The Magic of Memoir: a good Home & an Honest house by Cynthia Reyes
Until recently I hadn’t read very many memoirs. I recall reading one about thirty years ago called: An Island to Oneself. I suspect it caught my attention because I was living on a small island at the time. The next one I remember reading, and loving just as much, was one about a quirky couple who lived off the land and loved building rock garden walls. And I read that one while living on a rocky acreage, in a one room cabin, with my husband.
But when we moved to our character house and garden in town, my tastes changed to reading memoirs about ordinary people living ordinary lives until…until I discovered memoirs written by people who were striving to overcome adversities. And now I’m absolutely hooked. They are magic to me—not as in abracadabra—but as in faith boosting words that give me a whole new perspective on the trials we humans face in life.
I learn alongside the author as I follow his or her adventures.
The latest memoir I read was: An Honest House by Cynthia Reyes. I’d already devoured and loved her previous book: A Good Home, so there was no risk for me in buying and reading her second book too. And this memoir cast an even deeper spell over me as it was poignant and personal. She gave her heart, her soul, her tears, and her laughter. And I held my breath, I cried, and I laughed as I read it. Well done, Cynthia.
So when I ask Cynthia if I could interview her for my blog (and she said yes) I started dreaming up the most magical questions I could think of. Please allow me to introduce to you Cynthia Reyes. She has non-fiction stories published in Arabella Magazine, the Globe and Mail, and Toronto Life. Cynthia has won a variety of awards for her former work as a journalist and executive television producer.
Cynthia, thank you for allowing me, a forever fan, to interview you today.
1 – My first question is one that’s born out of the immense respect and admiration I gained for you and your husband (Hamlin) as I read about your wonderful relationship in your books: What was the first thing you noticed about Hamlin when you met him?
I have to tell the truth! It was that he had a slim but powerful figure. Having been a national/international hurdler, that made sense. But it came from his character, as well, and that was quickly revealed when he spoke: that sharp intelligence, honesty and sense of humour were all very appealing.
2 – I’m a hopeless romantic (and a snoopy one too), so I’d like to know where you went on your first date with Hamlin?
It was to a restaurant for lunch. Lunch was informal and a safe bet for us both because lunch dates last only about an hour, so if we really didn’t like each other, we could escape!
3 – Which of these names for God can you relate to the most: Shepherd, Father, Rock, Savior, Light, King or other (please specify what the other is)? And why?
I often address God as “Father God”, though I know full well that God is bigger than any human gender. My mother prayed to Father God and I do the same. And God is my family’s light and rock. We call on God daily to light our path and direction. In times of uncertainty or trouble, God is our rock, the rock we hold on to.
When my husband got seriously ill, out poured a poem about reaching for the rock. Which made perfect sense to me.
4 – What’s one of your favorite bible verses?
There are so many.
“Jesus wept.” The shortest verse in the Bible, but for me, the most powerful. I relate profoundly to Jesus’ humanity in that moment where he wept over his friend’s death.
Paul’s letters also contain numerous verses that I love, including this one:
“Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.”
5 – Do you remember the first poem you ever wrote? When was that? Do you remember any lines from it (and you know I want to know what they are)?
I’m sorry – I don’t. I wasn’t very good at poetry! I started writing nonsense poetry as a way to bring back my vocabulary after the accident, and that led to more poems.
One of my first (nonsense) verses was an ode to the wisteria vine in our garden that just wouldn’t bloom:
“Wisteria, oh wisteria
You drive me to hysteria…”
6 – What did you find to be the most enjoyable part of writing memoir?
When I’m able to get into ‘the zone’ and the words flow effortlessly to create a scene or story that expresses what I want the reader to know. Don’t we all wish we could always be in that zone?
I love writing about people, nature and family moments, and in both A Good Home and An Honest House, I loved writing about my church and my enjoyment of the fat little prayer book we use: The Book of Common Prayer. I love it.
Also, I enjoy the final polishing stage of book-writing – working with my editor, and choosing just the right words to describe a person, scene or emotion.
7 – I’m tempted to ask you when and if you will be writing a third book; however, I’ll restrain myself and instead ask you to share what you hope people will gain from reading your memoirs.
