Mary Cunningham is the author of the award-winning tween fantasy/mystery series, Cynthia's Attic, which 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. Four books have been published in the series: The Missing Locket, The Magic Medallion, Curse of the Bayou, and just recently The Magician's Castle. She is also co-writer of the humor-filled lifestyle book titled, Women Only Over Fifty (WOOF), along with a published short story, "Ghost Light," and a new "Cynthia's Attic" short story, "Christmas With Daisy."
Welcome to Blogcritics Magazine, Mary! It's a pleasure having you as my guest here again. Tell us, do you consider yourself to be a born writer?
Hmmm…born writer? I guess I inherited the genes, from my dad, to become a writer. He was a journalist for over 40 years and was also my role model. Not only was he a wonderful writer, he was the kindest, most non-judgmental, open-minded person I ever knew. Wish he'd been around to see the books!
I was told from 3rd grade on to "Never stop writing. You have a gift." 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 first story 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.
Tell us about your recent release. What was your inspiration for it?
Cynthia's Attic: The Magician's Castle is the latest book release (DEC 1, 2009). All the books in the series are inspired by family stories and ancestors. The Magician's Castle was motivated by a magic show that Cynthia and I went to when we were about seven. I was chosen to be the magician's "assistant," and never forgot it. Neither did my mother after the magician gave me the rabbit I had helped pull out of his hat! I was thrilled, but a few days later, we took "Fluffy" to the farm of a friend.
I've also brought the Kistler side of my family into this story. The family tree has been researched back to late 1300s Switzerland, and since I've always been fascinated by genealogy, it was a perfect match.
Do you like to outline and plot ahead, or are you more of a stream-of-consciousness writer?
I've despised outlining since 7th grade, so I consider myself a seat-of-the-pants writer. I start with a basic idea, location and characters, but the storyline develops as it moves along. I'm a big believer in letting my characters determine where they want to go and what they want to do. I've actually had characters jump into my stories without any warning! LOL!
What was your favorite book as a child?
I adored sports biographies as a child and read them from A (Hank Aaron) to Z (Babe Didrikson Zaharias). In between, I read Nancy Drew and The Hardy Boys. I was fortunate that my aunt was the librarian and would suggest books that were on a higher reading level than was recommended for my age group. I credit her with much of the love I have for reading and writing because she kept me challenged.
What’s your favorite children’s book of all time?
Although I love Lord of the Rings (Tolkien) and books by H. G. Wells that inspired me to write about fantasy and time travel, my favorite would have to be To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee. I just finished a very interesting biography of Harper Lee by YA author, Kerry Madden.
What is the best advice on writing you've ever received?
I had struggled with getting one rejection after another when I got a note from an editor simply saying, "Too much telling. Not enough showing." To give you an idea how unprepared my manuscript was for publication, I had no idea what that meant! But, I found out, spent about a year re-writing, and the rest is history.
My advice to writers would be to "write what you know."
Where are your books available?
All four Cynthia's Attic books, women's humor book, WOOF: Women Only Over Fifty, and short stories, "Ghost Light" and "Christmas Daisy" are available through Amazon, Amazon Kindle, B & N, Fictionwise (download), any online bookstore, and through the publisher, Quake/Echelon Press.
Thanks, so much, Mayra, for having me as a guest!