Mary Cunningham: Author – Non-fiction / YA – Tween

My last and most excellent writer, may I introduce to you…Mary Cunningham!

Carla: What would you like to share about yourself?

Mary:  I’m a wife, mother, and writer and live with my husband and newly adopted canine, Lucy, in the mountains of West Georgia. The location isn’t as remote as it sounds since I’m within walking distance of a grocery story—a requirement in every one of our nine moves!

I enjoy golf, swimming, a variety of sports (viewing), hate the summer heat and the winter chill, but haven’t found a way to purchase that vacation home in Maui.

On the professional side, I’m author of the award-winning, four book, ‘Tween fantasy/mystery series”,Cynthia’s Attic.  This series was inspired by a recurring dream about a mysterious attic where twelve-year-old best friends, Cynthia and Gus (Augusta Lee), find a magic trunk that sends them through time solving mysteries with their ancestors. Their first adventure finds them traveling from 1964 back to 1914 where they meet their twelve-year-old grandmothers!

I’m also co-writer of the humorous women’s lifestyle book, WOOF: Women Only Over Fifty, and Ebooks, Ghost Light, and Christmas With Daisy, a Cynthia’s Attic Christmas story.

Carla:  When did you feel the need to start getting your thoughts on paper?

Mary:  Oh, wow. That probably would’ve been when I was about six-years old! I thought I was the next Robert Frost (My dad used to recite poetry to me at bedtime, along with his own made-up stories). That’s about the time I started writing some really awful verses. But, in my defense, I was just six!

From there, I wrote family memoirs, but never considered writing fiction until the idea for Cynthia’s Attic emerged. Now, fantasy/fiction is my favorite genre.

Carla:  What is WOOF about?

Mary: Best way I can describe WOOF: Women Only Over Fifty, is with the book blurb!

Over fifty? Or planning a trip to mid-life in the near future? Bags packed, but wondering about your destination? Well, you’re not alone. With no map to guide us through the “joys” of middle age, three witty, resourceful, savvy women chart our own course. And you’re invited!

Join us as we romp through issues of expanding waistlines, deepening wrinkles, empty nests and muddled memories. And, we even find some good things to bark about! So, don’t just use this book to fan a hot flash. Look inside. Find out if you’re a Springy Spaniel or a Moody Mutt. Discover over 50 reasons to wag your tail.

But, WOOF isn’t just about the book, we also have a great blog (WOOFers Club Blog) where women over fifty can visit, make comments and even contribute to our special posts on “Dog Tails” (stories about the special canine friend in your life) and “New Leash On Life” (stories on re-inventing yourself after age 50). We love guest posts!

Carla:  Genre you’d like to try but haven’t?

I’m working on a couple of adult mysteries and am especially excited about a mystery/satire. I love  dry humor and the MC and her “cast” embody dry wit. I simply love writing, however, and enjoy jumping from one genre to the next.

Carla:  What are your literary goals?

Mary:  Hmmm. Goals for the future. I’d like to make a comfortable living writing. My husband is retired and like many seniors, we’re concerned about the future. How nice it would be to make tons of money doing what I enjoy!

An added bonus is encouraging students to write. When I speak to elementary schools, I usually end the program by asking them to remember that old author who came to their school, and how she inspired them to write. If I motivate one student to start writing, then I’m happy, although a few dozen would be even better! Lol.

Carla:  What’s your advice for upcoming writer’s?

Mary:  A very generous and blunt NY editor gave me a critique years ago that probably led to getting the first two books  in my Cynthia’s Attic series published. “Too much telling—not enough showing.” I had no clue what that meant before researching various writing websites and blogs. But, then I had one of those “light-bulb” moments. I spent the next six months on rewrites that moved the storyline through dialog and action rather than simply “telling” the story.

The second bit of advice is, “Write what you know.” It’s easier to write about the familiar. Since the original setting for Cynthia’s Attic is my hometown, Corydon, Indiana, and takes in many childhood memories, much of the research was already in my head. Since I’m a very visual writer (It’s much easier to write when I can picture a scene or character), old family pictures and stories about ancestors also bring authenticity to the story-lines.