I’m still on a recovery journey and am slower than I’d wish, but if God knows I have a third book inside my soul, I will do it. Some days I think I do, but I have to pray on it. DV or Deo volente, as my mother used to say. (If God is willing.)
My church community blessed and launched the book. Then we sent it out into the world with the hope that it will bless everyone who reads it. Many people who bought the book early appear to be on their second reading of it now. This happened with A Good Home and I would like the same to happen here: that people will return to it for inspiration, joy, and perhaps comfort too.
I suspected that readers would be moved to tears at times (my publisher did and he’s not given to crying as he reads), but I also wanted them to feel blessed by An Honest House — to be, in some way, stronger for having read it.
I was conscious of that when I was writing this book An Honest House, in particular. I wanted readers to feel blessed by having read it. You could call some of the passages “word-gifts” to my readers.
Finally, by writing this second book, I wanted to say that God, working in and through us, can do infinitely more than we can ask or imagine. My two books are a testament to that beloved reassurance from the Bible.
Thank you, so much, dear Cynthia, for granting me the honour of interviewing you. I loved how you included quotes by your mother. Thank you, also, for lending me these awesome photos of you, Hamlin, your church, and your gardens that bring back scenes from your books. By the way, your blog is always a pleasure to read. I’d give it a 5 star rating as I did both of your books when I reviewed them on Amazon and Goodreads. I hope readers will visit your blog and discover for themselves your warm and captivating writing voice. You’re one of my favorite Canadian authors and bloggers.
Actually, I’m getting goose bumps remembering hearing you being interviewed on CBC radio by Shelagh Rogers, I never dreamed I’d be interviewing you too. I just knew I wanted to read whatever you wrote.
You do magic with pen and paper.
Here’s a link to Cynthia Reyes’ blog that includes links to both of her memoirs:
Dear friends, if you’d like to leave a comment here as well, Cynthia will be pleased to read them. But I do hope you’ll pop over to her site too. She’s an awesome blog friend.
I’ll allow you to close this post, dear Cynthia. Blessings ~ Wendy
Thank you most kindly for giving me this opportunity, Wendy. Thanks for your generous support of my writing, for me as a person, and for my books. You are a skilled and soulful writer, and your faithful witness, honesty and kindness are a boon to others. You send much goodness into the world through your written word and I know your memoir is going to be special. Grace and peace to you.
65 thoughts on “The Magic of Memoir: An interview with Cynthia Reyes – author of An Honest House”
What a wonderful glimpse into this wonderful Canadian author’s life. Thank you, Wendy for informally and creatively introducing your readers to Cynthia Reyes – a warm, generous, gifted, strong and humble woman. Loved your questions and your special way of coming along side and lifting peoples’ spirits. I look forward to introducing you, as an author, to the world. These days, I’m just honoured to be your friend.
Blogging has been an extra big blessing in so many ways, Diane. It’s how I got to know writers like you and Cynthia. And it’s how I found out how much I love inspirational memoir. I look forward to reading and celebrating your next book too, dear friend.
Such a kind response, Diane. Thanks ever so much. And you’re so right: we look forward to Wendy’s book, and to interviewing HER when the time comes.
Thank you so much, Wendy, for this generous interview and your kind comments.
You’re welcome, Cynthia. I enjoyed reading your answers. I giggled as I read your first one as I was reminded of when I first met my husband… 🙂 Thank you for sharing from your heart–it’s what I love most about your writing.
Interesting interview. It made me curious about the memoir. Love the little white chapel. It’s reminds me of the small church I grew up in.
Catherine, after having read both Cynthia’s memoirs, I feel as though I’ve been in the chapel and in her lovely home and gardens.
Thank you, Catherine. I love that little chapel too!
Great interview and opportunity to learn more about Cynthia. Thanks Wendy.
Thank you, Brad, and it’s nice to meet you. By the way, you take wonderful pictures.
Thanks Wendy. Photography was my first passion, then writing to go along with the beauty and feelings.
Yes, good pictures inspire good words.
Excellent interview. I love that it was so deeply personalized. Cynthia, your faith really shines through. We have one of those wisterias that won’t bloom. It has a massively thick vine and has been here for decades, but the previous owners said it had never bloomed. I think they must be male and female and we got a male.
