Wednesday, September 19, 2012

THE KING'S RANSOM: An Arthurian Legend for Kids

I love stories about King Arthur, Lancelot, Guinevere, and Merlin, and my guest today has taken those legends and written a hero's journey for middle graders. Cheryl Caripinello is the author of THE KING'S RANSOM and is here to share her own journey. Welcome, Cheryl!

Tell us a little about your background and how you became an author.

I am a twice-retired high school English teacher. I’m afraid I’m one of those people who do not do retirement well.

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 were my inspiration for 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.

King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table never seem to lose their appeal to readers of all ages. When I talk about the Medieval Times with kids and adults, the talk centers around the exploits of the knights, heroes like King Arthur and Lancelot, and magic and Merlyn. I use the appeal of King Arthur to encourage young kids to read more and to believe that they can write. I always come away from a school visit believing that I have helped the students relate better to their writing, and hopefully, ignited a little spark in the reluctant readers to pick up a book. It is so important to hook kids early to make them life-long readers and writers.

Working with kids is a passion I have never lost. I regularly conduct Medieval Writing Workshops for local elementary/middle schools and for the Colorado Girl Scouts where we explore writing and reading, and it is fulfilling to see young students excited about writing and reading. The kids thoroughly enjoy writing their own medieval stories complete with dragons, wizards, unicorns, and knights.

You sound like an expert in Arthurian Legends! 

What is one of your favorite books and why?

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.

What inspired you to write THE KING'S RANSOM?

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.

How would you describe your writing process?

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.

One thing I’ve learned as an English teacher is that a writer cannot edit their own work enough. And then when you think you’ve got it perfect, it needs to have a different set of eyes go over it. Even then, there will still be errors. You just hope that those will be unnoticed by most readers.

I'm a big proponent of outlining, too!

How have you marketed your book?

Having self-published Guinevere, I learned that marketing is a never-ending job. In fact, most of the time it can be overwhelming. Getting a book in front of as many people as possible is the key to successful marketing. I blog about my books on my blog site Carpinello’s Writing Pages. I’m also a believer in gaining exposure and visibility by entering contests. Guinevere: On the Eve of Legend was a finalist in the 2011 Global eBook Awards and that has boosted my sales.

Specifically for The King’s Ransom (Young Knights of the Round Table), I’ve done the same types of marketing. I’ve done blog interviews, and right now this is my second stop on my three-month blog tour that includes interviews, book reviews, blogs about the King Arthur Legend, and upcoming blogs about mythology and kids and parenting.

I’ve also entered The King’s Ransom is several contests. In July 2012, the book was honored by the Children’s Literary Classics with their Seal of Approval and accorded Recommended Reading status on their website. This is really a boon for me as one of my main target audiences in elementary school classrooms. School visits in connection with my medieval writing workshops have to be my favorite marketing tool.

Additionally, for The King’s Ransom I’m trying something totally new. I’ve written a 40-plus page promo book that is available on Amazon. The promo book includes my characters’ interview, an author interview, previously unpublished material from the original manuscript, an excerpt from The King’s Ransom and other goodies. I enrolled Behind the Scenes of The King’s Ransom (Young Knights of the Round Table) in Amazon’s KDP program, and on Sept. 20 and 21, readers will be able to pick it up for free. I have advertised on about 20 sites, and it has only cost me $10.00.

Medieval workshops for kids sounds like a great marketing/educational tool! 

What advice would you give to other 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!

Please provide a favorite excerpt from your book.

In this excerpt, Gavin and Philip have been listening to Gavin’s father, the king, talk with his two oldest sons about the Wild Man who has been arrested for murder.

