What a pleasure it is to host Cynthia Kennedy Henzel today! We met some time back, at an SCBWI conference in Arizona, when this book was but a gleam in her brain’s eye. (I might be exaggerating a tiny bit here.) In the short years since, she has not only polished this manuscript, it is now a real book! I can’t wait for you to read her story:
As a geographer, I love places. I especially love seeing how cultures grow and thrive in a place, and what happens when that culture is transplanted to someplace completely new. My new novel MYTH RIDER begins in the country of Georgia and moves to the state of Oklahoma. It is the story of a young girl who lives an Old World myth and a New World adventure.
When I first visited Georgia, I knew I wanted to write a story set in this ancient land steeped in myth contrasted with the American sensibility that history is just getting started. I began researching and found a gem; a little book about recruiting Georgian riders to perform in American Wild West shows in 1910. I had the spark of a story and a time. The real research began. I started with Georgian history. Who was the girl who would become my main character? I read about invasions from Mongols, Russians, and Turks. I read about the Greek explorers who assumed the magnificent Georgian horsemen must be men joined with beast, and so began the legend of centaurs. I read about King Tamara; the woman who led a Georgian Renaissance and was so accomplished she was given the title King. I tasted local wine in ancient monasteries, explored Old Town streets in Tbilisi, ate local delicacies, and visited the cemetery where honored authors are buried — what’s not to love about this country!
Next, I started investigating what was going on in the world in 1910 – on both sides of the earth. The Russia Federation controlled Georgia, but the tzar was in trouble. Lenin was in exile and Stalin was a young man on the rise. In science, the Theory of Evolution was hotly debated. The Wild West shows in America were popular, but about to lose their place to the new moving pictures. One of the first movies, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, was showing. Wait! Oz in 1910? Yep. You can see the old footage on the Internet.
Finally, I went out to what remains of the 101 Ranch in Oklahoma. In 1910, it was in its prime; a huge spread, practically a city. Joe Miller, one of the brothers who owned the ranch, was into anything new, including the newfangled moving pictures. They hosted their own Wild West show – with Cossack riders – and everyone who was anyone at the time was visiting the ranch: Will Rogers, Teddy Roosevelt, Mark Twain. How could you ask for a better cast of characters! So, from this mashup of history, geography, and myth, I shaped my main character Tamara and set her loose to fulfill her destiny. I hope you enjoy the ride.
Cynthia Kennedy Henzel loves to travel and set stories in unusual places. She has written over fifty books for children: nonfiction, picture books, chapter books, and condensed classics. MYTH RIDER is her first novel. Other novels, set in Ukraine and Maldives, are in the works. She keeps her stuff in Tucson, AZ but prefers to be on the road. Visit her here or ride along with MYTH RIDER on Facebook
Thanks, Kirby. You taught the most important thing a writer needs at that retreat. Persevere!
I love getting to “meet” authors I didn’t know before. Thanks for sharing. Oh, yes, retreat is imperative.
I started reading this book this week and am about halfway through … fantastic story and I love Tamara sooo much! Thanks for posting the author interview. Always so interesting to learn the genesis of a novel!
Very true, Cynthia! One must persevere! Congratulations on Myth Rider. It sounds wonderful!
I loved this book! Tamara is an intriguing character and the supporting characters, particularly her brother, come alive as well. I also adore that in a book that has a strong female lead that there are other interesting female characters which is sometimes lacking in literature. The culture and myth intertwined in the story is a character in its own right. Both the country of Georgia and Oklahoma come alive. I read the book in one setting!
Wow, what a fantastic glimpse into Cyndy’s passion and writing! And such an amazing novel 🙂 You can see Cyndy’s attention and talent for character, detail, and setting. I highly recommend it and so thrilled that she is being featured on your blog.
Myth Rider is an excellent book and one that will be entered in the Oklahoma Book Awards. I enjoyed the information you shared, Cynthia.
Thanks for hosting this! Very proud of you, Cyndy!
What an interesting story. Thanks for telling me about it. I will have to check it out.
Thank you so much for all the kind comments! It makes the long slog to publication worth the effort. Hopefully, I’ll have a sequel soon to offer those who want to follow Tamara’s journey.
What fascinating insight into all you did to research and prepare for your book, Cyndy! I loved reading about your through process. 🙂 And, the book sounds great! I’m excited to get it and read it!