By Denise Schurr, Contributing Editor
Colorado author Cheryl Carpinello taught high school English for many years and has retired twice. She enjoys working with the kids so much that she tends to forget all the extra hours her job requires to plan and grade papers. Her book Guinevere: On the Eve of Legend was a Finalist in the 2011 Global eBook Awards for Pre-Teen Fiction. The King’s Ransom (Young Knights of the Round Table) was the 2012 Silver Award Recipient for YA Fiction from Children’s Literary Classics and also earned the CLC’s Seal of Approval for Recommended Reading. The King’s Ransom was also named a Finalist in E-Book Children’s Fiction from USA 2012 Best Book Awards.
Both Young Knights of the Round Table: The King’s Ransom and Guinevere: On the Eve of Legend, were written in the medieval times, what drew you to write about this time period?
I taught high school English for over 24 years. My hardest task was finding a topic that captivated all my freshmen students. Not an easy feat to pull off considering that I always taught 75 to 85 freshmen each year. Then I introduced my students to The Once and Future King by T.H. White. They devoured Arthurian Legend and embraced Medieval Times. We read, composed poems, drew murals, wrote plays, and even earned Knighthood by following a strict set of rules for seven days.
Once I retired from teaching, I took my love of writing, Medieval Times, and Arthurian Legend into the elementary and middle school classrooms. I routinely give Medieval writing workshops for kids in local schools. In the fall and in the spring, I also conduct half-day Medieval writing workshops for the Colorado Girl Scouts that enable them to earn their writing badges. I have failed to find a group of kids not enthralled with Arthurian Legend and Medieval Times.
Is any part of Young Knights of the Round Table: The King’s Ransom inspired by actual events?
All of Young Knights is fictional. However, it is based on Joseph Campbell’s Hero’s Journey where a person or character embarks upon a journey, or in this case, a quest to discover who they are. Each of the three characters in Young Knights participates in their own quest of self-discovery.
King Arthur and Sir Lancelot are in your book but are any of the other characters based on real people?
Not really. My three main characters Prince Gavin, Philip, and Bryan are all composites of the students I’ve taught over the years. The pre-teen and teen years are all about discovering who you are and what your place in the world is. This is also what the young knights are doing.
How much time elapsed from formulating the story idea to getting published?
Young Knights took just over three years. I actually had the entire story finished when I realized that I had made a major error with one of my characters. I had to go back over the whole story and make changes to that character in every scene. In July 2011, MuseItUp Publishing accepted Young Knights, and it debuted as an E-book May 25, 2012. Currently I am in the process of having it published as a paperback with a release date of mid-March. Guinevere: On the Eve of Legend, on the other hand, took five years from idea to being published.
Having written both picture books and middle grade readers, which one do you enjoy writing the most? Why?
I enjoy writing for middle grade readers because these are the stories that I enjoyed as I grew up. Also, as a teacher, I hope to hook those reluctant readers early and make life-long readers of them. I like writing the picture book stories, but I’m no artist. I publish these as part of my creative process and to share with my grandson.
Do you have a specified time and place that you write?
I don’t really have a writing space. I write on my couch, at the kitchen table, at my desk, and outside on my patio! I just pick where I feel comfortable writing at that moment. The only consistency is that I usually listen to my favorite songs or have a favorite movie of mine on the television.
I don’t adhere to a specific time schedule either. I do a lot of writing in my head before I ever sit down to actually write. I just did a guest post on A Book Lover’s Library about making time to write and how I came to terms with how I wrote: http://www.abookloverslibrary.com/4/post/2013/01/how-to-make-the-time-to-write-guest-post-by-cheryl-carpinello.html
Are you a “panster” or a “plotter”?
I’m not sure what a “panster” is, but I write in a very specific manner. Once I get an idea for a story, I write out an outline. It’s not overly detailed, just an overview of the entire story. Then I spend several days doing what I tell my students is brainwork. I just think about what I’ve outlined, the possible characters, the storyline, conflicts, etc. I then go back to the outline and fill in some of the missing pieces. I do more brainwork and then finalize the outline. Once that is done, I start writing.
The hardest part of writing for me is getting that first draft done. I’ve learned to jot down notes to expand a scene, do a bit more of research, add more dialog, etc. as I work on that first draft. This way, I don’t stop my momentum. At this stage of my writing, my only goal is to get the story down from beginning to end. Perfecting the story comes through numerous revisions and lots of hard work. Once the story is done, I go back over my outline and see how the two fit or don’t fit together. Then it is editing and revision time. I generally go over a work three or four times, in addition to letting my editing partner have a go of it.
What are the biggest writing obstacles you’ve had and how have you overcome them?
For me, this would probably have been trying to plan out my days so that I set aside time to write. I struggled with this for a couple of years until I figured out that while I don’t sit down with pen and paper or a computer each day, I am writing every day in my head.
How do you go about reaching readers?
Like most writers, I rely a lot on word of mouth from my readers. I also reach a lot of new readers with my Medieval Writing Workshops. I would love to do more school workshops. Twice a month I participate in the Kid Lit Blog Hop, http://motherdaughterbookreviews.com/kid-lit-blog-hop-9, which allows my books to be seen by those adults so important in a kid’s life.
Who are some of your favorite authors?
Some of my favorite authors include the writing duo Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child since I first discovered The Relic way back when. I love JRR Tolkien and have read The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings several times. Rick Riordan and Joseph Delaney are two of my favorite MG authors.
What’s your best writing advice?
I know it’s been said many times, but writers need to write what they love. Also, don’t be afraid to explore and expand on that. It was my love of King Arthur that propelled me into writing. Tying that together with Joseph Campbell and the hero’s journey inspired me in my writings for young people. Today this has taken me beyond Arthurian Legend to ancient Egypt where a young pharaoh embarks upon his own quest to right a wrong and be united with his one true love.
Sometimes a person’s writing can take them places they never imagined. Rejoice in that and embrace it!
Do you have other books planned?
I started what will be my next book in May 2010. Over the two and half years, this story has taken many shapes. Each time I’ve ended up rejecting the format. I know the story I want to tell, but it wasn’t until this past August that I finally settled on the story format. This story will take my readers out of Medieval England and back to Ancient Egypt. It will be a mystery for tweens/YA and will introduce readers to a famous boy pharaoh.
I’m also working on a sequel to Guinevere: On the Eve of Legend. I’ve had several readers ask me what becomes of Guinevere’s friend Cedwyn, so I’m working on a storyline there. And, sometime soon, I’m definitely going to do another Young Knights of the Round Table.