Maggie Lyons, author, Vin and the Dorky Duet much to offer those of you who write for children or dream of writing for children. Read her interview here.
1. Tell us a little bit about your background and how you became an author.
I’m a trapeze artist, astronaut, spy—just kidding! Actually the bit about being a spy is true, but it was a very long time ago on another planet. My upbringing in Britain was much less exotic. I did all the usual stuff like playing hockey at an all-girls school —which I hated with a passion—and going on soggy caravan (British for trailer) holidays. When I grew up—well, that’s a bit of a fib; I’ve never actually grown up—I became a professional cat herder. Translated that means I worked in orchestral management, writing program notes for concerts, fundraising, marketing, public relations-ing—trying to put rear ends on seats, in other words. I also did marketing and public relations in a motley variety of other professional environments. All of it meant a lot of writing, mostly for adults. I became interested in writing for children because I’ve always enjoyed reading children’s literature—there! I’ve fessed up. As a child, I loved reading and being read to by my parents, and I really enjoyed reading to my son when he was young. Writing for children gives me the perfect excuse to raid the shelves of my local children’s library, where I can indulge in that enchanting mix of innocence, escapism, imagination, and humor that bubbles up from children’s literature.
2. Tell us about your current book. Give a short summary. (You can follow this up with any points you hope readers will take away with them.)
Vin and the Dorky Duet is about the magnetic compost heaps, man-eating bubble baths, and other disasters that erupt when an inventive seventh-grader meets a challenge to win a David Beckham autographed soccer jersey if he can befriend an unsociable nerd and introduce his sister to the nerd’s hunky brother.
Life presents us all with challenges. If it didn’t, we’d all be bored to death. Vin confronts a variety of them, including learning to play the trumpet. But the joy of music making is worth all the hard work of practicing—except for stage fright, but that’s a fleeting inconvenience, thank goodness. I play the piano and have taught piano to many children, so I know a bit about the stage-fright monster. Judging others is another challenge and, as Vin discovers, you can sometimes make up your mind too quickly about people. Personal relationships are tricky too, but Vin discovers all relationships change, some even faster and more surprisingly than others. On another level, Vin becomes aware of environmental challenges and the vulnerability of natural resources.
3. Can you tell us about your publisher and how the process worked in getting published?
MuseItUp Publishing is a Canadian e-book publisher with middle-grade (MuseItYoung) and YA book lines as well as books for adults. Like most authors, I received a number of rejections when I submitted the manuscript to agents, so I was thrilled when MuseItUp offered me a contract in October 2011. The next months involved reviewing the manuscript for errors I had failed to spot, making a book trailer, and preparing a promotional campaign. I’ve also worked with Halo Publishing International, which is releasing a paperback version in August. The promotion is the hard part. With millions of new books coming out each year, you can’t sit back and hope somebody will notice a new book on the market. You have work hard to let people know your baby has been born.
4. How did you get the idea for this book?
Inspiration wafted in from my love of music and my addiction to challenges—which, of course, I don’t always meet. I was trained as a classical pianist and throughout my life music has been my favorite language and port in a storm. As for challenges, anyone who wants to live—as opposed to vegetating—must try to meet them, don’t you think? Vin and the Dorky Duet is about a challenge that a seventh-grader gamely takes on. Of course, his plan of attack produces unexpected results, but when was life 100 percent predictable? My challenge in writing the story is to encourage reluctant readers to turn a few pages. I’d be thrilled if the book succeeds on that level because enthusiasm for reading as a child is critical to success as an adult. Literacy is a must if you want anything like quality of life in adulthood. But that’s another story …
5. What is a typical writing day like for you?
Alas, I don’t have a typical writing day. I squeeze creative writing in whenever I can, though I know I should set aside a certain time each day. Right now, I’m focusing quite a bit of my attention on getting the word out about Vin. The balance between book promotion and writing is a notorious challenge for today’s writers.
6. What do you enjoy most about writing?
The fun of seeing characters come alive and the challenge of successfully escorting them through the narrative maze.
7. What is the most difficult part of writing?
Being attacked by writer’s block. Sometimes a walk down a country road will do the trick. Sometimes I have to move to another country.
8. How has publishing a book changed your life?
I thought I had retired. I’m now busier than ever.
9. If your book is based on true events, how has that affected those around you?
I’m glad to say I haven’t had to deal with the kind of disasters that Vin has had to cope with.
10. What are your plans now?
I’m looking forward to the release of the next book, Dewi and the Seeds of Doom. MuseItUp will publish this middle-grade adventure story in October. Halo Publishing International will release the paperback version around the same time. In the meantime, I’m trying my hand at picture books, a highly challenging medium.
11. What is your best tip for aspiring authors?
Don’t give up. Rejection is simply a hard rite of passage. And the more you polish your prose, the more likely you are to find a publishing home for your creative offspring.
12. What advice can you give adults, children and/or teens as they prepare for life?
You are asking someone who never grew up to give advice to young people. So, of course, I would have to say keep young at heart. Oh, and if you have talent, let’s say for music, don’t throw it away. Try to make it your vocation if it’s a real fire-in-the-belly kind of talent. Otherwise, you may wind up with that saddest of all thoughts: If I had only done that.
13. Is there anything else you would like to share with our readership? (Here you can share about characters, historical facts, setting or whatever else you would like our readers to know about and/or your book.)
Encouraging children to become avid, and therefore proficient, readers is critical. Some states actually base their budgets for new prison cells on fourth-grade reading scores. That’s how important literacy is. A child’s reading proficiency can have a profound impact on his or her future as an adult. Make reading fun for your child, your grandchildren—any child. If children want to read a comic, or something you feel is lightweight literature, let them. I hope even a lighthearted romp like Vin and the Dorky Duet will encourage a few young readers to voluntarily turn a page or two.
14. Do you make school visits or do speaking/book signing engagements? If so, please describe a typical presentation.
Not yet. We live in hope, as they say.
15. Do you have a website? If so, please give the URL. If not, where can readers go online to learn more about your book(s) and to order?
My books’ website is at: http://www.maggielyons.yolasite.com.
My Facebook author page is: facebook.com/MaggieLyonsChildrensBooks.
I’ll announce on those sites when and where the e-book and paperback of Dewi and the Seeds of Doom will be released.
For reviews of Vin and the Dorky Duet and to buy the e-book at Amazon, the page URL is: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B008AK7ALE
My author page at Amazon is: amazon.com/author/maggielyonschildrensbooks.
MuseItUp Publishing also offers the book for sale in the MuseItYoung section of its bookstore: www.museituppublishing.com. MuseItUp’s bookstore also shows other outlets where the book can be purchased.As of August 1, the paperback of Vin and the Dorky Duet is available at Halo Publishing International: http://halopublishing.com/bookstore/Maggie-Lyons, and will soon be at Amazon, and other outlets.