Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Q and A With Cheryl Carpinello

As part of the Young Knights of the Round Table Blog Tour, I get to ask author Cheryl Carpinello all the questions one usually likes to ask and author: the how/what/when/where. Cheryl has very kindly agreed to spill the beans. So glad to have you visit my blog today, Cheryl and here come the questions.

1. When did your fascination with all things Arthurian begin?

My real interest began in college in my English Lit classes. I fell in love with Beowulf and the early English tales and ballads. We read Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, which I liked, but when we read Morte d’Arthur by Malory, I was thoroughly hooked. I love Malory’s description of the pageantry and tournaments, the knights and the court. By the time I read Tennyson’s  The Idylls of the King, there was no stopping me. I started reading whatever I could find, fiction and non-fiction. This carried over into my high school classroom where I taught the King Arthur Legend for over 20 years.

 2. What was your favourite Arthurian book as a child?

I’m a bit embarrassed to say that it wasn’t a book; it was Disney’s animated movie The Sword in the Stone! The movie was my first introduction to the King Arthur Legend. It presented an innocent look at a harsh time.
3. What is your favourite Arthurian book as an adult?

That would easily be T. H. White’s The Once and Future King. I’m a romantic, and I love the philosophy of Hope that White displays throughout the book. It’s heartfelt, humorous, thought-provoking, and brutally honest in places, and leaves me energized each time I read it. I’ve read it over ten times in the last 25 years.

 4. I love the research and many wonderful details you put into your books: where do you find these?

 Boy, that’s hard to say. I’ve always had an incredible memory for details. Over the hundreds of books I read relating to Arthur, coupled with my years of teaching a variety of Arthurian literature, some pieces just stick in my brain. The descriptions of feasts and standards in both of my books probably comes from Malory’s influence. Somewhere in my reading I remember coming across a passage that described Camelot as sitting in a high pass, so I used that in Guinevere. I did extensive research on Pembroke Castle, Cardigan Bay, and that part of Wales for Young Knights. In fact, I used The Lonely Planet’s Guide to Wales. Guide books contain lots of gems that textbooks leave out.

5. Young Knights is a truly wonderful tale. At the end of the book, I wished it had been longer because I could see where things could have been developed. Was it always your intention to write a novella?

Yes, it was. I write my Arthurian Tales for a specific audience: reluctant readers. That doesn’t mean I don’t want others to read them because I do. But those readers who can read, but choose to do other things are who I am trying to reach. Their attention span is shorter. Printed page after printed page turns them away, hence in my printed books (and in Guinevere’s eBook) each chapter starts with a picture related to the chapter. I’m a believer in encouraging kids to develop their imagination in a world where every detail is vividly laid out especially in the movies and video games that kids love. I want them to think about what might have happened, or if something else could have happened.

6. And will you be taking the adventures of Bryan, Gavin, and Philip further?

 Definitely. Future installments will probably focus on just one of the three characters at a time. That is kind of set up in the end of Young Knights. It’s also possible that readers may see some new young knights at some point.

 7. How has the reception been towards Young Knights? Are many of your readers actually adults reliving the Arthurian adventures of their youth?

Young Knights has done well since its debut in May 2012. The Children’s Literary Classics gave it their Seal of Approval as a Recommended Read and awarded it a 2012 Silver Medal for YA Fiction. Also in 2012, Young Knights was a finalist in USA’s Best Book Awards for e-Book Children. In 2013, Young Knights received an EVVY Merit Award for Juvenile/YA Fiction from the Colorado
Independent Publishers Association. The cover was also a 2013 Ariana Finalist. From the reviews I’ve read, many adult readers are enjoying the story of the Young Knights. I’ve found in this genre, that people who love Arthurian Legend eagerly devour all books that come their way. It’s nice to see that a Legend so old, still draws people to its stories.

 8. What is the best Arthurian movie ever made, in your opinion?

 I haven’t seen many of the movies out there, and my tastes are a bit eclectic. I’ve always liked First Knight. Most people don’t, but I’m a huge fan of Sean Connery. I also like the courage of Guinevere in that movie. Probably my favorite is one called The Last Legion. It tells the story of Ambrosius/Merlin leading the boy Romulus Augustus out of a defeated Rome and to the isle of Britain. Romulus carries his father’s sword Excalibur. It’s a different look at the legend.

9. Why do kids love stories of knights, quests, adventures, etc. so much? It’s amazing that in Young Knights, the young heroes are immersed (as are readers) in another world. There are no dystopian/apocalyptic scenes, and no whizz-bang SFX - just an historical adventure. What is this enduring appeal?

 Do you have a couple of days?! I can give you my ideas based on what I’ve observed in my classroom and in my workshops with kids.