         “Father, he had to have done it. The bloody knife was found in his blanket,” argued Sean, Gavin’s oldest brother. “We don’t know where he’s from or how he came to be here. Besides, how could he have gotten inside the castle if Aldred didn’t know him?”
         “I’m not so certain he killed Aldred,” said Robert. “He’s pretty harmless from what I’ve heard and seen.”
         “What do you mean ‘harmless’?” Sean asked. “He killed Aldred to cover up the theft and to keep him from spreading the alarm.”
         “I’ve seen him with Gavin and his friends, Philip and Bryan.”
         “The boys worship him. He often watches Gavin practice and gives him good suggestions for improvement. I’ve even seen him instructing Bryan in sword fighting. He’s handy with a sword. He also works for the friar and helps Philip with repairs around the church.”
         “I don’t call a stranger who shows up out of nowhere and is good with a sword ‘harmless.’ And why’s a man like that passing time with a prince of Pembroke?” Sean asked.
         “That has little bearing here,” King Wallace pointed out.
         “I disagree. The people are angry over Aldred’s death. I’m afraid if we don’t convict this Wild Man, the people may take that to mean we are unwilling to prosecute a guilty man because of his friendship with Gavin,” Sean said. “Maybe that’s what he counted on.”
         Philip gripped Gavin’s arm. What if the Wild Man had killed Aldred and stolen the King’s Ransom? What if he’d used Gavin’s friendship to do just that? What if the Wild Man had used them all? Philip calmed himself and squeezed Gavin’s arm harder, knowing he was thinking the same thing. When Gavin turned, Philip shook his head and mouthed the word “No!” twice. Gavin nodded.
         “The people do not enforce the law here. I do!” King Wallace declared. “I’ll decide if the man is guilty or not, and the people will live with my decision.”
         “As you say, Father,” both sons replied, subdued.
         “It troubles me that there was no sign of the King’s Ransom with this...this Wild Man’s things,” the King continued. A chair scraped on the floor. The noise made Philip jump. He relaxed when someone, probably the king, paced.
“Why keep the knife and not the medallion?” King Wallace asked. “You two take a small contingent of knights tomorrow and search his camp. Find that medallion. He must have hidden it nearby, knowing it would be worthless around here. Probably planned on leaving the area after the uproar calmed down, never thinking we would be able to follow his trail so quickly. I bet he has a buyer for it.” The king pounded his desk with his fist.
Gavin and Philip jumped.
“That’s it! And I’d wager his buyer is King Edward,” the king said.
         “Of Manorbier Castle?” Sean asked.
         “Why not? You’ve heard him threaten often enough that he’d like nothing better than to buy up all of Pembroke and get rid of us for good.”
         “Why don’t we confront him? That might throw him off guard,” Robert suggested.
         “No. Unless we have proof, King Arthur would have my head if I provoked a conflict. It took him long enough to convince Edward to end his raids. Confronting him isn’t the answer.”
         The scraping of chairs startled Gavin and Philip again.
         “Go out tomorrow. Search well. When you return, have the knights question the villagers. If you turn up nothing, we’ll apply pressure to our prisoner.”
         Both sons started to protest.
         “I know, you want to question him now. However, some time without contact will put him in a more agreeable mood. Might make him eager to tell us where he’s hidden the King’s Ransom.”
         “What about King Arthur?”
         “He will be here in four to five days. Either I have the medallion to present to him, or I give him the man’s head. Close the door behind you. I need to think.”
         “Yes, Father.”
         Gavin signaled Philip to return the way they had come. When they reached the tapestry, Philip let Gavin move ahead to make sure the way was clear.
         Once outside, they sat on a shadowed bench across from the dungeon.
         “If we can’t prove the Wild Man’s innocent, then your father, I mean the king, will have him killed,” Philip said.
         “I know.”
         Both boys sat quietly.
         Finally Philip said, “Gavin?”
         “Do you think the Wild Man would use our friendship?” Philip’s voice trembled.
         Gavin didn’t answer.

I love the excerpt! Where can readers find you and your book?

My main website Beyond Today (Educator) contains information on both Guinevere and The King’s Ransom. The events section is a picture gallery of the Medieval writing workshops I do with the Colorado Girl Scouts.

On my blog Carpinello’s Writing Pages, I review Children/MG/Tween/YA books, conduct interviews with authors, and post ideas to get kids involved in reading and writing. Visitors can still do the virtual blog tour of the book’s settings in Wales that I posted when The King’s Ransom released.

I would love to have my readers visit my author page on Facebook and leave me a message. I'm also on Goodreads and Twitter

The King's Ransom is available at the following sites:

Barnes and Noble



Muse It Up Publishing

It sounds like you've have some great success writing about the Arthurian Legend--it's definitely a story that kids and adults both love, and one that my own kids would enjoy! Thank you for being here today, Cheryl!

--KSR Writer


  1. Thanks, KSR Writer for hosting me on your blog today

  2. Lovely interview! I think it's wonderful that the story of King Arthur is timeless and appeals to readers of all ages.

  3. Great article - thanks for linking into the Kid Lit Blog Hop. We have Guinevere: On the Eve of Legend on our to-be-read list and we can't wait! There is something appealing about the medieval times and it's great to see a series targeting this age group. Cheers!

  4. Thanks, Great Blog, i think King Arthur story likes children..............
    Thank You
    Nell Jone

  5. This is an area of literature I know very little about. Glad you're bringing it to kids! Thanks for linking in to the Kid's Lit Blog Hop!