by Molly Bilinski
(Outlaws of Sherwood #1)
Published by: Clean Teen Publishing
Publication date: April 24th 2017
Genres: Fairy Tales, Fantasy, Young Adult
Robin of Lockesly was neither the son her father wanted, nor the daughter her mother expected. When she refuses an arranged marriage to a harsh and cruel knight, the deadly events that follow change her destiny forever.
After a night of tragedy, Robin and the few remaining survivors flee to Nottingham. With a newfound anonymity, they start to live different lives. There, she and her band make mischief, robbing from the rich and giving to the poor. But charity isn’t the only thing she wants–she wants revenge.
As the sheriff draws his net closer, Robin’s choices begin to haunt her. She’ll have to choose between what’s lawful and what her conscience believes is right–all while staying one step ahead of the hangman.
Lady of Sherwood is a unique young adult retelling of the beloved Robin Hood legend. Filled with action and romance, this new series follows a teenage heroine through her fantastic, yet dangerous adventures.
- Clean Teen Publishing Mystery Box (Intl winner would get eBook prizes)
Robin stood in front of Much, Jemma’s staff in her hands and raised as though she were going to swing for Much’s head. Much, with a look of intense concentration on her round face, gripped a stick and let Jemma reposition her feet and hands as necessary.
“Steady your weight,” Jemma said quietly. “You want to have a strong base, but you need to be able to move quickly.”
“If I bring this down, you almost want to rise to meet it instead of letting it push you back,” Robin added.
“Stay ahead of it, then.” Much braced, and Robin brought the staff down slowly enough for Much to anticipate the movement and react accordingly.
“Balance.” Jemma adjusted her elbow. “The last thing you want is to be knocked on your arse because then you’ve got to dodge the attack and get back on your feet, which is tricky.”
Much smiled wryly. “Is that why Robin shoots them from a distance?”
She giggled. “Probably, but have you seen her when she’s got to use her bow like a staff?”
“It’s a good, solid yew bow.” Robin put a little more pressure against Much’s stick to see what would happen, and grinned brightly when the younger girl stayed strong and balanced. She even pushed back a bit, and Robin’s grin sharpened.
Robin leaned away, slid the staff down her palms to a different grip, and drew back in preparation to jab for somewhere in Much’s midriff.
“Now, if you’re very quick and confident, then you can swing down and knock it aside.” Jemma guided Much’s hands and arms into the movement, and used the stick to deflect Robin’s attack. It happened slowly, so Much could ease into it.
“That’s going to hurt if you get hit with it,” Robin said, snapping her arms back as though she were going to try stabbing forward again. “It’s going to crack or break your ribs if it connects, and there’s no shame in jumping out of the way.”
Jemma put her hands on Much’s waist and helped her swerve her hips to the side and out of the line of fire from the staff in Robin’s hands. “Swerve first, and then try to knock it out of the way. If you can somehow knock it out of her hands, that’s great, but usually you won’t get someone to part with their weapon.”
“Especially men,” Robin added. “That’s who you’ll be against, most likely.”
Robin lowered her staff and rested one end of it on the toe of her boot like she frequently did with her bow. She rubbed the side of her nose and softly said, “It’s…it’s ugly. There’s nothing dignified about it because someone is actively trying to hurt you and your focus is on making sure they can’t.”
She lowered the stick. “And you want to hurt them back.”
“Only to give yourself enough time and space to get away,” Jemma added gently. “If it comes down to it, whether it’s them or you, we’d always rather have you.”
“It’s a difficult choice to make, Much.” Robin reached out and wrapped her fingers around Much’s wrist. “We’d rather none of you lot – you, Kitty, and Maggie – have to make it.”
The implication sunk in a bit, and Much took a deep breath only to blow it out again. “Right.” She readjusted her grip on the stick and raised it once more. “Again?”
“Absolutely,” Jemma said. “Remember what I told you about your elbows.”
Robin smiled sharply and tightened her fingers around the staff.
(471 words, from Chapter 4, Consequences)
Other girls—some of the youngest ones from the kitchen—came from the brush. Smoke clung to them like a shroud, and tears had run in rivers down soot-stained cheeks. Ginny, the youngest at six, ran to Jemma and attached herself like a limpet to the older girl’s legs.
“Where is everyone else?” Robin asked, glancing between them and then back at the flaming manor. “Where is—where’s—” Her face heated even as the rest of her body grew chilled, and she stuffed her first in her mouth to muffle her scream.
