Kev’s Author Interviews Presents…
A KAI Special with Award Winning Author:
Earlier, I asked Cynthia to tell us a bit about herself:
CR: I was born and raised in the countryside of Jamaica. Came to Canada on 2 weeks’ notice and truly grew up here. It’s where I became a strong and caring daughter, wife and mother.
I’m thankful for my partnership with my husband and close relatives in raising our two strong, gifted and kind daughters.
I’m also grateful for a successful career in television and in project consulting. I was an executive producer, leader and trainer at Canada’s largest television network, and have worked as a consultant on large projects.
Kev: Welcome to this special edition of KAI, Cynthia. Tell us a little about your book and how did you come up with the title?
CR: Thank you, Kev.
The title? There are several clues in the book, and I’ll share the two most obvious ones:
Our Victorian farmhouse and furnishings are, unlike some Victorian homes, unpretentious. The measurements are “true”, the building materials and construction are solid.
This house is also where I faced some hard truths — and some consoling truths — during the decade after a car accident damaged my life and that of my family.
Kev: Which Genre(s) do you have it listed under?
CR: Memoir; Literary Non-Fiction
Kev: Could you provide us a bit more detail about your book?
CR: For a book that reveals hard truths, An Honest House is surprisingly comforting, joyful and downright hilarious at times.
I’m dealing with PTSD, mental confusion, great pain, nightmares, and depression. But I find beauty in the garden, wisdom in my growing relationship with the house, my family, friends, neighbours, church community and God. And laughter – I learn to laugh again.
The book is full of fascinating characters; some you meet in hilarious situations, most in acts of love and courage that are helping to pull me through the terrible times.
Kev: What parts of your book are you most proud of and why?
CR: The parts that immerse the reader in PTSD episodes. Why? Because in order to do that, I had to re-immerse myself in those experiences and that was truly terrifying. I walked away from the manuscript 3 times and vowed I’d never return. Took me nearly 3 years, but I finally got it done.
Kev: Provide a teaser/short passage from your book.
CR: This is how the book opens:
“Ambercroft Farm,” the sign out front said.
Hamlin was on a first-name basis with the grand old farmhouse right from the start, calling it Ambercroft. For years, I didn’t call it anything at all.
The tall, two-storey Victorian house on the northern edge of Toronto seemed sealed off from the rest of the neighbourhood. Within a solid wooden fence and gates, massive maples waved big leafy arms. Pines and dense blue-green spruces soared. A cedar hedge ran the length of the property on one side.
This was a private place, sure of its personality and power.
Kev: When you wrote this work, did you write off-the-cuff or use some kind of formula like an outline?
CR: The fact that I’m following the timeline of my life over a period of 3 years (with some flashbacks) perhaps makes it easier to plot the journey of the story than if this were a work of fiction.
Almost all the raw material came from my journals, letters and notebooks. Some of my journal entries became blog posts, which means they were already transformed into a narrative with a beginning, middle and end. Some became magazine stories (short memoirs).
So I look at all the journal entries, blog posts and magazine stories from that 3-year period and create a book outline with a beginning, middle and end. Then I start writing to create that first draft.
I suppose I do think in stories, because even when the journal entries are just a series of bullet-points, I can see the story those bullet points are trying to tell. And almost every chapter of my books tells a story that helps develop the overall story.
In subsequent drafts, I work at the language. I want readers to experience everything I experience, so I use vivid, emotive, simple language. (I avoid what I call ‘the big expensive words”.) I also use the five senses to describe settings in particular.
Sometimes, I leave my desk and actually go to look at the face of a daffodil in the garden, or the wood floor or harvest table in my house, just to see the way the light falls on it. I’ll make notes. Then I’ll come back and add it to the manuscript.
Kev: What challenges did this particular work pose for you?
CR: Writing is a pain – literally. My body hurts. Trying to cross-reference material and keep track of details gives me enormous headaches – a result of the head injury.
Writing about PTSD, mental confusion, not being able to do the things I used to – that’s emotional pain. But writing for me has also been an instrument of grace. So I dread the pain of doing it, but I hope that – Deo volente — I will be able to keep doing it.
Kev: What methods are you using to promote this work?
CR: Probably not enough!
My Blog, Facebook, News releases to libraries, book clubs, organizations, etc., etc. Word-of-mouth via readers of the first book (A Good Home); friends; an Ad in the magazine I write for; stories in newspapers, etc.
Kev: Do you have any advice for new authors?
CR: Read a lot. Write a lot. Always carry a notebook with you. Daily life is a fountain of ideas, as are special events. I even make notes at funerals, but please don’t tell anyone that!
Finally, you need someone to read your work, but be careful who you share your first work with; most people don’t really know how to critique a book and may unintentionally discourage you.
Kev: Your book recently won, The Diamond Book Award for 2016. What was your experience like, and how much does this mean to you?
CR: It means a lot. I know that the standards for this award are high, and I respect the founder of it, so that all adds up to a big deal to me.
I won awards for my network TV programs, my work in journalism, and as a trainer and program developer in the television industry. I also won awards for community service. But it never occurred to me that I’d win an award for work done after the accident, because I lost my career, skills and confidence.
It’s still amazing to me that people like my books and read them over and over. So it’s ten times more incredible that one of my books has won an award, especially the book that caused me such pain. The Diamond Book Award is a huge boost.
Thank you, Kevin.
Here’s the Link to Cynthia’s celebration post for The Diamond Book Awards:
Here’s the link to Cynthia’s Blog: https://cynthiasreyes.com/
Let’s hear it for Cynthia Reyes, everyone!