Featured Interview With Mary Cunningham
Tell us a little about yourself. Where were you raised? Where do you live now?
“I live in my own little world, but it’s okay, they know me here.”
I grew up on the northern side of the Ohio River in Corydon, Indiana. Some of my first memories are my dad’s original bedtime stories that no doubt inspired my active imagination and love of a well-spun “yarn”.
Childhood experiences, and a recurring dream about a mysterious attic, inspired characters, Cynthia and Augusta Lee, for award-winning middle-grade series, Cynthia’s Attic.
As with “Cynthia’s Attic” I continue to follow advice that was drummed into my brain when I first began to seriously follow my writing passion: Write what you know. That’s the main reason a horrifying stint as a travel agent, led to stories about a travel agent/amateur sleuth, springing to life. I’m currently writing Book # 2 in the Andi Anna Jones Mystery series.
I’m also writing another middle-grade series, The Adventures of Max and Maddie, an adult mystery, For the Life of Claire, and the biography of an army brat who evolved into a star college and professional basketball player.
When I give my fingers a break from the keyboard, I enjoy golf, swimming and exploring the mountains of West Georgia where I make my home with my husband. We’ve raised three creative children, have 2 granddaughters, a grandson, a great grandson, and an adopted, four-legged, furry daughter, Lucy.
At what age did you realize your fascination with books? When did you start writing?
If you had a parent(s) who read bedtime stories to you every single night, love of books and stories are a given. Along with reading to me, I had the joy of hearing stories my dad would make up and recite on the spot, complete with funny or scary voices and realistic sound effects.
Stands to reason I’d follow my journalist/dad into a writing career. While he didn’t write books, his human interest column, for the Louisville Courier Journal, became a hit with newspaper subscribers. His ability to make those he interviewed and their stories jump off the page and grab the reader, was a true gift.
Although I remember my third grade teacher’s advice; “Mary, whatever you do, don’t stop writing,” I was slow to accept my true calling. I did spend years dabbling with family memoirs and humorous essays, but it was several decades before I jumped into writing with both feet and became a published author.
I haven’t looked back and plan to continue writing as long as my fingers and brain cooperate.
Who are your favorite authors to read? What is your favorite genre to read. Who Inspires you in your writings?
I grew up on fantasy/science fiction and loved H. G. Wells. The Time Machine was a huge influence when it came to writing my 5-book middle-grade fantasy/time-travel series, “Cynthia’s Attic”. I was also a huge “Alice In Wonderland fan.
I still love sports and was thrilled when, as an early reader, the local library started carrying a set of sports biographies. I tore through each book; A-Z, Hank Aaron to Babe Didrikson Zaharias.
I’m also a huge J.R.R Tolkien fan. Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit will also be dear to me. I now gravitate to mysteries since beginning my latest venture; Andi Anna Jones Mysteries.
As to who inspires my writing; referring back to a previous question, my dad, of course. I’m also inspired by the many mystery authors I’ve come to know and appreciate. When it comes to writing, your best resource is to read other authors. Not to copy their style, but to be inspired to find your own.
Tell us a little about your latest book?
“Andi’s step-mother is a real piece of work! But is Ruby a murderer?
Andi Anna Jones, so-so travel agent/amateur sleuth, puts aside her resentment of her father’s widow and books a 60th birthday cruise to Cancun for Ruby and three friends. Never does Andi imagine the cruise will lead to the murder of a has-been lounge singer—or that Ruby will be the main suspect.
Flirting with more than danger after arriving in Mexico, Andi connects with the charming local sheriff, Manual Rodriquez. After an embarrassing night involving the sheriff, too many margaritas, and a Mariachi band, a chance to check out an eyewitness to the murder leads her to Las Vegas.
In Vegas, a mysterious meeting in the Bodies Exhibition, a body preserving in the prep-room, and an evasive owner of a dance studio, give Andi clues to help Ruby. But when Andi is mercilessly drugged and locked in a storage room, she realizes dear old step-mom isn’t the only one in jeopardy.”
Andi Anna is my alter-ego. Did you ever want to take a horrifying job experience and turn it into something positive? Andi is my way of coming to terms with a short-lived career as a travel agent.
A mediocre travel agent, with an inferiority complex about her job, and her single status, she discovers her “inner sleuth” when forced to fly to Cancun after her dad’s widow is arrested for the murder of a has-been lounge singer. She soon discovers her talent to flesh out clues and solve mysteries far surpasses her ability to book vacations and handle complaints from unhappy clients.
In Margaritas, Mayhem & Murder (Book # 1) Andi’s humor is complemented by her stepmother, Ruby, ambulance-chasing lawyer, Bert, and Ruby’s cruise-buddies, Cloris and Doris. It’s not all fun and games, however, when Andi strikes up a relationship with the local sheriff, Manuel Gonzales that leads to too many margaritas and an evening singing with a mariachi band.
I began writing MM&M about five years ago, then put it down for awhile to concentrate on a second middle-grade series. Andi just kept nagging at me, and I finished the first manuscript in the spring of 2017, submitted it to Imajin Books in April and signed a contract in early May, 2017.
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