Thursday, December 07, 2017

A Conversation with Mystery Author Mary Cunningham

Omnimystery News: Author Interview with Mary Cunningham

We are delighted to welcome author Mary Cunningham to Omnimystery News today.

Mary introduces travel agent and sometime amateur sleuth Andi Anna Jones in Margaritas, Mayhem & Murder (Imajin Books; November 2017 ebook format) and we recently had the chance to catch up with her to talk more about the book.

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Omnimystery News: Tell us a little more about Andi Anna Jones.

Mary Cunningham
Photo provided courtesy of
Mary Cunningham

Mary Cunningham: Allow me to have her make the introduction!

My name is Andi Anna Jones. I’m proud to be a South Florida native, especially since most people in this state can’t say that. I, however, have the freckles and sun-bleached hair to prove it. I own a travel agency that was inexplicably willed to me by a long-time neighbor. Since I’m somewhat inept in the business, I was smart enough to hire an agent savant, Ellie Clanton, straight out of the hills of Tennessee with the twang to match.

Most people call me Andi, so you might as well do the same. Speaking of which, I’m sure you’re wondering how I got this odd-ball name. My dearly departed dad insisted on it, but not for the reason most people think. Indiana Jones-Andi Anna Jones, right? Wrong. I’m told that a flawed ultrasound convinced my parents I was a boy. I’ll never figure out how that mistake happened! Trust me; I came into the world with no extra parts. Anyway, Dad had his heart set on Andrew Anderson Jones, Jr., and since Mother wouldn’t let him name me that, she finally gave in to Andi Anna.

Both my parents are gone. Mom’s been gone for a decade, and Dad, more than a year. My only sibling, a sister, Georgia, is a year younger than I, and married with four kids. Sometimes she annoys me just for that reason. Hey, I’m the first to admit to having a certain amount of envy for her life because of her built-in family. She’s also frustratingly organized and can’t stand the thought that I’m single. While I love my independence, I can’t help thinking about the next thirty-five years. How will I enjoy my lone wolf status when I’m seventy? Maybe Georgia’s kids will take pity on their old spinster Auntie Andi. Ha!

Or, I could just need a good dose of self-confidence! I talk a good game, and somehow manage to bluff my way through sticky situations; especially with unhappy travel clients, but most of it is forced. After I stick up for myself, I usually fall apart when the problem is resolved. But, I have grown because I used to stick my head in the sand to avoid confrontation. Now, I force myself to solve difficulties before I have to rely on crisis mode.

OMN: How would you tweet a summary of Margaritas, Mayhem & Murder?

MC: Andi never suspected the promise to “watch over” her late father’s wife, would involve a cruise ship murder.

OMN: How much of your own personal or professional experience have you included in the book?

MC: Do you ever wish you could take a horrifying job experience and turn it into something positive? My latest fictional character, Andi Anna Jones, is my way of coming to terms with a short-lived career as a travel agent. Oh, yes, I was truly awful, and often wished I could disappear into the life of a fictional confident, efficient protagonist who could think on her feet. Unfortunately, my crowning achievement was pretending to be as invisible as possible when customers walked through the door.

One of the first bits of advice I received when I became serious about writing books and getting them published was, “Write what you know”. I followed that advice to the letter with Andi, her South Florida location, and even her gifted employee, Ellie. Coincidentally, I worked with a remarkable travel agent, transplanted from Tennessee, with the twang to match, who made my Southern Indiana accent sound like I grew up in New Joisey. More than once Ellen saved my neck!

OMN: Describe your writing process for us.

MC:  I wake up and have some coffee. Turn on my computer. Have another cup of coffee. Open my e-mails. Hit delete 75 times, or so. Have another cup of coffee…well, you get the idea. I try to write every day, but don't like to force it. If the words aren't flowing, I do something else and then go back to it. I love writing when my brain is working so fast, my fingers can barely keep up. I guess my only ritual before I write is that (oh, this is going to sound really weird) I must have my shower and be dressed. I have a friend who writes in her jammies. Not me! Don't get me wrong. I don't have to be in black dress slacks and white cashmere sweater! Jeans and a t-shirt do quite nicely. Just so I'm dressed. Oh, and my teeth are brushed. LOL!

OMN: Do you work from a story outline or character biographies?

MC: I hated outlining in Seventh Grade English, and I hate it today. I’m much better when I let the storyline and the characters sort of develop themselves as the writing evolves. In my first middle-grade series book, Cynthia’s Attic: The Missing Locket, I was sailing along in the second chapter and then stopped to read what I’d just written. The words, “Clara, is that you?” jumped off the page. It was then that the entire story fell out in front of me. Had I not, subconsciously, typed those words, The Missing Locket would’ve been entirely different. I’m happy with it as is.

OMN: What kind of feedback do you get from readers?

MC: The best feedback I get is a reader saying the love the humor in the book or they love the protagonist’s attitude. Those are two of the main things I strive for in my writing. I love to make the reader laugh and to enjoy a vulnerable, but feisty, character.

OMN: What's next for you?

MC: Glad you asked! I’m writing Andi Anna Jones Mystery # 2. I’m also writing a bio for a female college basketball star who started a scholarship charity foundation to benefit children of deployed military. An adult time-travel mystery is in the works, along with a middle-grade historical time-travel series.

Writing, spending time with friends and family, and traveling, keep me wishing there were more than twenty-four hours in a day!

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Mary Cunningham grew on the northern side of the Ohio River in Corydon, Indiana. Her first memories are of her dad’s original bedtime stories that no doubt inspired her imagination and love of a well-spun “yarn”.

Through a horrifying stint as a travel agent and more rewarding experience teaching travel and tourism, the character, Andi Anna Jones, travel agent/amateur sleuth, inspired her latest adult mystery series.

Cunningham is a member of The Georgia Reading Association, and the Carrollton Writers Guild.

When she gives her fingers a break from the keyboard, she enjoys golf, swimming and exploring the mountains of West Georgia where she makes her home with her husband and adopted, four-legged, furry daughter, Lucy.

For more information about the author, please visit her website at and her author page on Goodreads, or find her on Facebook and Twitter.

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Margaritas, Mayhem & Murder by Mary Cunningham

Margaritas, Mayhem & Murder by Mary Cunningham

An Andi Anna Jones Mystery

Publisher: Imajin Books Print/Kindle Format(s) Print/Nook Format(s)iTunes iBook FormatKobo eBook Format

Andi's step-mother is a real piece of work! But is Ruby a murderer?

Andi Anna Jones, so-so travel agent/amateur sleuth, puts aside her resentment of her father's widow and books a 60th birthday cruise to Cancun for Ruby and three friends. Never does Andi imagine the cruise will lead to the murder of a has-been lounge singer—or that Ruby will be the main suspect.

Flirting with more than danger after arriving in Mexico, Andi connects with the charming local sheriff, Manuel Rodriquez. After an embarrassing night involving the sheriff, too many margaritas, and a Mariachi band, a chance to check out an eyewitness to the murder leads her to Las Vegas.

In Vegas, a mysterious meeting in the Bodies Exhibition, a body preserving in the prep-room, and an evasive owner of a dance studio, give Andi clues to help Ruby. But when Andi is mercilessly drugged and locked in a storage room, she realizes dear old step-mom isn't the only one in jeopardy.

Margaritas, Mayhem & Murder by Mary Cunningham

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for featuring protagonist, Andi Anna Jones, in her first interview!


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