1. You write an award-winning ‘tween fantasy/mystery series, Cynthia’s Attic. What inspired you to write this series?
I inherited the desire to write from my dad. He was a journalist for over 40 years and my inspiration and role model. In fact, I’d go with him, on occasion, when he interviewed an interesting character for a story. Wish he’d been around to see the books!
From the time I was in 3rd grade, I was told to never stop writing. And, sure enough…40 years later, my first book was published! I have written all my life, but never considered writing fiction until I got the idea for Cynthia’s Attic. The series was prompted by a recurring dream I’d had for over 20 years about playing in a mysterious attic. Once I realized that the attic was in the home of my childhood best friend, Cynthia, the dreams stopped and the writing began. Four books later, it’s still going strong.
2. Book #4 in the series, The Magician’s Castle, is slated for release this month. Can you give us a brief description?
“Cynthia’s Attic: The Magician’s Castle (DEC 1, 2009) Sebastien the Great, a magician whose fiancée, Kathryn, disappears through the magic trunk, vows revenge. If Cynthia and Gus don’t find a missing page from the Book of Spells, Cynthia’s family could face financial and personal ruin.
The Magician’s Castle follows this time-traveling duo as they journey back to a 1914 Swiss castle where Eva, Sebastien’s grandmother, gives them clues on where to begin their search. Their journey takes them through miles of tree tunnels, an enchanted garden ruled by a cranky rock monster, and even high in the Alps. They get the surprise of their lives when they’re sent 50 years into the future, have a shocking encounter with another set of best friends, and receive a fresh set of clues that could lead to Kathryn’s return. But, at what price?
3. What’s next, another book in the series or something else?
I don’t have a set story in mind for book five, but plan on continuing the series. I leave each story with a cliffhanger, and TMC is no exception, but there might be a question as to the main characters. Could Cynthia and Gus pass the magic trunk to another set of best friends? Stay tuned! Meanwhile, I’m working on an adult time-travel and an adult mystery.
4. As a woman over (ahem) 50, I’m intrigued by the women’s lifestyle book you co-wrote, entitled, Women Only Over Fifty (WOOF). Tell us about that and where I can purchase it. Hurry!
So, you’re moving toward that Golden Age, hmmm? LOL! Funny how time seems to speed up, the older we get.
Over fifty? Or planning a trip to mid-life in the near future? Bags packed, but wondering about your destination? WOOF: Women Only Over Fifty is a must-read!
One reason we wrote WOOF was because we desperately needed to laugh at the aging process. Since the book’s release, we’ve discovered that we’re not alone and get great joy in being able to share our frustrations, funny moments and triumphs with an ever-growing sisterhood of WOOFers.
For instance, in Chapter 4, “Are We Barking Up the Wrong Tree,” we share funny stories, limericks and poems on menopause, weight gain, exercise, and maintaining Positive Menopawsal Attitude … in “Putting On the Dog,” Chap. 8, there’s “How to Dress the Mature Mutt.” We even have our own WOOFers Restaurant and Menu that gives a whole new perspective to food and drink, and a WOOFers Theme Park, with a special set of rules.
5. You’ve been published in fiction, nonfiction, and your short story Ghost Light was recently published. As a writer, which hat do you prefer to don and why?
Do I have to choose? I love writing my “Cynthia’s Attic” series, but also enjoy writing short stories. They have a much faster pay-off! I’m not a prolific writer, and can sometimes labor over a book for two or more years. In addition to “Ghost Light,” I’m very proud of a Cynthia’s Attic short story I wrote to coincide with the release of The Magician’s Castle. In Christmas With Daisy, a mysterious visitor comes to Cynthia’s house at Christmas in 1964.
Oh, I haven’t answered your question, have I? As to which “hat” I prefer; I guess it depends on my mood. I love them both.
6. What inspires you as a writer?
I’m always inspired when I see enthusiasm in the eyes of young readers. I did an author visit to my hometown this month and a “Cynthia’s Attic” trivia contest was held to see who would have lunch with me. I was overwhelmed by the response! I sat through lunch being grilled by 8 4th, 5th and 6th graders who knew every single character in the first 3 books. They remembered small details that I’d forgotten! If I have a small part in keeping them excited about, not only reading, but also writing, then my books have served their purpose.
