Today’s Friday Five focus is Mandy Webster, author of upper middle grade, medieval novels.
Mandy writes for a popular children’s website. She’s also edited an online parenting magazine and worked as an advertising copywriter. Young Marian: A Viper in the Forest is her first novel.
A prequel to the classic Robin Hood legend, Young Marian: A Viper in the Forest introduces Marian at age 13. Marian and her best friend Robin’s carefree childhood in Sherwood Forest takes a dark turn when the arrival of a sadistic new lord sets off a series of intrigues including robbery, kidnapping and murder.
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1. What was your attitude towards reading when you were a kid?
I read all the time when I was younger. I was lucky enough to have two older sisters so the house was already filled with books by the time I was old enough to read. I read pretty much anything I could get my hands on. It ran the gambit from Archie comics, to Nancy Drew, Enid, Blyton, Judy Blume. I think my favourite was The Trumpeter Swan by E. B. White – but then my favourites changed all the time! When I was a preteen my mother banned me from reading my sister’s Barbara Cartland romances, but I used to sneak them anyway.
2. What do you want your readers to take away from your works?
I’ve always loved the legend of Robin Hood, but it occurred to me that we usually hear the story from the male point of view, and the female characters are primarily the love interest. I wanted to turn the story on its head, and write a book that would encourage girls to look at it a new light. Marian stands strong in a medieval setting that is not necessarily friendly to women. I hope her courage inspires girls to reach for their own dreams.
3. Is there a certain type of scene that’s harder for you to write than others? How do you deal with this?
I prefer to write scenes between the kids, over scenes where they are interacting with the adults. For me, it’s the dynamic between Marian, Robin, Midge and Guy that is the most fun to explore. The adults are necessary, of course, but wherever possible I try to put the dialogue into the kids’ mouths, and base the majority of the action there.
4. How much of your published writing is based on personal experiences?
Well, I did not grow up in Nottingham in the 12th century. But I did move from Canada to England when I was just a little older than Marian. I lived in one of the most beautiful parts of the country (although to be honest, it’s ALL beautiful!) My home was right at the bottom of Cheddar Gorge, so I was surrounded by soaring cliff faces, rolling hills, dense forests, and best of all – the deepest underground caves in the UK were a five minute walk from my house. How cool is that? So whenever I’m writing about Marian and Robin, I am remembering that wonderful time exploring gorgeous Somerset.
5. If you could have any superpower, what would it be and why?
Maybe super-speed, so I could get through all the boring things I have to do – like housework – and spend more time writing!
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Young Marian: A Viper in the Forest is available now through Amazon.