I recently spoke with Marguerite Tonery to discuss her self-published Kapheus, an epic adventure book series for children. Marguerite is a Galway-based children’s author, and she runs a professional freelance writing service on Tuam Road. Marguerite is available for school readings and creative writing workshops. She also offers services for editing manuscripts and academic theses, proof-reading for grants, funding or academic applications; and website content writing.
I met up with Marguerite to find out more about the Kapheus book series, her favourite aspects about writing for children, and the challenges she faced with self-publishing and self-promotion.
Many congratulations on the publication of your Kapheus series for children, Marguerite.
Can you tell us more about the books, and the age group they cater for?
The Kapheus series is an epic fantasy adventure story for children 7+ years old. Kapheus is the fantastical world of light. It is a world where the imagination is real, and where dragons, elves and mythical creatures abide. The books are about Elisa and Jamie, a sister and brother who live with their parents in their house by the woods. Their Great Uncle Davin comes to visit, and sets them off on an adventure through the fantastical world of light. The Kapheus series is steeped in Irish mythology; and the child enters the world of elves, leprechauns, fairies and dragons. The landscape of the books is set in Ireland. It is authentically Irish; and both the Irish here and the diaspora like that connection to home. I wrote the first book, Kapheus Earth, based on my walks through the Barna Woods in Galway.
Everything I saw in Barna Woods, I incorporated into Kapheus Earth. Kapheus Air focusses more on the landscape of the Aran Islands, the Burren and the Cliffs of Moher. Then something very significant happens in Kapheus Water, and the elves light bonfires along the five paths that lead to the Hill of Tara.
By book three, Kapheus Water, the children discover that Kapheus is the spiritual home of Éire and it holds the traditions, culture and language of Éire until Éire is ready to reclaim them.
What challenges did you face when deciding to self-publish your work?
I suppose the greatest challenges I faced were the internal ones – the fear of making a mistake, the fear of your book being a flop, the risk involved, and so on. There is something that is always more important to me than all those fears and all the negativity. I always look to that final moment of my life and I ask myself, if this was my final day and I was looking back on my life, what choice would I have made? The answer is always the same – follow your heart. Follow your heart has become my motto. It has led me to places I never thought I would ever be, and one of those places is writing and publishing books. The rest is easy. It’s not difficult to upload your pdf onto Amazon to sell your books online, neither is it difficult to purchase your unique ISBN (barcode) or employ the services of an illustrator or designer.
I have to say that I was very lucky to have David T. Wenzel, the man who illustrated The Hobbit, to illustrate the covers of my books. He is an absolute gentleman and consummate professional. When you are working with such professionals it makes thing very easy. The only thing with David was that at times he made the elves look a little ‘hobbity’ and I had to ask him to do a chin tuck or tummy tuck on his sketches. He was great fun to work with.
What, in your opinion, are some of the reasons for the growth in self-publishing?
I think it is very easy to place your manuscript on Amazon as an eBook or print-on-demand. It costs nothing to do that and it only takes a few minutes.
In addition, marketing and promotion can be achieved reasonably easily. So many of us are on Facebook, Instagram, YouTube and so on. It’s a way of life now, so posting to these social media sites is simply what we do on a regular basis. There are so many stories about successful published authors who are struggling to make ends meet, and this influences people’s decisions to self-publish too. The self-published author has a greater percentage of the profits.
Do you have any tips for readers interested in self-publishing their work, particularly for any authors based in the west of Ireland?
Get in touch with me. If I can support you in any way, I will. The biggest issue is in getting the right printing company. Many books are printed outside of Europe now, due to the significant financial benefits of this. Spend time searching for a good printing company and do a background check on the company. Go online to find the illustrator that suits you best. The illustrator has to align to your manuscript. The other thing I’d say is ‘go for it’. Don’t be afraid to do it, and don’t live your life wondering ‘if only’.
You have a background in biochemistry and psychology – what prompted you to write epic fantasy adventure books for children?
I do have a background in biochemistry and psychology, but these professions were not lost in my writing. There is a huge psychological component to my books. Elisa and Jamie learn to deal with thoughts and emotions that are negatively affecting their lives, and it is through this that the child reader learns new and positive ways to deal with their own struggles. The children in the books learn to follow their hearts and to be brave, and this message is conveyed to the child reader. So, my educational background is very evident in the Kapheus series.
Above anything else in my life, I love children. I spend a lot of time in nature too, and so it was only natural for me to write children’s books that are steeped in nature. I tell stories to children all the time and one day I thought I’d write a story for a child who was leaving Ireland, and who was upset that she wouldn’t hear my stories any more. This story became Kapheus Earth and then I caught the bug for writing and Kapheus Air, and Kapheus Water followed in quick succession.
Have you always had an interest in the genre?
Yes, I’m a child at heart. I never lost my enthusiasm for child-like things. I love the creativity and the fun of children. The world needs more of it. It was only natural when I love children and love the fun of childhood that I would write books in this genre.
