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One True Place

By Margaret Cunningham

Black Lyon Publishing: Coming June 15, 2010

When her husband, successful Orthodontist Burkett Cowley, dies suddenly in his office one bright summer morning, True Cowley is stunned. But becoming an unexpected widow is only the beginning of unpleasant surprises. When it comes to light that Burkett’s gambling debts have left her near penniless, True takes advantage of a free burial plot in their mutual birth place of Belle Hill, Alabama. True left Belle Hill as a child of four, after her mother’s accidental drowning death, and has not been back since. But when she returns for her husband’s funeral, True finds herself inexplicably drawn to the town and the family secrets it harbors. Shortly after the funeral, True sells her Florida home and returns to Belle Hill for good.

She is soon befriended by eccentric octogenarian, Maisy Downey, and Maisy’s handsome- beyond-belief nephew, Jackson Bean. The pair promises to aide True in her quest to understand the mother she never knew. But in her search for her roots, True uncovers more questions that must be answered and issues she must come to terms with if she is to resolve the past and move ahead into the bright, happy future that is offered. 

I enjoyed this story tremendously. True Cowley is a flawed but loveable character who I could sympathize with and cheer for with each turn of the page. I loved the interaction between her and Jackson and the way the romance developed slowly and sweetly. I also enjoyed the touching relationship True shared with her grandchildren. Having also enjoyed the author’s debut novel, Lily in Bloom, I was excited to return to southern Alabama and reconnect with some of the characters from that first book. The author’s skillful descriptions, both of people and setting, seemed to transport me into this charming village filled with unusual people and beautiful flora.

Margaret Cunningham writes with humor and grace, weaving a tale that is filled with romance and surprises. One True Place offers its readers so many things — romance, mystery, and a lovely story of a woman’s quest to reconcile herself with her past. I recommend this story to anyone who enjoys a light, humorous, Southern love story.

— Honeybee

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cunningham_57printThe girls at WGR are excited to have the opportunity to get to know Lily in Bloom author, Margaret P. Cunningham.

 

Margaret, thank you for agreeing to chat with us today.

 

1.)    I noticed on your website that you started out your writing career with short stories. Tell us a little bit about your first published work.

            My first published work was a short story titled “The Best of Fredville”.  Its first person narrator was a little girl visiting her imperious aunt in the tiny southern town of Fredville.  The aunt was in charge of the town’s down-and-dirty gardening competition to win the title of Best of Fredville.  It won a contest and then was published in an anthology called Gardening at a Deeper Level.

 

2.) You offer new writers the advice “Write what you know. Write what you love.” I’m guessing you took that advice to heart while writing Lily in Bloom. You grew up on a plant nursery. What was that like?

            Playing hide-and-seek among acres of azaleas and camellias and a big, old greenhouse was great fun.  Although my thumbs aren’t as green as my daddy’s were, I did inherit a love of gardening.

 I also loved/love the total escape of those old romantic comedy/mystery movies we used to watch on our black and white TV.  I decided that if I was going to spend a year or so writing a novel, I was going to indulge myself, fill it with characters that I would like to know and of course, it would be set in a southern garden.

 

3.) In your story, Lily fell in love with a much younger man who shared her passion for gardening. How did you meet your own real-life hero, and does he share your interest in gardening?

            I met my husband, Tom, on a blind date.  Unfortunately, his is pretty much a “slash-and-burn” style of gardening.  For example, I love vines.  He hates them, and “trims” them every chance he gets.  Once I put buttermilk on everything to get that great, green algae growing on it.  And it worked – until the day I came home to the smell of bleach and my husband proudly informed me that he had cleaned every bit of it off!

 

4.) When you’re putting a novel together, do you start with the setting, the plot line, the characters, or something else?

            An idea first – usually some human interaction I’ve witnessed that I can’t get out of my head.  Then the characters, especially the protagonist.  What is her problem (based on that first spark of an idea)?  Setting is very important to me – almost like a character itself.  Plot is the hardest, but I’ve read lots of beautiful writing that seems to go nowhere.  I think the first order of writing is to tell a story!

 

5.) What is your favorite part of the novel writing process? 

            Believe it or not, revision.  I love to have a finished chapter or entire piece – all those dreaded/loved plot lines tied into place, then go back and play with the words.  I also enjoy researching things – thank you, Google!

 

6.) What is your least favorite part of the novel writing process?

            Self-doubt.  I always wonder, Am I wasting my time on this?  Will anyone ever even see it?  Shouldn’t I be doing something more useful, like cleaning out a closet or making lasagna?  Unlike a painter who can hang an unwanted piece in her bathroom if all else fails, the manuscript goes in the drawer.  I’ve learned to remind myself that every time I write, I learn.  Other than that and probably more to the point of your question, as I stated above, plotting is difficult for me.

 

7.) Who are some of your favorite authors, and what writers have influenced your writing?

            F. Scott Fitzgerald, Agatha Christi,  John Grisham, Rosamunde Pilcher, Robert Olen Butler, Khaled Hosseini, Flannery O’Connor, Michael Knight, Jhumpa Lahiri – and Carolyn Keene. 