“We are the only ones.”
Robin looked up at Kitty, surprised to find herself on her knees in the damp grass. She curled her shaking fingers into fists, and then rested them on her thighs. “How—what happened?”
“That man,” the girl went on, absently twisting her skirt in her hands. “The one who’d been courting you… he came for you in the night. When he couldn’t find you, he gathered everyone in the great hall.”
“Except you lot?” Jemma inquired.
“He was hurting her.” Kitty’s eyes took on a glossy quality. “He had Maggie by the hair, and he was hurting her. She had Ginny behind her, protecting her. I—I hit him over the head with a candle stand.”
“We went through the old tunnel,” another voice piped up. Maggie slipped her hand into Kitty’s. “Me and Kitty and Ginny.”
“And my—my mother?” Robin took a deep, shuddering breath.
“She kept her secret. We heard ‘im, shouting. He wanted to know where you was.” Ginny, this time. She wandered away from Jemma, and Robin opened her arms for her to nestle into. She’d helped Jemma look after the younger servants on the sly for years. Whether they’d been orphaned at birth or left to the streets, Jemma had brought them each back to the manor, and she’d given them a home and a hope the rest of the world didn’t offer. “She didn’t tell, Robin. She didn’t tell him where you was.”
“I heard Charlotte say you were gone,” Maggie said quietly. “She’d gone to your mother’s chambers to tell her. Miss Jemma was gone, too, and so was your bow.” She shrugged, a delicate lift of her shoulders. “We all thought you had gone to the field.”
“And she said nothing?” Robin’s heart beat hard against her ribcage.
“Lady was very brave,” Ginny murmured.
“She was,” Robin agreed. “Like you are. You all.” She looked at each of the other girls, who stared back, clearly waiting.
It hit her then—they were waiting for her. With the only survivors of the manor in front of her, and her mother dead—God rest her soul, God hold them all in His hand—it occurred to her in that moment. She was the Lady of Lockesly.
(313 Words, from Chapter Five: Much, the Miller’s Daughter)
“That still makes it murder. It doesn’t change that. Nothing changes that.”
“You’re an outlaw, then.” Maggie shrugged. “You’re the Lady of Lockesly. You’re a warrior woman from the old tales. None of those things mean we don’t want you to stay with us.”
“You came back to the manor,” Kitty added. “You came back for us. To find Gisborne and protect us. You could have abandoned us.”
Robin’s expression morphed into something stricken, and her eyes widened. “Why would I have done that? You’re—you’re family. You’ve always been as much family as my mother.” True, Jemma was the sister she’d never been gifted with, but the others had a spot in her heart all the same. One that was rapidly growing by the second.
“Then come with us.” Maggie’s tone said she wouldn’t take no for an answer. “Be an outlaw, but come with us. Even outlaws need friends.”
“I’m an outlaw, same as you,” Jemma murmured when Robin looked meaningfully at her. “I went with you to kill him, and I attacked his men.”
Robin locked eyes with each girl in front of her and she found nothing but tempered steel staring back at her. All of them might have been younger than her and Jemma in physical years, yet they showed a resilience and a courage born from the night’s events.
Robin knew she’d been right earlier to call them smart. Nottingham was large enough for them to all blend into new crowds, and if they kept their wits about them, no one would ever have to know the last survivors of Lockesly Manor were harboring two outlaws.
“All right,” she said. “We stay together and head for Nottingham tomorrow at dark. We don’t want to be seen,” she added. “Not if any of Gisborne’s men are still in the village.” And looking for revenge if he was dead.
(488 words, from Chapter Ten, Robbery the First)
Once the guards had disappeared, both of them riding ahead of the team pulling the carriage, Jemma tried to get situated with a wince.
“Are you uncomfortable?” he asked.
“A bit. Just—if you could—” She gave him a small smile as he obligingly slid along the seat to help her arrange herself. He touched her leg. Her head dropped back against the wall of the carriage with a thud and a noise she couldn’t quite keep contained in the back of her throat.
“Better?” he asked, easing back onto his own seat once she’d let her expression loosen.
“Much.” She drew herself up straight and proper. The carriage lurched forward into motion again, a steady clip along the road to Nottingham. “Don’t make a sound, and we won’t have to hurt you.”
