROM THE HIP?
Definitely a “shoot from the hip” gal. Ideas come to me late at night, when I long to sleep. If I don’t tip-toe into the bathroom (where I keep pad and pencil), and jot down these awesome ideas, by morning they have vanished.
In the morning I save what is brilliant or usable, and scrap the rest. My wastepaper basket is never empty.  I just write it down as it comes to me. Rewriting is the fun part. Time to tweak here, switcheroo there, and cut the waffling before it jams up everything. I always allow rest periods between rewrites. A fresh eye sees things a familiar eye misses.

4.   WHAT DO YOU ENJOY MOST ABOUT BEING A WRITER?
The fun of chasing characters through a plot scenario, arguing with them about what THEY want to do, and what I think they SHOULD do. Yet best of all is seeing the face of a child who is HOOKED on reading one o my books. That is my real writer pay-off, HOOKING Kids on Reading!



5.   WHAT IS THE HARDEST THING ABOUT BEING A WRITER?
Having to quit and cook dinner, hose the garden, or go shopping.  I write, because to not write is unthinkable.  Unless you are J.K. Rowlings, you rarely make a fortune at writing—or even a living.  Writers write because it is in our bones to do so.

6.   WHAT WERE YOU IN A PAST LIFE, BEFORE YOU BECAME A WRITER?
Hmm, well, I was the Queensland Representative of the Ceylon Tea Bureau—before it became Sri Lanka. Then, I worked in the Jewellery business, and later on I owned an Aquarium Shop.  My future husband supplied me with tropical fish, and the rest, as they say, is 44 years of happily married history.  I was also a teacher’s aide when my kids were in grade school.

WHAT IS YOUR GREATEST WRITING ACHIEVEMENT?
My books with Australian themes (both PB and young teen) Dreamtime Man, Down Under Calling, Taconi and Claude, and its follow-up,
Trial by Walkabout.  And visiting schools to HOOK kids on reading—lately, I do this globally, via Skype.

7.   WHAT ARE YOU WORKING ON AT THE MOMENT?
My latest picture book, titled, Kobi Koala Borrows a Pouch. Plus contacting teachers about a SKYPE author visit.  Flying my Magic Carpet of Books into their classrooms, chatting with the kids about books, writing them, and their own favourite stories.  In this global world, I can Skype anywhere the time zones fit.


8.   WHAT GENRE DO YOU WRITE?
Well mates, I guess I’ve already given that big secret away.  Picture books and books for young teens. However, my picture books are mostly in rhyme, and are more for school age children—fun, educational, and with lots of extra information about the animals in them at the back of each book.   
For mid-grade and young teens, I write fast paced adventures, with danger, fun, and lots of hold-your-breath moments that keep them turning the page.

9.   DO YOU HAVE ANY TIPS FOR NEW WRITERS?
When I started out, I was lucky enough to have several talented writers mentor me.  We were all members of the old CW list on Yahoo. Then, I formed OPUS, a critique group that went on for ten years, until all the members were well published.  If you can, this is a great way to begin.  I owe so much to their support, wise comments, and writing know-how

Today, the Internet offers so many ways writers can network and learn about every aspect of writing, editing, and publishing—even self publishing and book promotion.

So, drum roll please, for my list of “must dos,” for those who wish to master the craft of writing:
*Learn the basics of punctuation and grammar.
*Join a critique group that has some advanced or published members.
*Make the Thesaurus your best friend.
*Use active, powerful and evocative words.
*Don’t waffle on. Leave your waffles in the kitchen, with the maple syrup and coffee, where they belong.
*Never use 10 words when 5 more powerful words say it better.
*Tight writing is vital—especially for picture books.
* For picture books, leave the details to the illustrator.
*Make sure your dialogue is natural, plus age and time period appropriate.
*Know your readership.  If writing for kids, THINK KID!
*Don’t attempt rhyming stories unless you have mastered the art of rhyme and meter.
*Be an active networker before your book is published. Get your name out there as an dynamic member of suitable social networking sites well ahead of book launch date. If you help and support other writers, they will help and support you.

For years I have run a Manuscript Critique and Content Editing service. It is always a huge thrill when a writer I helped has had their book published. YEA!



10.            DO YOU SUFFER FROM WRITER’S BLOCK?
Never.

11.           DO YOU HAVE A PREFERRED WRITING SCHEDULE?
I write most afternoons.  My husband has retired, and he has taken on the garden (an acre of it), the cooking and the laundry.  Unfortunately, he does not do windows, dusting or vacuuming—drat it!!  How does a writer find first-rate home help these days?