Thank you, Ms. Nicholls. 🙂 Cynthia is gracious and makes interviewing fun.
Thank you, Susan. How lovely to you to visit Wendy’s blog and reply. The wisteria: never heard of male and female, but who knows? I suspect the non-bloomers are sent to test our faith.
Loved the post–and you’ve given me a new author to investigate. Thanks 🙂
Thank you, Linda. I’m palm over pages in love with memoirs now. I’ll be blogging about them again as I’ve discovered another awesome one this week. 🙂
Thanks, Linda. It was a pleasure being interviewed by Wendy. She asked hard-working questions, but it was my pleasure.
Wendy, it’s nice to meet and read about an author, Cynthia. Great interview gals. 🙂
Thank you, Tracy. And thank you for the share on Facebook too. <3
That’s such a nice compliment. Thank you. And I must say that Wendy asked great questions. I think good interviews depend a lot on the person who’s asking the questions.
A great interview! It is nice to learn more about Cynthia. I enjoy her blog very much and have her book on my reading list.
Thank you, Jo Nell. It was fun to find out answers to questions that were stirred up in me as I read her books. Yes, Cynthia’s blog is wonderful. They are “word gifts” to her readers and you’ll love her memoirs too.
Thank you! I always enjoy your blog and thank you for putting my book on your list. I’m also glad to see you here on Wendy’s radiant blog.
I was blessed by Cynthia’s latest memoir. I am feeling blessed by your interview, too. Please do more of the same. 🙂 They are gifts to us.:) I smiled broadly when I read about An Island to Oneself. That was possibly the first memoir I read, though I think I may have read ”Three Came Home” just a little earlier. You may be interested in Three Came Home by Agnes Newton Keith because of her strong connections to Canada, particularly BC. Agnes’ early works came out of extremely difficult experiences, and personal challenges. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Agnes_Newton_Keith I read both those memoirs when I was 11 or 12. They didn’t frighten me, they inspired me, and that remembrance makes me think that Cynthia’s books could appeal to a younger audience too.
Thank you for your kind words about the interview. I had no idea how much I’d enjoy interviewing an author. Yes, I want to do more with the writers of books I love. Questions sometimes pop up in my mind as I read. Now I’ll know to write them down for a future interview. My husband also read An Island to Oneself, (SPOILER ALERT) and we were trying to remember if it was a duck he ended up having for supper or not? I’m going to look into your recommendation as they’re the best way to find a good read. 🙂
Hmm……I remember the book but not the details! When I visit my mother next I will see if she still has the book so I can check it out. By the way, I looked for your review on Amazon and couldn’t find it. Could you give the link again please?
It’s on Amazon.ca . I posted the same review on Goodreads as I did there. I just checked and saw several other nice reviews by Canadians too.
Ah, thank you. I have just checked out the Canadian Amazon. My review appears on Amazon US and I think on Amazon UK. It’s confusing that all the reviews can’t be easily and collectively seen on all the different Amazon sites.
I agree. It would be to everyone’s advantage if they were.
So good to read your response, and I went straight to the link. Such an interesting woman, Agnes Newton, Keith. Those books sound well worth reading. I will investigate their availability.
Thank you, my friend.
Cynthia, I have only read two of her books, but I would like to read some of her later ones, especially about her time in Libya. I love that she and her husband rebuilt the house they had prior to their imprisonment and that it is now a museum.
Thank you Wendy – was quite caught up with your enthusiasm – and for good reason, such a great interview; and thank you Cynthia, for your heart felt responses to Wendy’s questions. What a wonderful read! Love the photos too. Have already and little peak around your lovely blog, Cynthia – so looking forward to seeing your future posts, and getting hold of your two books – as soon as possible. Oh and by the way, love reading memoirs – love auto and biographical writings; mostly about and by: artists, writers and Christians – who of course, may well also be artists and writers. 🙂 I like to read mostly non -fiction, though I do like some “science fiction”.
