Today we have author Maggie Lyons who just debuted her first children’s contemporary chapter book, Vin and the Dorky Duet from MuseItUp Publishing (eBook) and Halo Publishing International (print). When I asked Maggie Lyons to share a bit about herself she said, “Well, I don’t want to alarm your readers so I won’t tell them about the time I was a spy for the British government. No kidding. I really was—a very informal one—but that’s another story.
I’m sorry to say, I didn’t ask Lyons to share more on that as I was worried for my family’s wellbeing. However, later in this spotlight interview you will find her contact information and are free to write her about it. However, I did learn Maggie Lyons was born in a Welsh coal-mining town and brought up, very properly, in England, where she became an exceptionally boring child, always reading and practicing piano. Well that is how she tells it anyway:
“I had no idea who the famous pop singers were. I only knew about dead European composers like Mozart and Chopin. When I was pushed into adulthood, I zigzagged my way through a maze of professional environments, managing orchestras, writing concert program notes—one of my favorite jobs—and trying to appease a troupe of ballet dancers, which has to be an oxymoron. After beavering away in marketing and media relations in the completely unrelated fields of coffee and law, I finally settled down to have fun with red ink as an editor for an academic publisher. When I ‘retired’ I became a freelance editor and discovered the joy of writing for children.”
If you call that a boring life, I would love to see what Lyons considers adventurous. Lyons originally became a writer by default and said with no regard for the well-being of her family she trained as a classical pianist, subjecting all around her to four hours of practice a day. “I suspect the pterodactyls that landed in my stomach before public concerts had something to do with not taking up a career as a concert pianist,” she says. “Instead, I found myself learning how to put rear ends on concert hall seats, otherwise known as orchestral management.”
Her first job in that heady field entailed writing the program notes for the National Symphony Orchestra in Washington, DC. Lyons said it was a job made in heaven:
“I wallowed in the music section of the Library of Congress and luxuriated in the incredible privilege of being allowed to take books home to read. The research was as much fun as writing the notes, if not more so. My job was to write such compelling notes about the music on the concert program that audiences would actually want to read them before scanning the donor lists to see who may have donated more than they had. I had to balance the light—what the composer liked to eat for breakfast, and so on—with the heavy—how the musical composition was constructed. The job was an extension of what I had enjoyed studying at college, but now I was being paid to do it. Try beating that.”
The writing continued as Lyons zigzagged her way through the marketing, public relations, and fundraising bastions of a motley variety of business environments. In the meantime, Lyons rediscovered her fascination of children’s fiction when she began reading bedtime stories to her son, just as Lyons’ parents had read to her when she was small. “As a single mom, I didn’t have the time or the mindset to devote energy to writing my own children’s stories. I’m in awe of working mothers who can do that. It was only when I retired from full-time work the idea of writing articles for children’s magazines swooped in one day,” said Lyons. “I have no idea where it came from, but there it was, waving frantically at me.”
Lyons began her children’s writing career by writing some articles, which miraculously appeared in Stories for Children Magazine. “Then I thought of stringing a few more words together to make something longer, fictional, a little homage to the land of my birth—Wales. And so my first book came into being, an adventure story about a Welsh dragon who discovers an unorthodox and very smelly remedy for his inability to snort fire,” shared Lyons. “It’s the exuberance of children’s literature that has inspired my attempts to contribute to the literature, and the older I become, the more exuberance I crave, but I hope I’m not the only one having fun with my stories.”
After talking with Maggie Lyons a bit about the different types of writing she has done, she shared her thoughts on writing for children and how it is harder than any type of writing she has done in the past. “Especially if you’re long past your own childhood and don’t have children around you,” she explains. “It’s not just a question of appealing to the culture, language, and mindset of children, you have to know what their parents and all the other adults in their world find appealing too—a double whammy.”
However, Lyons favorite part of writing for young people is indulging in all that innocence, enthusiasm, imaginative freedom, escapism, and humor that is the essence of children’s literature. All of which shows in her recently debuted children’s contemporary book, Vin and the Dorky Duet. The book was inspired by two incorrigible habits of Lyons–music and challenges:
“I’m an amateur musician and the main character, twelve-year-old Vin, is learning to play the trumpet. I think he secretly likes challenges, though he complains when faced with one. I think he also knows life would be pretty boring if there were no challenges, even if he can’t successfully meet all of them. Having a go is what life’s about, isn’t it? I was also inspired by fond memories of my son when he was 12 years of age. He was fun.”
The story of Vin and the Dorky Duet is about the disasters that pile up when a seventh-grader named Vin and his brilliant plan to meet his sister’s challenge takes more than one wrong turn. Life tosses challenges at all of us. It would be incredibly boring if it didn’t. What matters is what we learn from them. When magnetic compost heaps, man-eating bubble baths, and other disasters erupt, Vin comes close to packing in the completely ridiculous business. He calls it Operation BS, his code name for a mission to introduce his sister to a boy she has a crush on. He doesn’t want to play matchmaker, but Meg’s promise to reward him with a David Beckham autographed soccer jersey is a decisive incentive.
It’s a great book for reluctant readers as well. Get a sneak peek of the book at http://youtu.be/Qtgtp_rnAZ4
You can buy the e-book at Amazon and at the MuseItUp Publishing bookstore under the MuseItYoung section. MuseItUp lists a number of other outlets where the book can be purchased too. The paperback is available at Halo Publishing International.