Although Fiona Ingram has been a journalist for the last fifteen years, writing a children’s book—The Secret of the Sacred Scarab—was an unexpected step, inspired by a recent trip to Egypt. The tale of the sacred scarab began life as a little anecdotal tale for her 2 nephews (then 10 and 12), who had accompanied her on the Egyptian trip. This short story grew into an award-winning children’s book, the first in the adventure series Chronicles of the Stone. The author has already completed the next book in the series—The Search for the Stone of Excalibur—a huge treat for young King Arthur fans.
Although Fiona Ingram does not have children of her own, she has an adopted teenage foster child, from an underprivileged background who is just discovering the joys of reading for pleasure. Fiona’s experiences in teaching her daughter to read has resulted in her interest in child literacy and in creating ways to get kids more interested in reading, as well as helping parents to instil a love of reading in their children.
Naturally, Fiona is a voracious reader and has been from early childhood. Her interests include literature, art, theatre, collecting antiques, animals, music, and films. She loves travel and has been fortunate to have lived in Europe (while studying) and America (for work). She has travelled widely and fulfilled many of her travel goals.
Fiona’s latest book is the middle grade adventure novel, The Secret of the Sacred Scarab – Book 1 in the Chronicles of the Stone series.
Visit her website at www.fionaingram.com.
About The Secret of the Sacred Scarab
A 5000-year-old mystery comes to life when a scruffy peddler gives Adam and Justin Sinclair an old Egyptian scarab on their very first day in Egypt. Only when the evil Dr. Faisal Khalid shows a particular interest in the cousins and their scarab, do the boys realise they are in terrible danger. Dr. Khalid wants the relic at all costs. Justin and Adam embark upon the adventure of a lifetime, taking them down the Nile and across the harsh desert in their search for the legendary tomb of the Scarab King, an ancient Egyptian ruler. They are plunged into a whirlpool of hazardous and mysterious events when Dr. Khalid kidnaps them. They survive terrifying dangers in a hostile environment (such as a giant cobra, as well as sinking sand), pursued by enemies in their quest to solve the secret of the sacred scarab. They must translate the hieroglyphic clues on the underside of the scarab, as well as rescue the missing archaeologist James Kinnaird, and their friend, the Egyptologist Ebrahim Faza, before time runs out. They must also learn more about the ancient Seven Stones of Power and the mysterious Shemsu-Hor. With just their wits, courage, and each other, the boys manage to survive … only to find that the end of one journey is the beginning of another!
Young explorers will enjoy an interactive journey through Egypt, following Justin and Adam’s exciting adventure on www.secretofthesacredscarab.com. Readers can also browse the first chapter of the book. Those who survive the journey and manage to translate the Curse of Thoth will be able to read the first chapter in Adam and Justin’s next adventure—The Search for the Stone of Excalibur—as they hunt for the Scroll of the Ancients.
The Secret of the Sacred Scarab has received the following awards:
- Book Award Nominations & Wins:
- Finalist Children’s Fiction USA Next Generation 2009 Indie Book Awards
- Finalist Juvenile Fiction USA National Best Books 2009 Awards
- Winner Pre-Teen USA 2009 Readers’ Favorites Awards
- Number 2 in the USA Children’s & Teens Book Connection Top Ten Favourite Books of 2009 for Kids, Tweens & Teens
- Winner Silver Medal Teen Fiction 2010 Nautilus Book Awards
- Finalist Children’s Fiction 2010 International Book Awards
- Winner Bronze Medal Pre-Teen Fiction 2010 Moonbeam Book Awards
- Finalist 2011 Rubery Book Awards
- Winner Gold Award Mystery Pre-Teen 2011 Children’s Literary Classics Awards
Q: Thank you for this interview, Fiona. Can you tell us what your latest book, The Secret of the Sacred Scarab, is all about?
A 5000-year-old mystery comes to life when a scruffy peddler gives cousins Adam and Justin Sinclair an old Egyptian scarab on their very first day in Egypt. The boys embark upon the adventure of a lifetime, taking them down the Nile and across the harsh desert in their search for the legendary tomb of the Scarab King, an ancient Egyptian ruler. They are plunged into a whirlpool of hazardous and mysterious events, encountering terrifying dangers in a hostile environment while being pursued by enemies in their quest to solve the secret of the sacred scarab. With just their wits, courage, and each other, the boys manage to survive … only to find that the end of one journey is the beginning of another!
Q: Can you tell us a little about your main and supporting characters?
The two young heroes are cousins Adam (aged 12) and Justin (aged 13) Sinclair. They go off to Egypt with their Aunt Isabel, a journalist, and their feisty grandmother on a family vacation. Their aunt tells them from the outset there are “no adventures!” However, along the way they encounter both friends – Egyptologist Ebrahim Faza and the Scottish archaeologist James Kinnaird – and foes – the evil Dr. Faisal Khalid and his henchmen. The cousins are naturally curious and Egypt holds many secrets, which lead the boys to their great adventure.
Q: Do you tend to base your characters on real people or are they totally from your imagination?
Since this book was inspired by an actual trip to Egypt with my two young nephews and my mother, of course the boys and their aunt and grandma are based on us. We were on a tour and met a wide variety of people who also supplied the spark for many of my other characters. In my second book in the series I drew upon characteristics in people I met or else actors who have played certain characters. In fact when I write I tend to think ahead of who I would like to play a particular character in the film. Luckily for me I have signed a movie option for The Secret of the Sacred Scarab. I just hope all the actors I want to be in the film will want to be in it as well!
Q: Are you consciously aware of the plot before you begin a novel, or do you discover it as you write?