12.           DO YOU HAVE A FAVOURITE WRITING PLACE?
Aha, now you’re talking of a place that is the envy of all my writing friends. When the kids left home, I turned the old family room into my writing den plus winter flower garden.  Husband, Alan, made me a large two tiered desk. There are couches, chairs, a fireplace to snuggle near, and windows to the outdoors. In winter, we bring in tender potted and flowering plants. These overwinter under plant lights dear husband set up.  Not quite writing paradise—but close!

13.           WHAT IS YOUR GREATEST JOY IN WRITING?
Reading my books to classes of children, and also to my grandchildren.

14.           WHO IS YOUR FAVOURITE AUTHOR AND WHY?
A Thousand Splendid Suns  by Khaled Hosseini  He does what all authors should—he paints word pictures that stay in your head forever. His paragraphs and pages are dynamic and evocative. You are there with each character as you read. You become a part of the story. He makes it real.

15.           WHAT’S THE GREATEST COMPLIMENT YOU EVER RECEIVED FROM A READER?
I am fortunate to receive many reviews with high praise. Here is snipped part  from one review by a teacher:

Margot Finke is a word master, using her lyrical writing style and ingenious imagination to put together this marvellous story that tweens will enjoy for a long time. This is a goldmine of a book for teachers. Students are introduced to the power of words through the online resource provided in the Kindle version. Click on a word, and the New Oxford American Dictionary definition pops up. What better way to introduce the magnificent world of vocabulary to students? This teacher highly recommends “Daisy and Bartholomew Q.” I look forward to sharing it with my students this year!



16.       WHAT WAS THE WORST COMMENT FROM A READER?
I am embarrassed to say that no one has given me a hard time about any of my books. If they didn’t like or enjoy a book they kept it to themselves.
         
17.           WRITERS ARE SOMETIMES INFLUENCED BY THINGS THAT HAPPEN IN THEIR OWN LIVES. ARE YOU?
Oh yes. My grand kids are a constant source of inspiration, and my children too, when they were young. I wrote Horatio Humble Beats the Big D. (dyslexia), because my middle child was diagnosed with it. My crazy Rattlesnake Jam came about to encourage my reluctant reader son to start reading.  Down Under Calling is part fiction and part memoir. It is about growing up in Queensland in the mid nineteen hundreds. And The Revenge of Thelma Hill, a ghost mystery set in Oregon, turned out to have my dear mom as the title character. As I wrote, the ghost became more and more familiar. And then it hit me—I was channelling my mom. Mom would be absolutely  tickled to be a main characters in a book I wrote. Thelma Hill was Mom’s maiden name.

18.       OTHER THAN WRITING, WHAT ELSE DO YOU LOVE?
Travel (China, Europe, England, Down Under, and all over the US and Canada).  Reading of course, and gardening.  Do my kids and grandkids count?

19.       DID YOU HAVE YOUR BOOK / BOOKS PROFESSIONALLY EDITED BEFORE PUBLICATION?
The publisher provided this service for my first 8 or so books. I paid for editing when I began self-publishing. It is expensive, and many writers self-edit their own books.  I guess this is obviously why there are so many really awful books available now. The best money a writer will ever spend is on a good professional edit.

20.           DESCRIBE YOUR PERFECT DAY.
In winter—a final rewrite that feels PERFECT!


21.           WHAT WOULD YOU SAY IF YOU HAD THE CHANCE TO SPEAK TO WORLD LEADERS?

Wake up, before you ruin this planet for our children and grandchildren. I would also add this PS: Be more understanding and tolerant of other religions, countries, and customs.  Our survival depends on wise pro-active leaders—not rabid bigots.



22.           WHAT ARE YOUR PLANS FOR THE FUTURE?
Keep writing, keep promoting my books, and keep on HOOKING Kids on Reading.

23.            WHAT ARE YOUR VIEWS ON BOOK TRAILERS? DO THEY SELL BOOKS?
If you create something spectacular—they can work.  But this is costly, and most writers are on a shoestring budget as far as paid promotions go.


24.           DO YOU SEE YOURSELF IN ANY OF YOUR CHARACTERS?
Only as Grandma Rose in Down Under Calling.

25.           DOES THE PUBLISHING INDUSTRY FRUSTRATE YOU?
Not since I began self-publishing. Before that, it definitely made me tear out my hair.  I know so many wonderful writers who never became published. They simply gave up.

26.           DID YOU EVER THINK OF QUITTING?
NEVER!  The majority of writers need a day job, a Sugar Daddy, or like me,  a supportive  husband. We are not in it for the loot. We are in it because we are hooked—addicted to the thrill and adventure of creating characters, and then weaving them into plots and situations that keep readers reading.

