Sunday, March 28, 2010

Interview with Cyndy Henzel

Cyndy, (who writes historical young adult and middle grade fiction as well as magical reality) and I have been members of our online critique-group the Cudas since its inception in August 2006. I have come to depend on Cyndy's unfailingly sharp eye (and teeth) to kick, pummel and slash my manuscripts into shape. I've been inspired and delighted by her masterful ability to weave a tale and bring it to life with her vivid descriptions. I feel as if I have personally traveled to Stalinist Ukraine, Maldives, the Arizona desert and the Republic of Georgia thanks to her lush imagery. Cyndy is one of my unsung heroes (who really squirms when she is praised) and my trusty partner-in-crime in the Cuda approach to bone-crunching critiques. I hope I see the day at long last when she is granted the Newbury honor she is destined for.

Tell us a little about your background.

As a kid I loved reading and science. We moved a lot, so books were my dependable friends. When I was 15, my parents decided to leave the city and move to rural Oklahoma and live off the land. My parents, 3 younger siblings, and I moved into a one room cabin and learned to grow and can food, butcher pigs, milk goats, and build a house. I went to a small town high school where I learned to be comfortable not fitting in.

I’ve written everything from a weekly newspaper column to fiction and nonfiction for children. My graduate work was in geography, the field that covers everything that happens someplace -- perfect for me because I find everything interesting (yes, I even watched curling during the Olympics). I spent ten years working for an international environmental program which created the wanderlust itch that I still like to scratch.

What kind of books do you write?

Mostly great books, although one or two have been merely good.

Actually, I tried writing picture books but was told you can’t tell little kids that the rattlesnake was chopped and stomped and burned (this was before Neil Gaiman). Now I write mg and ya novels set in lesser known places. Currently, I am interested in young people in the post-Soviet countries that are struggling to regain – or invent -- their identity.

You just returned from a trip to the Republic of Georgia. Can you give us some highlights from your visit?

This was my third trip to Tbilisi, Georgia, one of the settings for my current work-in-progress. This time we went out to an ancient monastery. One of the monks took a liking to us and took us on a tour of the Patriarch’s private quarters (the Georgian Church is an Orthodox Catholic sect) then down the creepy stone steps into the cellars where we saw the 200-year-old wooden vat for grapes and cavernous underground storage jars for making wine. Then he opened a bottle to sample and toasted us – a lovely, lovely experience.

How have the places you've traveled inspired your writing?

I like to walk through regular neighborhoods, see what is on the shelves in the grocery store, visit local shops, watch the kids play in the park and how their parents react to them. I read up on the history of an area, then read local newspapers to see what people are talking about. I always think about what it would take for me to adapt to living in a place; and what it would be like for someone from this place to adjust to life in America. This is a theme that runs through much of my writing – what you keep, what you have to give up, and how you change in a new place.

What kind of children's and young adult books would you like to see more of on the shelves?

I love well-written, intelligent books; ones that transport you to another time or place or make you think about things that have never occurred to you before or that let you see things through new eyes. I’d like to see more historical fiction and contemporary stories set outside the US and more insightful science fiction.

Tell us something surprising about Cyndy.

Hmm. Writing? I wrote a My Turn column that was published in Newsweek then was reprinted as the Column of the Year with an update for their 30 year anthology.

Personally? I can make a wedding gown, tile a house, scuba dive, and I’ve never been bored.


  1. Arggghh. For some reason blogger has defeated my graphic design instincts and INSISTED upon designing this itself. I apologize for the typographic inconsistency!

  2. Great interview. Thanks for sharing it. :)

  3. Nice to finally meet you Cyndy. This was a great interview!!

  4. Thank you, Lisa for the kind words and easy interview (at least I don't think I embarrassed myself). Nice to meet everyone. Don't believe a word Lisa says about me - she writes great fiction after all.
    For my books Google Cynthia Kennedy Henzel.

  5. Wonderful interview. Thanks for sharing Cyndy.

  6. Sorry I took so long to respond here, but Blogger wouldn't let me. The nerve. Thanks, sarajayne. Be quiet, Cyndy. Hey Mandy!!! Thanks, Bish.

  7. Hey great interview! Also I gave you a blog award :)

  8. Great interview! You have a wonderful blog. I look forward to following!

  9. Thanks, Lydia! I'll check it out. Thanks Nicole and thanks for the follow!

  10. Amazing interview and now I really want to meet Cyndy. (Cyndy, you're famous in the Wordslinger realm). AND ... I can't wait to read her books. Thanks, Lisa. As always. "hat off"

  11. Shhh! You'll swell her head. Now she's going to know how much I brag about her skills.

    Thanks, Heidi!