Filled with Australian slang, similes and settings, Margot Finke's Taconi and Claude: Double Trouble (Guardian Angel Publishing Inc., 2011) is a chance to glimpse an almost-forgotten way of life through a preteen's eyes. Today Margot stops by to share some behind-the-scenes details.
By the way, Margot would like to send a free gift to all who leave a comment. Details are at the end of this post. Did you miss Tuesday's book review? It's available at http://michellefayard.blogspot.com/2011/08/taconi-and-claude-will-delight-middle.html. And now for the interview ...
Taconi and Claude is filled with authentic details. Did the book require a lot of research?
I did some research, mostly on the general aboriginal traditions and culture. I knew about the flora and fauna, because I spent the first half of my life in Australia close to the outback areas. I have visited and lived in many of these places. Aboriginals often do not do well in the cities. They tend to find strong drink their downfall. This is what Taconi's dad was afraid would happen to him if he went to the Big Smoke. Of course I had no access to deep tribal secrets, so I kept this kind of generic. These secrets are well guarded and not available to the white man or even tribesmen not qualified to know.
When my dad built our house using a kind of double cement brick, each morning he had to make sure the frill-necked lizard that had taken up residence in the lower part of the wall he was building was out of there, or it would end up "walled in" and starve. Flocks of colorful parakeets, parrots and galahs are a common sight in the outback along with snakes, emu, kangaroo and wallaby. Koalas are now endangered, and platypus have always been scarce.
I lived in Queensland, the tropical top part of Australia, on the east coast side of the Great Dividing Range. The western side is where the rain stops, and the outback and bush areas begin to creep in the further west you travel. I simply grew up knowing many of these things, like a person growing up in or near Indian reservations here in the United States.
Did you learn anything surprising-either through your research or about your characters-while writing this book?
Taconi and everyone else in the book are entirely fictional-the disclaimer at the back of the book stresses this. However I used what I knew personally plus what my dad told me about cattle stations in the outback, those who owned them, the way they operated, how they used aboriginal jackaroos to herd the cattle and how they often celebrated a successful year.
When I was young, my dad often went outback in the cattle season to oversee the slaughtering of the cattle on behalf of the government. One great tale he told was about an old swagman (roaming bum) who often walked hundreds of miles from station to station to work day jobs around the various homesteads. He would get a good breakfast and dinner from the "missus" every day for doing this. However he always slept out under the stars. There are lots of termite mounds in the outback-whole cities of them! So each night the swaggie put his false teeth on top of a mound. And every morning, when he found then picked clean as a whistle and shining white and new looking, he popped them back into his mouth.
What message in your book do you hope will most resonate with your readers?
That there are many things we could learn from the aboriginal tribes, much the same as they have learned from us. When you look deeply at the Dreamtime and their spirits and the way tribes believe that the past and the present all come from-and go back to-the same place, it's a very "green" and ecologically friendly belief.
I want kids who read Taconi and Claude to look at life through Taconi's eyes for a while. I want them to know that the power is in them, as Taconi discovered, to choose their own path and respect the environment and the land they live in. Above all else, the Aussie aboriginals know that you must take from the land only what you need. Take more, and the Dreamtime will exact its revenge by causing drought and food animals to disappear; soon death rides the land. This applies all over the globe-not just the down-under outback.
What marketing have you found works best for your genre?
Because of hip and knee replacement surgery that developed complications, over the past 18 months I have not been able to get out to schools and bookstore signings as before. I have promoted my three latest books, including Taconi and Claude, entirely online with virtual book tours plus a frequent presence on Twitter, Facebook, Linkedin and JacketFlap. Lots of super book reviews for Taconi and Claude are up on Amazon and on my Web site. I also have received many interviews for all three books, including Ruthie and the Hippo's Fat Behind and Horatio Humble Beats the Big D (dyslexia). This has been easier for me, because I am not unknown in the world of writing for children. Other writers and reviewers have also been generous by chatting about me and my books on their blogs.
I have also looked for niche markets, such as teachers and home schooling moms. These markets would find the historical and cultural differences in Taconi and Claude great topics for classroom discussion and learning, as well as enjoyment.
What do you like best about your publisher, Guardian Angel Publishing Inc. (GAP)?
The fact that they like my writing and the characters I write about as much as I do. The right publisher will always have the same goals for your book as yourself. They are also supportive and encourage us to get together in a private online GAP author list. We all share ideas, support each other and work together to sell out books. Any new promotional ideas we authors come up with are looked at with care and implemented if feasible. Gap's CEO is very approachable.
What has been the toughest criticism given to you as an author? What has been the best compliment?
Years ago, when I began writing, a small group of established writers took me under their wing. I was so lucky to have them on my side, nudging me in the right direction. I was smartly advised that "waffling on" would not get me published and that "tight and terrific" was the goal to aim for. I never forgot that. I tell it to my critique clients all the time.
I guess these days the best writing compliments I have received have been in the wonderful reviews I received for my three latest books-especially Taconi and Claude. I mean, the proof is in the pudding-or in this case in the reviews! All have been very positive and many absolutely glowing.
Can you share a little about your current work with us?
I have just sent Survival by Walkabout to my publisher. It is a sequel to Taconi and Claude. The main characters are Josh and Bindi, the grandkids of Taconi and the Boss of Coorparoo Cattle Station. They both go walkabout and find themselves in a mess of trouble with a nasty, old medicine man, a pack of lies and sibling rivalry that has become toxic. Not to mention killer dingoes, a rogue Old Man Roo, and having to eat emu eggs and snake to survive.
Josh and Bindi almost don't make it to Bindi's tribe in the red hills. And when they get there, Josh must battle the medicine man for his life. A grand tribal gathering and a friendly No. 1 elder help Josh and Taconi sort through their problems. Back home again, a wiser Josh tackles his older brother, determined to settle the reason for their sibling rivalry forever.
What is something about you or your writing that might surprise your readers?
I was a late bloomer with everything in my life. Common sense and the right man eluded me for years. I gave up looking for a good man, and I feared good decision making would never be mine. I was from an upside down country (down under), and my thinking matched!
Then a wonderful man discovered me, and for 40 years we've been happily married. Trust me: Once you stop looking you are sure to stumble into each other. Time was ticking, so we got going on a family; the last of our three was born after I turned 40. That was the first of many really good decisions I eventually made.
Is it TMI yet? I suspect so, mates. Michelle, thanks a bunch for having me on your wonderful blog. It was a blast!
RECEIVE A FREE GIFT FROM MARGOT
Margot will be giving away a free copy of her time-travel PDF book Taconi and Claude's BIG 2011 Adventure to all who comment on this post. This story takes the characters from her three latest books and brings them together in a plot filled with fun. Please be sure to leave your e-mail address along with your comment. Comments will be accepted until 12:01 a.m. Aug. 21.