My latest guest (pronounced Ma-rita Bo-thuh) writes stories for children of her observations and experiences while living in South Africa. Her latest chapter book in the Tales From Fauna Park series is quickly climbing the Amazon UK charts even as we speak! I hope you enjoy her fascinating story and books.
Q. Hello Maretha. Please tell us a little bit about yourself and your books.
A. I’m a South African Italian and grew up in Worcester, Western-Cape, South Africa, a place reminiscent of living in Switzerland among snow-capped mountains. After I got married, we lived in the Western Metropolitan area of Gauteng Province–Krugersdorp, now Mogale City–for about 25 years, running a small cleaning/maintenance business. During this time I made many notes on all sorts of subjects, especially birds and their habitats, but never really thought of making writing a full-time career. I suppose because life kept me busy with its affairs. After my daughters were married, we moved to Botswana, where my husband was self-employed and I worked for a private school as an assistant librarian. When my post was localised, and obtaining trading licenses became difficult, we decided to emigrate to the UK. We are now settled in Lancashire, North-Western England.
So, not counting everything we had to do in between, I can safely say that I’ve been writing full-time for four years. While still in Botswana, living on the outskirts of a game reserve, I had opportunity to watch a great variety of birds splashing in our dogs’ water bowls and study their habits and habitats, also getting to know people in the villages better. Having time on my hands, I made copious notes about many things–including everything I remembered about our family’s pets. After six weeks I had completed my first drafts of African Adventures of Flame, Family, Furry and Feathered Friends (notice my love of alliterations–I have calmed down though), and joined Authonomy, a HarperCollins author website. There I made good friends with many who were interested in helping me improve as a writer. After much hard work, my story gained GOLD MEDAL status in September 2013.
Part of the benefit of this achievement was to get an unsolicited manuscript reviewed by a HarperCollins Publishers Children’s Editor. This positive review has been worth it’s weight in gold, because it gave me the needed boost to continue, even doing my own illustrations. Until that time, I was the librarian and reader only, encouraging younger readers to develop a love for books and reading, but since then, I began to look at books from the writer’s point of view. It has been an incredible journey, because all this insight helped me to create Fauna Park Tales and to remain dedicated to the job of writing new children’s stories.
Q. What would you say is your greatest success?
A. I’m going to say that my greatest success was to finish not just one book, but five, specifically related to Fauna Park Tales. Also, I’d say that illustrating the first three of the books, ready for publication, with the able assistance of a wonderfully supportive editor and formatter, has been my something I’m very proud of.
Q. What has been your greatest challenge?
A. The greatest challenge for me remains dealing with my own negative thoughts, especially when I get to a point where I wonder whether bleeding over my desk till what hours of the night is really worth it. Then too, the constant challenge to market in such a way that parents, teachers and others see the need to post short reviews on Amazon, based on feedback from their children and/or students. Those things are so very helpful to writers and sometimes it’s hard to get that across to the people who can help the most.
Q. What are your plans for the future?
A. The immediate future is going to be filled with illustrating and editing rough drafts for the next two books–tweaking the manuscripts here and there. I’ll also continue to work on two novels, doing more background research and plotting the stories! There are a few short stories in the pipeline about the lives of siblings and their relationships to one another, all works in progress at present.
The Orphans’ Plight: An African Adventure, published March 2016
This is the third book in the Fauna Park Tales series based on the original African Adventures of Flame, Family, Furry and Feathered Friends, a GOLD MEDAL WINNER on Authonomy, supported by HarperCollins. The following is an excerpt from the HarperCollins Children’s Editor Review:
“A vivid and engaging world of animal characters . . . the use of cleverly animalised verbs is very creative–Dolly Cat’s ‘whispurr’. The exploration of interrelationships between animals is a very successful topic in the children’s literature genre, and you have created some great personalities– the stubborn goat ‘Plump-Grump’ and the conceited ‘His Handsomeness, King Rat’ being some of my favourites . . .
Bad humans are disturbing the peace in Molodi valley, and two small orphans are in danger. One of them, Larita, speaks the bush creatures’ language–Faunalang–a rare and wonderful talent that they want to use. Alone in the desert, who will help them? Young and old will enjoy reading about the furry and feathered friends’ latest thrilling adventures, when Molodi’s bush creatures meet friends and foes in their quest to stick to The Promise to protect helpless ones in Fauna Park.”
Fauna Park Tales books
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Thanks for reading!