Please join me in welcoming Mike Mizrahi to the blog today! You can read my review of Mike’s book, The Great Chattanooga Bicycle Race here.
Mike Mizrahi has a master’s degree in public relations, advertising and applied communication from Boston University. After a career in corporate public affairs, he retired to pursue a deep passion: writing.
Mizrahi and his wife, Karen, led a mission trip to the Democratic Republic of Congo four years ago and were so moved by the experience, Mizrahi wrote his first novel, which he hopes will one day be published. The Great Chattanooga Bicycle Race is his debut published work.
Mizrahi loves reading and writing stories about “sozo,” which means to be rescued in Greek. He and Karen are very active in their church and community and love to hike, travel and go the movies together. The Mizrahis live in Woodland Hills, California, where they raised their children who are now adults.
His debut novel, The Great Chattanooga Bicycle Race, released April 10 from Redemption Press.
Anna Gaines, an introverted nineteen-year-old, discovers she’s a natural on the “wheel” after a visit with her aunt in Brooklyn. Upon returning home to Chattanooga, she insists on the same rights that have been given to men to cycle in public. She becomes the first woman to ride the streets of Chattanooga, clad in the risqué costume that many New York women are wearing in 1895 – bloomers.
A firestorm ignites, pitting a few progressive thinkers against a city full of moralists intent on clinging to their post-Antebellum way of life.
Anna, beset by insecurities born from a horseback riding accident as a pre-adolescent that leaves her with a pronounced limp, dangles in the middle of an explosive controversy she never envisioned. And she is pitted against Peter Sawyer, the Cycle Club President who silently harbors a crush for her, in a five-mile bicycle race that will decide if women have the same capabilities as men to ride.
Hi Mike! Welcome to the blog! I start all of my guests out with a fast four:
Mike: Apples, for sure. Nothing like sinking your teeth into a crisp, sweet, juicy apple. Just the crunch alone is a satisfying snack experience (unless the flesh is mealy, in which case, all bets are off). Don’t get me wrong . . . oranges are okay. But they’re messy and leave your hands sticky. And you have to peel them!
Carrie: And they are slimy. Yuck! Apples for the win
Mike: Where we live, the San Fernando Valley of north Los Angeles . . . I’ll take the winter: mild days, some rain, colder nights. Sweater, pajama, and comforter weather. The summers often deliver three-digit temps that are way too hot, although the valley summer evenings are perfect for sitting out by the fire pit.
Carrie: Ugh. Three-digit temps? I can’t even…
Mike: Easy. Right now, as I write, my little cat-dog Kiki (14, but still acts like a kitten) is right by my side, lying in her soft Petco cat bed on the desk. She follows me everywhere like a dog, performs tricks, and call me crazy . . . comes on demand. We’ve had our share of dogs over the years, but this little animal has truly gotten under my skin.
Carrie: Awww! I wouldn’t mind a cat like that! (Don’t tell my dog.)
Mike: Coffee. Kiki wakes me every morning at around five to start our morning routine. Coffee is my jump-start. These early hours of the day are my most productive.
Carrie: My husband can relate – our dog has hubby’s schedule down to a science and sees that he keeps to it lol.
Around here I like to say that reading is my superpower. If YOU had a superpower, what would it be?
Mike: Ever since I saw Disney’s Peter Pan in the mid-fifties, I’ve wished I could fly. In fact, I did after that movie … in my dreams for months. The only problem: I was being chased by someone nasty—maybe Captain Hook, but I don’t remember—and I could only get about three feet off the sidewalk.
Carrie: Oh that doesn’t sound like fun :-/ But flying does!
Tell me some good books you’ve read lately.
Mike: I read The Nightingale a couple of months ago. I’m partial to historical fiction, and loved it! A story of WWII, told from the perspective of two French sisters, and how they responded to Nazi occupation of their city. Kristin Hannah did a great job in character development: the one sister doing whatever necessary to keep her family intact; the other fighting back by joining the French resistance. Great story! And I recently finished a great spiritual formation book, Invitation to a Journey. I recently started a two-year spiritual direction program through our church. Finally, I just started The Lilac Girls. Through chapter one, and enjoying it so far.