You do regular school visits to raise awareness and promote your books.
Do you enjoy the work involved in marketing and publicizing your books?
Yes, I love meeting children and I love reading to them from the Kapheus series. Their responses are wonderful and I absolutely love the questions they ask and the stories they tell. However, it is not for everyone. I am on the road a lot visiting schools and the days are long. It can be very tiring. There is a lot of administration work as well, but I love what I do.
What have been your favourite questions/comments from fans of the Kapheus series so far?
I was in Cork recently to read to children in schools in Cork. The comment I heard most often from the children of Cork was ‘your books are MASSIVE!’ I thought it was the funniest thing I ever heard, but it was an enormous compliment and I am very grateful for that. They loved the stories and were so enthusiastic with their questions.
There are so many questions that come to mind –
Who inspired you to write books? Where did you get your inspiration?
Did you always love writing stories when you were a child?
What’s the arc?
What was your favourite book when you were a child?
Who is your favourite author?
One girl approached me after I read to her class in Charlie Byrne’s bookshop and she said that she needed to ask me a private question. I really didn’t know what I was about to be asked, and I have to admit I was a little nervous. She told me that she read the first three books in the Kapheus series and that she didn’t want to ask the question in front of her class, in case she would spoil the books for them. I felt very honoured to have witnessed such consideration and kindness from this girl. She asked me a question about a character and asked if she would see this character again, maybe in book four. I told her that she wouldn’t. She told me that one tear dropped from her eye when she read that passage in the book. I said only one tear? I cried my eyes out when I wrote it. Her response was “me too”. I think that was the most beautiful question I have ever been asked about Kapheus and the one I hold with me. She is my inspiration – the child who had fallen in love with Kapheus and the characters that live in the fantastical world of light.
Another question that boys seem to ask is ‘who is the hero?’ or ‘is the hero Elisa?’ and I always reply the same way. The hero of all stories I read when I grew up was the boy. The girl was never allowed to be intelligent or strong and it was the one thing that turned me off a lot of books. I vowed when I was a child that if I ever wrote a book that the girl and the boy would both be heroes. In Kapheus both Elisa and Jamie need to work together to succeed. They both have strengths in different areas and they need to pool their strengths to triumph in Kapheus. No one child is any better than the other and there is no one hero. They are both the heroes of the story.
Have you noticed any significant changes in the way authors promote their work on social media?
I am only new to this industry. I released three books in two years, and to be honest, I haven’t been watching what other authors have been doing on social media over a number of years. I have noticed, however, that there is a heavy emphasis on Facebook and Twitter as platforms for authors to promote their work. I think that, in order to succeed in social media, it is all about the story.
People want to know your story and how you began writing books. I think social media is about bringing people on a journey through your life as a writer. Your social media follower wants to know what you’re doing next and wants to be the first person with the information. As for my books, they bring a wealth of meaning to both the Irish here and the diaspora. The landscape of the books is set in Ireland and the Kapheus series is steeped in Irish mythology. It is authentically Irish and social media followers like that.
Do you have any children’s/adult creative writing workshops planned for the summer?
No, I don’t, but I am open to opportunities. I would like to get involved in creative writing workshops. I have given a number of workshops on creativity and leadership to business groups over the years, and I would relish the opportunity to provide workshops in the creative writing realm.
Will you be checking out any of the events for Galway Theatre Festival or Cúirt in April?
Yes. I am so looking forward to both. A friend of mine has it all planned out, so I am simply following her lead. We will attend a number of events and I am so excited about it. I look forward to meeting other authors in particular. It can be quite lonely as an author, and with the support of people in the industry who understand the journey, it is made a lot easier.
You also run services for technical writing, creative writing workshops for schools, and services for writers. Can you tell us more about these services, and how readers can contact you?
I am contactable at email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org. The services I offer include editing manuscripts and academic theses, proof-reading for grants, funding or academic applications; and website content writing. I am a health psychologist, and as such, I offer a service that includes creating and editing health promotion literature. I also write submission letters to public bodies for concerned groups.
My creative writing workshops for schools are aimed towards the needs of the particular age groups (seven to twelve year olds).
The teachers or principals inform me of what is standing out most for them in the children’s essay writing. For most, it is all about creativity and how to create that story. However, for some, it is about reining in the child to bring a balance and authenticity to their writing.
If readers would like to purchase your Kapheus book series, what shops are currently selling them?
The Kapheus series is being sold in many independent bookshops nationwide. There are too many to list. In Galway city they are being sold in Charlie Byrne’s Bookshop and Dubray Books.
They can also be found in a number of Galway county independent bookshops.
The Kapheus series is also available online via www.kapheus.com, Amazon, Barnes and Noble and so many other online bookshops.
-Thank you so much for taking the time out to talk to us, Marguerite.
You can reach Marguerite on Facebook @Kapheus, Instagram@kapheus and Twitter @ToneryMarguerit