Cynthia Reyes has kindly accepted my invitation to come over and have a chat with me here at my digs! I’ve known Cynthia for a while now and have read and reviewed several of her works. In fact her book, An Honest House won my coveted Diamond Book Award back in 2016.
This was no mean feat as there were many other great works to consider that year, not to mention all the different genres I had to choose from. Since then, Cynthia has written and co-written some children’s books, namely the Myrtle series. So I thought this would be a great opportunity to ask her about these books and the project she is currently working on. (We need to get to the bottom of this folks in case there is something mysterious going on.)
Oh, Cynthia, you’re here already! (Checks watch) My doesn’t time fly while you having fun? (Cynthia looks at me nonplussed.) Hang on a minute while I dash and put the kettle on then we can relax and have a nice little chat. (Can’t have an interview without cuppa folks… and biscuits of course. Just doesn’t sit well if you know what I mean… Especially since Cynthia has travelled all the way from Canada… God this is exciting!)
I know it’s a long shot, but you didn’t happen to bring Myrtle along with you did you, Cynthia? (Kev produces a football and looks around expecting to see a turtle who might be interested in a bit of footie.)
Well, she’s taking a walk – a very slow walk – so I can’t predict when she’ll be back. But if you wait a few weeks, you’ll get to read Myrtle’s third adventure, titled Myrtle Makes a New Friend. Like the second book in the series, Myrtle’s Game, it’s co-written with my daughter Lauren Reyes-Grange, and illustrated by Jo Robinson. The images are so gorgeous that I have accused Jo of falling totally in love with the new character whom Myrtle befriends. Myrtle could become jealous!
Oh, that’s a shame! Myrtle not being here that is… But I know how important those slow walks are! Anyway, speaking of Mrytle, Could you tell me what inspired you to write Myrtle: The Purple Turtle? What’s the story behind it?
Lauren was not quite 5-years old when she had a bad experience at school but wouldn’t talk about it. Over the next few days, she refused to bring her favourite doll, Quentin, to school with her. I finally found out it was because her friends wouldn’t play with a doll they considered “dirty” (Quentin was a black doll). If Lauren wanted friends, she had to leave him at home, which was painful for her because our family is black, and she closely identified with Quentin.
I was writing and directing children’s television at the time and so I sat down and wrote a story for her about a turtle who wants to change her colour after being teased. Nearly 28 years later, the book was illustrated and published and became an instant hit.
It was most certainly a hit with me! Now, Cynthia, You’ve written a couple of memoirs: A Good Home, in which you tell us about your early life in Jamaica and your move to North America, and An Honest House where you continue your story that takes place in North Toronto after you had that terrible car accident.I have to say, it’s one of the most beautiful memoirs I’ve ever read and was a joy to review. I honestly thought you would probably carry on by bringing us a third memoir when you surprised us all with Mrytle: The… (Kev’s attention is suddenly drawn to something awry about Cynthia’s hair.) Ooh, sorry, not to be rude or anything, but… Is that a twig in your hair?
Several twigs, actually. Readers will find out why when they read the book! Twigs in My Hair was almost complete in late 2014. It was meant to be book #2 in my memoir series. I knew I needed to write about the worst of the accident impacts, but it was extremely painful. So I thought a gardening memoir could be fun. Then something shocking happened that changed our family’s lives again and I decided to leave the gardening memoir and be courageous. I needed to write that book about trying to find joy in a life compromised by pain and hardship. That book became An Honest House, published in 2016.
Could you elaborate on what makes Twigs In My Hair different from other gardening books?
The reader will learn much about gardening, but Twigs in My Hair is a gardening memoir that pokes fun at gardeners like me almost as much as it admires them. We gardeners go to absurd lengths to get the perfect garden, you know. For some of us, it’s almost a religious experience.
There are gardening tips, but that’s almost accidental! The book is about the gardens I have loved and the range of emotions and experiences gardening evokes, from the sublime to the ridiculous. Finally, there will be photos in this book (taken by my husband Hamlin Grange), but they will be a bit surprising, I think. These are real gardens and we’re a real family. So there will be beautiful pictures, but it won’t be the fabulously pristine, airbrushed stuff you see in the coffee-table books about wildly expensive gardens.
Having had the pleasure of a preview from reading your draft of Twigs In My Hair, I have to say several things that struck me were the quotes at the beginning of each chapter… especially those of Wordsworth. You also mention The Secret Garden which is an all-time favourite of mine. Then there’s the wisdom shared by loyal gardening mentors you met on your journey. And finally, but by in no means last or least, the humour spread across this precious work. I cannot wait to see the finalised published edition with pictures. When do you hope to have this published by?
October. And thanks very much for those comments, Kev. They mean a lot.
Thank you ever so much for our little chat, Cynthia.
I’m glad to do this and I love the conversational style! Made me giggle in parts. Thank you!
Learn more about Cynthia and her books by visiting her website folks: https://cynthiasreyes.com/