Chattanooga society is turned upside down as a young woman has the audacity to ride a bicycle–in bloomers! It’s 1895. Anna Gaines, 19, struggles to conquer her insecurities after a horrible fall years ago from her beloved horse, Longstreet. On a visit with her aunt in Brooklyn, she’s drawn to the new pastime of bicycling. But back at home, cycling is a scandalous sport for a proper lady. Southern women did not engage in activities meant for men. Anna has her eye on Peter Sawyer, president of the Cycling Club. As community outrage grows, an unexpected turn of events pits Anna against Peter in a race between the sexes.
Read our story spotlight on The Great Chattanooga Bicycle Race to with Mike H. Mizrahi to learn more! Psst, did you win Mike’s $75 Amazon gift card giveaway? Be on the lookout for the announcement on Mike’s blog.
Get to Know Mike H. Mizrahi
What are your ideal writing conditions?
Dawn is about to break . . . it’s around 5:30 a.m. The cat is fed, my coffee is poured, and I spend a few minutes giving thanks. Karen is still asleep, and will be until 8 a.m. or so. Once the fog lifts, and my focus is set, the mind begins to churn and the fingers find the right keys to express on the computer screen. Sheer delight gets even better when Karen comes down, gets her coffee, and we spend some time on the couch looking out the French doors to our garden sanctuary in back. Ready for round two in the office . . . the lightning round (usually!!).
If you could write in a different genre?
Contemporary fiction. I have one finished manuscript on the shelf that I completed after we went to the DRC in Africa. I’ve done some rewriting, polishing . . . but more is needed. A pretty good story. I’ve got another premise in my head waiting to be fleshed out, but for now I intend to stay with historical fiction.
What book have you reread the most?
The New Testament. (And The Great Chattanooga Race, as it went through the rigors of production!!)
If you could have lunch with any literary character, who would it be and why?
Santiago, in The Old Man and the Sea. I can learn much from his wisdom and experience. He is dedicated (84 days without a catch); an expert in his field; and humble (mixed with a healthy pride about his capabilities). All character traits I wish to emulate as I hone my craft.
Favorite first line of a book:
Scrooge. Can’t just put the first line. One must read the whole paragraph:
Marley was dead, to begin with. There is no doubt whatever about that. The register of his burial was signed by the clergyman, the clerk, the undertaker, and the chief mourner. Scrooge signed it. And Scrooge’s name was good upon ‘Change for anything he chose to put his hand to. Old Marley was as dead as a doornail.
Do you have a go-to writing snack?
A protein bar with coffee.
What is your favorite writing tool?
Autocrit. The editing program gives me insight into basic mistakes that one makes in the initial draft stage . . . like too many -ly adverbs, repeated words and phrases, and passive writing. I take a run through the entire draft, and then begin rewriting.
If you were trapped in a book, what fictional place would you like to explore?
What would the title of your biography be?
If you could live a day in one of your characters’ lives, who would you choose? Explain:
Anna’s cousin Oscar, a minor character in the Chattanooga book. He works for a druggist in Atlanta, delivering medicines on his bicycle. He fattens his boss’s purse and his own pockets between deliveries, when he visits some of the seedier neighborhoods and boxes the latest would-be prizefighters.
“Never give in, never give in, never, never, never, never—in nothing, great or small, large or petty—never give in except to convictions of honor and good sense.”
—Winston Churchill, Oct. 29, 1941:
Character Interview with Anna Gaines
What is the most interesting thing about you?
An active imagination. Some would call it interesting . . . Mama calls it a distraction from the proper role of a Southern woman.
Thankfully, my papa travels with me to faraway, fanciful places in my mind . . . can see what I envision, and feel what I experience. I love my mama dearly, but Papa knows me best.
I’m a seamstress at Loveman’s Department Store downtown. Mama trained me well in the skills of a homemaker . . . even let me use her sewing machine when I was young. After the accident, I spent many hours learning the fine art one both the machine and by hand, and I became quite good. At least according to Mama.
What three words would you use to describe yourself?
Dreamer . . . uncertain . . . industrious . . . .
What do you do for fun?
Why, I ride the wheel, of course!
Share a favorite childhood memory:
Easy . . . visiting Pickett Gulf with the family. Usually a two-day endeavor. I loved standing on the ridge high above the falls, and watching the water as it collects in a lake below. From there, it moves downward into a river, and forms rapids as it turns behind a large hill. I imagined myself descending the dangerous rocks to the lake, and then gliding on the white water to unseen areas.
What is your life motto or goal?
Never shrink from a challenge, nor forget your humble beginnings.
If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?
My lack of self-confidence . . . not what it should be, better than it was. Used to be my limp, but I’ve learned to wear it as a badge of courage. A reminder that I can overcome.
Mama’s home-baked bread.
What is the most important thing to you?
My God, my family, my friends.
Biggest pet peeve:
Judgmental, self-righteous people.