Let me introduce you to Margot Finke, a writer with varied experiences and a great imagination.
Today we are going to get acquainted with Margo and her latest book, Taconi and Claude: Double Trouble, published by Guardian Angel Publishing.
Margot is an Aussie transplant who writes midgrade adventure fiction and rhyming picture books. For many years she has lived in Oregon with her husband and family.
Gardening, travel, and reading fill in the cracks between writing. Her husband is very supportive, though not interested in children’s books . Their three children are now grown and doing very well – especially in giving her 7 grandkids.
Margot didn’t begin serious writing until the day their youngest left for college. This late start drives her writing, and pushes her to work at it every day. Margot said, “I really envy those who began young, and managed to slip into writing mode between kid fights, diaper changes, household disasters, and outside jobs. You are my heroes! “
Outline: Taconi and Claude – Double Trouble”
My Taconi and Claude Double Trouble, a midgrade adventure, is a coming of age story set in the Australian outback of the mid nineteen hundreds. Beginning on Coorparoo Cattle Station, the story takes readers into the heart and mind of Taconi, a young aboriginal boy and his chatty cockatoo mate, Claude. Taconi has a bunch of serious problems: his upcoming man ceremony, a scary Medicine Man, his dad’s crazed ideas, and a wild emu that turns Taconi into a hero of sorts. Not to mention a walkabout for snake, witchetty grubs and yabbies. Taconi wonders how he can fit into both his tribe and the world of the white man? And his feathered mate Claude is a mixed blessing. The mischievous bird offers great one-liners, but almost gets Taconi eaten alive by green ants. Taconi’s future is resolved when Dreamtime Spirits descend on a huge tribal gathering, and Taconi discovers his calling.
I thoroughly enjoyed reading Taconi and Claude – Double Trouble. Taconi’s thoughts about enduring the man ceremony – his fear and apprehension of the unknown – fell very real. It’s probably the way boys in many different cultures have felt over the centuries. Aside from its being specific to an Australian aboriginal boy, it has a universal feel of any youngster’s fear of growing up and finding out what his life’s work will be. And Claude is an amazing sidekick. He has an uncanny sense of knowing what’s going on, and his quips are sometimes hilarious. He’s pretty bossy. The book is like a travelogue for people who’ve never been to Australia.
Margot, when you were living in Australia, did you have personal experience with any of the native people? Just wondering how you became so familiar with the rituals and customs.
Not personal, one-on-one so much, as seeing them around the towns and learning the history in school, as well as from my dad. He had to go outback sometimes, in the cattle and sheep season, to supervise the slaughtering for the government. He brought back many fascinating tales. In those days most of the aboriginals lived in the outback, far from big cities. Some drifted to the smaller towns and fell into drinking and petty crime. Like the American Indian strong drink is very addictive for them.
Their sacred rituals are still secret – not shared with those outside the tribe. Each tribe has a language and traditions that is their own. In Taconi and Claude, I kept to the simple and well known things about most tribes, not wanting to upset any of them by pretending to know more than I did. I adapted the Dreamtime Stories told around the fire into my own words, so they would be easily understood by kid readers. The internet offers a huge amount of detail about Australian Aboriginal lore, so that, combined with what I saw for myself on trips to the outback, plus what I read and studied, was enough to work with.
Have you visited Uluru? Is it awe-inspiring, like the Grand Canyon or Niagara Falls?
Yes, I have visited Ayer’s Rock, Uluru as the tribes call it. It is a sacred place for the local tribes, and the caves there have wonderful and ancient drawings. Set in the middle of a vast flat land of blazing heat and fierce blue skies, it an awesome sight. An eerie feeling comes over you as you feel time drifting backwards. Because for thousands of years these ancient people have been worshiping and treating this giant monolith as a sacred place. Like a chameleon, it changes colors, depending on the time of day and the cloud cover – reds, oranges, yellows blacks and grays, all slowing shifting around to form different patterns and shapes of colors. An extraordinary experience that makes you sense the mystery of the Dreamtime that seems to hover just out of sight.
I happen to love opals. My poem, “Opal,” was published in Cricket Magazine. Have you been to the opal mines? Maybe slept in an underground hotel?
I love opals too, and I have read about the underground town where they live and mine opals. My brother-in-law went there when he visited us in Queensland – before we moved to Oregon. Hot as Hell he said, and not pleasant at all – unless you stayed underground 24/7
Have you ever known a cockatoo personally? Do they really talk?
I have seen flocks of them in the wild when I lived up on the Atherton Tablelands, south of the Daintree rainforest area. However when I was small, Mum lived in a flat that was part of a large sub-divided house. The owner had a pet cockatoo that talked up a storm. It exactly copied the lady’s voice calling to my mum, so mum couldn’t tell if it was the bird or her landlady calling out to her. They are well known as great talkers.
It sounds as if Australia is a very varied country, with deserts as well as a rainforest.
I looked it up on Google Earth. The Daintree rainforest is way up at the Northeast.
Was it hard for you to adjust to life in the US?
Not really. Home is where the heart is. So as long as I am with my husband and kids I am happy. Getting used to things being named differently was another matter. For a long time I wondered why so many people advertised Garage Sales. Why would they want to sell their garages? Lots of ordinary foods had different names here, so grocery shopping took quite a while, until I learned all the new names for things. Our eldest daughter had the worst ( or funniest ) experience though. She was thirteen at the time, and one day put up her hand in class and asked, “Can anyone lend me a rubber?” Shocked silence became huge sniggers and giggles. She will never live that down. You see Down-under, they call erasers, rubbers.
Did you ever eat any witchetty grubs?
NO. I have looked at them and touched them. However my religion and politics prevents me from eating anything that is alive and kicking – especially kicking!! If they had been cooked I would have taken a nibble. I have eaten tiepin, a large and deadly snake from the Daintree rainforest. Tasty, tender, and rather chicken like. I also ate snails in France, and rabbit too – yum! Duck eggs make wonderful cakes, but they are a little strong for omelets. The same goes for emu eggs! I will try anything that is cooked and won’t run away.
Tell us about your “time travel” story? You have Ruthie, from Ruthie and the Hippo’s Big Fat Behind and Horatio from Horatio Beats the Big D.
I thought it would be a fun idea to put the characters from my three latest books into a time-travel adventure together. Ruthie and Horatio have to help Taconi and Claude find their way back home to the Aussie outback of the nineteen fifties, where they belong. Everyone who leaves a comment + their e-mail, gets a FREE copy. SAFE Sample: mfinke at frontier dot com
Here is where you can find Margot, Taconi and Claude, and her other books.
“Musings,” – http://www.underdown.org/finke.htm
Her columns for children’s writers can be read in The Purple Crayon.
Her Website – http://www.margotfinke.com
Showcases her children’s books, Manuscript Critique Service, pages of writing help + helpful links.
Margot’s Magic Carpet lists all 11 of her books – http://perfectmagiccarpet.blogspot.com/
HOOK Kids on Reading – http://hookkidsonreading.blogspot.com/
Is for parents and writers, listing books with a WOW Factor that get kids reading –
Margot is also a writing coach for the Children’s Writers Coaching Club (C.W.C.C,), and offers advice and a monthly Teleclass workshop for members. She is also guilty of Twittering, and can be found on Facebook, JacketFlap and Linkedin.
Taconi and Claude Double Trouble
Paperback ISBN: 978-1-61633-130-6; 1616331305
eBook ISBN: 978-1-61633-131-3; 1616331313
Guardian Angel Publishing:
Thank you, Margot, for being with us today. This has been a lot of fun. And Folks, don’t forget to leave a comment for your free PDF copy of Margot’s time travel story.
And thank you Barbara for introducing me to your wonderful readers.
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Disclaimer: I bought a paperback copy of Taconi and Claude and Margot provided me with a copy of the time travel story. All of my comments are freely given.