Tuesday, November 28, 2017
A Margaritas, Mayhem, and Murder Interview & Giveaway
I'm pleased to welcome Mary Cunningham to the blog today. Mary writes the Andi Anna Jones Mystery series. Margaritas, Mayhem, and Murder is the first book in the series and will released this Thursday!
Kathy: In Margaritas, Mayhem, and Murder travel agent Anna Jones books a cruise to Cancun for her father's widow. Have you ever been on a cruise?
MC: Several! Like protagonist, Andi, I was a travel agent in Miami and was able to “preview” a few short cruises at very little expense. My favorite all-time was a cruise my husband and I took on a small ship line called the Dolphin. Unlike the floating cities of today, this one really gave you the experience of being on the ocean. (Dramamine was a necessity!) There were only about 600 passengers and while they had a casino and nightly entertainment, we had a chance to enjoy a true cruising experience and relax. I loved it.
Kathy: Are you an armchair traveler, or do you enjoy actually visiting other places?
MC: I used to love traveling more than I do now. We’ve lived in 9 different locations, so experience different locales, food, people, came naturally. I do find the older I get the more hassle it is to live out of a suitcase. We still travel, but only short trips in which we can take our sweet rescue dog, Lucy. We have no relatives living close enough to keep her and a kennel, no matter how luxurious, isn’t an option. I’m not sure how much Lucy would miss us, but we’d sure miss her! Still, it’s always exciting to visit new places and to visit the kids and grandkids.
Kathy: Are you a fan or margaritas and/or Mariachi bands?
MC: Definitely margaritas! On the rocks, thank you very much…with a salt rim. And while I enjoy Mariachi music, my favorite “traveling” music is the Louisiana Cajun sound. We lived near New Orleans for a year, during which I gained ten pounds! My heritage is French, so that may be why I felt so at home in the Bayou. Maybe I lived there in a past life? Who knows?
Kathy: What first drew you to cozy mysteries?
MC: I wasn’t so sure what the Andi Anna Jones mysteries would be when I began writing them. I just wrote what I hoped would be, a fun, fast-paced mystery with unforgettable characters. Now I am drawn to the genre. I can’t count how many cozy mysteries I’ve read this year and how many new cozy author/friends I’ve made. My only complaint is that I didn’t begin writing cozy mysteries years ago!
Kathy: Do you write in any other genres?
MC: I started out with a co-written non-fiction women’s humor book, WOOF: Women Only Over Fifty; a selection of stories, poems, and advice to help laugh your way through the aging process.
A recurring dream I’d had for twenty-plus years about a mysterious attic led to my five-book, middle-grade time-travel/mysteries series, Cynthia’s Attic.
I also have another middle-grade/young adult series in process, The Adventures of Max & Maddie.
In my “spare time” (Ha!), I’m writing a biography for a former military brat/college and WNBA basketball player and the foundation she set up to benefit the children of deployed military. This is a real challenge since I’ve never written a full bio before; just family memoirs.
Kathy: Tell us about your series.
The Andi Anna Jones series begins with Andi, a mediocre travel agent, with an inferiority complex about her job, her looks, and her single status, discovering 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 the middle-grade series, Cynthia’s Attic, magical costumes, disappearing stairs and a spooky attic filled with dusty antiques provide two, adventurous, young girls more than they ask for.
Best friends, Cynthia and Gus as she prefers to be called, are as "different as bubble gum and broccoli." They are, however, equal in their ability to get into trouble without much effort.
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.
Kathy: Do you have a favorite character? If so, who and why?
MC: Right now, Andi Anna Jones is my favorite character; possibly because I see a lot of her in me. Or, maybe I just wish I could be as adventurous as she; although, like me, she has her vulnerable side. She has a great sense of humor, doesn’t take herself too seriously, and is a flawed, but kind-hearted young woman with an indomitable spirit.
Kathy: Did you have a specific inspiration for your series?
MC: As mentioned above, I was a travel agent for about a year. Why just a year? Because I was terrible!! I faked my way through those awful months with the help of a co-worker. I still wonder whether she helped me out of the goodness of her heart or figured it was easier to help me get it right the first time rather than having to correct all my mistakes later. For whatever reason, Andi’s assistant, Ellie, is loosely-based on my “savior” in Florida.
Kathy: What made you decide to publish your work?
MC: Like most writers, I have a certain amount of ego that requires reading my words in actual print. Oh, sure, the joy of writing is paramount, but I’d be lying if I said I didn’t enjoy the thrill of seeing the book cover with the title and my name splashed across the front! It’s also very satisfying when readers and peers enjoy my stories, humor, and voice.
I get the most satisfaction, however, inspiring young readers to write!
Kathy: If you could have a dinner party and invite 4 authors, living or dead, in any genre, who would you invite?
MC: I’d love to talk to JK Rowling since Harry Potter gave me the motivation to write my first children’s series. I’m fascinated by the fact that she seems so down-to-earth while having such creative stories and characters spinning around in her head.
JRR Tolkien is another simply because Lord of the Rings has always been a favorite. What must his mind have been like to keep all those characters straight!
Mystery writer, Louise Penny is another. I imagine gathering incomparable advice and inspiration from her!
I’d also love to sit down with Stephen King. To be able to pick the brain of the author who wrote Salem’s Lot, Carrie, and The Shining, along with emotional stories like Shawshank Redemption and The Green Mile, would be an incredible experience.
Kathy: What are you currently reading?
MC: Just started Say Goodbye for Now, by Catherine Ryan Hyde. I just finished a couple of cozy mysteries, Howling at the Moon, by Karen MacInerney and The Big Chili by Julia Buckley. Several others from my favorite author list comprised my summer reading.
Kathy: Will you share any of your hobbies or interests with us?
MC: When I have time to join my husband on the links, I play golf (started playing when I was ten!). I also spend the summers swimming and doing water aerobics. Must be my Pisces birth sign that draws me to water. I also love watching my beloved Indiana Hoosier basketball team. Being raised in Indiana, basketball is practically a religion.
Kathy: Name 4 items you always have in your fridge or pantry.
MC: Dove Dark Chocolate, Hershey’s Dark Chocolate with Almonds, Dove Dark Chocolate and Salted Carmel, and several cans of Rotel tomatoes (they make any recipe better!).
Kathy: Do you have plans for future books either in your current series or a new series?
MC: Definitely! I’ve already started Book # 2 in the Andi Anna Jones series, and I’m tweaking my middle-grade series, The Adventures of Max & Maddie. Two other adult mysteries are in the works, along with a biography. Now, to find the time to write!
Kathy: What's your favorite thing about being an author?
MC: The thrill of writing a sentence, reading it and thinking, “Daggone, that’s good!”
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