“Can’t fully draw from this angle, but it’s still sharp, and it’ll still hurt,” Robin growled, deepening her voice in an effort to disguise it. With her face concealed in the depths of her hood, and the arrowhead pressed into the man’s cheek, Jemma had to bite the inside of her mouth to keep from giggling at the sight.
“Now,” Robin said, balanced against the sway of the carriage. “Where’s your purse?”
He made a sharp movement. Jemma tensed, heart beating faster even as Robin pushed the arrowhead so far into his cheek it looked like he ought to be bleeding.
“Motion. She’ll get it.”
She leaned forward, and then ran her fingers along his waist until she found the purse string. Sitting back, she opened it, whistling under her breath at the amount of coin piled in it. Jemma met Robin’s eyes, nodded, and hid the purse away somewhere on her person.
“Not a word until you get to the gates of Nottingham.” Jemma could hear the smirk in Robin’s voice when she added, “Distance isn’t a problem—if you stop the carriage, someone’s going to have an extra feather in his cap.”
“I will report you to the Sheriff,” he hissed.
Cheeky, Robin. So cheeky. Jemma opened the carriage door as quietly as possible. The landscape went past at a decent clip. She vaguely remembered something about tucking and rolling from Robin’s early riding lessons on what to do in case she fell off the horse. She swallowed a snort.
“The people of Nottingham thank you for your kindness,” Robin said. “Do come again.”
Jemma took that as her cue, throwing herself from the moving carriage. Arms wrapped around her head, she rolled a few times, scrambled to her feet, and then darted for the cover of the trees further from the road. A muffled curse behind her informed her Robin had made her own exit—and then an arrow skimmed off the tree to Jemma’s right.
She glared over her shoulder.
Robin, her hood off, shrugged. “Accident,” she mouthed as she motioned for her to keep running.
Interview with Author Blog Post
1) Tell me about yourself and how you became a writer.
I’ve always had a fondness for books and a love of reading. I think I was seven, and I was in a Barnes & Noble, and thought it would be really cool to one day be able to see my own name on one of the books on the shelf. That’s always been sitting in the back of my mind, the overall goal of one day getting published, and I started shifting it from dream to reality when I was in high school.
Once I really started writing, I never quite stopped.
2) What’s your writing process like?
I’m typically not a planner. I don’t really outline other than major plot points – if I know them, because sometimes I don’t – and I usually let the flow of the story just take me along. I’ve gotten better about planning it out further than I used to, but I still more or less just sit down and start writing.
3) Does writing energize or exhaust you?
Both. There are some scenes – the more emotional ones for my characters – that make me feel drained afterward, and then there are some where their adrenaline is up so my adrenaline is up. Those are the writing sessions where I feel like I can just go for hours at a time with only a few breaks for more tea and some cookies and afterwards I feel like I could run around the block a few times without breaking a sweat.
4) Where did you get the idea for LADY OF SHERWOOD?
The legend of Robin Hood has been one of my ultimate favorites since I was a kid, and there’s been several different versions and retellings, but none that kind of flipped the original script in such a way. I wanted to write the book I would have loved to read when I was 13 or 14.
I wanted to keep the foundation of the legend, so most of the well known Robin Hood characters are there. Robin Hood, Little John, Maid Marian, Much the Miller’s Son, Will Scarlet, Will Stutely, and of course Friar Tuck are in the story, only with different faces, personalities, and backgrounds. I wanted to stay true to the roots of the Robin Hood legend while giving it a fresh take.
5) Who’s your favorite character?
That’s a really tough question. Robin and Much are my favorites. Robin because she’s got such a courageous, adventurous spirit (Jemma has to reign her in sometimes), and such a dry sense of humor. Much is so calm in the face of danger and adversity. It takes a lot to ruffle Much’s feathers, and I love that she’s always so collected.
6) How has the publishing journey been so far?
It’s been a learning experience, and it’s been fun. I knew there were a lot of steps from beginning to end, but I didn’t know there were that many, and it’s been really fascinating to be inside the process as it’s happening. I feel like everything’s building up to release day, and I’m really excited for it.
Interview with Characters
Today is going to be really fun because some of the Lockesly girls – Robin, Jemma, and Much – are here. Much is going to try her hand at being an interviewer, and I’m here to keep everyone on track as much as I’m able to.
Jemma: muttering It takes a village.
Robin: That’s why there’s most of Nottingham.
Much: Most of Nottingham likes us, now.
Me: This is true. It’s a good thing, too.
