Cover of Diane Magras’ latest book, “The Hunt for the Mad Wolf’s Daughter.” (Courtesy photo)

FREEPORT — Author Diane Magras wants to keep kids up past their bedtimes.

Her books, “The Mad Wolf’s Daughter,” and now, “The Hunt for the Mad Wolf’s Daughter,” are fast-paced adventure novels for middle-grade readers that she hopes will keep them turning the pages into the night.

“Life is stressful for these kids,” the Freeport-based author said in a recent phone interview. “I want to provide an escape where they can be in another world for a couple of hours.”

Her second book, released this week, rejoins her hero Drest, who, after attempting a daring rescue of her family, learns that a bounty has been placed on her head. In the Scottish medieval adventure, Drest must not only escape, but also prove her bravery to herself, others and her family.

In her first book, Magras said, Drest learns to see herself as someone separate from her war-band family, and in the second, she acts on that. Fans of the first books will see some recurring themes, and just like it’s predecessor, this book is under 300 pages, “layered and pitted with secrets.”

Also like its predecessor, “The Hunt for the Mad Wolf’s Daughter,” places girls and women “where they belong,” Margras said — front and center, achieving great things.

“I grew up reading wonderful books with boys as the main characters,” she said, describing the girls in these titles as “helpless” and “not fully drawn.”

No more. In Drest’s sequel, readers will find a strong healer, an extremely powerful noblewoman, and a wife and mother with a quiet sort of influence who ends up bringing about change.

Magras said she wants to show her readers that there are different kinds of power and also different ways that girls can be strong.

Diane Magras (Courtesy photo)

This being said, it is equally important to Magras that boys, like her son, who is not only in her target audience as a 12-year-old, but is also her in-house editor, can see themselves in the story. Her male characters, even the most masculine ones, are also sensitive and have feelings.

“Kids in third through eighth grade … are beginning to discover who they are and challenge the identities that are given to them,” she said.

Magras started writing as a child herself and used to interrupt her dad during storytime to give him helpful pointers and revisions. For example, she thought that J.R.R. Tolkien’s “The Hobbit” would be much improved if Gollum were the protagonist or a sidekick, and not quite so scary.

For a time she tried to publish works in literary fiction. Much of it was dark, she said, and was something she saw as “Important with a capital I.”

She started reading middle-grade fiction with her son so that they could talk about books together, and was blown away, she said, especially by Paul Durham’s “The Luck Uglies.”

“I thought, ‘I’ve got to write this,’” she said. So she did, and got to create the girl swinging the sword that she always wanted to read about.

She has another book for middle-grade readers hopefully coming out sometime next year that is very different than the Mad Wolf’s Daughter books, but she could not say much most.

“The Hunt for the Mad Wolf’s Daughter” is available at Barnes and Noble, Amazon, Target and elsewhere.

Magras is hosting a public launch event 2 p.m. March 16 at the Freeport Community Library. She will have a few goodies and even a few medieval insults to share.

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