When I began The Secret of the Sacred Scarab it was just a short story, an anecdotal reminder for my nephews of the fun trip to an exotic location. About halfway through the story I found myself planning beyond the first book to the second, third and so on. I then devised a story arc that encompassed a truly grand adventure. So, yes, I have to plot in advance. However, while writing I find that the story takes different twists and turns, and characters sometimes make their own decisions. I have also written historical fiction and find planning in advance helps keep the story line tight.
Q: Your book is set in Egypt. Can you tell us why you chose this location in particular?
I don’t think I had a choice. The book chose me. Before the trip I had written many articles as a journalist, but I had never thought seriously about a book. After we came back from our family trip to Egypt I just felt this story bubble up inside me. I have been fascinated with Egypt from a very young age. In fact one of my first books was the Time Life series book Ancient Egypt.
Q: Does the setting play a major part in the development of your story?
Egypt is absolutely vital to the book and the development of the series. Egypt has a culture dating back five thousand years and a phenomenal amount of information about these ancient people still survives to this day, thanks to their incredible levels of sophistication and their artistic and cultural achievements. What I find astonishing and humbling is the sheer magnitude of the ancient Egyptian culture. The depth and immense weight of knowledge is breathtaking. Many ancient myths and legends have their origins in Egyptian culture. From this amazing fountain of information I have created an incredible and exciting story that fascinates readers.
Q: Open the book to page 69. What is happening?
Now this is the first near-death experience for Adam Sinclair. Someone has just tried to push him off the edge of the viewing platform at the Great Sphinx. He is rescued by a man they just met who has become a friend: Ebrahim Faza, a professor of Egyptology. He tries to persuade Adam to tell him why he thinks someone would try to kill him. However Adam is unsure of who to trust so he doesn’t let on they have a strange Egyptian scarab from an old peddler in the market place. Ebrahim gives Adam a card with a telephone number on it and says the cousins must call that number if they are ever in danger.
Q: Can you give us one of your best excerpts?
(In this extract Adam and Justin have evaded Dr. Khalid’s men who tried to kidnap them at the Valley of the Kings. They took refuge in an abandoned tomb. However, they found the tomb still had an occupant….)
In the corner, a pile of silvery coils moved stealthily, light glinting on its silver-and-black speckled skin. Its enormous body began to undulate as it uncoiled in lazy ripples, a large, triangular head protruding from the gleaming mass. A whip-like tongue flicked in and out of its jaws.
“I think this is one of the eight-foot snakes you were talking about,” Justin whispered. “Maybe longer.”
The giant cobra slithered across the floor with a dry, scraping sound. The boys shrank back into their sarcophagi, shaking.
“What shall we do?” Adam asked.
“I’m not the expert,” Justin snapped. “You’re the one who knows so much about snakes.”
“We should distract it!” Adam said in a loud whisper.
The snake jerked at the sound of his voice. It glided closer to the stone sarcophagus. Adam lay back on the pile of smelly bones and closed his eyes to half-slits. He looked up at the ceiling where the painted cobra shimmered.
I can’t believe this is happening. I know it’s after me.
The slithering, scraping sound grew louder. Then directly in front of him, just at the edge of the stone sarcophagus, the forked tongue whipping back and forth came into view followed by the loathsome head, which reared up, its hood spread wide. Then the creature opened its monstrous jaws, revealing wicked fangs. A clear drop of deadly poison trembled on the end of each fang, glistening like a pearl.
Adam heard a hideous hissing as the snake stared into the stone coffin, hunting for its prey, waiting for the tiniest movement that would betray his presence. Adam closed his eyes so he wouldn’t have to look into the snake’s gleaming black orbs. I’m finished, he thought, sliding his hand into his pocket and feeling the scarab. Somehow, just holding it made him feel calmer.
Then he heard Justin call softly to him. “I know how I can distract it. I have my snake stick in my rucksack. Don’t move a muscle because the cobra will strike if it senses you. I’m going to make a loud noise and then throw the snake stick into a corner. That should lure it away from you. On the count of three, jump out the sarcophagus and make for the hole in the wall.”
Adam tensed his muscles. He half-opened his eyes. The snake’s head still hovered but it had turned to look in the direction of Justin’s voice. Adam heard a rattling sound as Justin banged the snake stick against his sarcophagus, creating a vibration the snake would most certainly feel.
Justin screamed, “One, two, three!”
Adam sprang out of the sarcophagus just as Justin threw the snake stick into the farthest corner and leaped in the opposite direction. As the stick clattered to the ground, they raced for the opening. Hissing savagely, the giant cobra sped after the snake stick, and then struck what it evidently thought was an enemy snake. They reached the wall and gazed up at the hole.
“It’s so high,” Adam squeaked.
“Help me up,” Justin ordered, “and then I’ll reach down and haul you up.”
“Wh-wh-why not the other way around?”
“Because I’m taller so I’ll be able to reach down and get you. Your arms are too short to get me. Now hurry!”
Adam cupped his hands and, as soon as Justin had one foot in, Adam heaved. Justin leaped up, grabbed the edge of the hole, and then pulled himself to safety. Luckily for the boys, the men had broken the opening much wider so it was now easier to reach. Justin then lay down in the tunnel, hanging his arms and head over the edge of the cavity.
“Quick, grab my arms!”
Adam threw the rucksacks up to Justin. “Catch! We may need them later.”
“Take my hands!” Justin screamed. “It’s coming.”
Adam looked behind him. The snake had discovered their trick and was now facing Adam. It raced at top speed toward the boy, its hood raised and its tongue flickering. The furious snake struck, smashing viciously into the wall only inches below Adam’s dangling feet, and just seconds after Justin pulled his cousin up through the hole and back into the tunnel.
Thank you so much for this interview, Fiona. We wish you much success!