Joining us today is Mary Cunningham. Mary is the author of the Cynthia’s Attic series, a set of fantasy/mystery time travel books for tweens. Book 4 in this series, The Magician’s Castle was recently released by Echelon Press. We’ll talk to Mary about this series, the challenges of writing for tweens, and what the future holds.
Welcome to The Children’s and Teens’ Book Connection, Mary. We’re thrilled to have you with us. Can you start off by telling our readers a bit about yourself?
So happy to be here, Cheryl! Here’s sort of a Reader’s Digest.
I’m the author of the award-winning ‘tween fantasy/mystery series, “Cynthia’s Attic,” and am proud to announce the release of book four, The Magician’s Castle, DEC 1.
I’m also co-writer of the fabulously funny (No! Seriously, it really is) women’s lifestyle book titled, Woof: Women Only Over Fifty, and am especially proud of my newly published short story, “Ghost Light” and my first “Cynthia’s Attic” short story, “Christmas Daisy”.
I’m a member of The Georgia Reading Association, and the Carrollton Creative Writers Club (A crazy-good bunch of writers!). When I give my fingers a day away from the keyboard, I enjoy golf, swimming and exploring the mountains of West Georgia where I make my home with my husband.
How long have you been writing and what is it that made you put pen to paper?
I guess I inherited the desire to write from my dad. He was a journalist for over 40 years and my inspiration. In fact, I’d go with him, on occasion, when he interviewed an interesting character for a story. Wish he’d been around to see the books!
From the time I was in 3rd grade, I was told to never stop writing. 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.
What about writing for the tween market is appealing to you?
I guess the best answer is that this age group is so open and honest. I do writing and idea presentations at elementary schools and I find the students to be so enthusiastic, not only about reading, but also about writing. I love the questions and the excitement on their faces when they describe a particular scene in one of the “Cynthia’s Attic” books. If I can inspire even one student to write, then I’ve done my job.
What is the greatest challenge of writing for this market?
Being on your toes! If you’re not completely factual, then this group will catch you.
Tell us about the Cynthia’s Attic series.
Disappearing stairs and a spooky attic filled with dusty antiques–what more could two adventurous young girls ask for? Best friends, Cynthia and ‘Gus’ are as “different as bubble gum and broccoli”. They discover a magical trunk in Cynthia’s attic, and are swept through the trunk back in time, into the lives of their ancestors, including their twelve-year-old grandmothers. So far, there are four books in the series, The Missing Locket, The Magic Medallion, Curse of the Bayou and The Magician’s Castle.
Did you plan this as a series from the very beginning?
Not at all! It began as a simple, 5-page memoir about playing in Cynthia’s attic. That didn’t satisfy my muse. So I started writing a fantasy/time travel story that turned into a 160 page book that led to the second book. Each story ended with a cliff-hanger leading to another Cynthia-Gus adventure.
Can you talk briefly about the first three books in this series and Cynthia and Gus’s adventures?
Each story is loosely based on family stories and ancestors. In The Missing Locket, Cynthia and Gus travel back to 1914 and are compelled to help find a missing heirloom, a gold locket. During their search, they meet their 12-year-old grandmothers who are also best friends! An unexpected trip across the Atlantic Ocean brings danger and friendship with a young ghost.
The Magic Medallion finds the girls in the middle of a family’s battle for a precious magic medallion. They journey to a circus where they are forced to perform with the clown troupe, get caught in the swirling waters of an underground river and then a forest fire!
Our time-traveling duo find immediate danger in the Louisiana Bayou. They’ve traveled back to 1914 in Curse of the Bayou searching for Cynthia’s great-grandfather who disappeared while taking a boat load of produce down the Mississippi River. Pirates, shape-shifting puma, an old Cajun guide named Mudbug and a hungry alligator keep them on the move.
What is it about Cynthia and Gus that readers will like and relate to?
Great question! Since the characters are based on me (Gus) and my real childhood friend, Cynthia, I’d love readers to embrace the loyalty and unquestioned friendship between the two girls. Although they argue from time-to-time, they always have the other’s back. Older readers will also enjoy the different time periods detailed in the books.
In Book 4, The Magician’s Castle, a magician whose fiancée has disappeared through the magic trunk is seeking revenge against Cynthia’s family. What year are we in during this book and where is it set?
Cynthia and Gus travel back to a 1914 Swiss castle searching for clues to the Kathryn’s disappearance, then move unexpectedly forward to Southern Indiana in 2014, where they get the surprise of their lives when they meet another pair of best friends.
In addition to Cynthia and Gus, there is a long list of characters featured in the front of the book. Do you have a favorite character(s) from this book?
I have favorite characters in all four books, but in The Magician’s Castle, I guess my favorite character is Molly. When I began writing the fourth book, Molly, my 16-year-old adopted mix doggie was a huge part of my life. Halfway through, I lost her to old age. During my grieving process, a friend suggested I write her into the book. What a great idea! She plays such a significant role, in helping Cynthia and Gus discover clues, that I can’t imagine the story without her, and am satisfied that I’ve honored her memory for years to come.
Where can readers purchase a copy of The Magician’s Castle and the other books in this series?
The books are available in paper back on Amazon and just about any online bookstore. They’re also available as downloads on Kindle and through Fictionwise.
Do you have website and/or blog where readers can find out more?
Mary Cunningham Books and Cynthia’s Attic Blog.
What does the future look like for Cynthia’s Attic? Any news you would like to share with fans of Cynthia and Gus?
Although I’ve written another cliffhanger at the end of Book Four, I haven’t decided on a storyline or even who the main characters are going to be! Stay tuned.
Is there anything else you would like to add?
I’m excited about a Cynthia’s Attic short story that’s coming out at the same time as The Magician’s Castle, titled, “Christmas With Daisy.” All buy links for short stories and books can be found on my website.
Thanks, so much, for having me as a guest author. I’ve enjoyed the interview and hope readers of all ages will want to discover the time-travel adventures of Cynthia and Gus.
Thank you for spending time with us today, Mary. We wish you continued success.