The Story Behind M.L. Tarpley’s “Maylie and the Maze”

M.L. Tarpley is on the blog today talking about her new release, Maylie and the Maze—a middle-grade fiction story aimed at readers in grades 3-7.

Welcome, M.L.! Before we launch into all the behind-the-scene fun, tell us about Maylie and the Maze.

Maylie and the Maze is middle grade realistic fiction and the first book in the Tales of a Travel Girl series, which follows 10-year-old Maylie Montes on an inspirational trip across Europe filled with the shenanigans of her zany family and the mishaps of her overactive imagination.

In Maylie and the Maze, 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.

That sounds exciting and fun. I’m curious to find out what sort of mishaps her overactive imagination conjures up. What books would you compare Maylie and the Maze to?

I think this series will appeal to fans of the Middle School series by James Patterson, The Tapper Twins series by Geoff Rodkey, and the Melanie Martin series by Carol Weston with their quirky main characters, sibling antics, and more.

The book also features a variety of illustrations and doodles by the amazing illustrator Monica Bruenjes ( It was such an amazing experience to see my story truly come to life through her art!

Monica Bruenjes’s artwork in different stages of the illustration process.

What inspired you to write Maylie and the Maze?

I wrote Maylie and the Maze to show kids that you can go after your dreams no matter what roadblocks stand in your way. Another goal was to write a book that could be enjoyed by kids and grown-ups alike, especially as a fun bedtime read!

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.

A photo of Leeds Castle taken by M.L. Tarpley during her visit to England.

Wow. A thousand years old! That’s a lot of history. What sort of research went into writing a story set in such a historic place?

My book research consisted of scouring the Leeds Castle website for any interesting nuggets of information I could find. I also spent a lot of time on London tourist attractions’ official websites.

But, overall, in my research I learned a lot about mazes!

I absolutely fell in love with the hedge maze at Leeds Castle when I visited there, but I didn’tknow much about them and grottos too. It’s interesting!

What’s the most interesting discovery you made writing this story?

I think the funniest tidbit I came across about the Leeds Castle maze was that its creator even got lost in it! How funny is that! Ha. I’m sure he was embarrassed.

The most interesting aspect was the design of the maze and its grotto. When viewed from its center, it forms a queen’s crown, which is fitting because several queens stayed at the castle. A grotto is a small cave that can form naturally along a coastline. In this case, a grotto is a man-made cave-like structure that has been popular as pieces of interests in gardens for hundreds of years.

For more info, visit or hopefully visit it in person.

Check out M.L. Tarpley’s Maylie and the Maze Pinterest board.

The hedge maze there must be an amazing sight to see!

I’m a huge fan of Easter eggs. Any hidden references, details, or tidbits readers should keep an eye out for?

Great question! I love that too!

Another aspect of the book (and series) that I wanted to incorporate was that in each book Maylie is given a classic kid’s novel by her aunt to read. In this book, it is Peter Pan by J.M. Barrie.

Throughout my book, Maylie observes the world around her with references to Peter Pan and the theme of growing up. That was fun to tuck those little references in here and there including a fun doodle that is one of my favorite in the book.

Is there anything behind-the-scenes information you didn’t already mention that would be of interest to readers?

The book had to be set in England because that’s where the maze is located. Plus, I love England! I love the countryside and manor houses and castles and the mix of modern-day and history in the city of London. My favorite place is the city of Bath.

One of my favorite memories in England is staying a few nights in a 500-year-old thatched cottage in a tiny English village surrounded by green fields edged with low stone fences and full of sheep. It was idyllic and quite inspiring for a creative’s mind!

Another thing to note is that while Maylie and the Maze centers on one of Maylie’s struggles being that she longs to become an author, but she can’t finish a story. I feel like that is a struggle for so many—kids and adults alike, so I decided to write a companion non-fiction book that I would give to a kid like Maylie.

The book is called “Young Writer’s Kit: A Guide for Young Writers.” It is available for purchase on Amazon, but a free condensed PDF version is available for those who sign up for my newsletter, which anyone interested can do here:

And there’s a video of you reading the first chapter too!

Maylie and the Maze released last week and is now available on Amazon.

Thank you so much, K.A., for having me as your guest!

Thank you, M.L.! It’s been great to have you here and to learn more about the real life adventures and influences that went into Maylie and the Maze.

About M.L. Tarpley

Author M.L. Tarpley 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). She lives in Louisiana with her husband and son. Maylie and the Maze is her debut novel. 

For more information about her, visit

You can also connect with her on Goodreads, Facebook, or Instagram.

*** View past interviews here. ***

Thanks to Greg Pattridge for hosting MMGM! Be sure to check out the other Marvelous Middle Grade Monday posts!

Published by K.A. Cummins

K.A. Cummins is an award-winning author and artist. Her publications include Havok Publishing, Rattle, Blue Mesa Review, and her middle-grade series, Snow Globe Travelers.

13 thoughts on “The Story Behind M.L. Tarpley’s “Maylie and the Maze”

  1. I love England too. I haven’t been to Leeds Castle, but I will keep it in mind if I ever get back there. This sounds like a really fun series. I have a granddaughter who wants to be a writer. I think she might like this too. Thanks for an interesting post.

    1. HI Rosi! You should absolutely go to Leeds Castle when you go back to England. I want to go again! lol And I would be honored if your granddaughter read my book! I also wrote a companion guide that teaches kids how to write fiction. I wrote it for kids like Maylie who want to write but don’t know exactly what to do. It’s called “Young Writer’s Kit: A Guide for Young Writers” if you’re interested. It’s available on Amazon. Thanks for commenting!

  2. What a wonderful-sounding book! I have been trying to practice writing my own stories, and I can’t finish any either, so I can relate to Maylie. (I keep trying to write things that are so complex that I can’t figure out how they are supposed to end!) Monica Bruenjes’s art for the book looks wonderful as well! Thanks for the wonderful post!

    1. Hi! Thank you so much! I’m glad you think it sounds wonderful. :) I totally understand your pain. I’ve started many stories and haven’t been able to figure out their endings either. Just keep going! You can do it! (And thanks! I think Monica’s art is the best part. lol)

  3. I would have loved this series as a preteen. I dreamed of traveling. And, adding haunted, spooky maze to this particular story will be a hit — especially at this time of the year. I’ve traveled through England and Whales and your descriptions of green fields with low stone fences, thatched houses etc. brought back many memories. Enjoyed your video!

    1. Thanks, Patricia! That’s amazing that you’ve been to England and Wales! I love both those countries. So beautiful! (Secret Hint: one of the future Maylie books takes place in Wales. Hooray!) Thanks for commenting!

    1. Thank you so much, Natalie!! I want to go back to Leeds Castle so badly. You should so go one day! I can’t wait to be on your blog! I’ll be working on my post ASAP. :)

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