Thursday 21 June 2012

Authors In The Limelight: Mary Cunningham

I want to thank and welcome author, Mary Cunningham for sharing her personal writing journey with us on my blog today. Cynthia’s Attic: The Legend of Lupin Woods, and her other Cynthia’s Attic books in the series can be purchased from Amazon, and other on-line bookstores.

How long have you been writing, Mary?
Pretty much all my life…a good long time! From the time I was in elementary school, every teacher said, "Mary, whatever you do, keep writing." Sure enough, 40 years later I wrote my first book! I began writing non-fiction—mostly family memoirs—then wrote my first tween fantasy/fiction about twelve years ago.

Where did you get your idea and inspiration to write the Cynthia’s Attic series?
I was in the middle of telling my best friend about the recurring dream I had for almost 20 years involving a mysterious attic, when a "light-bulb" moment occurred. I realized the dream took place in the home of my friend, Cynthia where I had spent many enjoyable childhood days playing and exploring. Strange, but as soon as I verbalized the dream, I never had it again, but writing on my 5-book ‘Tween series soon began.

At first, I thought it might be fun to write a "little" story about the dream and my fond memories. Should it be a memoir, a picture book. Maybe a song! (Good grief) Nothing seemed to strike me, so I just wrote. A four-page memoir eventually turned into a 33,000-word ‘Tween (9-12) novel, Cynthia’s Attic: The Missing Locket, and took more than two years to complete.
What sets the Cynthia’s Attic series apart from other books in the same genre?

While similar to some series books (It's been compared to a slightly older version of The Magic Tree House), I haven't seen a series that take twelve-year-old best friends back in time to meet and have adventures with their twelve-year-old grandmothers. The relationships time-traveling duo, Cynthia and Gus, experience with their ancestors sets the series apart from most.
As an author, Mary, what is your writing process?

I have no writing process! Seriously! When I feel like writing, I write. When I don't, I do something else; like spending waaay too much time on Facebook, Pinterest, etc. I know this flies in the face of what we're told, but I don't find writing every single day to be productive the way many writers do. I have to be in the mood which is probably why I don't churn out a book every three months or so. Oh, and I don't outline, but I do tons of research.
Research, eh? We’re on the same page there, girl! So, how long did it take for you to start and finish your newest tween adventure, Cynthia’s Attic: The Legend of Lupin Woods?

Ha! Good follow-up of the last question! It took me more than a year to write the latest story. I hit a wall once or twice and put it aside for several weeks at a time. If the words aren't flowing out of my fingers, then I'd rather not have to delete bunches of text. In my experience, it's much more fun to be inspired by the storyline. I find it much more exciting to kinda let the characters tell me where they want to go, and what they want to do.
Do you have any advice for other writers, Mary?

The best early-on advice I ever got was, write what you know. This may seem simplistic, but it really works. Think about how much easier it is to be able to visualize and to have experienced what you write. I set the stories of Cynthia's Attic in the small town where I grew up, in Southern Indiana, and write about family stories and ancestors.
What’s next for Mary Cunningham the author?

I'm contracted to write another tween series, but haven't quite settled on the storyline. It will be five separate stories initially published as Ebooks, and then a sixth will tie all stories together to be published in paperback. I'm also working on two adult mysteries. I find that changing genres keeps my writing fresh and challenging.
Okay, here’s one for me, since like you, I’m writing a time travel series too —If you could time travel anywhere into Earth’s past, where would you go and why?

I'd love to go back in time to the mid-1800s and try to find out what happened to my great-great grandfather. He headed down the Mississippi River with a boat load of produce and disappeared. Although a search party, made up of friends and neighbors, tried to find him, no one ever heard from him again. I'd love to meet him, along with other ancestors, especially since Curse of the Bayou (Book Three) is loosely based on his disappearance. I send Cynthia and Gus back to a Louisiana bayou to see if they can find some trace of him. Did they? Hmmm…you'll just have to read the book!
About the Series: Magical costumes, disappearing stairs and a spooky attic filled with dusty antiques–what more could two, adventurous, young girls ask for?

Best friends, Cynthia and Augusta Lee, or Gus, as she prefers to be called, are as “different asbubble gum and broccoli.” They are, however, equal in their ability to get into trouble without much effort.
In trying to escape the boring summer of 1964, the adventurous twelve-year-old girls find a trunk in Cynthia’s attic that has been in her family for three generations.

They discover its magical qualities when they're whisked back to 1914. Along with perilous escapades, they make important and sometimes humorous discoveries about their ancestors, and even manage to change history–for the better–along the way.
Mini Synop: Cynthia's Attic: the Legend of Lupin Woods

Aunt Belle is missing…again! Cynthia’s great-grandfather, Beau, was never found! And now they are wondering if Blackie is still making life miserable for Lilly and Annie? This time, the twelve-year-old girls journey into a strange woods full of frightening creatures and dark secrets in search of answers.
From Aunt Belle’s cottage to a small village in France, they meet new friends and discover a connection to New Orleans that may lead to the devious source behind these alarming developments. Or bigger trouble.

Mary Cunningham Bio:
Like Cynthia and Gus, my childhood best friend, Cynthia and I grew up in a small, Southern Indiana town…the setting for the series. Not one summer day passed that we weren’t playing softball, hide and seek, badminton, or croquet with friends in the vacant lot behind Becky’s house.

In my attempt to grow up, I joined The Georgia Reading Association, and the Carrollton Creative Writers Club. When giving my fingers a day away from the keyboard, I enjoy golf, swimming and exploring the mountains of West Georgia where I live with my husband and adopted furry, four-legged daughter, Lucy. Together we’ve raised three creative children and are thrilled with our 2 granddaughters.

At last count, I’ve moved 9 times to six different states (all after the age of 36), and aside from the packing and unpacking, it’s been a great experience, having made some very dear and lasting friendships. My non-writing time is spent showing power point presentations, on gathering ideas and the writing process, to schools and libraries.
Mary Cunningham Books

Buy all books on Amazon including Ghost Light, Christmas With Daisy, and WOOF: Women Only Over Fifty.

Buy: Cynthia's Attic: The Legend of Lupin Woods
Amazon (paperback)

Barnes & Noble

Books are also available on Amazon in the UK, Germany, Italy, France, and Spain


  1. Thanks for inviting me to your wonderful blog, Sharon! Your questions were fun to answer!

    1. Anytime, Mary! Love promoting other authors, especially when we share the same genre! Love your take on time traveling! Best wishes for a fab career in the publisihing world!

  2. Just love your interviews, Sharon.

    This series sounds fantastic. Wishing Mary much success.

    1. Thanks, Amaleen! You're an awesome supporter to my blog! Cheers to you!

  3. This sounds like a delightful series. I enjoyed this interview and it was fun learning about the author. I love MG and YA books- so this sounds like something I will enjoy!

    I am your newest follower- I found you from Linkedin. :)

    1. Wow, you never know who the Universe blows your way! Thanks for stopping by Jess (Fairday Morrow)! Cheers to you!

  4. Mary, this sounds so neat!!! I love your premise and it is so fun how you are using your own family history as inspiration. Very cool!!!