Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Word For Word

I was honored, recently, to be the first author interview on The World According To Word, Blog! She has generously allowed me to post it on my blog, too! Here 'tis!

Hmmmm. What should we talk about today? Oh, I know! How about Mary Cunningham's latest book, Curse of the Bayou? Better yet, why don't we let Mary talk about it? Hold on a sec. I better check with her first. Whew, Mary says, "Fuh Sho!" So away we go!

Hi Mary!
First of all, congrats on the publication of your third book, Curse of the Bayou, in the Cynthia’s Attic Series. I understand a fourth book is on the way! We’re all looking forward to seeing what precarious situation you put poor Cynthia and Gus in.

Thanks, Word. I'm so happy to be your first interview! Yep, I'm a whole 2 chapters into Book Four, and still don't have a working title. That's a first for me, but I'm very excited about the direction of this one.

Speaking of precarious situations, Curse of the Bayou is full of them! Somehow Cynthia and Gus always seem to get themselves out of some pretty tight spots, though. Were there any situations you put them in, where you weren’t immediately sure how you would get them out?

Oh, several! Although, the girls always seemed to manage to escape, and rather creatively, so I have to give them most of the credit. For instance, I thought they were goners when they were captured by the evil pirates. The same when they were left stranded in the bayou after their guide, Mud Bug, and his canoe, Peaches, "disappeared."

In Curse of the Bayou, our heroines, Cynthia and Gus must find Cynthia’s missing Great Grandfather, Beau Conner and his watch which holds the best kept secret of the Bayou. Is there a story behind the story of Beau Conner and his watch? What was your inspiration for this fabulous tale?

The story is loosely based on the true disappearance of my great-great-grandfather. He was taking a load of produce down the Mississippi River in 1860 when he, and his boat, vanished without a trace. His neighbor, Walter Q. Gresham (U. S. Supreme Court Justice, and Secretary of State under Grover Cleveland), formed a search party, but the only evidence they turned up was a few items from the stolen cargo. Although the watch was a big part of the story, it had no special family significance.
*An interesting little tidbit: I have a picture hanging in my dining room that came out of the home of Walter Q.!

All of your books have such a colorful cast of characters. In Curse of the Bayou, I think Mud Bug and his mother, Jasmine are the most intriguing. They both have fabulous Bayou accents. Did you have to spend some time in New Orleans to nail down those awesome voices?

I lived just west of New Orleans for a year, and fell in love with the accents and the culture. That was the closest I'll ever come to living in a foreign country. And, the food was fabulous! (evidenced by my 7 pound weight gain that year!) So, I tried to incorporate special dishes into the story, especially for Gus's benefit. I also did some research on the Internet to get an idea of the dialect. I tried to be careful not to overload the reader, while giving a vivid image of Mud Bug and his mother, Jasmine. Mud Bug is a mixture of Cajun and Creole.

I always look forward to the evil villain in your books. COTB’s villain, Capt Jack La Buse, is one nasty pirate. Did you toy around with different options for his final demise?

That was tough! I had to think of an interesting way to plan his demise that didn't read like the ending of Peter Pan! I also didn't want it to be gory or violent since I've tried to keep that out of the books. Jasmine pretty much told me how to get rid of him. I think she'd been planning it for years!

If I had to pick the one thing that I liked best about Curse of the Bayou, it would be how you tied the mysterious gator, puma and eagle together. In earlier chapters, these characters show themselves but we don’t know what an important role they play. Did you have this all plotted out prior to writing the book, or did these character’s roles develop as the story unfolded on paper?

I don't plot. I don't outline. I just write, and wherever the characters take me, that's where I go. SuRana was added into the story as an additional character. I have no idea where her voice patterns came from, but I thought she was an intriguing character who brought another dimension to the climax.

If you had to pick one thing that you like best about COTB, what would it be? And you CAN’T say, "It’s finally done."

My favorite aspect of COTB is that it was based on my real relatives. As I mentioned above, Beau is based on my g.g. grandfather, Augustus. Also, Jay (John Joseph) was my great-grandfather and Samantha was my great-grandmother! I love including real ancestors in the stories. I also enjoyed writing the the New Orleans setting. It was fun remembering the time spent exploring Jackson Square, The French Quarter, and the Riverfront.

Gus loves to eat and you always have her enjoying the most delectable dishes. I always find myself getting hungry when I read your books! When are we going to see a Cynthia and Gus cookbook? I simply must have a taste of those New Orleans beignets!

Some of Gus's favorite foods and recipes just may end up on my website! As you know, she loves her peanut butter cookies, bologna sandwiches (she prefers them thick-sliced, fried with melted cheese), pan fried catfish, and especially the beignets. Hmmmm...now, I'm getting hungry. If you've never had a true New Orleans beignet, you don't know what you're missing. They must be combined with a cup of café au lait, though. I seriously doubt, however, that Gus or Cynthia are going to be too excited about eating any more mud bugs.

Thanks for the interview Mary! Fuh sho!

I'm honored to be your first guest author! One of these days, I'm going to be interviewing you.

Some places you can find Cynthia's Attic)
Mary Cunningham Books
Cynthia's Attic Blog


ChristineEldin said...

Awesome interview!!
Thanks for sharing!

Mary Cunningham said...

I think Word has a knack for interviews, don't you?

Suzanne said...

Great interview ~ I was reading excerpt through the wall to my hubby's office! My hubby clerked for the CA Supreme Ct. after law school, so we found the U.S. Supreme Ct. reference interesting. You have an amazing family. I'm buying the book. I want to know more. Hell...why don't you just tell me what the next book is about! I'll keep it confidential!

I read your comment on Christine's blog and laughed. Honestly, I don't know how you guys/gals do this every day. But thank God you do.

It's been wonderful meeting you. I'll stop by often. You do the same.

XO Suzanne

Mary Cunningham said...

Thanks, Suzanne! Whoa! All kinds of coincidences. My husband and I were married in Pasadena by a retired California Supreme Court Justice!

Here's a link to a blog I did about the actual picture that came from Walter Q.'s home, if you're interested. Or, you can go to my 2007 archives and page down a few posts.


I'll definitely stop by!

Suzanne said...

Rob wants to know which retired Supreme Ct. Justice! When you get Rob interested, believe me, that's something!

XO Suzanne!

Suzanne said...

I went back and read your previous 2007 post. You are one interesting lady. Okay, it's offical...I'm buying all your books.

XO Suzanne

Mary Cunningham said...

Sorry, it's been almost 25 years! The only thing I remember is that he kept losing his place and started the ceremony over, from the beginning, three times! He also tried to have my best friend (matron of honor) sign the marriage certificate! As I said...he was looooong retired. My husband's stepfather (well before we were married) was Sidney Laughlin, and I believe he was a state supreme court judge. He's been gone a long time, though. If I run across the name the justice, I'll let you know.

Mary Cunningham said...

Thanks, Suzanne! Glad you've enjoyed the posts. I'll be visiting your blog tomorrow.

Word said...

Ah shucks Mary! I just asked the questions. You did all the hard work!

I have good news! Stop in at the cafe for more!