Unfortunately, in WOOF: Women Only Over Fifty, I know this subject matter inside-out! That’s why we decided to keep WOOF, for the most part, light and funny. We over-fifty women have enough to deal with when it comes to weight gain, hormones and hot flashes, so our objective is to provide a good laugh.

Carla: Favorite dessert?

I’ve always said anything chocolate, however, my maternal grandmother has been in my thoughts recently, and she made the best rhubarb pie in the world! Not to be confused with those fake strawberry/rhubarb pies! She made hers with rhubarb straight from her garden, along with a fantastic vinegar pie crust (the recipe is included in WOOF: Women Only Over Fifty). One of my fondest memories is her teaching me to make crust. In fact, I got so good at it, I made the crust and she made the filling. So, at this moment, I’d have to say my grandmother’s rhubarb pie.

Carla: Pets at home?

Mary: So glad you asked! Years ago, we adopted a sweet terrier/mix. Molly died in 2008 and we were so heartbroken, another dog wasn’t in our thought process…until a few months ago when we spotted a little dog who had just been abandoned. A great rescue group, 1 Lucky Dog Rescue in Hialeah, FL, took her in, got her shots up to date and then posted her pic on Facebook. One look at her and we were hooked. Thanks to the help of many, and—I’m convinced, a guardian angel or two—we are now adopted parents to Lucy, a Chinese Crested/Maltese mix.

She livens up the house with her playfulness and keeps us laughing throughout the day. I feel so fortunate to have brought not one, but two amazing rescue dogs into our lives, and I encourage everyone to check out the shelters first! Don’t shop – adopt!

Carla:  So sorry about Molly!  Nice that Lucy is such great company.  Would you please share with us, a line ,from one of your books?

Mary:  Great question! This isn’t just a line, but one of my favorite paragraphs. My dad was a huge influence on my life and my writing, so this passage from Cynthia’s Attic: Curse of the Bayou, warms my heart whenever I read it.

I stared at the solid, radiant blanket of stars. “The Milky Way,” my dad would point out. “That’s our galaxy, Gus. Remember to always respect the beauty and vastness of the universe.” A tear slipped from my cheek. “Another night, Dad.” I couldn’t bring myself to appreciate much of anything at the moment. I pulled my knees in tight and lowered my head. Maybe tomorrow will look better.

Mary: Thanks, so much, for inviting me to be a guest on your blog, Carla! It’s been fun!

Carla:  You are so very welcome, Mary!  Thanks for coming along for the ride 😉   Wishing much success to you, as you travel on your writing journey!


Mary Cunningham Books

Cynthia’s Attic Blog

WOOFers Club Blog


Echelon Press


Cynthia’s Attic: The Magician’s Castle – Amazon Link:

YouTube code for video: Cynthia’s Attic Series

YouTube Cynthia’s Attic Series URL:

Valentinno: Poet and Screenwriter

Carla: Tell us a bit about yourself and your pen name.

Valentinno: To my family and friend I’m Kevin Brian Wright (but to my international following, I’m best known as Valentinno.)– A romantic poet, letter writer, renaissance thinker, and author of the critically acclaimed book, ” A Romantic’s Passion: The Tenth Muse”.

In this business a pen name, book cover, even the title of a book can affect how your book will sell. So being that I am a romantic poet my birth name “Kevin Brian Wright” sounded more corporate to me. Perhaps it would fit better for someone writing a book on finance.  It wasn’t very marketable for someone writing romance. But the name Valentinno being a variant of valentine which also means, romance, true love, heart, etc., was perfect in every sense of that word for me.

Carla: How did you make the transition from screenwriting to books? 

Valentinno: You’re absolutely right I am a screenwriter and that was my main focus, but I wore many other hats in the film industry as well. I was an award-winning action and fight director, I choreographed stunt, fight sequences and starred in over eight films. But the thing I most enjoyed was writing the scenes and watching them come to life on-screen.

