Hello Maggie Lyons! Welcome to my blog today. I can’t wait to get to know you better.
1. Could you tell us a little about yourself?
I’m a trapeze artist, astronaut, spy—just kidding! Well, the bit about being a spy is true. It was a long time ago in a far off land, lots of fun, and planets away from my middle-class upbringing in the UK. I was born in a little coal-mining town in South Wales and properly brought up in England where I did English things like attending an all-girls grammar school, playing rounders, doing two hours of homework every day, and going on soggy caravan holidays with my family. I also trained as a classical pianist, which meant annoying family and neighbors with daily four-hour practices. Once I grew up—wait, that’s a fib; I’ve never actually grown up—I experimented with hedonism in Paris, where, among other things, I taught English to very proper French schoolgirls, and I failed to abide by the British embassy’s social rules in Romania, but that’s another story. My job in Bucharest was to appease visiting Royal Ballet dancers. If you’ve ever attempted to herd butterflies, you’ll know what I mean. Soon after that I gravitated to the USA because the streets there were supposed to be paved with gold. They weren’t, but I stayed anyway and finally wound up catching my breath in a tranquil fishing and farming community on Virginia’s coast.
The rest of my so-called professional life has been a regal zigzag through a motley variety of careers from orchestral management to law-firm media relations to academic editing, all of which entailed a lot of writing and editing. Although that work brought me plenty of satisfaction, it didn’t produce the kind of magic that can come from writing fiction and nonfiction for children.
Children’s literature has always fascinated me. My parents read bedtime stories to me when I was a child and I read stories to my son when he was small. All I needed was an excuse to borrow books from the children’s library, and declaring myself to be a children’s writer did the trick. Studying the work of great children’s writers gives me the chance to indulge my love of that enchanting mix of innocence, escapism, imagination, and humor that bubbles out of children’s literature.
2. Describe your desk/workspace.
I work from my cottage on one of coastal Virginia’s many waterways. My writing space overlooks a creek, which opens onto a beautiful river. When I look out of my window, I often see the creek’s resident heron cautiously inching along the bank as he peers into the water for unwary fish. His jealous neighbor, the osprey, sometimes buzzes him before snagging his own victim. Yes, this peaceful neighborhood is quite violent at times. You can’t let your guard down. But I surround myself with various reference books on writing and editing for protection, along with a large box of tissues I grab when my writing overwhelms me.
3. Do you have a favorite quote?
I have many, but here’s one from Colette with which I agree 100 percent: “Total absence of humor renders life impossible.”
4. What are you currently reading?
I’m rereading Jerry Spinelli’s Maniac Magee, a literary must for children and adults.
5. What is the best advice you’ve ever received?
“Put your talents to good use.” Unfortunately I’ve never been sure I have any talents to put to any kind of use.
6. If you could have coffee with anyone (living or dead, real or fictional), who would it be and why?
That’s impossible question to answer because I don’t drink coffee. How about tea? There are thousands of personalities I’d love to chat with: Voltaire, Madame de Stael, Benjamin Franklin, and Mozart because they were incredibly dynamic personalities from the eighteenth century which was loaded with fascinating figures; Oscar Wilde because of his wit; Winston Churchill because of his wit and fascination as a powerhouse; and Jeffrey Smith from our century because of his tireless efforts to educate the public about the dangers of genetically modified food.
7. What are your top three favorite books and why?
Favorites change. For right now, I’d say James Agee’s Death in the Family for its timeless and powerful message and poetry; Jerry Spinelli’s Maniac Magee for the same reasons; Jane Gardam’s Old Filth because it’s a powerful story beautifully written.
8. What was your favorite book as a child and why?
I had many but a picture book that springs immediately to mind is Robert McCloskey’s Make Way for Ducklings, a timeless classic, though like other classics, it has reaped its share of criticism.
9. What would you say is your most interesting writing quirk?
Repetition. This, obviously, is not a good quirk. It’s a bad little quirk. But like all bad quirks, it can be tamed.
10. Do you write full-time or part-time?
Alas, part-time. I still need to pay a few bills, which editing helps to do and writing, at least at this point, does not.
11. If you could do anything in the world, what would it be and why?
Travel around the globe and take as long as I liked to do it.
12. What is the craziest thing you ever did? This could be as a writer or any other time in your life.
Play unofficial spy for the British embassy in Bucharest, Romania, a very long time ago. The job was bizarre, hilarious, and fun, but unfortunately short-lived, not because I wasn’t a superspy, but because the enemy’s spies lost interest when they realized I didn’t have access to political hot potatoes.
13. Did you feel like a celebrity when you held your first published book?
No. First of all, my book is, for the moment at least, in electronic format only, so I can’t actually hold it. My emotions were mixed when Vin and the Dorky Duet was released. I was thrilled by the book’s publication and petrified by the prospect of having to promote it. I am, incidentally, planning to very soon hold a print version of Vin and the Dorky Duet. More on that later.
14. If you could have a star, as on Hollywood Blvd., near whose star would you want your star to be? This can be an actual star on Hollywood Blvd. or someone you just admire.
In the movie business I’ve always admired Alfred Hitchcock for his mastery of the thriller genre. If I could keep my readers on the edge of their seats as he did for movies, I’d be ecstatic.
15. Is there anything in your life you wish you could do over and why?
Go back in time to when I was eighteen years old and have a go at making a musical career for myself. Then write about it.
16. Who has been your biggest support or inspiration?
My fiance with his intelligent advice and enormous sense of humor—and his infinite patience.
17. Could you share about any current writing projects?
My middle-grade adventure story Dewi and the seeds of Doom, about a sleuthing Welsh dragon, will be released by MuseItUp Publishing in October 2012 and Halo Publishing International will release a paperback around the same time too.
18. What would be the best way for readers to contact you?
My Gmail address is: firstname.lastname@example.org.
My book website has a contact page: http://www.maggielyons.yolasite.com., and my e-mail is also on my book page in the MuseItYoung section of the bookstore at my publisher’s website: http://www.museituppublishing.com.
My Facebook author page is: facebook.com/MaggieLyonsChildrensBooks.
19. Where can people find your book?
The e-book is available at the MuseItYoung section of MuseItUp Publishing’s bookstore; Amazon and other outlets listed on MuseItUp Publishing’s home page. The Vin and the Dorky Duet book page at Amazon is at: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B008AK7ALE. The paperback is available at Halo Publishing International: http://halopublishing.com/bookstore/Maggie-Lyons.
I’ll announce the release dates of the e-book and paperback versions of Dewi and the Seeds of Doom on my website and Facebook author page.
20. Is there anything else you’d like to share?
Literacy is critical to all of us. Some states in the USA base their budget projections for new prison cells on fourth-grade literacy scores. Frederick Douglass’s words, “Once you learn to read, you will be forever free,” have an all-too-literal meaning for many prisoners. Children who are not proficient readers are not likely to do as well in adulthood as those who are. It’s essential to encourage a child to become an avid reader because enthusiasm breeds proficiency, which opens up a child’s world in so many positive ways.
Thanks so much for being my guest here on my blog. You are a very interesting and talented writer. Good luck in all of your future writing endeavors.
Please follow Maggie Lyons on her tour tomorrow at: http://barbarabockman.wordpress.com