7. I note you make a lot of classroom appearances, and imagine that must be great fun. What else do you do to promote your work?
I do interviews, like this one! I just completed an 11-day blog tour for “The Magician’s Castle,” plus I post several times a day on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and other social networks. There is no better way to reach a vast audience than on the Internet. In my opinion, book tours are, for the most part, a waste of time. I’ve heard of too many authors traveling around the country only to have a handful of people show up at a booksigning…unless you’re Stephanie Meyer, of course! But, I still enjoy doing speaking events and talking to actual readers. That’s the best way to get honest feedback.
8. Describe a typical writing day for you.
I wake up and have some coffee. Turn on my computer. Have another cup of coffee. Open my e-mails. Hit delete 75 times, or so. Have another cup of coffee…well, you get the idea. I try to write every day. I don’t like to force it, though. If the words aren’t flowing, I do something else and then go back to it. I love writing when my brain is working so fast, my fingers can barely keep up. I guess my only ritual is that (oh, this is going to sound really weird) I must have my shower and be dressed before I can write. I have a friend who writes in her jammies. Not me! Don’t get me wrong. I don’t have to be in black dress slacks and white cashmere sweater! Jeans and a sweatshirt will do quite nicely. Just so I’m dressed.
9. What do you love about writing? What do you dislike the most?
Oh, great question! What I love most is the surprise created when a character jumps into a story unexpectedly. That happened with the first book, The Missing Locket, when Nana Anna walked into the room. With her introduction, the whole story popped into my mind. That also happened in Curse of the Bayou, with the appearance of a shape-shifting puma, SuRana.
I suppose what I most dislike is all the marketing that goes along with having published books…with the exception of interviews like this, of course! LOL. Probably two-thirds of my time is taken with Internet marketing. It’s amazing how much time is spent blogging and keeping up with social networks.
10. The Dames love romance. How did you meet your husband and how long have you been married?
My husband, of twenty-five years, is not only my soul mate (I know…I know. Overused, but in this case, it’s true!), he’s my best buddy and most reliable critic. He’s the one person who encouraged me to send my first manuscript to publishers. When I was in the process of writing the first two Cynthia’s Attic books, he’d practically stand behind me and read as I typed! He couldn’t wait to read the next chapter. We’re also huge sports fans (NFL Football, college basketball, NASCAR) and also enjoy playing golf and just generally hanging out.
11. Tell us about West Georgia, where you reside.
After moving 9 times in the past 25 years, we’ve settled in an area where (right now – DEC 16, 11:25AM) we’re probably going to spend the rest of our lives. We’re in the mountains of West Georgia and the scenery is gorgeous. The summers are bearable, and the winters don’t get too cold, but we love the change of seasons. Having spent many years in Florida, we got very tired of every day being the same – 85-90 degrees with an hour-long gator-gusher each afternoon.
12. Do you have pets? If so, please tell us about them. If not, what’s your favorite animal?
This is a bittersweet question. We adopted Molly, a 3-year-old terrier/mix from the Miami animal shelter. Her owner had died and she was taken to the shelter by a neighbor. Lucky us! We had her for 13 more years. I was in the middle of writing “The Magician’s Castle” when she died.
A friend suggested that, in order to help with my grief, I add Molly as a character in the book. What a great idea! Molly plays herself with a few additional, magical qualities and is invaluable in helping Cynthia and Gus “dig up” clues during their quest to break the magician’s spell. While writing her scenes, I often felt her presence and feel quite sure she approves of her new stardom.
I’ve enjoyed my time with Dames of Dialogue! Thanks, so much, for having me as a guest.
Mary Cunningham is the author of the award winning ‘Tween fantasy/mystery series, Cynthia’s Attic. She is proud to announce the release of book four, “The Magician’s Castle,” Dec 1, 2009. Her children’s mystery series was inspired by a recurring dream about a mysterious attic. After realizing that the dream took place in the home of her childhood friend, Cynthia, the dreams stopped and the writing began.
She is also co-writer of the humor-filled, women’s lifestyle book, “Women Only Over Fifty (WOOF),” along with published stories, “Ghost Light” and “Christmas With Daisy,” A Cynthia’s Attic short story.