Interview with Cheryl Carpinello, Author of The King’s Randsom

cherylIn addition to being a writer, Cheryl is a retired high school English teacher. Still passionate about working with kids, she conducts writing workshops for kids in the elementary and middle schools. The kids outline their own medieval stories complete with knights, dragons, magicians, and usually princesses. 

Cheryl loves to travel to college football games, to Las Vegas, to visit family, and to see new places. She and her husband recently spent two weeks visiting Egypt where they traveled by local train from one end of Egypt to the other.





Amazon Author Page:  

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.

Thank you for joining us today, Cheryl. Can you please start off by telling us a bit about yourself? 

I’m an avid reader when I get the chance. 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. I enjoy working with kids and love doing the Medieval Writing Workshops.

When did you first get bit by the writing bug? 

I remember writing a poem for my 8th grade English class. Unfortunately, my teacher thought that I had copied it from some place and wouldn’t give me credit for it. I didn’t write again until I was in my mid-twenties. I finished three projects before I ever let anyone read my work.

Why did you decide to write stories for MG/YA? 

I’ve written several books over the years. I’ve done an adult romance, a YA romance/bildungsroman, and several stories suitable for picture books. I just never seemed to find a genre I was passionate about writing. Then I started teaching The Once and Future King. My students loved the story and the whole medieval world. After writing Guinevere, I started doing medieval writing workshops in the elementary schools and found every classroom full of kids crazy about King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table and the medieval time period. I have to say that being in the classroom and working with the younger kids has been my entire motivation for writing my books.

Do you believe it is harder to write books for a younger audience?

I wouldn’t say it was harder because I don’t think any age group is easier to write for than another. However, writing for young readers, as any age audience, means that you have to know your readers. With most writers being adults, writing for younger readers could be difficult if an author doesn’t interact with kids, read books they are passionate about, and understand the many facets of growing up today.

What is your favorite part of writing for young people?

My favorite part of writing for young people is writing the action/adventure books that I loved growing up. In fact, I probably haven’t grown up that much. I’m still dazzled by ancient cultures, good v.s. evil, and stories that have the protagonist(s) reaching deep inside themself to meet challenges.

Can you tell us what your latest book is all about?kings ransom

The Young Knights are three kids who have become friends via their friendship with a beggar/vagabond called the Wild Man. Without the Wild Man, it is likely that they would not have met and become friends because they are from very different backgrounds. Eleven-year-old Gavin is the youngest prince of Pembroke Castle in southern Wales. Fifteen-year-old Bryan has been sent to Pembroke by his parents to learn to be a blacksmith. Thirteen-year-old Philip is an orphan who wandered into Pembroke village and lives and works at the church. They are really just three lonely kids who find friendship with the Wild Man and each other.

When someone breaks into the king’s (Gavin’s father) treasury in Pembroke Castle, not only is the medallion known as The King’s Ransom stolen, but Aldred, the king’s advisor is murdered. Being a beggar/vagabond, the Wild Man is captured and charged with the crime. It doesn’t help that a bloody knife is found with his belongings. Gavin, Bryan and Philip are determined to prove that the Wild Man is innocent. In order to do this, they embark upon a quest where each is tested and must conquer their fears or face humiliation and/or even death.

What inspired you to write it?

I’ve always been fascinated by King Arthur. I’ve probably read just about every fiction story written over the last 15-20 years. One of my favorites is Deepak Chopra’s The Return of Merlin. I’ve also ventured to nonfiction and scholarly accounts like Tyler Tichelaar’s King Arthur’s Children: A Study in Fiction and Tradition. However, I’m more of a romantic, and it’s that side of the legend that appeals to me. I like the ideas that surround the legend like might is not right and that it is still possible for mankind to live in peace. 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 why I chose Arthurian Legend.

Where can readers purchase a copy?

The King’s Ransom (Young Knights of the Round Table) is available at several sites:

Muse It Up Publishing (An 18-page study guide is available for free on Muse’s web site.):


Amazon UK:,uk/dp/B0086MEW76

Barnes & Noble:

What is up next for you?

My current work-in-progress takes my readers out of Medieval England and back to Ancient Egypt. Sons of the Sphinx is a mystery/adventure for tweens/YA and introduces readers to a different type of quest.