Much: Do I get to start the questions now?
Me: Whenever you’re ready.
Much: Right. deep breath How long have you two been best friends?
Robin: Since we were small children. I’ve known Jemma so long that I can’t imagine life without her.
Jemma: beaming You’re so sweet!
Robin: It’s true!
Much: I always forgot how red you get when you’re embarrassed because you’re so pale.
Robin: Not helpful!
Jemma: Best ask your next question, Much.
Much: Er…what’s the hardest thing about being an outlaw?
Jemma: The worry. I do a lot of worrying about the lot of you and what could go wrong at any given time during any given robbery. I’m amazed I have any hair left, and that I haven’t pulled it all out yet.
Robin: The price on my head feels like an archery target on my back, and I never used to look over my shoulder as much as I do now. I’m much more aware of who’s around me and where I am than I used to be living in Lockesly.
Me: Much? Do you want to answer?
Much: considering. No. Not right now. Can I ask the next question?
Robin: smirking You’re going to ask about the other side of the coin.
Much: Yes. What’s the best part about being an outlaw?
Jemma: There’s a sense of adventure and danger. When I’m not worrying that we’re all going to be arrested and die horrible deaths, it’s really kind of fun.
Robin: It’s like being like Boadicea, almost.
Jemma: nodding It’s also about doing what’s right.
Robin: I like the sense of helping people, that we’re doing good for others. That gives me such a warm feeling in the middle of my chest.
Much: In addition to the danger and the adventure?
Robin: Of course.
Jemma: There’s so much we can do for people when we can make our own rules doing it, and it lets us really make an impact for others.
Much: You two have always done that. Even in Lockesly.
Robin: I’ve never understood that if there’s something you can do, why you wouldn’t do it. Especially if it can help someone.
Me: Which just sort of led you to outlawing.
Jemma: It was a natural progression.
Much: nodding Being an outlaw means running and jumping and hiding. Out of all of us, who’s best at hiding?
Robin: From the Sheriff and his men?
Jemma: If it’s from the Sheriff and his men then it’s you. If it’s hide and seek, then Ginny. She’s tiny and she’s quieter than a church mouse.
Robin: I was going to say you. You’re really good at vanishing into the forest, Jem.
Much: And when the Sheriff isn’t involved?
Robin: Ginny and Kitty. Except if they hide together then one of them starts giggling and it’s downhill from there.
Me: Thanks for stopping by today.
Jemma: It was quite fun.
Robin: Baker, outlaw, and interviewer. Well done, Much.
You can read about the adventures of Robin, Jemma, Much, and the rest of the outlaws in LADY OF SHERWOOD, available on April 24, 2017.
Author Interview II
1) When did you first know you wanted to be a writer?
Sometime in middle school, I think. I’ve always loved books, but it was right around eighth grade when I wanted to give novel writing a serious attempt. That story was the most progress I’d made on one that I’d started, and it topped out at fifty pages. I did much better at the beginning of high school – that had a much better plot, better characters, and it was the first time I really thought I can do this.
2) Where did you get the idea for LADY OF SHERWOOD?
Robin Hood is one of my all-time favorite legends, and I wanted to do a different retelling. I wanted something fun and adventurous, and I wanted to make Robin Hood a leading lady. I think having Robin and most of the outlaws be woman makes for a very different dynamic, and I’m excited to see what people think of it.
3) How long did it take you to write the book?
It took almost a year in total, but if you take out the three or four months that are my busy season at work where I get very little writing done, then it’s only like six or eight months. I was working nights when I wrote it, and I was able to get some writing in between running tests and waiting for samples in the wee hours of the morning.
4) How many hours a day do you write?
It depends on the day. There are days when I don’t get any writing done at all, and there are days when I crank out 5,000+ words. I aim to write a little bit every day, at least, but it sometimes doesn’t always work out that way, unfortunately.
5) LADY OF SHERWOOD is a retelling – how did you pick names for your characters?
For many of them, I had an idea from the original legends. For example, Robin stayed Robin, and Little John became Jemma. There are a few others that have name twists like that, and some completely new characters that were named based on lists of popular names from the 14th century. And, for me, the name has to fit the character and the character’s personality, and I hope that comes through.
6) What was the hardest scene to write?
There were a couple that were really difficult to write, and I don’t want to say which ones because I don’t want to spoil anybody who hasn’t read it yet. I hope readers enjoy this new take on an old story.