 Heroes: The Legend is full of heroes not just King Arthur. Every kid wants to be a hero if only to them. Heroes live by certain standards and are not always strong, but they don’t give up or lose hope. Arthurian Legend teaches the boundaries of right and wrong, the limits placed on people’s actions, and the consequences for crossing those boundaries or exceeding those limits. Young people hunger for those examples. Kids also see how the ideals of Arthurian Legend are present in the world today and that leaves an impression on them.

 Adventure: The Legend is packed with adventure, and every kid loves adventure, even the most introverted. And what could be more adventurous that riding into battle to save the castle or the princess and going on quests for fabulous historical objects?

 Magic and Mystery: The Legend holds infinite magic and tons of mysteries. In fact, the greatest magician of all time lives in Arthurian Legend: Merlyn!

 I’m not sure if this answers your question, Fiona, but when all of the above are packed into a book, it is one heck of a story that kids devour.

 10. I just adored Guinevere when I first read it. Straying off the Young Knights briefly, will we
see more of Guinevere when she actually marries King Arthur?

 No, but you will see more of Guinevere before her marriage to Arthur. While she grew up quite a bit in On the Eve of Legend, Guinevere still has more growing to do. I’m planning on another book which focuses on her growth and also has young Cedwyn taking a bigger role in the action.

 11. If you had a time machine and could go back to King Arthur’s time and be someone at his court for a week -- who would you be?

 I’d choose either to be a squire to one of Arthur’s knights or a Lady-in-Waiting to Guinevere. Those positions would allow me to get a better view of life in Arthur’s court. As a squire, I would be able to experience what a knight’s job consisted of and how the knights actually trained. As a Lady-in-Waiting to Guinevere, I would be privy to her thoughts and would come away with a better understanding of her.

 12. Is there anything you’d like readers to know that I haven’t asked?

Yes. Readers may not know that The Young Knights of the Round Table comes with a free 18-page Teacher’s Guide with additional information on items in the story, activities, and a study guide. It is available at the time of purchase from my publisher MuseItUp Publishing, or readers may send me a message through FB, Twitter, or my website Beyond Today Educator.

Also, the Wise Owl Factory developed a free Teaching Supplement with Student Pages courtesy of the talented Carolyn Wilhelm for the book. For the time being, that can be downloaded from the site. As soon as I can take up the battle with my website, I’ll upload the Supplement there for readers.

13. You are offered a choice between Merlin’s wand and Arthur’s sword Excalibur: which one would you use in battle?

Both are appealing. Excalibur would severely test my physical strength, and if the stories are true, I’m not sure I would be able to wield it! Merlin’s wand, on the other hand, is an instrument of the mind. One does not use it recklessly! I would choose Merlin’s wand. What a feat it would be to not only learn the spells, but also to understand when to use each one.
For readers who (understandably) want more, take a peek at what went into making the award-winning MG novella Young Knights of the Round Table: The King’s Ransom. Behind the Scenes of The King’s Ransom (Book 1 of The Young Knights of the Round Table) will add to your Arthurian experience. Meet the Young Knights and then take a virtual tour of Wales with them. Get up close and personal with author Cheryl Carpinello. Read Dunham’s Story, an exclusive not found anywhere else! Read excerpts from The King’s Ransom and Guinevere: On the Eve of Legend.
By Fiona Ingram


Renee C. said...

Fantastic interview with Cheryl Fiona! Cheryl, your love of Arthurian legend is absolutely shining through in this interview. You're getting me excited about reading more on this topic! I'll have to dig up T. H. White’s The Once and Future King from the library because now I'm totally curious! Thanks so much for hosting Cheryl on the Young Knights Blog Tour Fiona. :)

ccarpinello said...

Fiona, Thanks for such fascinating questions! Cheryl

Rebecca M. Douglass said...

Great interview! Cheryl, you got off lightly. I fell in love with Sir Gawain and the Green Knight and Chaucer, and ended up getting a (not very useful) PhD in medieval literature! You just got hooked on reading and writing about the period :)

Jambo said...

Facinating interview with Cheryl, Fiona. I loved this book and was taken by all the imagery of that time. I love Cheryl's way of capturing the reluctant reader. I am going to take a leaf out of that book soon with some illustratons hurrah. Thanks so much for linking in to the Kid Lit Blog Hop.

ccarpinello said...

Thanks for sharing on the Kid Lit Blog Hop!

Unknown said...

Don't be embarrassed, Cheryl! I loved that movie :)

Fiona Ingram said...

Thanks for all your lovely comments. I am an avid fan of all things Arthurian as well and have a shelf in my bookcase groaning under the weight of an assortment of books - fiction and historical. An all-time favourite is, of course, The Mists of Avalon.