Interview: Maryrose Wood

Guys! I am so excited about this post. As many of you know, I am a huge fan of The Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place series! This series is full of everything I love–mystery, tea, adventure, and pluck. Today, we have an incredible interview with the author, in honor of the final book in the series, The Long-Lost Home. Enjoy! 

For fans of Lemony Snicket’s Series of Unfortunate Events and Trenton Lee Stewart’s Mysterious Benedict Society, here comes the final book in the Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place, the acclaimed and hilarious Victorian mystery series by Maryrose Wood.

Unhappy Penelope Lumley is trapped in unhappy Plinkst! Even the beets for which Plinkst is inexplicably famous fail to grow in this utterly miserable Russian village. Penelope anxiously counts the days and wonders how she will ever get back to England in time to save all the Ashtons—who, she now knows, include herself and the Incorrigible children, although their precise location on the family tree is still a mystery—from their accursèd fate.

Her daring scheme to escape sends her on a wildly unexpected journey. But time is running out, and the not-really-dead Edward Ashton is still on the loose. His mad obsession with the wolfish curse on the Ashtons puts Penelope and the Incorrigibles in dire peril. As Penelope fights her way back to her beloved pupils, the three brave Incorrigibles endure their gloomy new tutor and worriedly prepare for the arrival of Lady Constance’s baby. Little do they know the danger they’re in!

In this action-packed conclusion to the acclaimed series, mysteries are solved and long-lost answers are found. Only one question remains: Will Penelope and the Incorrigibles find a way to undo the family curse in time, or will the next full moon be their last?

1) Was there a particular book/series/author that inspired you to start writing?

I was always an avid reader as a kid. I read widely but a little strangely. We had various sets of somewhat out-of-date encyclopedias at home that I would browse through with fascination. I had a library card and no one ever vetted what I took out, so I routinely chose books that were way over my head. And I had two beloved hardcover anthologies that I read to tatters (I still have these). One was a collection of poetry (Blake, Longfellow, Coleridge, Poe, are all found within!), and the other was a collection of children’s “classics,” which introduced me to the British “golden age” writing for kids: Lewis Carrol, A. A. Milne, Beatrix Potter, Kenneth Grahame, P. L. Travers, Rudyard Kipling, many others. I went through my horse book phase (Black Beauty was my favorite) and my A Wrinkle in Time obsession, and my mad devotion to Jane Eyre. There was also plenty of Mad magazine and horror comics around, and as a teen I got deeply involved with musical theatre. You can find bits and pieces of all of these influences in The Incorrigible Children books, I think!

2) Was there a specific moment that inspired The Incorrigible series?

Inspiration is a tricky word. I’m inclined to believe that anything that resembles “inspiration” is just the latest upwelling of a writer’s enduring store of aesthetic influences and emotional and intellectual preoccupations, the occasional hiccup in a lifetime of steady breathing. You notice it but it’s not really the point. Writing has far less to do with inspiration and far more to do with steady plodding along, a daily practice of being curious, making connections, developing one’s craft.

However, when the first book in the series was still in its nascent, what the heck is this? phase, there was one memorable flash of inspiration provided by my editor, Donna Bray. I was working on the early chapters for The Mysterious Howling and was still trying to find the “voice,” and she and I went for coffee to talk about some sample pages I’d given her. I knew it wasn’t right yet; I wanted the books to be truly funny but I hadn’t quite found the “funny” of Penelope yet. I remember we talked about a bunch of unrelated things until Donna idly said, “have you read Anne of Green Gables?” As a child I had, but I hadn’t looked at it since. When I got home I went back and reread some of Anne and, eureka! I knew just what to do! It had to do with Penelope’s level of enthusiasm about things, and how much of a child she still is at the beginning of the series.

3) Do you draw inspiration from pop culture (TV shows, Video Games, Movies, etc.), and if so, which ones?

I am literally obsessed with “The Crown,” I guess that’s no surprise! I’m a loyal “Game of Thrones” watcher, and I love “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel,” a hilarious, stylish show with a charismatic, creative woman as its protagonist. I think the best of contemporary television is spectacularly well-written. I learn a great deal about storytelling and dramatic structure from watching it.

I live in Los Angeles and have TV and feature film projects in development along with new books, so I absolutely keep an eye on pop culture. As for trends in gaming, I rely upon my two very hip kids to tell me! One’s a Fortnite enthusiast, the other has a D&D group, in case you’re wondering. But storytelling is storytelling, no matter the form.  

4) How does it feel now that you’ve completed the series? Do you think you’ll miss writing the stories of these characters?

The Long-Lost Home is the sixth and last book in The Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place series. Book 1 was published in 2010, so I’ve been writing these books just shy of ten years. During those years, I watched my kids grow up and leave the nest, and cared for my mom as she struggled with cancer and passed away. Near the end of that time I sold my own much-loved house in the city where I’d lived for thirty-five years, and moved to the opposite coast.

Clearly, the journey of this series is full of emotional resonance for me. The last book was the hardest to write, took the longest, is the longest. There was a lot of story to wrap up, and all along I’ve been stubbornly earnest in my quest to make each book in the series better than the previous one. I wanted to write a final book that would satisfy the Incorrigible readers as well as myself, and be worthy of these characters that I’ve come to love so dearly.

I’m deeply proud of the series as a whole, and now that Book 6 is out in the world I’m very pleased (and relieved!) that the response has been just as I’d hoped. And I’m profoundly moved that so many families have committed to taking this six-book journey with me. The stories readers share about how much these books have come to mean to them, and have become part of their family culture (there are a lot of Momawoos out there!) are touching beyond words. I feel very fortunate, and very grateful.

I can’t honestly conceive of not writing more about these characters, although there are no immediate plans to do another book. We’ll have to see what the future holds! A TV series is currently in development so that may well be the next incarnation of this material. I hope so.

5) If you could live anywhere (any time, era, and place), where would it be?

Right here, right now. It’s the only time and place that matters.

6) If you had 24 hours to do ANYTHING you wanted, what would you do?

I feel prompted to observe that everyone has 24 hours every day to do what they like. I do hope you’re all using the time wisely, dear hearts! I like to read, write, go to the beach, ride a bike, visit beautiful gardens, eat a good meal. Pretty much what I’m doing now!

7) You’re trapped on an island, but are allowed to bring one person, one food item, and one object. What are your choices?

Trapped, you say? I think not! I’d bring a skilled ship’s captain, a ship’s hold full of good pasta—it’s filling and easy to cook in salted water, which is plentiful at sea—and a snug, seaworthy vessel. We’d make it home in no time.

As I am sure you can tell from the style of Miss Wood’s responses, these books are incredible! She has a wonderfully unique and captivating way of storytelling–I flatter myself in my review of The Mysterious Howling by saying “…my personality in text, and I cannot express my enjoyment for it enough,” and this sentiment increased with every book! Thank you, Miss Wood, for taking the time to write these answers. Dear readers, make sure to check out The Long-Lost Home ASAP–this is not a series to be missed!


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