Future projects include 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 of the Round Table. I haven’t decided yet whether to continue with the same characters, or to give a new group of young people a chance at joining the Round Table.

Do you have anything else to add?

I have found that Arthurian legend is for all ages, but my main focus is on young readers (ages  8-15). I typically write shorter books for reluctant readers. These reluctant readers are kids who are able to read, but prefer to do other activities. If I can reach them early in their schooling, it’s just possible I might hook them into exploring other books. I’ve yet to find a student in the younger grades who isn’t excited about the medieval time period.

No Other Story by Dr. Cuthbert Soup

 The Cheesemans are back on the trail, traveling through time in the hopes of rescuing their beloved wife and mother, Olivia. But time travel can be very tricky. They bounce off the Time Arc and land in Some Times–a place filled with dinosaurs, Vikings, and cavemen, and where the seasons are apt to change without warning.

In this hilarious and zany conclusion to the Whole Nother Story series, Dr. Cuthbert Soup treats his readers to more adventures, more challenges, and more unsolicited advice. Ethan Cheeseman and his children have met numerous quirky characters along their journey. They have escaped from the clutches of the evil people who wish to steal the LVR and use it to perform heinous acts. In this thrilling story, the stakes are as high as they’ve ever been. Not only must they keep the LVR out of the hands of those who want to misuse it, they must find a way back to the exact moment in time before Olivia Cheeseman is poisoned, in order to make their family whole again.

Like the other books in this series, No Other Story is filled not only with hilarious antics, but several tender family moments. What I thought was odd in this book, however, is that Dr. Soup–who has been the narrator for all the stories–has a flashback that makes him part of the storyline.  My girls (11 and 9) found it a bit confusing. If the style of the other books was similar, it probably would have flowed well, but since he only makes an actual appearance in the last book it was distracting.

Despite that little obstacle, the girls and I loved No Other Story. I’m sad to see this series end. I hope Dr. Cuthbert Soup has more stories in store for us.

Rating:  🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂

  • Format: Hardcover
  • Publication Date: 9/4/2012
  • Pages: 256
  • Reading Level: Age 8 and Up
  • SRP: $16.99

I received a free hardcover of this book from the publisher. This review contains my honest opinions, for which I have not been compensated in any way.

Bad Kitty for President by Nick Bruel

 If ever there were a book that is educational and hilarious, it’s Bad Kitty for President by Nick Bruel. One of several Bad Kitty books that we own, in this book Bad Kitty is running against Big Kitty to become president of the Neighborhood Cat Club because Old Kitty is leaving office next week. Once they learn all there is to know about elections, it will be time to vote.

When the Lil Princess asked me to buy her a few Bad Kitty books, I have to admit I didn’t understand it. What is so great about a naughty kitty who does less than nice things and sometimes grumbles to himself where characters like this (#@!*) appear above his head to indicate cuss words that can’t be used in a children’s book? Now that we’ve read one together, I understand it.

Bad Kitty’s antics are extreme and many kids couldn’t get away with half of what he does, so it’s funny to them. In Bad Kitty for President, children learn a great deal about elections: primaries, public relations, campaigning, advertising in the media, debates, and voting. Other characters like Uncle Murray and Edna Prunelove provide additional information and funny moments, while the book’s editor can chime in from time to time when the author leaves him notes.

I don’t think we stopped laughing until the last page. We were probably chuckling for a while afterwards too. I’m sure we’ll be reading more Bad Kitty books in the future.

Reading:  🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂

  • Reading level:Ages 7 and up
  • Paperback:160 pages
  • Publisher:Square Fish (August 21, 2012)
  • Language:English
  • ISBN-10:1250010160
  • ISBN-13: 978-1250010162
  • SRP: $6.99

I purchased a copy of this book as a gift for my daughter. This review contains my honest opinions, for which I have not been compensated in any way.

The Templeton Twins Have An Idea Winner!


Sorry I am so late in announcing this. Life has gotten crazy the past couple of months. It’s almost over, though, since the writers conference is Saturday and the Lil Diva’s cheerleading and the Lil Princess’ soccer will be over at the end of the month.

Congratulations goes out to Alice. She won a copy of The Templeton Twins Have an Idea by Ellis Weiner. I’ll email her now.

Thanks to all who participated.