27.       WHAT WAS YOUR FAVOURITE MANUSCRIPT TO WRITE? WHY?
Down Under Calling and Dreamtime Man.  Dreamtime: an epic rhyming take of how the aboriginals survived the arrival of the white man.  Down Under:  creating letters that told an astonished and far away grandson what it was like growing up Down Under, many, many, years ago.

28.            HOW WOULD YOU DEFINE ‘SUCCESS’ AS A WRITER.
Being respected and admired by your peers, and widely read by kids.  Some fat royalty checks would also qualify.
                  
29.           WHAT SHOULD READERS WALK AWAY FROM YOUR BOOKS KNOWING? HOW SHOULD THEY FEEL?
Hopefully:  satisfied, enlightened, and eager for more of the same. I try to weave plots, characters, and situations that offer fun facts, excitement, and a moral compass. All this in a setting young people will relate to and learn from.

30.           WOULD YOU LIKE TO HAVE YOUR BOOKS MADE INTO MOVIES? EVER WRITTEN A SCREENPLAY?
Years ago, when I still lived in OZ, I acted in a drama club and wrote scripts for stage  plays.  All of my books for young teens would translate into movies very well—strong characters and lots of action.

31.           HOW MUCH THOUGHT GOES INTO DESIGNING A BOOK COVER?
Brainstorming with the artist is vital.  One of the perks of self- publishing is that you have a lot of input into cover and illo design. A cover needs to show well on Amazon or on a bookstore shelf. The title must be clear and easily read.  Avoid lots of fussy details. Keep it bright and simple, with lots of kid appeal.




32.             WRITING IS ONE THING. WHAT ABOUT MARKETING YOU, YOUR BOOKS AND YOUR BRAND? ANY THOUGHTS?
Writing the darn books is the easy part—promotion is tricky, time consuming, and goes on forever.  Begin your life as a writer by setting up a terrific blog or website. Make it upfront and personal for future readers, with your goals and plans in mind.  Begin book promotion when you begin writing that first book. Take future readers on the journey with you. Draw them into the process, so they will eventually buy your book, because they feel a part of it.

This is called BRANDING yourself as a writer.

Make sure you have a writing presence on the main Social Networking sites, and those that specialize in the genre` you are writing.  Research online about how to promote after your book is launched—Press Releases, Newspapers, TV, Book Tours and Book Signings. The Internet is an awesome resource.

33.            ARE YOUR BOOKS SELF-PUBLISHED?
Not at the beginning. My first books were with a small publisher.  Yet once I had a following I tried self-publishing, and I loved it—for a perfectionist control freak like myself, more control was the ultimate high!  Of course nothing is perfect. Now I have more responsibility.  The buck stops at MY desk.   It is hard to gain a readership with just one or two self- published books. However, when you earn some recognition, and have a readership, self publishing can be the way to go.

34.           DESCRIBE YOURSELF IN FIVE WORDS.
Opinionated, detail oriented, strong minded, imaginative, creative.

35.           WHAT PISSES YOU OFF MOST?
Don’t get me started!  It is all those really atrocious books that are now available because of self –publishing.  Everyone is absolutely certain they can write a best seller—no editing, no training in the craft of writing, no talent!

36.       WHAT IS THE TITLE OF THE LAST BOOK YOU READ? GOOD ONE?
The Gift of Sunderland by Jeanne Rogers. This is an Australian adventure—a kind of Watership Down, but with unique Aussie critters instead.  Jeanne is an Ausiephile,  and a wonderfully imaginative writer.

37.            WHAT WOULD BE THE VERY LAST SENTENCE YOU’D WRITE?
Oh please, don’t let me die now! I must finish this last rewrite before I go.

38.            WHAT WOULD MAKE YOU HAPPIER THAN YOU ARE NOW? CARE TO SHARE?
That I was 20 years younger, so I could take advantage of all the new technology for writers that wasn’t available when I started out.  So many fantastic things are on the cusp of fruition—for medicine, publishing , outer space, you name it!



39.            ANYTHING YOU’D LIKE TO ADD?
I think I have waffled on quite enough.  I do want to say many thanks for allowing me to chat with your readers.  And some of your questions had me scratching my head for good and truthful answers.  Thank you, Clancy.





*My Pinterest (fantastic for links to great information re Writing , Publishing and more) https://www.pinterest.com/margotfinke/







Clancy's comment: Thanks, Margot. Keep going. You are obviously fired up. By the way, Jeanne Rogers is a good mate of mine. She writes wonderful stories about Australian animals, and has also been a guest on this blog.

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