Hello and welcome to my blog, Author Interviews. My name is Fiona Mcvie.
Let’s get you introduced to everyone, shall we? Tell us your name. What is your age?
My name is Maretha Botha, and I’m older than I would like to be.
Fiona: Where are you from?
I was born in Montagu, Western Province, South Africa.
Fiona: A little about yourself (your education, family life, etc.).
I’m a South-African Italian, who now lives in Lancashire, United Kingdom. My husband and I recently celebrated our 38th wedding anniversary. We have two daughters and two grandchildren – a girl and a boy. I grew up in a little town called Worcester – a place reminiscent of Switzerland in winter. I finished my formal education – Matriculation Certificate – in nearby Paarl, approximately 50 miles north of Cape Town. I have a Diploma in Library Science (1984) from the University of South-Africa (Pretoria) and a Level 3 IVQ City and Guilds Diploma (London, Gaborone) in Teachers’ Training, Evaluating Learning, Assessing Students’ Outcomes (2011).
Fiona: Tell us your latest news.
I have recently completed the fourth book in the series, “Fauna Park Tales” (each book is available as an eBook as well as a black and white illustrated paperback of approximately 20,000 words each). I have also published a short story, “Sisters and Rivals: Time and Unforeseen Circumstances”, under my maiden name, M.M. Menichini.
Fiona: When and why did you begin writing?
I began writing in all earnestness in April 2012 after my post as Assistant-Librarian was localised in Gaborone, Botswana.
Fiona: When did you first consider yourself a writer?
For as long as I remember, I always wrote things down, but I suppose when I held the final edited draft of my first book, “Flame and Hope: An African Adventure” in my hands, I began to see the fruits of what it means to be a writer.
Fiona: What inspired you to write your first book?
Inspiration comes in many forms, and I wanted to help children to see how wonderful animals and birds really are, once got to know them better. Also, that they often need our special care and consideration. So, when I saw the interest and joy many of the pupils – who came to the school library daily – had for animal stories, the idea to write down many of the stories in my head, became more of a reality and not only a shelved possibility.
Fiona: How did you come up with the title?
The sub-title – “An African Adventure” – was easy enough, because the story is set in southern Africa.
“Flame and Hope” are the names of two of the main characters, but at the same time these names also take on a more spiritual nature when one considers what they mean, especially in a place like Africa where there is often turmoil, but also a link to hope.
“Fauna Park Tales” is the name of the whole series which deals with animals and birds, their ups and downs of life on a free-range cattle farm, and a few birds-of-prey who are on the endangered list in South Africa.
Fiona: Do you have a specific writing style? Is there anything about your style or genre that you find particularly challenging?
I try to combine narrative with descriptive writing. I love using descriptions in my writing and the challenge is not to overwhelm the text with too much description and telling, but rather to show the reader what follows next – for example, to write meaningful dialogue throughout, without wearing the reader down when it becomes too much of the one, and too little of the other. There is the added challenge to write “good” English that can challenge a younger reader, without tiring them, but at the same time, suited to their age and level of grammatical development.
Fiona: How much of the book is realistic and are experiences based on someone you know, or events in your own life?
Much of the series is realistic, based on fact. A few of the main characters have characteristics built on the lives of our family dogs, cats and birds, through the years. And most of the stories to do with birds-of-prey are from eyewitness reports. I just made them part of that specific character’s life story, part of the overall plot development.
Fiona: To craft your works, do you have to travel? Before or during the process?
I have done a fair amount of travelling in my life. So, I suppose, one builds up a store of ideas. However, for Fauna Park Tales, I had all the inspiration happening right outside our fence while we lived on the outskirts of a game reserve near Gaborone, Botswana.
Fiona: Who designed the covers?
The first book cover has a red-roofed farmhouse, which my youngest daughter did as an art project many years ago. The other three are characters from the series which I created and illustrated. The paperback covers are designed and formatted by Karen Perkins from LionheArt Galleries, while I used Amazon’s online design platform for the eBook covers.
Fiona: Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?
To care for vulnerable ones, especially lesser known animals and birds. Treat every living being with kindness and understanding whatever their status in life might be. Care for the environment.
Fiona: Are there any new authors that have grasped your interest? Who is your favorite writer, and what is it about their work that really strikes you?
Yes, there are a few authors whom I’ve met through my membership with Rave Reviews Book Club, but I especially enjoy getting to know fellow children’s authors’ work better. For example, I like the works of D.L. Finn, Gracie Bradford, as well as James Minter and Richard Smith. All these children’s authors have written creative, memorable stories which can be enjoyed by boys and girls of all ages. Their categories stretch between time-travel, sibling rivalry, adventure and fantasy – in my opinion – set to become best-selling Literary Fiction in future.
I don’t have a favourite writer these days. I’ll read whatever title interests me.
Fiona: Outside of family members, name one entity that supported your commitment to become a published author.
Rave Reviews Book Club
Fiona: Do you see writing as a career?
I view writing as a voluntary job. It’s more a calling than a career at this stage.
Fiona: If you had to do it all over again, would you change anything in your latest book?
No. I feel that the whole series is moving towards a satisfactory conclusion for all concerned.
Fiona: Did you learn anything during the writing of your recent book?
Yes, never imagine that you can’t come up with a new idea. I changed the fourth book’s format from one book to four smaller books to help younger readers to always follow the plot.
Fiona: If your book was made into a film, who would you like to play the lead?
The main characters in the series are animals and birds, so I’ll have to choose them at the time, but as far as the human characters are concerned, I thought Cameron Diaz would be perfect as Marie, the French-speaking teacher who runs an animal and bird shelter, and Tom Hanks would be perfect as John James, the owner of the free-range cattle farm, and Idris Elba would be the most perfect Chief Monametsi.
Fiona: Any advice for other writers?
Believe in what you do. Don’t give up, and never listen to negative people.
Fiona: Anything specific you want to tell your readers?
Book four is a thrilling, survivor adventure which takes place in the desert. Don’t wait. Grab your copy now!
Fiona: What book are you reading now?
I’ve just finished “A New Dawn in Deer Isle” by Tom Winton, and my next book is, “Elizabeth’s War” by D.L. Finn.
Fiona: Do you remember the first book you read?
The Jungle Book by Rudyard Kipling, but before that, I probably read all Enid Blyton’s books in the Noddyillustrated series.
Fiona: What makes you laugh/cry?
Seeing, hearing or reading about happy endings for rescue animals.
Fiona: Is there one person, past or present, you would love to meet? Why?
Nonnie Jules. She is an enigmatic, self-driven perfectionist writer, and the President of Rave Reviews Book Club – a constant encouragement to fellow writers.
Fiona: Do you have any hobbies?
Hiking (weather and health permitting), Birdwatching, Reading, Gardening.
Fiona: What TV shows/films do you enjoy watching?
I’m not a big TV viewer, but I enjoyed watching the Marigold Hotel movies, as well as The Mission Impossible series, Notting Hill, Must Love Dogs – that sort of thing.
Fiona: Favorite foods, colors, music?
Foods: Pasta, steamed salmon and all sort of vegetables, especially green ones.
Colours: Midnight blue, Emerald green, Cornflower yellow.
Music: Classic, Pop and Rock.
Fiona: Imagine a future where you no longer write. What would you do?
Read and garden.
Fiona: What do you want written on your head stone?
Good Mother and Wife, Loyal Friend, Animal and Bird Lover
Fiona: Do you have a blog or website readers can visit for updates, events and special offers?