Monday, July 27, 2015

Cynthia Kennedy Henzel, MYTH RIDER

AUTHOR: Cynthia Kennedy Henzel
GENRE: Tween historical fiction
PUBLISHER: 4RV Publishing

Please tell us about yourself.
I was born in Oklahoma City, but didn’t live in the state for any length of time until I was 15 and my folks decided to move ‘home’ from the east coast and live off the land near Stillwater. That was quite a shock for a city kid! I survived and got my first big gig writing a column, An Optimist’s View, for The Perry Daily Journal in Perry, OK. I started at $5 a column, but soon doubled my pay. I graduated from OSU, worked as an environmental education consultant for an international program called GLOBE, and wrote. Today, I’ve got a son and two grandkids in Edmond, a daughter with two more in Tucson, and a new book out!

Are you a full-time writer or part-time, and how do you organize your writing time?
I write full time. I love working on my novels, but publish a lot of nonfiction books and biographies for kids; also some shorter fiction, retelling of classics, and lately some animated scripts. I’m a morning person so I get up early to write, eat lunch with my husband, then write or do research in the afternoon unless dealing with household issues, other businesses, promotion, etc.

What do you do when you’re not writing/editing or thinking about writing/editing?
I’ve got 5 and 6-year-old grandsons that live nearby. We like to swim, cook, hike, and build things. I love to travel and explore new places with my husband. I like tearing apart houses and putting them back together, although my husband frowns upon doing this in places we currently occupy. I read. But really -- isn’t any experience part of writing?

What are your thoughts about promotion?
Writing is interesting, fulfilling, and absorbing; but I feel lonely when I’m trying to promote my books. It’s back to the big party where you are watching everyone else talking and having fun while you stand against the wall hoping someone will notice you. I’d rather my works speak for me – but I realize that can’t happen unless someone reads what I write. So, I do whatever I can to promote my books. I have a blog, speak, visit libraries and bookstores, work with other writers to promote books, give away a lot of bookmarks, etc.

What was the toughest criticism given to you? What was the biggest compliment?
I went to a conference years ago and signed up to talk to one of the Super Agents. He said I had good ideas but my writing – he threw up his hands in a gesture meaning hopeless. That was pretty devastating. The best compliment? “When is the sequel coming?”

What are your current projects? 
I’ve got two new novels I’m working on: a mystery called DOLL CEMETERY that’s close to done (the manuscript took first in middle grade at OWFI conference) and the sequel to MYTH RIDER. I’ve also got two books in revision: a magical realism novel set in Maldives and an historical fiction set in 1930’s Ukraine. Plus, I’m researching a new nonfiction – the first nonfiction I’m going to try and sell to a publisher on my own rather than writing under contract. Then, there are several contracted nonfiction books coming out … busy!

How can we find you? Website, Facebook, Twitter, blog, etc.?
I’m at Ride along with MYTH RIDER at

Tell us about the current book you’re promoting.
MYTH RIDER is the story of a girl who leaves her native country to ride in a Wild West show in America. The main character, Tamara, knows she is destined to fulfill an ancient legend that will bring the Centaurs back to their homeland. When Fate intercedes, she must decide what to do when life doesn’t go according to plan.

Why did you choose to write a children’s book?
Several reasons. First, I like the way kids think. They are open. Curious. Great conversationalists. So many things that adults have left behind. Second, the best stories are for kids. Straight to the point without undue detail or flourish. Third, books were vital to me growing up. I hope I can pass that on. 

What do you hope your readers will take away from this book?
A love of story. A smile. New friends they want to read more about. Something to talk about with their friends. On a deeper level, I hope they glean something about the importance, and difficulty, of making choices. And, of course, I hope they develop curiosity about history, different places and cultures, and science.

What comes first: the plot or characters?
For me, it’s often the setting that comes first. I like to explore places and then research what happened there. Then, I imagine people who would have lived through those events. Finally, I choose one character to tell their story and write a lot of dialogue to get characters talking. A lot of it gets cut as the story evolves, but it helps me know my characters and start the plot.

Do you have any tips for writers who are new to children’s literature?
Be willing to invest time and money in your writing career just as you would in any new business. Everyone needs to work on craft. Read critically in your genre, take classes, and join a critique group. My critique group is online and is fabulous. Learn about the business of writing and build a network of other writers by reading professional publications, going to conferences, and following conversations online. Remember that when you sit down to write you have one job. It is not teaching, preaching, or making your first million. Your job is to tell a story.

What, if anything, bugs you when you read a novel?
I don’t like a story to be predictable. Surprise me and you have a lifelong fan. On the other hand, it bugs me when plots are not logical. Coincidence happens in real life, but not in novels. A writer has an unwritten contract with the reader: Everything you need to know is here, dear reader, if you can figure it out.

Describe your writing space.

I wrote my first novel while living on a mile-wide island in the Indian Ocean. It is unpublished. Having time and few distractions doesn’t make you a published writer! Now, I have a nice cubbyhole lined with bookcases with a view of the Catalina Mountains and my backyard fountain and birds to distract me. Currently, the shelves have, in addition to books ranging from Island of the Blue Dolphins to Architectural Details: a trebuchet, a catapult, a robot, a basket of shells, an etch-a-sketch, a leprechaun, and a slide rule. Hmmm. I wonder if I can get all of those into my next book …

Excerpt from MYTH RIDER (Cynthia Kennedy Henzel)
    Everything was different. The houses were flimsy new buildings, nothing that seemed built to last a hundred years and then a hundred more years like a true home. The few trees were short and twisted.           Mostly she saw grass, an expanse of grass that did nothing to slow the endless wind.
    Tamara wished that Giorgi or Irakli were nearby, but they were undoubtedly already at practice. She felt alone, and vulnerable, as if a wall of her home had suddenly fallen out exposing her to the world. As she looked around, settling her gaze to the north, she realized what was missing. No sheltering mountains. The Centaurs no longer watched over her.
    “Yuh look like your best friend just up and died.”
    Tamara whipped around and her mouth fell open. A girl perched on a fence rail behind her with a face that was black, as black as night, topped with a mat of black hair thick and tight as felt. As Tamara gaped, the girl swung her legs, black ankles poking from below baggy blue pants tied to a bib like an apron, and grinned showing teeth as white and straight as piano keys.
    “Yuh must be the green girl I’m s’posed to show round.”
    Green girl? Tamara looked at her hands in alarm. They had traveled at a mad pace for two months; six weeks in the ship to New York City, two weeks on the train to Ponca City and finally on the wagon that brought them to the 101 Ranch the night before. Many times during the trip she had felt a sickly green, but …
    “I’m Pearl.” Tamara’s attention went from her own hands, definitely not green, to the one the girl held out.
    “You’re black!”    
    Pearl held out both hands. Her eyes got wide until the whites showed all around and she squealed, “You’re right!” Then she let out peals of laughter that about toppled her off her perch.


  1. Great interview, ladies. So nice to meet you, Cynthia. Historical novels are my favorites. Congratulations on your new book.It sounds fascinating. Best of luck to you.

  2. Loved the interview and congratulations on your new book. Wishing you the best.

  3. I loved getting better acquainted with Cynthia. I liked your comment about liking the way children think. That's the way I feel about teenagers. Ha! Great interview, Penny. Thanks.

  4. Great interview! Congratulations, Cynthia, and best of luck to you!

  5. Love the interview and the theme of your book.