Happy November, everyone! Today we're talking with author Margot Finke about her novel, THE REVENGE OF THELMA HILL.
Welcome, Margot! Tell us a bit about yourself.
Hmmm. . . I am an Aussie transplant who has lived in Oregon for many years. I met a New York fella, married him, had three kids, and then we moved to Oregon. Kids now grown, and have done their duty by presenting us with seven wonderful grandchildren. We love to read (how did you guess?), travel, garden, and keep track of the kids and grandkids. My husband has taken over our large garden, so I have more time to write and promote my soon to be 15 published books. I also run a manuscript critique service. I received a lot of support and help when I started out, so now I like to play it forward by mentoring talented beginning writers.
How long have you been writing?
Oh, I have always written. It is in my genes, unlike a talent to draw, which I missed out on entirely. My three year old granddaughter draws better stick figures! However, it wasn’t until our youngest went off to college that I rushed out, bought a computer, and begin writing in earnest. Peace and quiet are what I need to write, and three teens in the house is not conducive to P and Q – more like chaos and drama. My first 7 books were rhyming stores about critters from the US and Australia - my Wild and Wonderful Series. Down-under stuff has a habit of creeping into my writing. They were educational eBooks that told fun facts about these animals. They are now all being republished in soft cover, and I am thrilled about it. Mama Grizzly Bear will be the first to jump into soft cover, followed by Kangaroo Clues.
Tell us about THE REVENGE OF THELMA HILL. What’s the story about?
Aha, this is a young teen ghost mystery set in Oregon. If it wasn’t for the talent of illustrator Agy Wilson, the ghost of Thelma Hill would still be moaning, and rattling her chains in one of my computer files. Agy read the story and loved it. We have known each other for years, and she knew I was dabbling in the idea of self- publishing a book or two. Agy offered to do the cover ( and it’s really terrific), and set it up the right way, so I could upload it to Kindle and Smashwords, thereby making it eligible for other major eReaders. Agy knows about this tricky technical stuff. Me? Dumb as dirt about it. Self publishing was a new and scary prospect for me. But with much help and guidance from Agy I got it done. Now Agy and I are now in partnership. She will illustrate and animate two more of my story books, and set them up for me to self publish on Kindle etc. I don’t call her Awesome Agy Wilson for nothing!
Synopsis:When Frannie and her twin brother move to Oregon, they have no thought of ghosts, haunted houses, trapping a killer, or facing a giant arachnid “familiar” in their basement. A missing mom and sibling rivalry only add to their list of scary problems. Will they succeed in trapping the ghost’s killer?
Will Frannie and Jeff ever become friends? And where did their mom go all those long years ago? Well, as you might suspect, Thelma Hill provides the answers to these questions – and then some!
How did the idea of the story come to you?
Like most of my story ideas, late at night, as soon as my head hit the pillow. Instead of gentle sleep descending, wild ideas and scenes roam through my brain, and only getting up, sneaking into the bathroom and writing it all down, allows sleep inside my brain. I keep a pad and pen in the bathroom, just in case the muse is rabid or restless. If I don’t write it down I never sleep, and by morning the crucial plot ideas have evaporated.
A true ghost story, told to me way back in my Aussie days, was the original basis. But that hardly lasted through the first draft. As I wrote, I thought, “Crikey, this ghost seems familiar. It’s as if I know her.” And then it hit me like a fast boomerang. The ghost of Thelma Hill was acting and sounding exactly like my mother - gone to her just reward this many years. I quit writing for a few days and digested this idea. I LOVED it, and what’s more important, I knew Mom would be absolutely tickled to be featured in a book of mine. I even gave her my mom’s maiden name – seemed wholly appropriate to me.
Mom was honest to a fault, kind and loving, a very good judge of character, and never let anyone get away with anything: perfect ghost material – right?
Do you have a critique group/partner or beta readers, or do you self-edit?
I formed a critique group many years ago, from members of the old Children’s Writers and Illustrators List on Yahoo. Their advice, opinions and support was my mainstay for years. I learned so much about the craft of writing from them and other CW members. They are all well published now. I also joined SCBWI and went to many of their writer’s conferences. Self editing is the downfall of many self published writers. You get too close to the plot, the characters, and your own writing style. The most obvious blunders are often missed. Fortunately my husband has editing experience, so I haul him in for that final edit. They say that someone who acts as his own lawyer has a fool for a client. Well the same goes for someone who edits their own manuscript.
Are you a planner or a pantser?
Oh yes, I am definitely a planner - with a capital” P” – way detail oriented. This can be a huge fault if I let it take control of my life. I have to know when to let go and smell the flowers. If I didn’t watch it (or my husband didn’t watch me), I would be writing and promoting my books 24/7. I am driven to do everything - and do it ASAP. I have reminder apps, TO DO lists on note cards, and a head full of ideas to try out. Color me driven!
What’s the hardest part of writing for you?
Beginnings. When I reach that glorious stage just before a book is due to be edited, I suddenly have doubts about the beginning. I know that first page has to HOOK a publisher’s interest, and tempt them to keep reading. So I tweak it constantly. I never worry about the middle or the end, just the beginning pages. I guess it is a good thing I can’t pop into a bookstore and blue pencil first pages right on the shelf!
What do you absolutely have to have nearby when writing?
Peace and quiet. I envy those writers who can create delightful stories in-between diapering the baby, refereeing kid squabbles, cooking dinner, and getting glammed up for a night out on the town. These writers always have a notebook and pencil in their pocket to jot down amazing plot ideas. They also enjoy the ability to siphon off extraneous noise and confusion, while they turn those notebook details into bestselling books. Jumping kangaroos mate, I do so envy those talents. As stated at the beginning of this paragraph, I need peace and quiet to write.
If you could have any super power, what would it be?
Definitely the power to make all the publishers in this world BEG to publish my every word, plus really awesome advances. YEA!! Pop stars, movie queens and aged politicians, EAT YOUR HEARTS OUT!
Oh, and make every country in the world tolerant and accepting of each other’s religion.
What's the weirdest thing you've googled?
Hmmmm. . . false teeth for dogs! Okay! Okay! I saw this add that showed dogs with false teeth. I took a peek. So sue me!
Quick writing test! Use the following words in one sentence: thesaurus, theory, and thoroughbred.
My theory is that if writers spent more time delving into their thesaurus, the plots in their midgrade books, on the subject of thoroughbred show horses, would jump with extra action and power.
Finish this sentence: If I'm not writing, I'm probably ...
Reading, mentoring, or promoting books for myself or other writers.
Here’s the part where you thank the people who are supporting you. Let's hear your shout outs.
The late, great, Linda Smith. She mentored me early in my writing career, and I am forever grateful for her kindness, and her generosity in sharing her writing knowledge. And to OPUS, by long time critique group – all six now published and doing very well. Thanks mates.
And finally, where can people find you and your book online?
VIDEO of Margot reading from “Revenge of Thelma Hill.”http://youtu.be/sLA1vr8b09Y
SHORT & SWEET – Download a FREE sneak peek into 8 of her books -“Revenge of Thelma Hill” included: http://tinyurl.com/8qw44al
Books for Kids - Manuscript Critiques
Thanks for chatting with us today, Margot. And good luck with your book!
Thank you, Dorothy, for allowing me to chat with your wonderful readers.