Carrie: The Nightingale & The Lilac Girls are both on my list to read ASAP.
If I asked your characters to describe YOU as an author, what would they say?
Mike: I write for an audience of one, and if anyone else reads my work, that’s icing on the cake. I’m patient with them, allowing them time to work through their internal and external conflicts. I cast a wide net toward the reader, inviting anyone to fellowship with them . . . believers and non-believers alike. Subtle messages of faith announce the presence of God in the words on the pages, but not to the point of distracting readers from all walks of life.
Describe your main characters for us, and tell me who you would cast in their roles if Hollywood wanted to produce The Great Chattanooga Bicycle Race as a movie!
- Nineteen-year-old Anna Gaines, a seamstress in Chattanooga’s first department store, and the first women daring to ride a bicycle in Chattanooga. Played by…Emma Watson.
- Bertha Millwood, an influential member of Chattanooga’s social elite, who rallies the city in opposition to female cycling. Played by Amanda Peet or Jennifer Connelly.
- Peter Sawyer, a budding young businessman and manager of Sawyer’s grocery; President of the local Cycling Club, who harbors affection for Anna and supports her quest to ride. Played by…Andrew Garfield.
- Grover Biggs, a troubled young man from Atlanta and recent transplant to Chattanooga; also a Cycle Club member who opposes women cyclists. Anna is smitten with him, and unaware of his efforts to undermine her. Played by…Erich Bergen.
Carrie: I loved Anna – and I can absolutely see Emma Watson in that role!
What surprised you about this book or the characters as you wrote their story?
Mike: The characters that I didn’t envision in the beginning, but who grew out of the story along the way. For example, Hattie Washington, a black women living in a dilapidated boarding house with her three young children. Anna encounters Hattie in Sawyer’s Grocery one day, as the poor woman doesn’t have enough money to pay her bill. Anna befriends her, learns about life’s proper priorities from her, and eventually saves her from a case of severe bronchitis that is killing her. Because he is smitten with Anna, Peter Sawyer also becomes involved, unbeknownst to the female cyclist, who believes Peter may be the driver of the community uproar concerning her cycling. Peter hires detective Seymour Leland to find Hattie’s husband who has been missing for two years in a Birmingham prison, incarcerated under false charges. These characters—Hattie, Raymond, and Detective Leland—all emerged after writing the first few chapters.
Carrie: Hattie’s story is my favorite part of the novel – i loved it.
What do you most want readers to take away from The Great Chattanooga Bicycle Race?
Mike: Several points: True and lasting joy comes not from things or experiences, but from what we hold in our hearts as excellent, praiseworthy, just, and pure . . . . A long time ago, the bicycle played a major role in opening up a whole new world for women that led to suffrage, and ultimately, their entrance into business, government, media, and other institutions in positions of leadership…“Beginning is half done”—taking small steps in the face of adversity brings us closer to our dreams and goals, and sometimes even changes history. Our rescue from peril often comes from people or events we might never have expected. The decade of the 1890s was a fascinating time in American history, when the “New Woman” broke out of her shell and drove the country toward the emancipation of women.
Carrie: “beginning is half done” – yes!
Thank you so much for taking time to talk with me! 🙂 Before we say goodbye for today, tell us what‘s coming up next for you.
Mike: The story I’m currently working on a book that takes place between 1862-1865. Not exactly a war story: It’s really more about overcoming, unexpected love, and the power of a physical article like an ambrotype to bring a soldier the comfort he needs to survive the emotional scars of war. Called…The Unnamed Girl.
Carrie: I am intrigued already!!
What about you? When’s the last time you rode a bicycle?
This isn’t quite the last time I rode a bike but… almost 🙂