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On The Table Read Magazine, “the best book magazine in the UK“, fantasy author Maria De Fátima Santos shares the inspiration behind her new book, Serendipity.

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the best creativity magazine in the UK, the best book magazine in the UK, the best arts magazine in the UK, the best entertainment magazine in the UK, the best celebrity magazine in the UK, book marketing UK, book promotion UK, music marketing UK, music promotion UK, film marketing UK, film promotion UK, arts and entertainment magazine, online magazine uk, creativity magazine

Written by JJ Barnes

I interviewed Maria De Fátima Santos about her life and career, what inspired her to write her new fantasy book, Serendipity, and her creative writing process.

Tell me a bit about who you are.

I am Maria de Fátima, born in Africa and brought up in Portugal. I moved to Scotland for the first time in July 2007.

Although Portuguese is my mother tongue and it’s a rich and ancient language, I feel in love with the English language and with the culture and the natural landscape of Scotland that offered me a seed to write this story.

To convey you a portrait of who I am, I have to share as well what I’ve done.

I received training and developed experience in the UK as a carer providing care to different groups of people. The professional experience as a carer taught me so much about the human condition. At the same time, it gave me a source of inspiration and raw material to write about life with imagination. Because I do believe that real life, real people are always a source of inspiration for any kind of writing. 

I’d like to take this opportunity to acknowledge the human richness and valuable professional experience providing care to people with learning disabilities. This experience opened my mind, my heart and my eyes to the value of treating anyone as a unique individual without preconceptions or judgements. We can transfer this skill for writing too.

Maria De Fatima Santos on The Table Read Magazine
Maria De Fatima Santos

And the second valuable professional experience was providing living in care. As a living in carer, I could travel to different locations in England and learn so much from such a diversity of lives’ stories and situations that I could witness. From that I could learn flexibility and resilience to deal with life. In my point of view, this is another valuable skill transferable for writing. 

When did you first WANT to write a book?

The seed to write this story takes me back to 2008, when one day I was sitting on a bench in Princess Street’s garden, in Edinburgh. It came to me a thought to write a children’s story recalling the richness of Hans Christian Andersen’s fairytales in the back of mind.

I have a memory from my childhood that I carry with me.  I was in Primary school, around 7 or 8 year’s old,  and our teacher used to allow the children to borrow books from the school library to read at home. 

Once I borrowed “The Little Mermaid” by Hans Christian Andersen that I mentioned above. And I cried reading that story as I could feel the suffering of the little mermaid. This childhood’s memory never left me.

When did you take a step to start writing?

If I look back to that moment in 2008, it was not immediately, that I started writing. But I did start looking for affordable books in charity shops and start reading much more books in English. 

One curious thing that happened to me is that first I start writing poems in English. 

I found that English language allowed me to express myself in a way that I was not able to do it in my mother tongue. It’s a psychological side in writing. I feel that English language adopted me and gave me freedom to express myself without cultural censorships.

Coming back to Serendipity, it was in 2010 that I had my first synopsis and draft written down. But it has been a work in progress and I changed that first synopsis and draft along the way. 

How long did it take you to complete your first book from the first idea to release?

Incredibly enough, it took me, nearly, 14 years to arrive to this stage. It has been a long learning journey of trials and errors too. A journey of discoveries and joys too.

It’s still a work in progress.

What were your biggest challenges with writing Serendipity?

In the psychological side of my own journey, it was to overcome my need of approval of others, to keep moving forward despite the disbelief of others

Regarding the writing side, it was to gain a strong methodic discipline to conciliate the time and focus for writing with the work and daily life.

Who or what inspired you when creating your Protagonist?

Although it’s a fantasy story, in “Serendipity” the grandmother, Julia, telling a story to her granddaughter was inspired by the memory of my own grandmother telling a story to the little girl that I was.

The heroine of this tale is the little traveller girl. To build her psychological profile, I was inspired by the universal characteristics of curiosity, wonder, ingenuous and the gifts that children have of believing and trusting that we associate to what is to be a child.

I was also inspired by a book I read many years ago, when I was in Scotland, about the way of life of the Scottish traveller community. I still recall the title of the book: “Red Rowans and Wild Honey” by Betsy Whyte. It’s an account of her life as a child born and brought up in a traveller family.

Who or what inspired you when creating your Antagonist?

The antagonists in this story are the Giants of the Underworld that turned against the People of Peace that are ruled by Queen Titania in the Land of the Young.

They displaced the Truth, Beauty and Goodness, the children of the Sun God Lugh and the Caileach, the Goddess of Creation. 

Serendipity by Maria De Fatima Santos on The Table Read Magazine
Serendipity by Maria De Fatima Santos

What inspired me to create these antagonists were the real attitudes of real people that I’ve watched in real life.

What is the inciting incident of Serendipity?

As I mentioned in the previous answer, the Giants of the Underworld turned against the People of Peace and displaced the Truth, Beauty and Goodness, the children of the Sun God Lugh and the Caileach, the goddess of Creation. These children are not common children as you’re going to see in the story. 

What is the main conflict of Serendipity?

My answer to this question is linked with the previous answer, because when the Giants of the Underworld displaced the three children, they are causing havoc in the Land of the Young that turns to be a land of ice, frost and cold, where nature is slowly dying without Sun. I played with the elements to create the conflict in this story.

Did you plot Serendipity in advance, or fly by the seat of your pants and write freely?

Yes, I did plot my book in advance and write down the synopsis and made a kind of a mind map for the plot – I found this to be very important. 

But it was not written in stone, because along the process of writing, I made some changes. In my point of view, it’s important to have a structure to start with, but, at the same time, to give space for the process to be organic and unfolds with fluidity.

Did you get support with editing, and how much editing did Serendipity need?

When I got to the third draft, I asked a n English friend, a retired English teacher, to proofread it. He kindly edited it. The edit was mainly about corrections in punctuation and grammar. It was very helpful for me.

Finally, when the manuscript was already in the hands of the publisher, Palavro, an editor also proofread it and edit it. The corrections were minimal on this stage.

What is the first piece of writing advice you would give to anyone inspired to write a story?

My piece of advice is do not underestimate your inspiration and will to write. We know it takes blood, sweat and tears. But tears can be of joy as well!

Never, never give up, in spite of the voices that may judge you or undermine your confidence. Keep moving forward!

And read, read, read books. Look for affordable books, be curious!

There is a quote that I, absolutely, love sharing to encourage other people to find and affirm their voice.

Fernando Pessoa, a respected and admired, Portuguese poet of the XX century, said:

“There are no norms. All people are exceptions to a rule that doesn’t exist.”

Can you give me a hint about any further books you’re planning to write?

Well, I have written down the beginning of a synopsis for a new story about the friendship between a tree and a girl. The tree is inspired by a real tree, a linden tree, Tilia Europeia in the botanic name, that I planted with my mother 24 years ago in a day of my Birthday. It’s a starting point…

And, finally, are your proud of your accomplishment? Was it worth the effort?

Yes, my heart is dancing of joy to see this story to be honoured and out into the world. 

I am very grateful to Arkbound Foundation and to the people that this story brought to my life.

Yes, the effort is always worthy.

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