Thankful to God, for the opportunity to meet up with fellow Christians here, in the blogosphere. Hope you both have a blessed weekend. ~ Janette
Thank you, dear Janette. I also lean toward non-fiction more and more. But I can still get hooked by a good mystery or romantic suspense novel. They have to be really good though. Memoir’s intriguing because it’s a blend of all the same elements–and the ending is a mystery since true life is often stranger than fiction. Blessings on your weekend. <3
My great thanks to Wendy for making it possible for me to hear from you, Janette.
Thank you. For reading this, for responding, and for visiting my blog and planning to buy the books. That’s at least four gifts right there!
I hope to hear from you when you have read the books. I wish you a blessed weekend too.
I’m convinced, after reading your interview, Wendy, and being introduced to you on-line. That there are two books I must order and read! Thank you for making that clear to me!
Thank you, dear Shirley, for your visit and comment here. I’m glad Tracy introduced us. You’ll love memoir even more after reading Cynthia’s books. That’s what has happened to me. 🙂
Shirley, I am honoured by your kind reply. Thank you very much also for planning to buy the books. Please let me know what you think when you have read them.
I enjoy every special direction you write. You entice the need to look at the photos followed with your fruit. I look forward to reading more from you and Cynthia. Thank you so much! Joan
Here is a little Apple to share with you: http://pfeifferjoan.blogspot.com/2014/11/fairy-tale-and-wonder-or-miracle.html
Thank you for the delicious apple, Joan. I thoroughly enjoyed reading your happy ending story. I love being reminded that miracles still happen. <3
Thank you very much, Joan.
Still trying to figure out all of the ropes on this blog updating. I really am still learning to maneuver around it all. You and Wendy are so posh!!
Posh? Just wait till you’ve been at this for longer. Wendy and I will come by and tell you that you are being posh, too! (big smile)
Joan, I agree with Cynthia. And by the way, I’m still learning stuff about blogging even though I’ve been at it for over 4 years. 🙂
This is such a lovely interview; thank-you Wendy. I am such a fan of Cynthia, as a person as well as an author. I have her new book but STILL haven’t read it yet!
Thank you, Clare, for dropping by. It’s nice to meet another fan of Cynthia’s. I must warn you that you’ll end up setting aside anything else you’re reading once you start into her memoir. But you won’t mind at all. Enjoy. 🙂
I’m sure I will 🙂
Take your time, Clare. You will when you will!
What a wonderful interview. I loved every word. Both of you are such great inspirations to me. Cynthia I have thought several times that I wanted your book(s) … this was my catalyst to actually get them. They will be to me in two weeks. I can’t wait to dive in. Your blog always touches me and I can’t wait to see what the books have in store for me to experience. Hugs to you both.
Teresa, what an honour. Thank you very kindly for your lovely comment, and for the vote of confidence in buying my books. Now, if you could only teach me how to grow such a beautiful garden as yours…. I’m smiling as I write this, thinking of your roses in particualr. My best to you and congrats on your beautiful blog!
Thank you, dear Theresa, for stopping by and for sharing such encouraging words with us. I agree with Cynthia–your garden and your blog are both beautiful. <3 Blessings as you read and enjoy the books.
Terrific interview. It’s wonderful to learn about someone whose faith is such an integral part of her life. Thanks, Wendy and Cynthia both for making this happen. 🙂
Thank you, Cathleen.
Thank you for your visit and lovely comment, dear Cathleen. 🙂
Wow! What a fascinating interview! Great write my dear friend too! Xxx 💖 💗 💖
Thank you, dear Diane. Cynthia is a gracious guest and author. <3
I’m glad you enjoyed it, Diane. Thank you.
I certainly felt blessed by reading the books – I felt part of Cynthia’s world and was taken off to another, magical place for a while.
Yes, I agree, Andrea. Cynthia does take us to a “magical place”. As I finished each book, I wished to have more to read even though she ended at a perfect place.
I’m glad and thankful to hear that, Andrea. Thanks for buying my books and reading them. That’s a huge vote of confidence, especially from another author.
What a beautiful write-up, interview and pictures!! I am soooo anxious to start reading An Honest House but will wait until my vacation in early July when I have unlimited time to get lost in the stories!
Thank you. Enjoy your vacation and getting “lost in the stories!” Cynthia has a way of drawing us straight into the heart of each chapter. You’ll love each one.