Please welcome Cheryl Carpinello author of “The King’s Ransom” to the Observation Desk. Thanks for stopping by and answering a few questions.
In talking with kids and from my own reading, I discovered that the Hero’s Journey is a huge attraction for everyone. Since I had already experienced first hand the attraction the Arthurian legend held for students, I set out to write a story that would couple that with a hero’s journey. After all, heroes abound in the legend.
However, I’m also a romantic, and it’s that side of the legend that appeals to me. I like the ideas surrounding the legend like might is not right; how when seen from the air, there are no lines or boundaries on Earth—we are all here together, and we need to learn how to get along; and how in Arthur’s time hope still lives. Underneath it all, I believe this is what draws young and old to the legend. What the legend says to kids without them realizing it is that there is a right way and a wrong way to live. This is done with the stories of the knights with their quests, their jousts, their rescuing of the damsels, and their fighting for the underdog. These stories present young readers with vivid accounts of honor, loyalty, and friendship. This is what I tried to focus on in The King’s Ransom.
What made you want to become a writer?
I have been an avid reader for as long as I can remember. I even used to find the books my parents would get me for Christmas and read a few pages before they wrapped them! Teaching students in high school who didn’t like to read or who found a million other activities to do rather than read motivated me to dig deeper into my curriculum.
It is always challenging to find reading material that excites every student. In fact, it is nearly impossible. Then one spring I decided to do The Once and Future King by T. H. White. My freshmen were ecstatic. We read; we discussed; we drew murals of chapters; we wrote poetry and songs; and we attempted to earn Knighthood in seven days! Boy, what a discovery I’d made.
For next 20 years, I continued to teach the King Arthur Legend, and the enthusiasm never waned. I had students who would give 100% on this unit when I struggled to get them to read other literature. These kids are my inspiration for writing and choosing the legend of King Arthur for my writing. In 2007, I started my first Arthurian legend book Guinevere: On the Eve of Legend. I published that in 2009. The King’s Ransom (Young Knights of the Round Table), published in May 2012, is my second book in that genre.
What books had the most influence on you while you were growing up?
I’m not sure any books influenced me as I grew up, but I definitely had my favorite books and authors. I loved The Black Stallion series and devoured all the books written by Walter Farley. The Golden Stallion series by Rutherford Montgomery and his other books of the West were also my favorites. In case you can’t tell, I was and still am a horse nut. This love of horses drew me into reading.
Book that influenced me in my writing include The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings by Tolkien. I first read these books in 1973. I was newly married and looking for my place in the world. Looking back, I see it was the journey of Bilbo and Frodo that drew me in. Like them, I was also on a journey and had no idea of the ending. A few years later, I discovered Joseph Campbell and the Hero’s Journey. I realized that this was the attraction for me in the works of Tolkien, T. H. White, George Lucas, and J. K. Rowling.
Share your writing process with us.
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. I like to write the entire story without making any editorial changes. 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. Before I submit my work anywhere, I have a professional editor read and edit the manuscript.
What is the hardest part of writing for you?
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.
What is the single best piece of advice you have for aspiring authors?
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 those early works along with the connection to Joseph Campbell and the hero’s journey that inspired me in my writings. And it has taken me beyond Arthurian Legend to ancient Egypt where a young pharaoh embarks upon his own journey to write 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!
If you couldn’t be a writer, what would you do?
I love to travel, and I love to travel to exotic places. As a teacher, I believe in being a life-long learner. I also love exploring and adventure. If I could combine all of those ideas together, I would be an Indiana Jones or a Lara Croft! What an adventurous life that would be.
What can readers look forward to from you in the future?
My current work-in-progress takes 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 doing 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, somewhere soon, I’m going to do another Young Knights. Enough to keep me busy for a few years!
Although a retired teacher, I still have a passion for working with kids. I regularly conduct Medieval Writing Workshops for local elementary/middle schools and the Colorado Girl Scouts. It seems I’m not the only one who loves Medieval Times and the King Arthur Legend. The kids thoroughly enjoy writing their own medieval stories complete with dragons, wizards, unicorns, and knights!
I love to travel, and so my other job is with a major airline. My favorite trip was a two week visit to Egypt with my husband that included traveling by local train from one end of Egypt to the other.