After writing screenplays for so long I wanted to pursue other creative avenues. At the same time I was working on several collections of romantic prose and I wanted to tell my love story to the world. So I basically took a very long vacation and decided to concentrate on just my poetry, and so I published my first bestselling book in Europe in 2006.  I guess being a screenwriter will always be in my blood because, it seems I’m back from that vacation. Today I have two feature screenplays written with my business partner, Christina Sampson.  One is an action science fiction film named, “Vooshaday” and the other is an action movie entitled, “Organized Crime Bureau.”

Carla: You’re incredible popular in Europe and your latest book, “A Romantic’s Passion: The Tenth Muse”, that was released in January, has already sold out in France and Germany.  What element of originality do you feel fuels your popularity?

Valentinno: January 25th 2011 my book was published and by the 28th it sold out in Germany and France. Since then,”A Romantic’s Passion”, has been getting a lot of media attention. I have been doing radio tours, appeared on talk shows, been on the front cover of numerous newspapers, and have done many interviews, etc. It has been very exciting.

As for how I feel, I really go by what the reader feels because they are your true critics.  According to my readers my popularity stems from the old world romantic style and my elaborate imagery.

“O’ beauty, her endearing armor, that meets my elated glance,

My dear warrior! The courier of Saint Cupid’s almighty bow,

Where I have only pressed my lips against the cheek where

Rests love’s fair kiss and passion kindles those votive rays,

But a lover’s bliss, that blessed day!

When that seraph light retained my soul upon her

Flowering face and the tender tones of her sweet accents.”

Carla: Name the most unusual place you’ve found inspirations for your writings.

Valentinno: Honestly I don’t have to be inspired; I can just sit down at any time, pick up a pen and just write. Maybe because I write about my true life romantic experience, so the muse, emotions and visions are already the reality of my mind.

Carla: You’ve used photography in your latest book to coincide with your poems. 

Valentinno: I used photographs in my book so readers can not only read the love story through words but visualize the romance through photos. I wanted to give the audience something different.

Carla: A line of poetry that changed your way of thinking.

Valentinno: I don’t think a line of poetry could change my way of thinking, but writing, “A Romantic’s Passions”, opened my eyes and mind to many new things. Even though I’m an expert on the subject I am still just a student of the world and love will always be the greatest teacher.

Carla: What was it like writing for the Queen of England?  Was the process a bit intimidating?

Valentinno: I was honored and very excited to write for Queen Elizabeth II. The poem in which I wrote was entitled, “O’ Blessed Nightingale.” It’s now displayed in her private estate, in Balmorals Castle.

Regardless of how high-profile someone is you have to look at them like every other reader. You can’t get intimidated or you won’t give your best work. So I sat down behind my computer and wrote the poem like I would for anyone else. Weeks later I received a letter by royal mail telling me how much she loved the poem, it’s presentation etc.

Carla: When you’re not writing, what’s your favorite thing to do to unwind?

Valentinno: I always like to unwind with a good run or walk, or a couple of hours in the gym.

Carla: What did you have for dinner tonight?

Valentinno: Chicken stuffed with crab meat and asparagus

Carla: Your most beloved coffeehouse?

Valentinno: Tea and Sympathy; because I’m a tea drinker.

Carla: Favorite romantic vacation destination?

Valentinno: Venice, Italy

Carla:  Cats or Dogs?   Cats

Thank you Valentinno!  I wish you much success, in your future endeavors.

While he now writes full-time, Valentinno has more than 27 years of award – winning writing experience. He has received 60 international literary awards in less than 5 years, including a nomination for the Dickinson Award from the Poetry Society of America, and was inducted into the “Who’s Who of Poets.” Valentinno also won best manuscript at the Christopher Newport University’s annual writers conference, as well as composed poetry for Queen Elizabeth II. Valentinno is a consummate writer and his excellence in his craft has earned him international fame. He is no emerging romance writer. He has already earned worldwide recognition for the finest embodiment of the art of poetry, thus ranking him among the greatest old world romantic poets.     

To purchase Valentinnos’ books: