Mary: 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.
In 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.
The twelve-year-old best friends take in miles of tree tunnels, and an enchanted garden ruled by a cranky rock monster. They get the surprise of their lives when they’re sent fifty years into the future, have a shocking encounter with another set of best friends, and receive a fresh set of clues that could lead to breaking the magician’s spell.
Do any of your novels have special stories involved in their writing?
Mary: I could write a book about this very question, but in the interest of space, I won’t! All four books represent family members and stories that have been passed down for generations.
For instance, Cynthia’s Attic: The Magician’s Castle. I chose the Kistler (Swiss) side of my heritage to represent this book, although most the characters are fictionalized. The story sprang from a magic show that my childhood best friend, Cynthia, and I attended at our elementary school. To my delight, I was chosen to assist the magician with his final trick–pulling a rabbit out of his hat. To my mother’s horror, the magician gave me the rabbit which proceeded to “piddle” in my lap. As you can imagine, that event stuck with me. The Magician’s Castle evolved from this early experience.
What are your favorite books?
Mary: To Kill A Mockingbird is my all-time favorite. The storyline, the writing, and the events of the early 1960s had a profound effect on the way I view storytelling. Other favorites are, Lord of the Rings Trilogy, Les Miserables, Anna Karenina, Hawaii, although I must admit to skipping some of the more plodding description, and all the Harry Potter books.
As a child, I loved Nancy Drew, The Hardy Boys, any and all sports biographies from Aaron to Zaharias, and a Southern Indiana favorite, The Bears of Blue River.
Unfortunately, the more time I spend writing, the less time I have to read. Very distressing!
Who are your favorite authors?
Mary: Harper Lee (see above, lol), Tolstoy, Tolkien, J. K. Rowling, C. S. Lewis, Barbara Taylor Bradford.
Who or what has been the biggest influence on your writing?
Mary: My dad nurtured my love of fantasy and writing. Favorite childhood memories involve his made-up bedtime stories. He was a journalist for almost forty years, an amazing writer and my role model. In fact, I’d go with him, on occasion, when he interviewed an interesting character for a story and would get to witness the story process from beginning to publication. Wish he’d been around to see the books!
Are you an outliner or a pantzer, or like me, somewhere in between?
Mary: I love this question! Definitely a pantzer! I’ve hated outlining since 7th grade (Sorry Mr. Merk) I have an idea, of course, about the general direction of the book and aspire to find that killer first line. Usually dialogue. I believe my writing is at its best when the characters dictate what they say and do, and even where they go. I’ve had new characters pop into the middle of a scene, like a ten-year-old ghost in The Missing Locket, or SuRana, a shape shifting puma in Curse of the Bayou. These characters usually end up being my favorites.
How many novels have you written and which is your favorite?
Mary: I’ve written four Cynthia’s Attic books and am working on a fifth. I have two published short stories, Ghost Light, based on my Indiana basketball roots, Christmas With Daisy, based on Cynthia’s Attic, and a co-written non-fiction women’s humor book, WOOF: Women Only Over Fifty.
Are you currently working on any projects? Can you tell us about them?
Mary: As mentioned above, I’m working on a fifth installment of Cynthia’s Attic along with two adult mysteries. One is a murder mystery involving an inept South Florida travel agent (I spent one miserable year on the job) and the other is a time-travel fantasy about best friends trying to “fix” a devastating loss.
Do you have any advice for aspiring writers?
Mary: A very generous NY editor gave me a critique early-on that probably led to getting the first two books published. She wrote, “Too much telling. Not enough showing.” I had no idea what that meant until I did some research on various writing websites and blogs. I had one of those “light-bulb” moments and spent the next six months doing rewrites that moved the storyline through dialog and action rather than simply telling the reader what was happening.
The second bit of advice is simple. “Write what you know.” It’s so much easier to write about familiar topics. Since the original setting for Cynthia’s Attic is in my hometown, Corydon, Indiana, and takes in many childhood memories, much of the research was already in my head. And, I’m fortunate to have old family pictures of many of the ancestors that play important roles in the books.
The Missing Locket
The Magic Medallion
Curse of the Bayou
You can buy the Magician’s Castle here: The Magician’s Castle
Bio: Mary Cunningham is author of the award-winning ‘tween fantasy/mystery series, Cynthia’s Attic that 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. Four books have been published in the series: “The Missing Locket,” “The Magic Medallion,” “Curse of the Bayou,” and “The Magician’s Castle.”
She is also co-writer of the humor-filled lifestyle book titled, “Women Only Over Fifty (WOOF),” along with a published short story, “Ghost Light,” and a new “Cynthia’s Attic” short story, “Christmas With Daisy.”
Cunningham is a member of The Georgia Reading Association, The Pulpwood Queens Book Club, and the Carrollton Creative Writers 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.
Cynthia’s Attic: The Magician’s Castle (Book Four): 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.
The twelve-year-old best friends walk through miles of tree tunnels, stumble on an enchanted garden ruled by a cranky rock monster, and receive clues from an eccentric fairy named Eloise Elloway. They get the surprise of their lives when they’re sent fifty years into the future, have a shocking encounter with another set of best friends, and gather a fresh set of clues that could lead to breaking the magician’s spell.
Cynthia’s Attic: The Magician’s Castle – Amazon Link: