I’m happy to welcome author M.L. Tarpley to Nesie’s Place today! She writes stories of adventure, friendship, and fun that transport kids to amazing places across the world. She is also an award-winning journalist and world traveler. Besides writing and traveling to over a dozen countries, her other interests include hanging out at cool coffee shops, listening to vintage records, going on adventures with her family, and researching dead people in her family from long ago (*cough* it’s called genealogy). M.L. lives in Louisiana with her husband and son.
Maylie and the Maze is her debut novel. For more information about her, visit www.mltarpleybooks.com
M.L., in Maylie and the Maze you have a ten-year-old protagonist who dreams of being an author, and she has a twin brother who just wants to cause trouble. They’re traveling with family through Europe, so I know there will be an adventure. What was your inspiration for the story? Are you a twin?
Great question, but no, I am not a twin. When the character of Maylie came into my mind, she just came with a twin brother (lol). Maylie and Camden are loosely based off my oldest niece and nephew who both turned ten this year. They are only five months apart in age and therefore we tend to think of them as twins. I actually sent the illustrator photos of them to model the characters after them. They’re pretty proud of that fact and love that I used them as inspiration. I also dedicated this book to all my nieces and nephews. 😊
The inspiration for the actual story is to show kids that you can go after your dreams no matter what roadblocks stand in your way. Throughout this series, I want kids to have a chance to travel the world through fiction and along the way learn a bit. I’ve tapped into my own first-hand experiences from traveling to over a dozen countries and filtered them through Maylie’s eyes.
In this instance, the story is set in England, particularly at Leeds Castle in southern England. The castle is absolutely gorgeous! It’s known as the “loveliest castle in the world” for a reason. And it’s nearly 1,000 years old. Isn’t that amazing?!
According to the official Leeds Castle website, it has been a Norman stronghold, the private property of six of England’s medieval queens, a palace used by King Henry VIII, a Jacobean country house, a Georgian mansion, an elegant retreat for the rich and famous, and today, it is one of the most visited historic buildings in Britain.
There’s not just a castle but a hedge maze and over 500 acres of gardens, parkland, and wildlife. There are also a host of activities and attractions including falconry demonstrations, a dog collar museum, zipline and Segway tours, playgrounds, miniature golf, and more.
Do you have a favorite character in the story?
I have to say Maylie first of all because there is so much of me within her. Me from when I was ten. Me now. Subtle things. I even read my diaries from when I was her age to get into my head then and to remember what all I cared about and observed. It was so interesting and funny too! I’m so glad I wrote in diaries and kept them all these years.
What is your work schedule like when writing a book?
I work full-time as a newspaper reporter and photographer and I’m also a wife and mom, so I have a pretty busy schedule. I usually squeeze in my writing time on my lunch breaks, during naptimes and late at night. I am a night owl, so it works out well I think. I write most nights from about 8 to 11 p.m. When you want to write, you just got to make the time for it.
When did you write your first book?
I was age 12 when I wrote my first novel. I had written a lot of short stories before then. That novel was a great learning tool for me, and it showed me that I could, in fact, write a novel. I am not going to tell you it was a very good first attempt, but it was an attempt, which is the important part. If you don’t start writing, you can’t get better. I didn’t start working on another novel thought for ten years. I was busy writing essays and short stories for school and then papers and news articles in college. But when I was 22 I started dabbling in writing fiction again. I started taking writing classes and attending conferences and reading books on the craft of writing fiction.
Are you self-published, traditional, or hybrid?
I am self-published. I actually started my own publishing imprint this year to publish my books and later on books for other people. The publishing process has a large learning curve, but I really love the complete freedom I had to make my books the exact way I envisioned them to be.
What do you do when you’re not writing?
I love to travel the world with my family (or just around Louisiana where I live). Obviously in 2020, I haven’t been able to travel much, so I have done so through fiction and TV/movies. I also love genealogy research to learn more about where my ancestors came from. It’s so fascinating!
As a child, what did you want to do when you grew up?
I wanted to be either an actress or a writer. I knew one day I wanted to be a published author and maybe a journalist. I can say I’ve done a bit of all three. I have done community theater. I am a journalist and now I am a published author. Hooray!
What’s your next project?
I’ve written the next book in the series and will start working with the illustrator soon on it. It will publish in Spring 2021. I am currently writing the third book, which will release Fall 2021. I am also working on a picture book series and have the idea for a chapter book series stirring in my mind.
I also recently published a non-fiction book called Young Writer’s Kit: A Guide for Young Writers that teaches kids how to write fiction and includes a fun genre matching game, writing prompts, and more. It’s a companion to MAYLIE AND THE MAZE and is currently available for purchase on Amazon.
