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