Guest Blogger: Ellis Weiner, Author of The Templeton Twins Have An Idea (GIVEAWAY)

Suppose there were 12-year-old twins, a boy and girl named John and Abigail Templeton. Let’s say John was pragmatic and played the drums, and Abigail was theoretical and solved cryptic crosswords. Now suppose their father was a brilliant, if sometimes confused, inventor. And suppose that another set of twins—adults—named Dean D. Dean and Dan D. Dean, kidnapped the Templeton twins and their ridiculous dog in order to get their father to turn over one of his genius (sort of) inventions. Yes, I said kidnapped. Wouldn’t it be fun to read about that? Oh please. It would so. Luckily for you, this is just the first in a series perfect for boys and girls who are smart, clever, and funny (just like the twins), and enjoy reading adventurous stories (who doesn’t?!).

Hearty Har Har

Do funny books have to have “heart”?  I’m seriously asking.

In entertainment, “heart” is a term of art meaning sentiment, warmth, poignancy, and feeling.  It’s most often used in Hollywood, in script development for television and movies.  “It’s got laughs, but it needs more heart,” is the standard producer’s criticism, based on the assumption that large audiences need to feel something nice in addition to getting laughs.  “We need to care about the hero,” they say, even with regard to the silliest comedies.

In fact, in the arena of big studio movies, you’re not going to get your comedy made without a touching, “redeeming” heart moment at the climax.  No matter how raucous or “wicked” the comedy, the protagonist is going to come to a serious emotional confrontation before it’s all over, either with his/her antagonist or his/her self—even if it’s acted by Will Ferrell playing a completely unself-aware doofus.

There is nothing wrong with this.  It’s not (or, at least, it needn’t be) particularly dishonest, manipulative, or sentimentally phony.  Still, many comedy writers chafe at it, fearing—with cause—that a script heading toward a heart-rich climax will have to pull its comedic punches en route, lest the heart moment seem arbitrary and unearned.

Television provides a little more leeway; you can, and actually have to, provide less heart per episode.  A season of thirteen weekly emotional climaxes can, especially to a modern audience more emotionally sophisticated than ever, seem labored and forced.  Famously, when Larry David and Jerry Seinfeld were creating Seinfeld, David’s controlling aesthetic was: “No hugging, no learning.”  “No heart” was implicit.

But the above examples deal with adult (and teenage) entertainment.  What about books for younger people—for, say, children ages 9-13?  I have no idea whether a climax characterized by heart is necessary or not.

In The Templeton Twins Have an Idea, the climax of the action occurs when the bad guy is (literally) shot down and, with the other bad guy, flees in disgrace.  But the story itself has one more turn, which by any reckoning can be called a “heart” moment.  It deals with the twins realizing why their father felt it necessary to move to a new place.

I wrote that section because it felt like a legitimate aspect of an “origin story,” the first in a series.  And one or two reviewers praised it as “touching.”  I liked that.

But constitutionally, I don’t like heart—or, rather, I don’t mind reading it, but it doesn’t come naturally to me, the way parody and exaggeration does.  So recently, when I wrote the second in the series, I assumed I had to include a heart-ish moment at the end, and did so more out of a sense of obligation than anything else.

The funny part, though, was that, either because I was merely being dutiful (i.e., my heart wasn’t in it), or the story simply didn’t sustain it, my editor asked that it be cut.  As I recall, her hand-written comment about the scene was, “MEH.”  I was quite happy to agree.  What remains is a small exchange between the twins and their father, in which he praises them for doing something nice for a friend.

As heart moments go, it’s a small one.  In fact it barely qualifies.  In any case, I’m not so sure kids need a “touching” moment to help them “care” about the protagonist.  Once they commit to reading a story, they care plenty.  I’ll be interested to hear how readers react to the happy, but relatively heartless, conclusion of the second book.

Visit to read a chapter excerpt from The Templeton Twins Have An Idea.

Stop by and pester the Narrator at


Simply leave a comment that answers the following question: “Do funny books needs to have a ‘heart’?”.

Please remember to add your email address to your comment, so we can contact you if you win. Contest is open to those 18 years of age or older residing in the United States and Canada. Winner will have 72 hours to respond with a shipping address before a new winner is selected. Prize will be sent directly to the winner from the publisher or its representative. This blog is not responsible for products lost or damaged in shipment. Contest ends at 11:59 PM EST on Sunday, September 30th.

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