Friday, December 6, 2013

All About Middle Grade Interview: Maggie Lyons (author of Vin and the Dorky Duet)

This week, I am very excited to welcome Maggie Lyons, author of Vin and the Dorky Duet, to the blog. I hope y'all will give her a warm welcome.

About the Author:
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. With no regard for my family's physical and emotional health, I also trained as a classical pianist - 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.

You can haunt Maggie at-
Goodreads | Website | Twitter | Blog | Amazon
Interview

1. In five words, per a character, could you introduce readers to Vin and Meg? What makes the sibling dynamic between Vin and Meg different from other books?
Vin: slightly sardonic, creative, reluctant quester
Meg: manipulative, talented, single-minded teen   
Vin and Meg are talented young musician siblings who don’t always see eye to eye, but ever-practical Vin will go along with Meg if there’s a strong enough incentive.

2. So, what about doing a duet with Meg has Vin so horrified? 
At their previous student concert Meg and Vin gave a less than stellar performance of a duet for piano and trumpet. Vin doesn’t want to risk repeating that embarrassment at the next student concert. What’s more, he doesn’t like the duet. It’s one Meg composed herself.

3. Why do you think readers will enjoy Vin's disastrous attempts to get out of performing a musical duet?
The main aim of my children’s books is to make readers laugh. Laughing is excellent for your health. We should all do far more of it. And it makes you feel good. Readers who are seeking a bit of comic relaxation may therefore enjoy following Vin on his mission, especially as the disasters he seems to attract are not life threatening. And readers may also warm to the recognition that life is a series of challenges we often can’t avoid and shouldn’t try to. Even plants face challenges. Well, at least my plants do.

4. Maggie, since your book, Vin and the Dorky Duet, features siblings could you share with us three sets of your favorite bookish siblings and why you like?

Alex and his little brother Jonathan, in Frank Asch’s hilarious Star Jumper: Journal of a Cardboard Genius. Alex professes to detest his younger brother, with very funny results.

The four sisters of Jeannie Birdsall’s refreshingly wholesome The Penderwicks are vivacious, clever, and delightfully old-fashioned.

The three orphaned siblings of Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events books inhabit a deliciously snide and over-the-top world of dastardly villains and ludicrous cliff-hangers.

5. Last book that made you cry and why?
Jerry Spinelli’s heartrending Wringer—so exquisitely written. Spinelli is a master of the heart wrench! Place a box of tissues next to you before reading this one.

And Jeff Kinney, with his Diary of a Wimpy Kid series, elicits tears of laughter.

Some other books I’ve recently read also elicited tears—the result of unintentional humor or grinding frustration. But I won’t tell you which books they were. Yes, I know. I’m a spoildy sport.

6. Since I've asked mainly bookish questions, could you share with readers one nonbookish thing you hope to accomplish in the new year?
Travel back to the UK, where I was born, to share some new fun with old friends.

7. What is one unbelievable or odd job that you have done that people think you've made up?
I was once an extremely unofficial spy for the British government while working at the British Embassy in then-communist Romania. I was very young, very gullible, and too fond of fun. And I had a riot of a time pretending to be Mata Hari. The other side had a good laugh too.

8. The world has fallen to a robot invasion and only one heroine/hero can possibly save the day, whom do you choose? 
Kevin Spencer, hero—or is it anithero?—of Gary Paulsen’s Liar, Liar and Flat Broke books will unwittingly save the day. His hapless shenanigans will have the robots in total disarray before their little tin cogs and wheels catch on to what’s happening.

9. Care to tell us about your writing cave (include picture if you want)?
I live in a cottage on a river in a Virginia backwater. My desk is next to the window. Can you see what’s coming? You’re right. It’s much more fun to watch an osprey buzzing a heron than attend to the words on the monitor in front of me. Sometimes only a deadline can get me back on track.

10. Any upcoming projects that you can share with us?  
Book signing at the Christmas open house of our local Steamboat Era Museum in Irvington, Virginia. Not so long ago this area was only accessible via steamboats plying the Potomac and Rappahannock rivers. The history of that era and this region is quite fascinating. No—I’m not planning to write a story about it any time soon. I’m still trying to put Wales, the land of my birth, on the map (see my Welsh dragon detective adventure Dewi and the Seeds of Doom).

Maggie, thanks so much for stopping by and answering a few questions. Vin and the Dorky Duet sounds like quite the interesting read.

Vin and the Dorky Duet by Maggie Lyons, August 2012. Published by Halo Publishing International.
When he walks through the door and sees the sharky grin on his sister’s face, Vin rightly suspects Meg is hatching a plot. Worse still, he’s central to the outcome. Meg tells him everyone expects him to play her duet for trumpet and piano at the student concert. Vin is horrified.

His only escape is to persuade another trumpet player to take his place. Meg has the hunky Brad Stewart in mind, and she challenges Vin to introduce her to him. To do that he must first befriend Brad’s nerdy brother, Eyeballs, the last person Vin wants to be friends with until Meg’s promise of a David Beckham autographed soccer jersey changes the seventh-grader’s mind. He has five days to accomplish his mission—Operation BS.

Vin’s game plan, thwarted by exploding fish tanks, magnetic compost heaps, man-eating bubble baths, and other disasters ultimately succeeds, but not exactly as he expects …

You can add Vin and the Dorky Duet to your Goodreads shelf.

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