I think all writing begins with reading and Carolyn Keene and her wonderful protagonist, Nancy Drew turned me on to reading, fired my imagination and put the idea in my head that a brave girl can do whatever she sets her mind to.  I’d like to think that I’ve gleaned a bit here and there from those other, loftier favorites of mine, too. 

 

8.) What is your favorite book of all time? 

            To Kill a Mockingbird, whose author I didn’t name above because I’m having a senior moment and can’t think of it.

 

9.) What do you like to do in your spare time when not writing?

            We are blessed with fabulous beaches here on the gulf coast, so my family does a lot of boating, etc.  I enjoy gardening, of course (though you’d never know it if you could see my yard right now).

 

10.) Are there any more great Margaret Cunningham novels in the works?

            Thank you for the adjective “great”.  I am working on a novel in the same vein as Lily in Bloom.  It’s the story of a middle-aged woman who goes in search of her past – in the ante-bellum era raised cottage where she was born.  As usual, I’m at that stage where all of my plot lines look like a bowl of spaghetti.

 

11.) It looks like you have a busy schedule lined up for the spring. Where can readers go to find out all the latest MPC news?

            My web site is www.margaretpcunningham.com.  Also, my wonderful publisher’s web site, www.blacklyonpublishing.com .

 

12.) Say that Lily in Bloom was going to be made into a major motion picture and you got to decide what actors would play the parts. Who would play the part of Lily? Will? Crazy Maisy?

            Someone actually was looking at Lily in Bloom in hopes of it becoming a TV movie, so I’ve given it some thought.  There are so many talented actors – but I have a hard time imagining most of them with an authentic southern accent even though I know they are up to the job!  Maisy…?  Olympia Dukakis, since she was so great in Steel Magnolias.  Will…?  Clint Eastwood in his thirties?  But any number of tall, handsome, thirty-five year old actors would do.  And Lily…?  Why not go for broke?  Julia Roberts, though she’s only 44.     

 

Is there anything else you’d like to share?

            Yes.  Thank you for the great review of Lily in Bloom on Working Girl Reviews and for having me as guest interviewee.  It was lots of fun. 

Margaret P. Cunningham

www.margaretpcunningham.com

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We have a couple of announcements of things coming soon here at WGR. We’ll be having a Spring contest beginning April 15 and running through May 15. The winner will receive a twenty dollar gift card from Amazon.com. We’ll have more details on that early in April.

Coming this Friday, March 6, 2009:  Author Interview with Margaret P. Cunningham. Be sure to check in and get to know this talented author a little better.

And check back for more book reviews. 🙂

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Lily In Bloom

By Margaret P. Cunningham

Black Lyon Publishing, May 2008

Buy Link: http://www.amazon.com/Lily-Bloom-Margaret-P-Cunningham/dp/1934912026

 

 

These long, cold months really have me longing for my gardens. As the snow piles up outside, I find my head filling with ideas for new garden spots, my hands itching to get out and dig in the soil. With two feet of snow making my gardens indistinguishable from the rest of the yard and a good six weeks left of winter, I found the next best thing in Margaret P. Cunningham’s debut novel, Lily in Bloom.

 

Lily McVay has always taken good care of herself. At fifty she is physically fit and alarmingly attractive. That’s why she is stunned when her husband, Howard, runs off with his much younger assistant, Heather. Insult is added to injury when Howard demands a divorce and the terms of their settlement hinge on the restoration of Lily’s deceased mother-in-law’s prize-winning gardens. Months later, discouraged by a string of disastrous blind dates, prank phone calls that begin to come with increasing regularity, and the unsettling feeling that her house is haunted by her mother-in-law’s ghost, Lily focuses her attention on the task at hand; bringing the once-gorgeous gardens back to their former glory in time for the town’s annual soiree. The daunting task is soon lightened by the presence of sexy master gardener, Will. As they work together to rebuild the garden, Lily finds herself growing more and more attracted to the irresistible Will. Telling herself the sixteen-year age difference is insurmountable, Lily fights her attraction, turning her attention to finding out the reason for the unsettling presence that haunts her home, and the meaning of the strange, unsettling phone calls. With a little sleuthing and the help of her eccentric neighbor, Lily soon unearths some surprising family secrets, along with a forgotten old fountain. As the weeks pass, Lily and Will’s labors begin to pay off and the garden is not the only thing that begins to flourish …  

 

There was an awful lot to love about this book. The premise was delightful, and the many interesting plot twists had me eagerly turning the pages to see how things would all work out for this star-crossed couple. I enjoyed the interaction between Lily and her middle-aged, well meaning friends, Helen and Marilee, and I thought the author did a wonderful job of developing the romance between Lily and Will. Her offbeat sense of humor and obvious love of gardening were woven throughout this beautifully written story. I would recommend Lily in Bloom to anyone who likes romance sprinkled with humor.

 

Honeybee

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