Mary CunninghamMary Cunningham answers my questions about her time travel series “Cynthia’s Attic” and takes us through Time! Ready for a trip?

Hi Mary! Glad to welcome you on “Veronika asks”! Here we go! Please, introduce yourself to our readers…
Hi Veronika. It’s great to be with you. My husband, Ken, and I, are recent transplants to West Georgia. We have three grown children living in Kentucky, Michigan, and Iowa, and a thirteen-year-old granddaughter in Indiana. My dad was a journalist for many years and his human-interest stories sparked my love for writing.

If you could describe yourself with three words…
Compassionate, funny, insecure

Tell us more about “Cynthia’s Attic”. Especially about “The Missing Locket”.
I’m going to cheat and give this description right off the book.

Best friends, Cynthia and Augusta Lee, or ‘Gus’ as she prefers to be called, are as “different as bubble 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 stumble upon a trunk in Cynthia’s attic that has been in her family for three generations. They discover its mystical qualities when they are swept into the trunk and whisked back to 1914, literally into the lives of their twelve-year-old grandmothers, Clara and Bess. The mystery of a missing family locket is revealed, and Cynthia and Gus are compelled to solve its half-century disappearance. Their quest takes numerous twists and turns, including a life-and-death struggle on a large steamship traveling from England to America. Along with perilous escapades, they make important, sometimes humorous discoveries about their ancestors, and even manage to change history–for the better–along the way.”

The second book of the series, “The Magic Medallion” will be out in December 2006. Could you tell us more about what will happen?
Cynthia, Gus, magic trunk, time travel, more of the same…just kidding! At least in some respects. The girls still take that same magic trunk back to 1914 where an ill-fated trip to the circus leads to Blackie, a sinister hobo clown. Before Blackie can force them to become permanent clown troupe performers, the girls are rescued by Gabriella, a fortune-teller, and are entangled in the theft of her family’s treasure. Much to their dismay, Cynthia and Gus appear to be the family’s only hope of recovering a precious magic medallion. I truly enjoyed writing the Missing Locket, but I think The Magic Medallion is my favorite because a special character…a teenage cave guide…appears, out of nowhere, at an opportune time. My dad was a cave guide as a teenager. Hmmm? Could there be a connection?

How did you get this amazing idea? How (and when) did you start writing?
Interesting story. I’d just finished telling my best friend, Diana, about the recurring dream I’d had for almost 20 years, when I had a “light-bulb” moment. It occurred to me that the dream took place in the attic of my childhood friend, Cynthia. “Hmmm…” Diana thought. “Cynthia’s Attic. What a great title for a book!” The dreams stopped and the writing began. I decided it might be fun to write a “little” story about the dream and my fond memories of playing in Cynthia’s attic as a child. I should write a memoir! No…a picture book…maybe a song! (Good grief) Nothing seemed to strike me, so I just started writing. My four-page memoir eventually turned into a 33,000-word young reader novel, and took more than three years to write.
I began writing non-fiction…memoirs, mostly, but fantasy fiction is my true passion.

Are some characters from “Cynthia’s Attic” real? (Aunt Belle, Gus, Clara, or Bess…)
That’s the fun part! I just mentioned that Cynthia was my real childhood friend. Her character is loosely based, she wasn’t bossy, but was very pretty and petite, and, I don’t believe we ever had a fight. Clara is her real grandmother, and Bess is mine. I use family members in Book Two, “The Magic Medallion,” and also in Book Three (a work in progress),” Curse of the Bayou.”

How many books will the series count?
As many as my imagination can create! Three definitely, but we’ll have to see where the magical trail of Book Three, “Curse of the Bayou,” leads Cynthia and Gus.

If you had a trunk and could travel in Time, where would you go?
I’d go back in time to when my great-great-grandfather disappeared, and see if I could stop him from taking his ill-fated trip down the Mississippi to New Orleans (the basis for Curse of the Bayou). Although…if I stopped him, how would that have changed the life of my great-grandfather who had to take over raising his younger brothers and sisters when his father disappeared. Would he still marry my great-grandmother, or would his life have been altered? Would I even be here, writing books and talking to you??

How do you write in general (how, when, where…)? What do you do when comes the “writer’s block”?
I write exclusively in my office, sitting at my computer (although I will occasionally sit outside and take notes). I’m not as disciplined as most writers. If I don’t feel the words flowing within 5-10 minutes, I get up and do something else. I’ve found that if I force myself to write, it usually isn’t any good, and I have to spend more time rewriting, or end up deleting all. Usually, if I allow myself enough time, I can overcome writer’s block. I also depend on my husband to help me over “the block.” He’s had great ideas for new twists and turns in all three books.

Is “The Missing Locket” your first novel?
Yes. Before, I wrote mostly short, nonfiction, and wasn’t even sure I could write fiction until I began “Cynthia’s Attic.” Now it’s my passion.

Do you already have plans for an after “Cynthia’s Attic”?
I can’t even imagine life without Cynthia, Gus, and their magic attic! I may try another genre, but I don’t know, yet, what that would be.

And now the nothing-to-do-with-books question: You’ve just found 100 $ in your pocket, how will you use that money?
Well, obviously $100.00 would be a nice “find” for any of us, but it would only be a temporary bonus. I’d give it to one of the animal shelters in the area because that money would help many, many, dogs and cats. I have a soft place in my heart for shelters because that’s where we found our dear, sweet, Molly, the smartest little brown dog this side of the Atlantic.

Will you visit me again to talk about the Magic Medallion?😉
I would love to! When do we start??

Would you like to add something?
I’ve always had regrets that I didn’t talk to my grandparents so that I could find out about their childhoods, and hear stories about their parents and grandparents. One of my reasons for writing “Cynthia’s Attic” was so that I could create adventures that I thought they might enjoy…adventures that we could enjoy, together. It’s been a fun journey; one I hope will continue for a long, long, time. One more thing: Having moved to Georgia, I now live 35 minutes away from Cynthia! We hadn’t seen each other in more than 22 years, but have renewed our life-long friendship. It’s like we’ve never been apart.

“Tea or Coffee?”

Saturday night. Going out or reading a book ?Going out to eat!
Holidays. Beach or Mountains ?Mountains. I lived in Florida for many years, and got my fill of beaches. I’m now living in the gorgeous mountains of Georgia.
Country or City ?Hmmm. Country, with easy access to the City!
Watching a movie. Comedy or Drama (or something else ?) ?Both! I love to laugh, but I love a good “tear-jerker,” too.
Shy or Easy-going ?Shy. Except when it comes to my books. They’ve given me the motivation to talk to large groups of people because I’m so passionate about them, and about writing.
Serious or Funny ?I’m a combination, although I’d rather laugh than be serious.
Traveler or not ?I think I’m a traveler at heart. I’ve moved 10 times in 22 years, and love the excitement of new people and new places. I do miss the friends I’ve left behind, though.
Sporty or not ?I AM Gus! A true tomboy. I’m a sports fanatic! I love to watch almost any sport on TV. I don’t play softball or basketball anymore, but enjoy golf, bike riding, and swimming.
The leader in the group or not ?Not! I’m a good worker, but not a good boss.

“Favorite…”

TV show: Ghost Whisperer
Movie : To Kill A Mockingbird
Book : Same as above! (To Kill A Mockingbird)
Music : Country
Food : Chocolate cake with chocolate icing (anything chocolate!)
City : New York City
Favorite place to write: my office
Quote or motto : “I live in my own little world, but it’s okay. They know me here.”

Thank you, Mary!
You can visit Mary’s site http://www.marycunninghambooks.com

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