Thursday, September 6, 2012

Maggie Lyons, Vin and the Dorky Duet, Interview and Giveaway

AUTHOR: Maggie Lyons
BOOK TITLE: Vin and the Dorky Duet
PUBLISHER: E-book published by MuseItUp Publishing (MuseItYoung book line); paperback published by Halo Publishing International
BUY LINK: E-book at MuseItUp Publishing bookstore:
E-book Amazon buy page:
Paperback at Halo Publishing International:

GIVEAWAY: e a paperback available for giveaway.  Please leave a comment and include your contact information to be eligible for this great book.

Please tell me how long you've been writing, and why you decided to become a writer.

I didn’t decide to become a writer. I fell into it by accident more than forty years ago when I was herding cats for a living—I mean when I was duking it out fundraising, marketing, and publicizing (PR) for nonprofit cultural and educational organizations. That kind of work entails loads of writing, among a few other details. I’ve loved words, since I was knee-high to a Higgs boson. The nonfiction business writing morphed into a career as an editor and, one day, at the end of this crazy-quilt of career moves, I discovered the magic of writing for children. I’ve indulged, off and on, my passion for children’s literature ever since my parents read me bedtime stories. In case you’re wondering, I should explain that I was a child when they read me those stories. 

Are you a full-time writer or a part-time writer, and how do you organize your writing time?

I’m a part-timer. Writing has to be fitted around editing with its we-want-it-yesterday deadlines at we-want-it-for-nothing prices that, nevertheless, pay a few bills, which writing—at the moment—doesn’t. 

What influences your writing?

Great children’s authors such as Jerry Spinelli, Dan Gutman, Jeff Kinney, and Roald Dahl, and great authors of adult fiction such as Jane Gardam and again, Roald Dahl. I think people sometimes forget he wrote for adults too. I also devour whatever I can on the art of writing. I draw on memories of my childhood and my son’s, and I’m influenced, directly and indirectly, by news from whatever source.

Is this your first published work?  What other types of writing have you done?

The countless marketing materials—newsletters, magazine articles, reports, brochures, etc.—of my business career were my first published work. Ancient Egypt magazine recently published my article on Tutankhamun’s trumpets. My interest in music inspired that one. My first published writing for children was several articles that appeared in Stories for Children Magazine and a chapter book in knowonder! magazine. Vin and the Dorky Duet, released by MuseItUp Publishing last June, is my first published book to be made available for sale. 

Why did you choose to write a children's story?

Children’s literature has always fascinated me. My parents read bedtime stories to me when I was a child and I read stories to my son when he was small. All I needed was an excuse to borrow books from the children’s library, and declaring myself to be a children’s writer did the trick. Studying the work of great children’s writers gives me the chance to indulge my love of that enchanting mix of innocence, escapism, imagination, and humor that bubbles out of children’s literature

What was the process of creating this book from the first idea to the final published book?

After writing two stories in the third person, I wanted to try my hand at writing in the first person as a twelve-year-old boy, although I quickly discovered that my tomboy childhood was no prequalification for stepping into the head of a tween boy. Vin and the Dorky Duet’s musical theme reflects my interest in music as a musician and piano teacher. The quest idea—Vin goes on a mission—came from my love of challenges. Well, perhaps I’m more in love with the idea of challenges than actually meeting one. Raising a boy was an inspiration, but because my son’s now a grown-up, and children are not part of my daily life, I had to rely on the grandson of friends to help me with today’s kidspeak and kidthink. And thank goodness for critique groups. Members of mine offered invaluable advice—although I didn’t always want to admit they were right. Fancy that! When Vin had been all tricked out in his best suit, I sent him off to interview literary agents only to learn that they were the ones to interview him—and reject him. After he’d been sent packing by an unmentionable number of them, I decided to let him visit publishers. That’s when he came home with a contract from MuseItUp Publishing. The MIU editors made him wash his hands, blow his nose, and comb his hair, and he was ready to shake a hand or two on graduation day.     

What are your thoughts on traditional versus self-publishing?

I’m not the best person to ask as I haven’t yet been published by a purely traditional publisher. MuseItUp Publishing is a very small press that focuses mainly on e-book publishing. Printing short books like Vin and the Dorky Duet is not cost effective for MuseItUp, so I’ve not benefitted from having a print version produced for me at no cost. I have, however, worked with Halo Publishing International to produce a paperback of Vin. Marketing is also an area in which I’m working my own solutions, for better or for worse.

What is your marketing strategy?

To keep my fingers crossed. Seriously, though, as a newbie, I’m finding marketing quite overwhelming at present. I read Carolyn Howard-Johnson’s Frugal Book Promoter and was in awe of the tons of useful advice she’s packed into that book. I decided to go for a one-step-at-a-time approach, starting with creating a website and a book trailer. Then I contacted book reviewers and bloggers who interview authors and welcome guest blogs, as you do. I also contacted V. S. Grenier at the World of Ink to arrange a virtual book tour. I stepped up my activities on social media sites, reviewing a few more books for Goodreads and Amazon and creating author pages on those sites. So much of book marketing is via social media now it seemed a good idea to focus on that medium for a while. 

What are your thoughts about children's writers needing an agent or not needing one?

I didn’t need one to approach MuseItUp, but more and more large publishing houses only accept agented queries. Even so, I suspect it’s more difficult to acquire an agent than gain the direct acceptance of a publisher, especially a small press, of which there are many. 

Where can people find out more about you and your writing?

My books’ website is at:
My Amazon author page is at:  
The Amazon page for the e-book of Vin and the Dorky Duet, with Reviews and purchase details, is at:
The paperback of Vin and the Dorky Duet is published by Halo Publishing International and is available at:
My Facebook fan page is at:

Do you have any tips for writers who are new to children's literature?

Read, write, read, write—as much as you possibly can about everything. Especially read and analyse the works of great children’s authors. Join a critique group. Teach children if you can. Join children’s writers and children’s publishing groups and contribute to the discussions. There are several at, including Children’s Book’s; Children’s Publishing; Children’s Media; Authors, Writers, Publishers, Editors, & Writing Professionals; and First Time Authors. The children’s-writers group at ( is also very active. Keep active in social media but try not to let social media activities dominate your schedule. That’s easier said than done. I find social media highly addictive, and it often takes an effort to tear myself away from it to write.  

Please give us a brief synopsis or excerpt from your current book and when and where it will be available.

The moment he walks through the door and sees the sharky grin on his older sister’s face, Vin suspects Meg’s hatching a plot. He’s right. Worse still, he’s central to the outcome. Meg tells him that their music teachers, parents—everyone—expect him to play her duet for trumpet and piano at the upcoming student concert. Vin is horrified. 
Meg insists that his only escape route is to persuade another trumpet player to take his place. She has the hunky Brad Stewart in mind, and she challenges Vin to introduce her to him. Vin doesn’t know Brad any better than Meg does, but Meg points out that Vin takes a couple of classes at school with Brad’s nerdy brother. Eyeballs Stewart is the last person Vin wants to befriend 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—before the concert practice schedule kicks in. 
His game plan, thwarted by exploding fish tanks, magnetic compost heaps, man-eating bubble baths, and other disasters, doesn’t bring the results that Vin expected.

Vin and the Dorky Duet is available at: 
For e-book:
MuseItUp Publishing

Amazon and other sites listed at the MuseItUp bookstore.
For paperback:
Halo Publishing International:


  1. Great interview. I look forward to hosting Maggie on my blog later in the month.

  2. Susanne, thanks so much for commenting. Since you did, you're the lucky winner. Maggie will be in touch with you to see if you prefer electronic or print format for your book.