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A Heart of Texas

Welcome to the 2024 Women Honoring the West Series!

My special guest today is a friend from Women Writing the West and Western Writers of America. What I love about this lady is she’s honest, caring, and an exceptional writer. She speaks from her heart, which is as big as Texas.

Let’s meet this month’s Woman Honoring the West, Cynthia Leal Massey.

WWA Convention
What attracts you the most about the Western lifestyle? 

I was born and raised in Texas. From early childhood, I was inculcated with the heroic and often violent history of the founding of our great state. Even those of us not raised on large expanses of land lived the Western experience through our shared historical heritage. 

I grew up on the south side of San Antonio, then a community roughly half Mexican American and half Anglo/German American, where small subdivisions with modest homes (where I lived) abutted large pastureland with horses, chickens, and other farm animals.

I awakened in the morning to the sound of roosters crowing. One of my high school boyfriends used to ride his horse to my house! Our school mascot was the Cowboys and many of my fellow classmates were actual cowboys who rode and participated in rodeo events.

After I learned that the original cowboys were actually vaqueros from Mexico who had started herding cattle in northern Mexico in the 1590s, I felt a strong connection to the Western lifestyle as several of my ancestors had been Mexican ranch hands. 

The Western lifestyle to me encompasses respect and love for the land, its inhabitants, and for its guardians.  

Today my husband and I live on two acres in a ranch-style house in a small town out the outskirts of San Antonio, where we moved 30 years ago. We raised our two children on this acreage in the valley of the hill country.

We have a dog and a cat, and nature surrounds us. Birds nest in our large scrub oak and cedar trees, squirrels scamper from tree to tree, and other varmints—possums, raccoons, skunks (not my favorite)— have the run of our property. 

What is the inspiration behind the book, song, poem, art, or photography you’re working on? 

The landscape and its inhabitants seem to always be the inspiration for everything I am working on. I am currently working on a project with an artist — a picture book about the town I live in — Helotes. He is providing the watercolor images of our Old Town District, which was founded in the 19th century, and I am writing the text, the storyline of the history of the town based on his images. 

Helotes has an authentic Western experience of being an old “cow town.” The Western Trail came through our town. Cowboys drove cattle through what is now our Old Town district from the 1870s until the early 1900s. They often camped along our creek on the north end of the town on their way to San Antonio, twenty miles down the road.

What’s your favorite character, line, or chorus in one of your books, poems, or songs? Why?

In my first novel, Fire Lilies, Dolores Guzman de Porras, one of the daughters of a wealthy hacendado in northern Mexico, was forced into marriage with a cruel landowner much older than herself. Despite her bad situation, she remains strong and survives a revolutionary takeover of the land. She is a strong woman and is based on one of my great aunts who survived the Mexican Revolution under similar circumstances.

What’s your favorite ranch animal and why? 

Horses. I joined the Rodeo Club in high school just to be able to ride a horse. Unfortunately, my horse-riding skills were minimal and I did not have the time, money, or real inclination to move forward as a horse person! But I respect and love horses.

What are you working on next?

I have two projects: A novel that is in the final edit stage. Fowl Water is a literary mystery about a killing that happened in 1958 at the end of the devastating ten-year drought in Texas. 

The other project (no working title as yet) is nonfiction, about a Dutch/German family of brothers in charge of San Antonio/Bexar County law enforcement from the late 1880s until the mid-1920s. Their stories, along with those of their parents and three sisters, encompass the California gold rush, the climax of the Indian wars, Reconstruction-era and railroad banditry, religious cultism, the last vestiges of frontier justice, the beginnings of new law enforcement protocols, and much more.

Tell us bout your books.

Several of my books have won awards, but two accolades—one in particular— have remained my favorite and most heart-warming. 

Before my second novel, The Caballeros of Ruby, Texas, (a WILLA award finalist) was published in 2002, my publisher asked me to send out the galley for cover blurbs to published authors, preferably with some name recognition.

I decided to send a copy to my favorite Western author Larry McMurtry. Not long after, Mr. McMurtry sent me a handwritten and signed letter on his bookstore stationary in which he wrote a very nice blurb for my novel, which, of course became the spotlight blurb!

I treasure that letter, which is framed and hangs in my office.

Even though I treasure that letter, the most important accolade I got was from my daughter, Meghan, then in the sixth grade. She came home from school that day so excited, I thought she was going to burst. She said they were taking state-mandated tests that morning and when she opened her booklet to read the excerpt on reading comprehension, she saw that the story was by me.

It was an excerpt from my first children’s short story, “Language of the Heart,” published in the May 2000 issue of Cricket magazine.

She said she immediately started to tell her classmates and her teacher admonished her to be quiet. When she tried to explain to the teacher why she was talking, the teacher shushed her again. After class, several of her classmates, who also noticed my name on that selection, rushed to Meghan and asked her if she was related to the author of that test paragraph.

Meghan proudly told them, “Yes I am! She is my mother!” 

About Cynthia

Texas author Cynthia Leal Massey writes award-winning historical fiction and nonfiction. Born and raised on the south side of San Antonio, she has resided in Helotes, 20 miles northwest of the Alamo City since 1994. A full-time writer who publishes history columns about Helotes for local publications, Cynthia is a past president of Women Writing the West. She is also a member of Western Writers of America. A former corporate editor, college instructor, and magazine editor, she has published hundreds of magazine and newspaper articles and is the author of eight books. 

Connect with the Author

Cynthia’s Website  

My Amazon.com author link Instagram Goodreads  Linked In

What a gal! Thanks for taking the time to learn about Cynthia and her story. If you have a question or comment, go ahead and drop them in the comments. She’d love you hear from you!

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  1. Bob Grigg says:

    Love this lady. She has invested much of her time and energy in reading from a book that she deems to be the Master Book of life and authored by none other than God Himself… the Bible. Proud to be her friend!

    1. Carmen Peone says:

      Bob, thanks for taking the time to read and support, Cynthia!

  2. Cynthia, I enjoyed reading your interview. I especially loved the story about your daughter recognizing your work on that state-wide test! That is certainly something to be excited about! Thank you for posting this interview, Carmen.

    1. Carmen Peone says:

      Thank you for taking the time to read Cynthia’s story and comment!

    2. Thank you Margaret. So appreciate your taking the time to read my story.

  3. Meghan Massey says:

    That is my mama! I can attest; an astounding author, and an even better mother!

    1. Carmen Peone says:

      Meghan, your Mom’s eyes light up when she talks about you! Thank you for taking the time to share your affection for her.

  4. Thank you for sharing my story, Carmen. Your invitation to write about my writing caused me to reflect on things I hadn’t thought about for years. I have am grateful.

    1. Carmen Peone says:

      You are so welcome, Cynthia! I loved learning more about you and sharing your story. You are a blessing.

  5. Jessica Foytek says:

    Prima Cindy I’m so proud of you and all your accomplishments. Thank you for sharing your story and your accomplishments .

    1. Carmen Peone says:

      Jessica, thanks for supporting Cynthia!

    2. Jessica! Thank you so much for your love and support!

  6. What a great story about Cynthia! Thank you, Carmen, for sharing this. And Cynthia–what a treasure you are!

    1. Carmen Peone says:

      Mary, thank you for taking the time to read Cynthia’s story. Isn’t she amazing!!