Cyn Mackley, a Scioto County native, has released “Camelot West Virginia” with New York Times Best Selling Mystery Author Emma Jameson. Mackley has not only written 11 novels but writes for the Scioto County Daily News.
“My inspiration (for the book) was — in part — covering the news in Scioto County and seeing all the devastation wrought by opioids,” author Cyn Mackley said. Mackly was born and raised in Portsmouth. “Even when I was a little girl growing up in the Wayne Hills Housing Project… . I knew I wanted to be a writer.”
The book’s premise is that “the classic Camelot tale is reimagined in modern-day West Virginia with first responders riding to the rescue of a community besieged by all-too-real monsters.”
Mackly said that all her characters carry “bits and pieces of people” she knows and their experiences.
“One of the things I think about (while writing) is Appalachian fatalism, which is just that ingrained belief that things are never going to go right and you can’t get ahead,” she said. “I want to boost the idea of Appalachian optimism.”
She said she remembers people grumbling at her for her aspirations to be a writer saying, “People like us can’t be writers.”
“Not my mother, who always encouraged me,” she said. “And, I had wonderful teachers, starting at Garfield Elementary.” She said she wrote her first book while sick at home from school.
“It was about two brothers who lived in a windmill and went fishing,” she said. “I think I confused a windmill with a lighthouse. But I was six.”
Mackley said she recently reconnected with Mrs. Carol Dunham, who she said was her first-grade teacher.
“I loved her so. I sent her one of my books, and she loved it — I was so excited,” Mackley said. It was a fulfilling moment.
She said it is astonishing that in the beautiful Ohio Valley, in the foothills of Appalachia, many strong, straightforward, and amply talented people have accepted impoverishment and settled for less when they are capable of creating and accomplishing more.
“When we try to succeed, our own kin often says we’re getting above our raising or acting stuck up,” she said.
She said that Jameson also understands the Appalachian way of life s she is from Tennessee.
“I was a huge fan of Emma Jameson’s for several years, and I made a comment on her FB page about a new release,” Mackley said. “Another one of her fans commented, ‘Are you the Cyn Mackley that wrote American Goth?'”
She said Emma saw the comment from the fan, checked out Mackley’s book “American Goth,” and then Jameson contacted Mackley to tell her she liked her book and offered to mentor Mackley. The two connected through their coincidental love of comic books and “Camelot 3000” — a book from the ’80s that retells the King Arthur legend in Modern Day UK.
Mackley told Jameson that she should write a modern-day Camelot, and Jameson told Mackley that she should be the one to do it.
“I left the conversation to go shopping at Walmart, and we got stuck in a long line. And, this idea popped into my head,” Mackley said. “I started writing it on my phone in the never-ending line.”
Mackley wrote up an outline and sent it to Jameson at about 11 pm to wake up and find an enthusiastic reply with Jameson’s start to contributions to the novel.
“My favorite characters are my knights in camo — the hillbilly Orkney brothers,” Mackley said. “The Orkney brother are knights in the Arthurian Legend. But in my version, they work for the Camelot Volunteer Fire Department.”
Mackley thinks her favorite “Orkney boy” character is a “makeup-wearing, Bible-thumping pig farmer (named) Grady Dale Orkney. She said, “He’s a badass in glitter eyeliner.”
She detailed many other characters from experience and imagination and named some after friends and others in real life.
“She’s (the character Dreama Avalon) is named after the first friend I ever made, Dreama Moritz. I got her permission,” Mackley said.
The character of King Arthur is a retired military man Roy Pendragon who has been in the service since he was 18 and is now retired in his early 40s — a warrior without a quest.
She said the most complex part about developing and writing about the characters was keeping a level of realism regarding the people, the law, the opioid crisis, and the somewhat magical elements.
“Because, while I’m perfectly willing for people to have magic powers,” Mackley said. “I’m not willing to have people hunting out of season or not following the proper hiring procedure for deputies in West Virginia.”
She also has incorporated Appalachian fairies, The Nunnehi, which are a race of immortal spirit people in native Cherokee mythology.
“Unlike European fairies who steal children and are often cruel,” Mackley said. “The Nunnehi were protectors of children and took lost people to live with them — so we may see kinder, gentler fairies than in the typical Arthurian legend.”
Mackly’s book brings much life to her childhood, past, and home memories. She also gave great credit to her “Fair God Author,” Rebecca Regnier who is a successful author and taught her how to stay on task, as well as the ins and outs of publishing.“This book is special to me because there’s so much of me in it,” she said. “My memories, home, and my fellow Appalachians — I know them.”
Although “Camelot West Virginia” is the book most near and dear to her heart, she has written many to enjoy, such as the mentioned “American Goth,” which is part of the Goode-Grace Mystery Series, and another popular piece, “What the Chat Dragged In,” which is a part of a thriller series. Camelot WV also has two prequels — “Lady In The Lake” and “Queen’s Gambit,” all are found on Amazon.