Do you have any advice for new authors?
Make sure to read the genre you are writing to get a feel for how it’s done. Also don’t talk down to kids. Tap into that kid that’s still inside of you and how you would have reacted to what you’ve written. Invest the time to learn the craft of writing. Read craft books like Writing the Breakout Novel by Donald Maass or Writing Irresistible Kidlit by Mary Kole. Do writing prompts. Practice. To do anything well we have to put in the time and effort. Writing is no different.
Thanks so much, M.L. and thanks for leaving us this short excerpt from Maylie and the Maze.
“What’s with all the paper?”
Maylie sighed. “I’m trying to write a story to submit to my favorite magazine. But—” She swept her hand out. “—as you can see, it’s not going very well. I can’t finish a story. I try and try, and I just can’t. Something’s wrong with me.”
Her aunt smiled and put an arm around her shoulders. “May, there isn’t anything wrong with you. Don’t give up. You’ll get there. Photography wasn’t easy for me when I started either.”
Maylie couldn’t imagine it being hard for her.
Aunt Layla had an incredible job as a photographer for international travel magazines. She was always going on worldwide adventures.
And she was the reason Maylie, Camden, and their grandmother, Sue, who they called Grandma Suey, were going on a summer-long trip across Europe as her aunt covered photo assignments.
Maylie frowned. “No way. I’m sure you’ve always taken amazing photos.” She pointed to her
wall at a framed photo of African lions lying under a tree and another one of the shining Eiffel Tower. “You’re famous!”
And it was true.
Her aunt was famous. Her photos from across the world were published in dozens of magazines. She’d even been interviewed on television.
Her aunt rolled her eyes. “Not always. I had to do the work, prove myself as one of the best, and take a lot of bad pictures first.”
She sat back and studied Maylie. “You remind me of myself, May. You always have. There’s a curiosity within you and a determination to follow your dreams. Keep at it. When I was serious about taking the kind of photos that people wanted to publish I traveled to Europe for the first time, and it helped inspire me. It could do the same for you.”
Inspiration? That was what Maylie needed. And she had to prove herself and write not only a good story but the best one.
Maybe her aunt was right, and their trip would somehow help her. She smiled. “Thanks, Aunt Layla.”
“You’re welcome.” She bumped Maylie’s arm. “Maybe we’ll have a little fun along the way too.”
Maylie hid a grimace. Her aunt’s version of fun—mountain climbing, scuba diving, and chasing wild animals on a safari—didn’t match hers. She shuddered thinking of hanging upside down off cliffs, getting bitten by a shark, or mauled by a lion. No, thanks!
Her aunt must have seen the fear on her face.
“I’m not taking you to the jungle or under the ocean, Maylie. It’s only Europe. In fact—”
She stood and pointed to a spot on the huge world map stuck to the wall that she’d given Maylie last year on her ninth birthday. “—we’re starting here—London, England. One of my favorite cities in the world. It’s the first European city I ever visited. You’re sure to find inspiration there too.”
Maylie looked around her room at everything familiar and comfortable. She petted her cat. The thought of leaving her best friend, Sarah, and even her little sister, Jayna, fluttered her insides.
“But I’m not brave like you, and I’ve never been anywhere. What if everything goes wrong?”
Her mind raced to its place of twirling, swirling what-if scenarios that her best friend liked to call her “extreme zone.”
London might not be the danger her aunt usually faced, but what if there was a plane crash, or she got hit by a bus, or their train was robbed?
She imagined being tied to a railroad track by an evil grinning man with a curled moustache like she’d seen in a cartoon. How would she survive that?
Maylie felt a hand on her shoulder and looked up to see her aunt’s subtle smile. “It’s going to be all right.”
She helped Maylie up and with a grin said, “Finish up here, then let the adventure begin!”
You can also see M.L. read chapter one!
Title: Maylie and the Maze
Will Maylie’s dream be crushed by her own imagination?
Ten-year-old Maylie Montes’s dream is to become an author, but she has a problem. She can’t finish a story. Not a single one.
Her second problem is Camden, her annoying twin brother, who is determined to ruin their summer traveling through Europe with their famous photographer aunt and spunky grandma.
The first stop is England where a castle and maze, a new British friend, and a lot of weird words await Maylie—but the first item on her itinerary is to learn how to write, so she can finally finish a story. However, this goal may land her a one-way ticket home after her writing targets her brother in a spooky story involving a nighttime maze full of monsters. And Camden has his own plans, leaving Maylie to wonder if her imagination has actually become a reality.
Genre: Middle Grade (Realistic Fiction)
Target Audience: Grades 3-7
Maylie and the Maze trailer
~ Connect with M.L. Tarpley Online ~