Sweet on Books Interview
with Mary Cunningham, author of the Cynthia's Attic Series
Where did you get the idea to write a book about time travel?
I’ve been a fan of time travel since my early years. H. G. Well’s, The Time Machine is one of my all-time favorite stories. Add to that my regret at paying so little attention to my grandparents’ stories of childhood and family…the fit was natural. Cynthia’s Attic brought the opportunity to travel back in time, solve mysteries and have adventures with my ancestors. A driving force behind writing "Cynthia's Attic" is to create adventures my grandparents and great-grandparents might enjoy…adventures we could enjoy, together. It's a fun journey; one I hope will continue for a long time.
Do you believe in ghosts?
I believe spirit energies visit us from time-to-time, maybe not in the true movie-style ghostly form, but I’ve had experiences with messages from beyond and my husband has, too. In fact, one of my published short stories, Ghost Light, is based on an incident he had as a child with his departed grandmother!
Why did you choose girls versus boys as your main characters?
That’s an easy one! The series is inspired by a 20-year recurring dream about a mysterious attic. When I realized that the dream setting was in the attic of my childhood best friend, Cynthia, I wrote a short memoir about our friendship and the “early days.” That memoir turned into 4 (soon to be 5) ‘Tween fantasy/mysteries, and Cynthia and I (Cynthia and Augusta Lee – Gus) are the main characters. The books appeal to boys because they all have interesting male characters along with the element of time-travel.
Can you tell us about your next book?
I’m so excited about it because a couple of new, mysterious characters enter the lives of Cynthia and Gus. I can’t tell you much, but the girls find out that their previous accomplishments begin unraveling and they have to discover why and reverse the damage. The working title is, Cynthia’s Attic: Legend of Lupinwold Forest, but that might change.
How do you get your ideas? Do you do research?
My ideas come from family stories and from my own imagination. As a child, I envisioned myself living in another land like Alice (see favorite children’s book). Don’t get me wrong, I had a great childhood, but always searched for that ‘other dimension’. Research? Definitely. Cynthia’s Attic is set in Southern Indiana where I grew up, and I’m fortunate to have family pictures that date back to the late 1800s and early 1900s. Cynthia and Gus travel back in time to 1914 and meet their twelve-year-old grandmothers, so it’s important to make the storyline authentic. When the girls travel to Louisiana, Switzerland and beyond, more research takes over and I make the settings as believable as possible. Even though the books are fantasy/mystery, readers still deserve and expect a certain amount of realism.
Do you have any advice for aspiring writers?
A very generous NY editor gave me a critique years ago that probably led to getting the first two books published. "Too much telling—not enough showing." I had no idea what that meant until I researched various writing websites and blogs and had one of those "light-bulb" moments. I spent the next six months on rewrites that moved the storyline through dialog and action rather than simply telling the story to the reader. The second bit of advice is simply, "Write what you know." It's much easier to write about the familiar. Since the original setting for Cynthia's Atticis in my hometown, Corydon, Indiana, and takes in many childhood memories, much of the research was already in my head. Since I’m a very visual writer (I need to picture what I write), old family pictures and stories about ancestors also bring authenticity to the storylines.
What would you be if you weren’t a writer?
Oh, that’s a toughie! You’re asking me to cut off a leg and a couple of arms! Serious answer: If I had to choose, guess I’d like to be independently wealthy so I could shut down all the puppy mills in the country and set up rescue foundations and facilities to provide education on the value of pet adoption. Fun answer: I’d be a travel reporter like Samantha Brown, tour the world and let someone else make all the arrangements and pay for it!
WOULD YOU RATHER...
Read or write? I love both for similar reasons. Both are relaxing and both get the creativity flowing.
Call or text? Call
Fly or drive? Drive
Beach or ski? Since I don’t ski, I guess the beach, although I enjoy the mountains.
Time travel back or time travel forward? Travel back. I’d love to find out what happened to my great-great grandfather who disappeared taking a flatboat full of produce down the Mississippi toward New Orleans. I send Cynthia and Gus back in time to find out what happened to him in Curse of the Bayou, but I’d like to discover the real story!
E-book or traditional book? Still hanging on to traditional, but I see the writing on the wall, or, rather the e-reader. LOL
TELL US YOUR FAVORITE...
Children’s book: Alice In Wonderland
Song: I have many, but two that come to mind are, Run For The Roses, by Dan Fogelberg and The Greatest Man I Never Knew, by Richard Leigh. Also, anything from the Broadway play, Les Miserables.
Sports team: Pro - Pittsburgh Steelers. College - Indiana Hoosiers basketball (I. U. is down, but not out! I’m waiting ‘til next year). Travel destination – Western Canada
Superhero: Superman was the big deal in my day.
Magic power: Is time travel a magic power? If not, guess I’d like to be able to make myself invisible.
We are Sweet on Books, so we have to ask – what is your favorite sweet treat?Chocolate fudge, chocolate cake, chocolate candy, chocolate ice cream, chocolate mousse, chocolate pie…get the drift? Along with my grandmother’s rhubarb pie. The best ever!
Mary Cunningham is the author of the 4-book, award-winning 'Tween fantasy/mystery series, Cynthia’s Attic. 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 lifestyle book titled, WOOF: Women Only Over Fifty, Christmas With Daisy, and Ghost Light, a short story inspired by her Indiana basketball roots. Cunningham is a member of The Georgia Reading Association, the Carrollton Creative Writers Club, and the Pulpwood Queens Book Club. When she gives her fingers a day away from the keyboard, she enjoys golf, swimming and exploring the mountains of West Georgia where she makes her home with her husband. Together they've raised three creative children. The latest title in her series is “Cynthia’s Attic: The Magician’s Castle.” 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.