Mary Cunningham is the author of time travel Cynthia’s Attic series–which we have discussed here at TC&TBC–and Ghost of Pine Mountain, the first book in The Adventures of Max and Maddie.
What are you working on, now?
Ghost of Pine Mountain: Adventures of Max and Maddie was released in April, 2013. I’m working on a new middle-grade series. Ghost of Pine Mountain is the first Max and Maddie adventure, with 4 more to follow. The first four stories will be released as Ebooks until the final. Then, all five stories will be combined in print.
How does it differ from other works in its genre?
The whole Max and Maddie series combines supernatural elements with historical fact and fiction. The thirteen-year-old best friends travel back in time and have adventures with Native Americans and gold miners (Ghost of Pine Mountain), along with pioneers settling regions east and west of the Mississippi River.
The biggest influence in my life was my dad. He was a journalist for a large city newspaper for forty years, and he also nurtured my love of fantasy. When he ran out of typical bedtime stories, he made up one of his own. He was an amazing writer, and I would sometimes go with him when he interviewed a subject for his human-interest column, Around Indiana, for The Louisville Courier Journal. Seeing the story process from beginning to publication had a great impact. Unfortunately, he died before I started writing my series, but, on occasion, I feel him looking over my shoulder as I write.
Why do you write what you do?
I’ve always been a time-travel buff beginning with H.G. Wells and “The Time Machine.” Nothing would make me happier than to be able to travel back in time and meet some of my characters. A previous series, Cynthia’s Attic, sends main characters, Cynthia and Gus, back in time where they meet and solve mysteries with many of their (my) ancestors.
How does your writing process work?
I wake up and have some coffee. Turn on my computer. Have another cup of coffee. Open my e-mails. Hit delete 75 times, or so. Have another cup of coffee…well, you get the idea. I try to write every day. I don’t like to force it, though. If the words aren’t flowing, I do something else and then go back to it. I love writing when my brain is working so fast, my fingers can barely keep up. I guess my only ritual is that (oh, this is going to sound really weird) I must have my shower and be dressed before I can write. I have a friend who writes in her jammies. Not me! Don’t get me wrong. I don’t have to be in black dress slacks and white cashmere sweater! Jeans and a t-shirt will do quite nicely. Just so I’m dressed.
What is the hardest part about writing?
The hardest part, for me, is to stay focused and disciplined. I simply don’t have the ability to write every day whether I want to, or not. I’d much rather be in the mood to write “good stuff” than waste my time when I’m simply not feeling creative.
What would you like to try as a writer that you haven’t yet?
I’ve started an adult mystery that I really want to finish. Writing for adults is a little more “freeing” than writing for younger readers, although no more challenging.
Who are the authors you most admire?
I’m a big Tolkien fan and have great respect for J. K. Rowling. In fact, it was Rowling who gave me permission to “write outside the box.” My favorite book: To Kill A Mockingbird. Perfect story, perfect characters, perfect writing. That’s the gold standard, as far as I’m concerned.
What scares you?
Since I’d have to write a book about extremists at both ends of the spectrum threatening world peace, I’ll make it simple and say, snakes.